Leaving Isolation: Finding Empowerment Among Your Peers

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties.

MPOWERMENT

INVESTMENT DATA OVERVIEW

Toledo MPowerment provides a safe place for 18 to 29-year-old gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals to make friends. promote HIV education and live a healthy life.

Last year, MPowerment had over 40 individuals participating in ongoing group discussions/supportive sessions.

In 2018, 188 individuals were referred to MPowerment for health and social services.

Through the generous support of our donors, and donor designations, United Way will invest $36,644 in Equitas Health’s “MPowerment” program.

When you’re attending college, you would think that everyone is free-thinking, accepting and open-minded, right? Well, let’s just say you can put “tolerance to the test” being a trans man on campus.

I came to my university at 18, and to keep the story short, didn’t go back home. That was an important year for me, as I transitioned into the individual I was in my mind and heart. It was an isolating process for me, to say the least. My family was not accepting of my decision, leading me to spend my summer vacations and class-time-off in a new city I had never lived in before.

I definitely made some amazing friends at school, but being in class was still a difficult process. Balancing doctor appointments and homework, feeling the emotional sting of still being misgendered by classmates in lecture… it hurt so deeply and was a source of great pain.

I remember that time I decided to go out with friends on a Friday night, only to be harassed at the bar by some kids who had a little too much to drink. I told my friends I had to step away to use the restroom, but, ended up grabbing a Lyft and going home, crying every mile back.

Going through my transition, I felt this whole-new level of loneliness. I was trying to be brave, I was trying to persevere, but I carried this imaginary weight on my shoulders everywhere I went.

Sure, there were campus groups and support systems I could have engaged in, but I wanted to get outside of my university walls and explore the city.

“There just had to be more folks going through the same struggles as I.”

Towards the end of fall semester, while scheduling spring classes like all the other students, my advisor asked me questions like, “How is your year going?” and “How are you holding up?” Her interest in me and my well-being felt so genuine and real. In that moment, I felt comfortable unloading all the stress, anxiety and loneliness I was enduring while trying to finish school strong and complete my transition.

A few years ago, she actually had a student who was going through some of the same struggles. She referred them to a program right here in Toledo called “MPowerment,” a program run by Equitas Health. The advisor thought it might be a place where I could find a larger support network–something I desperately needed.

It’s crazy to say, but at my first MPowerment meeting, I felt at home. Granted, I was a little shy at first, but as time passed, I’ve really grown into the group extrovert, often leading exercises and planning MPowerment open house nights, filled with games and snacks for prospective members.

Now, at 24 years old, I’m about to graduate, having fully transitioned, and feeling like my opportunities ahead are endless. That feeling of loneliness sometimes still creeps-up on me, but it always eventually dissipates after a meeting with my fellow MPowerment members.

They helped me find my worth during a time of isolation. With their support, I confidently became the person I am proud to be today.

Change Maker Action: Because of your support and strong community partners, like Equitas Health, we can continue to provide health support services to uplift individuals in the Greater Toledo community.