Self-Care in the Trans Community
Published: 20 November 2018 Tags: By James Harris
20th November is Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR), an opportunity to memorialise those who have died worldwide due to anti-trans hate and raise awareness of the continued violence endured by trans and non-binary people. In light of such loss, the importance of self-care cannot be overstated.
A trans LGBT Foundation member of staff offers an insight into the occasion:
“TDoR is a difficult time for trans communities and a number of trans people really don’t like the day, whereas others find it very important. Either way, it’s tough. We have a lot of very passionate activists, and we need to remind them that whatever their work involves, they need to take care of themselves, and stay connected with their communities.”
So what does self-care mean if you’re trans/non-cisgender or questioning? What is helpful to know if you’re a cisgender ally?
Stay safe: It is important to be openly defiant in the face of oppression – it makes a clear statement that you exist and refuse to be ashamed – just as long as you remain vigilant and don’t make yourself vulnerable. Visibility makes it easier to unite over a common cause and raise awareness, but when taken to extremes it can make you a target for abuse, or worse. When protesting in public, do so in a group where any hostility provoked will not go unnoticed. If you are an online activist, ensure you remain as anonymous as possible.
Don’t lose yourself in the fight: When fighting hate, it is easy to become embittered by hate, consumed by the compulsion to counter every assault on yourself and what you stand for. But half the fight is already won by simply living your life freely and fearlessly; “the best form of revenge is to be happy.” Being an activist – a trans activist in particular – might be a fundamental aspect of your identity, but you are also so much more.
Accept support: If you are part of a support group, or have trans friends who might be vulnerable, reach out regularly to check up on them. If you already feel alienated and misunderstood, this increases the risk of isolating yourself from the world. If so, maintaining support networks is especially important; it’s a healthy part of being human to ask for help. The LGBT Foundation offers various services specifically for the trans/non-cisgender community, and hosts various trans groups/meetings where trans issues can be discussed or members of the trans community can meet and be reassured by those with similar experiences (see links at bottom of page or find us on social media for regular updates about upcoming events.) And remember – it’s not selfish to give yourself a break.
Discovering your identity: If you’re struggling to define your gender or feel pressured to choose from such an inclusive, fluid range of options, be reassured that you don’t have to. One fundamental reason gender is being more broadly recognised in the first place, is because individuals are able to define their identity on their own terms, and thus establish categories more nuanced and therefore more reflective of reality than before. The most important thing is that you remain true to who you are and don’t force yourself to fit – or allow yourself be forced – where you don’t belong. Once you begin to know and learn to love who you are, to accept and embrace what you cannot and should not have to change about yourself, other people’s ridicule, criticism, hate and lack of acceptance has less power to affect you.
Dealing with dysphoria: Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because of a perceived conflict between their biological sex and gender identity. Society teaches that you cannot be fully female if you have biologically male genitalia/physical characteristics, or fully male if you have biologically female genitalia/physical characteristics. However, consider this perspective from howtotrans.com:
“None of this is true. If you’re a female, then your genitals are female with you, no matter what they are. The same is true if you’re male, non-binary, agender, or any other gender. And if you happen to have something that’s usually regarded as part of a different gender, think of it as a bonus feature instead of a lacking one.”
While it can be frustrating when your body isn’t as feminine or masculine as you feel inside, and some people find they need to transition to be themselves completely, it is crucial to acknowledge that being trans is not a contradiction. Unless you decide otherwise, you are whole and complete just as you are.
Transgender Day of Remembrance invites us to reflect on the sobering reality that, despite advancements in acceptance and equality, trans people worldwide are still being killed for who they are. The fact that so many people are inured to this reality and so casually able to overlook it, only highlights how systemic the problem – and the complacency that inhibits outrage and action in response – has become.
An emphasis on self-care may not fully address the prejudice that is the root cause of all the lives so tragically taken by anti-trans attitudes and violence, but hopefully it does make those targeted by it more resilient and better able to thrive, despite discrimination and lack of acceptance.
Only by taking care of ourselves and each other can we continue to fight for the progress that still needs to be made.
How to trans: https://howtotrans.com/tag/self-care/
LGBT Foundation Trans Advocacy: https://lgbt.foundation/how-we-can-help-you/trans-advocacy
LGBT Foundation help: https://lgbt.foundation/how-we-can-help-you
LGBT Foundation trans programme: https://lgbt.foundation/who-we-help/trans-people