WINCHESTER — When Tabby Shanholtzer came out as a transgender woman in 2012, there was a support group here that could help her.
The group, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), was part of a national organization. But the Winchester chapter eventually dissolved.
So Shanholtzer has created a new support group called We Matter Winchester for the local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
“I’m paying it back,” she said.
The weekly meetings will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursdays at 124 W. Piccadilly St., which is the location of AIDS Response Effort (ARE). The first meeting will be July 11.
Shanholtzer said the group is open to straight people who consider themselves allies of the LGBTQ+ community.
Oscar Cerrito Mendoza, housing services program manager for ARE, will be one of the group’s moderators. Cerrito Mendoza said the purpose of the group is to simply provide a listening ear for the LGBTQ+ community.
Cerrito Mendoza believes there’s a need for this kind of support group.
Within the LGBTQ+ community, suicide rates are particularly high, he said. According to the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, studies over the last four decades have suggested people in the LGBTQ+ community may have a higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Cerrito Mendoza said he hopes We Matter Winchester can help LGBTQ+ people who may be struggling. He also sees it as an opportunity to help support and prepare participants for negative reactions they may experience.