Santa Barbara, CA: In just a few months since it began this year, the Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network (SBTAN) has made a significant impact in the Santa Barbara Community. SBTAN is the county’s first organization specifically devoted to the support of transgender children, adults and seniors. SBTAN has three parts: 1.a training team that educates schools, hospitals, universities and faith communities how to support trans people 2. a website (sbtan.org) a gathering place for information about trained institutions and individuals, and 3. activity and social groups for transgender people of all ages. SBTAN has already been awarded five thousand dollars in seed money from the Fund for Santa Barbara to promote and expand their services to the community.
On the Fourth of July the Santa Barbara Transgender Community held its first Family BBQ. Forty people attended the beachside celebration, including transgender children and their siblings and parents, transgender and agender teens and their friends, and transgender adults from all over the county.
One of the beneficiaries of SBTAN training has been the staff and congregation of First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara. According to the Reverent Allysa De Wolf, “To say our church is blessed to work with Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network is an understatement. It is incredible to walk alongside these hero and heroines as we all learn how to live within our beautiful, God-created selves. Simply, this work is inspiring!”
The fastest growing group in SBTAN is the TransYouth Group. Started in February by two families, it has since grown to 30 families, most from the city of Santa Barbara. This monthly parent-facilitated group is for parents and grandparents of gender creative children who range from the ages of 2 to 18. Children and their siblings meet for a play-group while families discuss their experiences with each other.
In a short time, the TransYouth group has become essential for the individuals and families involved. As one of the group’s parents says, “When we learned our teenager was transgender, we felt hopeless and didn’t know what to do. Then this group formed and it has immensely educated our family and been a huge support for us; having turned us from feeling embarrassed to truly being proud of who our teen is as a person. We realized that our son is, along with the others in the group the most amazing human being we could ever have wished for. This group allows us to reach out to the community and help other families that may be new to this journey. With this group we not only feel supported, but are able to advocate for others in our community. It also allows us to help the transgender adults and children in our community that maybe don’t have any support from their own families. They lift our spirits and we lift theirs. This is our community. I really don’t know where we would be in our journey without *TransYouth Santa Barbara.”
Trans young adults have begun meeting at the same time. They often support the families of trans children by planning artistic or group activities for the children. As Easton Martinez, one of the young adults says, “SBTAN is a vital program for Santa Barbara County, providing excellent support to Trans youth and their parents. I am beyond thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to attending every month!”
This group has been praised by LA pediatrician Dr. Johanna Olson, who is nationally recognized for her work with trans children and their families. Dr. Olson says, “The Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network is a remarkable collection of valuable resources for the community, families, and allies. Not only does the Network provide support for the local community, but for those folks in the surrounding geographical locations with no resources available. The support and positive environments for family members and parents created by the Network is critical to the health and well-being of transgender youth.”
In addition to this group, SBTAN’s website has information about a Santa Barbara Meetup group for trans adults interested in art openings, museum trips, and more, a social group for transgender people and their allies held weekly at UCSB, and a peer led support group for transgender people held at PPF. As the director of UCSB’s Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity Dave Whitman says: “SBTAN is a truly empowering and invaluable resource for how it has worked towards not only building community for transgender people, but for its commitment to education and advocacy. SBTAN is about creating connection within the transgender community, and promoting understanding, acceptance and love across the (gender) spectrum and to those experiencing these topics and identities for the first time. One of the most beautiful impacts of SBTAN that I have seen has been its ability to bring families of transgender people closer together, as well as transgender people closer to each other- that widespread support is crucial for the success and well-being of this beautiful community.”
Families of trans children, children of trans parents, teachers of trans students and doctors of trans patients can find resources, education, information and community at sbtan.org.
Santa Barbara Transgender Advocacy Network was founded in 2015 by two cisgender women. Rachel Gloger is an educator, author and advocate with a specialty in the needs of transgender children, their families, educators and pediatricians. She has trained educators and educational administrators as well as school advocates and UCSB teaching students. Rachel founded the Trans*Youth group for families of transgender children in February of 2015.
Max Rorty is a medical social worker, author and lecturer with expertise in training mental health and medical professionals. She has trained Santa Barbara and Ventura county EMTs and paramedics, oncologists, psychologists, MFTs, and the clergy and congregations of multiple faith communities. She is the author of “Transgender Individuals and Families” in the Handbook of Oncology Social Work.
SBTAN trainings are available to individuals, institutions, employers and educators at sbtan.org