TRANSFAMILY OF CLEVELAND is an organization dedicated to the support of transgender people, their families, and their friends. The organization was founded by Bob and Karen Gross in 1995 as a result of their experiences during the transition of their transgender son. Searching for networks of support for transgender people and their families led them to create TransFamily and to become involved with LGBT organizations at the local, regional, and national levels. Since the 1990s, the organization has provided support for transgender people and has worked to ensure that transgender perspectives have been included in the work of organizations that have primarily focused on lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues. TransFamily has continued to offer support to transgender people and their loved ones since Bob and Karen Gross stepped down as leaders of the organization and passed leadership to other individuals.

The organization has provided support and education about transgender issues through its website, email lists, newsletters, and support groups. TransFamily has consistently maintained an online presence that has allowed it to make its support networks known to transgender people and their loved ones across the United States. Its website includes information concerning email discussion lists, newsletters, support group meetings, and transgender resources, including mental and physical healthcare. TransFamily's email lists have provided a forum for transgender people and their loved ones to discuss their experiences with the transgender community, with separate email lists for children of transgender parents, couples with a transgender partner, parents of transgender people, spouses and partners of transgender people, and young transgender people. 

TransFamily has also worked with other organizations concerned with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. The organization has been able to use its connections to Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a national organization founded in 1973, and PFLAG Cleveland, a local chapter founded in 1985 by Jane Daroff, in order to foster advocacy, education, and support for transgender people. TransFamily has also been affiliated with the Transgender Network (TNET) of PFLAG and the Transgender Special Outreach Network (TSON) of PFLAG, both of which helped to spread resources concerning transgender people nationally. Bob and Karen Gross both worked with Mary Boenke of TSON in 1997 to produce the booklet “Our Trans Children,” an informational pamphlet for members of PFLAG and parents of transgender children, and their writings are included in Boenke’s 1999 book Trans Forming Families: Real Stories About Transgendered Loved Ones. TransFamily’s efforts have also been highlighted in presentations by Bob and Karen Gross at numerous conferences concerning LGBT issues across the country.

One of TransFamily’s major advocacy efforts has been to work to improve the wellbeing of transgender students in public schools across the region. In 1997, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network of Cleveland, the LESBIAN/GAY COMMUNITY SERVICE CENTER OF GREATER CLEVELAND, and PFLAG CLEVELAND began the the Safe Schools are for Everyone (SSAFE) project which sought to increase tolerance and acceptance of LGBT people in regional public schools. Karen Gross worked on the project from the beginning as a representative of PFLAG Cleveland, but TransFamily’s attempt to become a coalition member on the project was rejected by the Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland in 1997 due to TransFamily’s lack of national recognition, the terms of the grant that provided funding for the project, and concerns that including a transgender organization in the coalition would lead other organizations concerned with minorities to request membership on the project. However, in 1999, the coalition members of the SSAFE project voted to add TransFamily as a member in order to ensure that trainings for educators included transgender perspectives and information about specific issues faced by transgender students.

As of 2022, TransFamily of Cleveland continues to hold regular support group meetings and has made its meetings accessible to people throughout the city by holding them on the west side, east side, and online. The organization also maintains a website that links visitors to essential transgender resources, including transition care and mental healthcare, as well as a Facebook page that includes information about the organization and its regular meetings. For nearly three decades, TransFamily has worked to ensure that transgender people and their loved ones can find networks of support and transgender resources, and that transgender perspectives and issues are considered in the efforts of LGBT organizations locally and nationally.

Sidney Negron

Last Updated [7/8/2022]

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