On a summer evening in July 2015, Busch—a retired veteran and law enforcement officer—found the Q Center’s Friday Night Trans Women’s Support Group when they needed it most.
“I learned some things about myself,” explains Busch, who uses the pronouns they/her and is a two-spirit transgender woman with Cherokee and Pottawatomie ancestry. “I looked around for support groups in the Portland area, and the Friday night group was listed on the Q Center calendar on their website, so I showed up and have been a steady enough attendee [ever since].”
Busch says the meetups usually have 20 to 30 attendees, with at least one new person each Friday and about 160 members total in their private Facebook group.
“The group is the first stop for a lot of trans women moving into town and for those in the area that are coming into their own understanding of who they are,” Busch says, “whether they find out young or older, as I did, at least as far as starting transitioning is concerned.”
Busch became one of the group’s appointed co-facilitators about a year and a half ago, which they say was a natural progression from her 43 years of combined service in the military and law enforcement: “That’s my nature, to be helpful and a guardian and a leader.” They are also the parent of five adult children and 14 grandchildren, all of whom love her, and are supportive of her transition.
Of her role in the support group, Busch says, “Our community is so diverse and so dynamic, and no two people have the same experience and the same kind of history. It’s just [about] taking people at face value and helping them move through a difficult time in their lives, especially with new folks first starting out and identifying who they are.”
Over the past two years, Busch also notes that the group has evolved to include “everybody who identifies as transfeminine, regardless of their presentation or where they’re at on the binary or nonbinary side of the spectrum.”
Though the group’s time is not strictly structured, Busch says their session is usually followed by a social hour: “It’s fortunate we have the two hours on Friday evenings, and we could take up more time than that, because we have a lot of stuff to talk about—we talk about everything that affects us personally as trans women and share our stories and our experiences in a safe environment. That’s pretty welcome by the girls that attend, just to be able to come in and have sisterhood and fellowship with others in the community.”
In addition to her work leading the support group, Busch has also represented the Q Center at the Portland VA hospital’s 2017 Trans Day of Remembrance, was chosen as the special appeal speaker at the Q Center’s annual Shine gala, and helped the Q Center table at Pride 2018.
“Last year the group decided they wanted to come out of the closet, and not be limited to a byline on the Q Center calendar,” Busch explains, “so we got schedules worked out and had individual members of our group help work the table [at Pride], and we had a good time.” They also raised $700 for the Q Center by selling shirts, hats, and tote bags.
At a recent listening session hosted by the Q Center following reports of anti-queer violence around Portland, Busch was asked to lead a grounding exercise., which they say allowed for “a bit of a pause and a time-out between the information session and the open mic session.”
“These attacks on our rainbow folk, especially trans women and women of color, have really caused some concern and real-time worry for the girls who attend the Friday night group,” Busch says, though they’re appreciative of efforts like Safe Rides PDX in helping queer folks with transportation.
After more than three years of involvement at the Q Center, Busch says they consider it “a home away from home”: “It’s quite a welcome thing for me to see new folks come in and realize by seeing us there in the group and chatting with each other that they’re not alone, and it’s rather empowering for them to know that there are other successful trans women in town, working and living and loving and everything else.”