In order to create a safe space for transgender and gender-expansive youth, clinicians from Chicago Counseling Associates & Beverly Therapists and The Juniper Center formed a support group, Gendernauts, for Chicago area youth ages 14-21. The first group kicked off this past summer at The Juniper Center in Park Ridge, Illinois, and had seven members.
The group has moved to the South Side and will meet Dec. 13 at 5-7 p.m. at Beverly Therapists, 10725 S. Western Ave., on the second floor. Gendernauts will meet the second Sunday of every month and hopes to have about 10 people at its meeting.
Gendernauts will be facilitated by Bonn Wade, who is a licensed clinical social worker, consultant, trainer and psychotherapist with Chicago Counseling Associates & Beverly Therapists, which is based out of the Beverly neighborhood on the far South Side.
To find new members, Wade explained that, to find new members, they've reached out to local high schools, youth groups and churches in the Beverly area and surrounding neighborhoods.
"We also know that once young people start coming and experience the space as affirming and inclusive, they will invite their friends to come," said Wade.
Wade received a master's degree from the University of Chicago's School of Social Service Administration and has worked on the South Side for most of their career in social services.
"We began dreaming about Gendernauts out of a desire to create a safe and brave space where transgender youth were able to connect to their peers in a supportive and affirming environment," said Wade. "At our core, we believe that growing into our whole-souled selves is contingent upon an intersectional framework of understanding the world. Dreaming and living beyond the gender binary of limited understanding of male and female bodies and people is a long-term process that can only be achieved through collaborative action, showing up and building ourselves within community.
"Our hope is that, youth find community and a place where they can grow into even more amazing individuals. Transgender and gender expansive youth need space to do just that and that's what we hope to serve up at every group meeting. In addition, a lot of the groups that transgender and gender expansive youth attend are based in not for profits or health centers. We want to take the 'medical' lens off of transgender/gender expansive youth and provide a space where they can be people, not just a 'client.'"
As for how they see the group in the future, Margo Jacquotfounder and director of The Juniper Center, licensed clinical psychologist, certified supervisory addictions counselor and board certified expert in traumatic stressnoted that for right now they are excited to have created this group.
"In the best of all worlds there might be Gendernauts groups in other locations," said Jacquot. "My wish would be that we will be able to help others set up safe, informed spaces in the hinterlands beyond Chicago, where resources are few."
Wade would also like to see the group grow and inspire others to set up similar meeting spaces, so transgender and gender expansive youth outside of Chicago will have a place to explore and grow into young adulthood."
"We're excited for all the possibilities that Gendernauts will bring to Beverly and the surrounding neighborhoods and the youth who participate," said Wade. "Tell your young friends and family members who identify as transgender and/or gender expansive that we're here and ready to build community."
"Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want to help," said Jacquot.
To RSVP for the free meeting on Dec. 13, contact Wade at 773-330-2544 or firstname.lastname@example.org .