TransConnections support group helps students

Minnesota State’s Counseling Center offers a number of services, one of which is counseling groups for students. TransConnections is a support group that provides a safe environment for students to talk about gender identities.

Counselor Stephen Jenkins, who facilitates the group, said the groups are typically small, with five to eight students each. This allows for time and space for everyone to participate.

“TransConnections is one of those groups where it just so happens that the members identify as gender diverse, such as transgender or non-binary,” said Jenkins. “Students in TransConnections may talk as little or as much as they want about gender identity, but whatever they decide to share with one another, the strength of the group is the confidence that others in the group will have some greater understanding of what they are going through.”

Jenkins said the group is diverse, so students can learn from engaging with each other.

The TransConnections group began gathering this fall. However, Jenkins said he initiated TransConnections groups back in 2017 at another university after he saw more students come out and identify as transgender and gender non-conforming.

“Although I’m a cisgender man — meaning that my gender identity matches that which I was assigned at birth — I appreciated that transgender folks have long endured being misunderstood, pathologized and targeted,” Jenkins said.

Transgender people are continuously targeted by other means. According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 59 transgender people met violent deaths in 2022. Since 2013, there have been 302 violent deaths of transgender and gender non-conforming people.

“Evidence also has shown that transgender youth are especially vulnerable to anxiety, depression, assault and thoughts of suicide resulting from isolation and internalized shame,” said Jenkins. “Thus, TransConnections came about as a space that could combine peer support with professional, confidential, gender-affirming therapy.” 

Discussions in the group are not set ahead of time. Jenkins said topics evolve out of the interests, needs and life experiences of the members.

“The aim is personal growth, support, improved interaction and community, which tends to help people feel happier and healthier,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins’s experience facilitating TransConnections shows that support groups are highly effective. He said many students were returning from one semester to another. During the pandemic, students were participating in sessions online.

Students can request to join the TransConnections group by visiting the Counseling Center for a same-day screening appointment. Counseling services are free.

The Counseling Center facilitates other workshop groups. The groups help students to work on managing stress, depression, or anxiety. Students also can schedule one-on-one stress management sessions around specific concerns, such as time management, test anxiety, relaxation, or sleep. The number of group sessions students can attend is unlimited. 

Header Photo: Minnesota State’s Counseling Center offers counseling groups for students to support eachother, one of which is TransConnections. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

Write to Amalia Sharaf at

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