What kind of impact does the internet, and social media, have on the Trans community? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
The internet has been pretty amazing for lots of group of people who historically haven't fit in very well where they live. Computer geeks, anime fans, gay people, all sorts of folks who used to be that one weird person at their school or at most have a handful of like minded friends, all of these folks can connect with people just like them around the world. It's been incredibly empowering.
There are even fewer trans people than most of these other groups. And while you could be an anime fan by going to cons or ordering things by mail to watch at home, and no one else in your town necessarily has to know or care what you're into, things are a lot harder for trans people. It doesn't help to be trans in the privacy of your own home, or even secretly with a partner, like some gay people used to do before they could be open about their lives. Trans people either have to upend our entire lives, or live on with dysphoria, completely disconnected from who we're supposed to be.
That's a huge change to make without usually even having good access to information. And even if you were one of the lucky ones who was able to get access to information and treatment, you had limited avenues for support. Life was incredibly difficult for trans folks before the internet and social media. A lot of people killed themselves because they couldn't find a way to make their lives livable.
The internet brought information, and it brought community. It made it so much easier for people who were wondering if we were really trans. It gave us access to people who had been through this already and could talk about their stories and tell us about what our options are. It gives us like-minded people for support as we go through all the difficult parts from coming out to getting care to managing all the changes we have to make in our lives to finally live as ourselves to dealing with the exhaustion and the fallout when things have happened and are moving forward and life just plain gets difficult at times and it turns out that there are a lot of things that transition hasn't solved for you.
It made it possible for confused parents to get information. Even many conscientious, caring parents don't know what to do when the person they always knew to be their daughter tells them that he's actually their son. Connecting with trans people and parents of trans people for help and support gives them the opportunity to figure out how to handle it well, and get their kids the resources they need.
And, of course, it's made us targets for a lot of haters. Internet haters and trolls are a problem for everyone, but being trans definitely paints an especially big target on our backs. We deal with various kinds of abuse on basically all online platforms, from the casual transphobia of people who are repulsed by us on a one-off basis to coordinated groups who work together on online attacks in the hopes that they can hurt us to right wing groups that organize to try to take away our rights in the offline world. Because the internet doesn't just make it easy for us to connect, it makes it easier for our haters to connect as well. And they do.
Nevertheless, the internet is a big part of why a lot of us are still here at all, so, haters or not, it's clearly a big benefit to the community.
The internet allowed a great many people to come together and realize that they weren't insane.
Before the modern internet age, trans people existed in near complete isolation. There was very little information shared between us, or between the medical and psychiatric professionals who we interact with. Back when it was known as "Harry Benjamin Syndrome," we were expected to all fit into a single, very narrow-minded, mold. We all had to be straight, "passable," desiring surgical intervention, and willing to go "completely stealth" after surgery. If we didn't match that, we were denied from even transitioning at all.
Now, we form groups, we're able to communicate, commiserate, commingle, form communities, and even conjugate (I really just felt the need to keep up the alliteration).
Transgender healthcare has advanced more in the last 10-20 years than it had in the previous 50, due in large part to our ability to talk to each other. For instance, the information which has become available due to organizations attempting to take transgender census information, we know that 70% or more of trans people are also LGBQA ... that's 70% of us who would have been previously denied care under the HBS model of care.
In short, the internet has been nothing but good for the trans community when taken as a whole.