Chris, a member of our Gender Recognition Youth Commission, wrote this helpful guide to staying safe online as a trans person.
Top 5 tips for staying safe online
It's an unfortunate truth, but being visibly trans (including non-binary) and an activist anywhere, especially on the internet, can leave you more vulnerable to transphobia and nasty trolls.
Everyone deserves to feel comfortable, supported and able to be as open as they want to be, so here are 5 top-tips to look after yourself and keep yourself and others safe.
1. Use strong privacy settings
All social media sites have the option to make accounts private, or for your posts to only be shown to people you trust. This is a very useful tool as it ensures that you have full control over who you allow to see your content and can make it less likely for transphobic trolls to find you, or for your trans identity to be revealed to someone you didn’t want to know.
Here are the guides for some of the significant social media sites:
Facebook - https://m.facebook.com/help/325807937506242
Instagram - https://help.instagram.com/116024195217477
2. It’s okay to mute or block
If a transphobic troll tries to interact with you on the internet, your first response may be to argue back or get angry. However, this may not always be the best option. While definitely very cathartic, constantly arguing with those who don’t understand or don’t respect the trans community can lead you to burn out fast. You don’t need to prove your identity, ideas or your worth as a trans person. These trolls don’t deserve your precious time and energy.
Save your fight for the activism, the protests and writing to politicians, and allow yourself to just block the troll and move on. It may be hard, but you will create a lot more change in the world by taking part in activism, rather than deteriorating your mental health by arguing with faceless transphobes on the internet.
3. Watch out for fake news
“Fake News” is often spread quickly around the internet, causing panic and uproar needlessly. This is especially true with trans stories, I frequently see sensationalist headlines like ‘Children on sex-change hormones at age five!!!!!’ plastered across my timelines, alongside strong transphobic comments. However, if anyone spreading these articles did their research, they would quickly learn that they are “Fake News”.
Some key questions to spot and debunk Fake News are:
· Is the source/author reliable?
· Does it have genuine secondary sources
· Is it on a satirical site such as The Onion or Clickhole?
· When was it written?
· Is the story posted on any other reliable sources?
Doing a bit of research before immediately sharing clickbait or “fake news” can stop panic and allow people to understand the genuine story.
4. Surround yourself with positive media and images instead
It can be quite upsetting and draining to log onto twitter in the morning to find yet another transphobic article has been written or incident has occurred.
To combat this, I have filled my social media timelines with happy content - from dog pictures to my favourite comedians to wholesome news stories.
Some of my favourite accounts to follow are:
· Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary (adorable old dogs, on all social media platforms!)
· Lokistagram (https://www.instagram.com/lokistagram)
· Various queer comics, including Joe Lycett and Mae Martin
· Tinycarebot (I put this account on notifications and every hour i get a gentle reminder to do some various self care, https://www.twitter.com/tinycarebot)
· No Context Louis Theroux
You don’t need to be in activist mode all the time, and it’s really important to strike a good balance of activist/political content and general happy content. You deserve to take a break and let yourself chill as often as you can.
5. Check in with your friends too
Communal care is important! Chat to your other trans friends, make sure that they are looking after themselves and not getting burnt-out. Solidarity is so important, especially when you are facing discrimination simply for being who you are, so make sure that you talk to your friends and make time to see them. Even if you do nothing but go on a walk or watch a terrible movie together, spending time together can make you feel less alone and bring things that are happening in the world into perspective.
Look after yourself! As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”. You cannot be an effective activist or feel healthy and happy without first making sure that you are ok and keeping yourself safe.