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Online spaces as a refuge and a source of abuse

Part two of Jacob's chronicle of being a pregnant masculine person
Image: a blue, white and purple watercolour painting of a seahorse. Source: stockphoto.com

The covid quarantines left me in a pickle. The dilemma is this - most of my community is online but that’s also where nearly all the transphobia I experience is too. I’m not alone in this, especially not during a pandemic where we’re all online for all our contact. What I hadn’t imagined would happen, but in retrospect was obvious, is the unfortunate increase in troll behaviour as anonymity + boredom = flippant cruelty.


As a trans person, it isn’t just during a pandemic that most of my community time happens online. The spread out nature of our community means that unless you live in a big city then you’re unlikely to have a big community of queer people around you. This gets even harder if you’re specifically looking for queer pregnant people.


Like many of us, one of the things I’m missing most during these lockdowns is the ability to exist passively in social spaces, by which I mean the ability to sit on a friend’s sofa while the kids play or sitting in a restaurant with friends and letting conversations float by while you enjoy your meal. It’s the feeling of being present but not having to be fully engaged and switched on. It’s being social without being your best switched on self.


During covid there aren’t any easy substitutions for these. Zoom calls, while lovely in their own way, are incredibly draining. I find that I have to be actively engaged to get any sense of community from them but in being engaged I’m spending more in emotional energy that I’m recharging. The closest that I’ve found to being passively social is scrolling through social media. Other people’s conversations and stories about their lives scroll by and I can dip in and out

But these same spaces are dangerous, no matter how well we carefully curate our friends lists or our feeds, we are reminded of the hatred that barks away outside our door. It's in the boomer comics that people send round where someone being trans is the punch line, it's the news articles phrased as though our right to exist is up for debate. Like a flat earth “debate” that holds expert scientists as equal to someone who’s watched some youtube videos, we as trans people are debated as though we aren’t already here living our lives. Feeling unsafe even happens in LGBT spaces where some L and G people forget that those other letters are even there.

I witnessed a series of transphobic incidents, some passively and some more directly aimed at me earlier in this pregnancy and it broke me. Being pregnant I'm already more emotionally charged than usual so it may have broken me more dramatically than it normally would have, but the impact was massive. Thankfully my husband was able to pick up the slack while I recovered and regenerated my shielding.

In that vulnerable place I chose to write a Facebook post on my personal page sharing about my experiences and the impact it had. In writing it I was acutely aware that I was putting another reminder about transphobia on the feeds of around 100 trans people. In talking about the problem, I also became the problem. In the comments and PM's that I got after I could see the weariness of my trans friends.

We are exhausted.

We are exhausted in all the ways that everyone else is exhausted during the pandemic but with the extra addition of all our online spaces being tainted. Locked behind screens the haters are barking louder than ever and it's getting harder and harder to block out the noise.

I usually travel to be in queer spaces to regenerate and get my social shielding back. That armour that I don't need can be taken off in those places where my existence, my body and my life aren't questioned but are instead welcomed and delighted in. Without these spaces, and with this new louder wave of hatred, my community is fraying at the edges.

My fear is that transphobic people will read this and delight, thinking that they've won in some way, but the post I wrote on my social media, and also this blog, aren’t just a space to share how hard things are, but also a rallying cry to our cis friends, family and allies. The hatred trans people are facing is only increasing, even as (or, let's face it, especially as) we fight for our rights. We are walking into a storm that pushes back harder with every step we take forward, but everytime a cis ally walks with us we gain momentum.

Transphobes are on the wrong side of history and we need to keep reminding them of that because we aren't going anywhere.


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