BEVERLY — Bonn Wade doesn't like gender-specific pronouns.
The licensed clinical therapist expects to stay away from such language as the facilitator of Gendernauts. The free monthly support group is aimed at youths between ages 14-21 who are exploring their gender identity.
The first meeting is set for 5-7 p.m. Dec. 13. The group will meet on the second Sunday of each month on the second-floor offices of the Beverly Therapists at 10725 S. Western Ave.
"It's really a group for young people who are exploring a gender identity that is different from the one that they were assigned to at birth," Wade said Thursday.
A transgender individual himself, Wade, 42, identifies as transmasculine and says that they don't fit neatly into the box of male or female. The Edgewater resident said he hopes to connect with those who attend the group in this way.
"Not that I'm a poster child, but I have a good life," said Wade, who has worked as a therapist for 20 years and has a partner of 17 years.
He said support groups for gay and lesbian youths have become rather commonplace in public high schools and elsewhere. Gays and lesbians are also increasingly accepted into everyday society.
But for children curious about their gender, answers to their often complex questions aren't always as readily available — particularly on the Far Southwest Side, Wade said.
He hopes Gendernauts can fill this void, adding that the word transgender is an umbrella term that covers a variety of people who don't neatly fit into the normative concepts of male and female.
"We are hoping to create a safe and brave space," Wade said. "It's a social support group. It is not to diagnose anyone."
A native of Miami, Wade moved to Chicago in the mid-90s and began working in Mount Greenwood. He worked closely with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals living in the area.
So Wade knows first hand that the number of transgender individuals living nearby. Still, he's often the first openly transgender person many folks have ever knowingly met.
"Its not that I'm out. It's that I invite people in," Wade said.
Invitations to Gendernauts will be distributed to area schools as well as on websites aimed at parents in the neighborhood, said Wade, who expects 6-10 participants at the upcoming meeting.
In his experience, attendees to such groups typically range from ages 17-19. Thus, some the topics that are covered include, coming out or not as trans or gender non-conforming, traversing dating and romantic relationships, building supportive relationships with parents and siblings as well as navigating sex-segregated spaces like bathrooms, locker rooms and team sports.
"What we know is that gender is not just genitalia," he said.
For more information or questions about Gendernauts, call Wade at 773-330-2544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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