Irish LGBT+ support services share mental health advice for trans community amid online anti-trans comments

With a surge in transphobic speech online, LGBT+ services offer helpful guidelines for the trans community.

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LGBT+ support services have shared advice and tips for the trans community on how they can look after their mental health in the face of online hate speech, misinformation, and harassment. 

As people spend longer periods of time indoors, digital platforms have emerged as a crucial lifeline to maintain connection. However, in recent weeks, virtual spaces have been flooded with hurtful and discriminatory language, creating an experience where many community members may feel isolated or burnt out from engaging online. 

Due to the rise in discriminatory rhetoric, trans people face hostile attitudes both off- and online daily. During a time when trans rights are under attack, the queer community are joining together through acts and messages of solidarity to show no one must face this alone. As stated in an open letter from Irish LGBT+ organisations, “We are here for you and we will resist every and any movement pulling us apart.”

With the possible challenges arising from online engagement, LGBT+ support services express the following advice on how trans people can take care of their mental health and wellbeing:

This Is Me Trans Healthcare Campaign Founder, Noah Halpin

The online world is a very difficult place for trans or non-binary people to navigate right now. For one’s own mental health, we would suggest not reading tweets from commonly known offenders, as well as not reading the comments section under mainstream articles about the same. Oftentimes, they’re filled with comments by people who either intend to cause harm, or are speaking from a place of ignorance.

There is more support for the trans community online than the opposite, so paying more attention to the support coming in from our allies and friends than the latter can help us to recognise that we have plenty of people standing with us.

Trans Greystones Facilitator, Kyle Chambers

It’s OK to feel lost, scared and unsure of what to do. Online transphobia and having trans identities viciously debated can be triggering for many people, surfacing feelings of fear, shame, anger and so on. It’s important to realise when these are coming to the fore for you and negatively impacting your lived experience. Although it’s very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of comment sections, do take a moment to question if this will have a positive impact on your mood and make conscious decisions to respond or unplug.

TENI National Community Development Officer, Lilith Carroll

No trans person should ever have to defend their own existence. Often negative or harmful media and online discourse can poke at our own insecurities, negative experiences or traumas which can bring up intense emotions within ourselves. It’s important to acknowledge these emotions that do come up, to allow yourself to feel them and to try and understand where they come from. 

If emotions are too intense to deal with on your own, talking with your family, friends, peers and linking into your community can be a great source of support and strength. Engaging in activities that allow you to be present or in the moment such as art, knitting, games and exercise help. Seeking a good therapist can be a big help, talking with your GP can also help if you need medications or referrals. For most people, a combination of all these elements will help promote greater resilience and strength. 

It’s important to say that your feelings are real and valid and not wrong. There is great strength in vulnerability and no shame in looking after your own mental health. You are never alone!

Small Trans Library Volunteer Librarian, Kate Kiernan

The best advice I can give another trans person is to seek out forms of community life that exist independently of Twitter and other social media platforms, and to remember that the trans life you are living exists independently of those platforms has a material and not simply discursive power. Find the trans people who can help you, and who you can help! 

BeLonG To and IndivuadilTy Youth Worker, Kate Cummins

Reach out to one of our Youth Workers and we can provide you with a listening ear if you are feeling upset and distressed about being harassed online or seeing anti-trans content.

Our Youth Workers are available for LGBTI+ youth between 13 and 24 to chat via email, text or phone about anything that comes up that is impacting their mental health. We are here for trans and non-binary young people through our one-to-one services and support groups. Our services are completely confidential and no issue is too small – we are here for you no matter what is going online and in your day-to-day life. 

LGBT Ireland CEO, Paula Flagan

The problem with online is that it is so invasive and you never get away from it in some ways. So you do have to be your own monitor. It’s to be mindful that you can take yourself away from that. It’s important to have things in your life outside of online. Whatever makes you happy, really tap into that. Tap into things that help you relax, help you feel a little bit more positive. 

In terms of how queer people can further support the trans community during this time, LGBT+ support groups highlighted:

TENI National Community Development Officer, Lilith Carroll

It’s important to understand firstly that ally-ship is conferred upon by others through your actions and understanding and not a self imposed identity within itself. Practices such as retweeting and screenshotting transphobic comments and sharing them can actually increase harm and distress for others as it can often expose target communities to the same hate and ignorance repeatedly. Its outcome also can often centre you and not the community. 

Being right is not always the most important thing! Instead, lifting up and amplifying the voices of others within a target community so that they can be heard can be much more powerful, useful and often more accurate and impactful as we are able to speak from our own lived knowledge and experiences. If you wish to understand more about our community then listening to us, doing your own research, reading articles and books and content made by trans people will remove the burden of educating you off an often overburdened community.

Looking at your own environments, in your workplaces, clubs, communities and homes and examining ways that they can be more accessible and trans friendly can have a big impact. TENI offers training and support in helping develop a more trans inclusive environment in your workplaces, schools, colleges and universities and community organisations.

Trans Greystones Facilitator, Kyle Chambers

If you are able to, activism (both in-person organising and online) can boost mood and provide connection and community. It can also be incredibly draining though and it’s vital to keep self-care, however that looks to you, central to your engagement with the many issues that are raging right now. 

This Is Me Trans Healthcare Campaign Founder, Noah Halpin

If you are a trans ally, please tell us! Share your support on your social media pages. We’re at a time when your support is needed most! Another thing is not to share the transphobic tweets that you may see, even in outrage, repeatedly having to see these negative tweets that attack our very being can be tolling on trans people.

BeLonG To and IndivuadilTy Youth Worker, Kate Cummins

Call it out – online and in day-to-day life when you see anti-trans comments, language or attitudes. Report online abuse to the platform and show your support for your trans friends by sharing factual information about trans identities and highlight the many trans organisation and individuals using their platform for good.

LGBT Ireland CEO, Paula Flagan

The bigger picture is what we can do as a society to stop this terrible harassment and hate speech towards trans people and the trans community. That’s something we would be very conscious of at a legislative and public policy level, to try to get that really robust hate speech legislation in place, that really deals with online harassment and bullying around people’s identity. 

Regarding advice for maintaining a balance between social awareness and one’s own mental health, the support groups said:

Small Trans Library Volunteer Librarian, Kate Kiernan

This is an issue that I can only speak about personally. I recommend what I call a form of ‘situated scepticism’. The internet gives you the illusion that you can know everything you need to, and that your judgement on any given issue is important. You can’t actually know everything.

So, my advice would be to accept that you can’t know everything, and to strike a balance between knowing and doing. The weight of the world is not on your shoulders, and the world will only be changed collectively. So, you should focus on the life that is happening to you right now, and on connecting with others in order to act collectively. 

Trans Greystones facilitator, Kyle Chambers

Checking the news perhaps once a day and spending the rest of your screen time on more enjoyable content will allow you to keep in touch and avoid carrying the negative ideas of transphobes throughout your day. There are many resources on caring for yourself here.  

This Is Me Trans Healthcare Campaign Founder, Noah Halpin

Stick to your own trusted sources with a good track record in supporting the trans community. Arguing with people who question our identities is hard not to do, we understand that, but often these people are trying to get a rise out of the community and will rarely see your point, which can be exhausting to say the least.

If it feels too much, a small break from social media can often help clear the mind. Call a friend, arrange a walk with those who love and care about you and please know that there are groups and organizations such as ourselves (This Is Me), TENI, BelongTo and LGBT Ireland who can help with support and advice.

LGBT Ireland CEO, Paula Flagan

If you are able to, connect in with positive support services, engage with groups that are advocating and working to improve rights and visibility. From my experience of being involved in activism, that can be very supportive, it can help you build your confidence and courage, and just help you really accept and celebrate who you are. If you end up in very supportive environments, be it online or in person, that really does help to build you up. Because you are starting to see the solidarity that is there, and it is one of the big strengths of our community, that we are good at being there for each other.

If you are looking for further advice, GCN has published a guide on how to deal with anxiety and stress related to lockdown. There are also a variety of support services available for the trans community, as highlighted above and listed below, and many offer instant messaging support:

LGBT Helpline
HIV Ireland
Pieta House 
Mental Health Ireland
Origins Eile

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have published a helpful resource on grounding exercises. Throughout the years, TENI and LGBT Ireland partnered together to launch helplines offering support and guidance for families of the trans and gender non-conforming community, such as The Gender Identity Family Support Line (01 9073707).

For any member of the LGBT+ community, if you can, consider donating to trans-focused support services and help them continue their vital work at this time. 

© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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