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My Amazing Experience Volunteering at Gender Odyssey

Marlene Meyer is mom to two teenage boys. Her oldest son (now 19) accepted his true self at 16 and sent Marlene and her husband (two confused and unsure parents) to Aidan Key’s support group at Children’s Hospital. That summer they went to Gender Odyssey Family and came home so happy and secure. That son is now a very happy student in college.

Improv Group #1I considered volunteering for Gender Odyssey last year (2012), although I was not sure what I could do. I’m not a professional in the LGBTQ field; I’m just a mom who has walked the path of making sure her son is happy. And yet, I wanted to give back to the community.

Another mom, Vicky Tovar, whom I knew from PFLAG, had helped lead a workshop the previous year for parents new to the gender-fluid world. Her partner that year could not do it this time, so she asked if I would co-lead with her. That sounded scary, but I decided that with Vicky as my backbone, I could do it.

We prepared an informal agenda and made a list of resources to hand out. Several parents came to our workshop. I was pleased, but as we sat in a circle introducing ourselves, they were all looking at us with fear. Is this real? How do I know? What if we make the transition and we are wrong? A million questions. When did you find out? What do I tell my family? Yikes. Then I watched Vicky as she led each person to share their fears and questions. In just one hour, we answered a lot of questions, and by the end, parents seemed calmer and were ready to continue their journey.

I was amazed at how I felt. I had given back by simply answering questions. I learned what it was like to just listen and let others talk and how to lead a group in a short amount of time. Mostly, it met my goal of giving back. I walked away feeling wonderful having helped parents new to this journey, and in return I benefited by meeting some new people.

My second volunteer job at GO happened spontaneously when someone asked me to stand in for them for a few minutes to check that people had their badges to enter GO. All I had to do was look for their lanyard around their neck (or somewhere), and if I did not see it, ask if they needed to register. If they did, I sent them to the registration table. It was easy work and I quickly met a lot of very interesting and fun people, a few of whom I might not have otherwise met during the conference.

Thinking of volunteering for the conference? Not sure what you can do? Just try something different. Give what you can and I am pretty sure you will gain something amazing from the experience.

Would you like to volunteer at Gender Odyssey Family 2013? Follow this link to submit an application: www.genderodysseyfamily.org/volunteer/

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