On Tumblr, The Transgender Community Offers Help & Hope

Photo: Samuel Kubani/Getty Images.
"i've identified as agender for a few years but now i'm starting to feel feminine," an anonymous Tumblr user explains in a question posted to the Tumblr blog Transgender Teen Survival Guide. "i don't fully identify as a woman though and i still really identify as agender. i am amab [assigned male at birth]. in short can i be agender and transfemininie?"

The question is long and rambling, seeming to come out in a nervous rush and peppered with thanks and an apology. But the answer the sender received from a respondent named Roxie was simple.

"Of course you can."

Tumblr seems like a natural fit for young transgender people to gather online. With a thriving social-justice community and fandom devotees advocating LGBTQ rights, Tumblr also fosters a culture of reaching out for advice from caring, experienced strangers. Tumblr is where Taylor Swift has offered fans lengthy, personalized words of wisdom, and it's common for blog bios to include assurance that their ask box (Tumblr messaging) is always open.

"Tumblr's also important because through finding one person who is similar to you, you'll find 10 more, because they'll be following people like themselves. When I was first working out I was trans, I didn't follow that many other trans girls, but now I follow loads because I've seen the kind of things they've said," explained Roxie, who is an admin for the Transgender Teen Survival Guide.

A 17-year-old who identifies as a nonbinary trans girl, Roxie describes Tumblr as "a safe space, where we can enjoy 'normal life stuff' and 'trans stuff' as it should be — one and the same thing."

Tumblr's trans community first received national attention after the suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn in December of last year. Alcorn's heartbreaking suicide note, left behind on her blog, explained that her parents refused to accept that she was transgender while also expressing hope that her taking her own life would spark change.

But before Alcorn's tragic death, her Tumblr was a place to explore her identity and engage with her community. Among the pop-culture posts of any teen girl's blog, like GIFs from favorite TV shows and photos focusing on fashion trends, there were offerings more specific to her trans identify. One post showed an image of a black-and-white adult clipping the colorful wings — drawn in the blue, pink, and white of trans pride — off a sad child. Below the picture, a caption read, "Refuse to be your child's first bully." Though Alcorn couldn't be herself in real life, on Tumblr she could be accepted.

The Tumblr transgender community can offer more than solidarity and emotional support (though those should never be discounted). In addition to answers to identity questions, the survival guide — which currently has a roster of 12 administrators with a wide range of gender identities, sexualities, and races — also responds to practical questions including how to adjust an ill-fitting chest binder. Trans clothing swaps are also arranged through Tumblr as a way for trans people to give away gendered clothes they no longer need to someone who might not have the funds to purchase a new wardrobe that corresponds with their true gender.

The Transgender Housing Network is another Tumblr blog filling a practical need in the trans community: safe housing. Many posters looking for places to stay are young teens unable to return home to their unsupportive families. A 19-year-old in Canada looking for a safe place to stay explained, "My family has made it obvious that I need to be gone by the time I graduate, and they are very obvious about the fact that they don’t like that I’m trans." A poster from Florida wrote, "I’m turning 18 in December, and will not have a place to stay."

Still, the most important thing Tumblr's trans community can give its members may be a sense of affirmation. "A big question TTSG gets is 'Am I still valid?'" explained Carl, another administrator on the Transgender Teen Survival Guide.

"And the answer is always yes, but it's always heartbreaking to see."

November 14-20 is Transgender Awareness Week, a time to raise the voices of and the awareness about transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. You can read Refinery29's previous work about transgender rights in America here.
Advertisement

More from Culture

1. World News: Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency after suffering its largest power outage since 1980.The outage left 1.5 million Puerto ...
Refinery29 is pleased to present Represent: 29 Women We Admire, a group exhibition at this year's Photoville, the largest annual photography festival in ...
1. U.S. News: A 13-year-old was shot and killed by police in Columbus, OH.Police were responding to a reported robbery when they fatally shot Tyree ...
Throughout childhood and adolescence, Alexander Rorabaugh saw the International Church of Christ as the center of his life. “Everything I did and everyone...
Parker Day finds prettiness and perfection boring. The photographer's captivating portrait series Icons, which will be published in a monograph next year, ...
1. U.S. News: A high school shooting in Alpine, TX, ended with one injury and the death of the shooter.Local authorities reported that the alleged ...
A University of Chicago student who was twice accused of sexual assault is suing his school, alleging that the university is violating his rights under ...
Laura Moulton is a librarian with and founder of Street Books, a mobile library that serves homeless and semi-homeless people in Portland, Oregon. Her ...
1. Here At Home: There were riots in Milwaukee after a police shooting following a traffic stop. Hundreds of people rioted against the police in ...
1. World News: After four years, Ecuador will allow Julian Assange to be questioned by Swedish officials over rape allegations. Assange, the founder of...
In honor of the campaign season, we're asking you to help us decide which fictional TV character was most worthy of the presidential title
You probably didn’t need to guess that President Obama is a feminist. He’s never been shy about his love for his daughters, respect for his wife, or ...
1. Major News: Hillary Clinton delivered the speech of her life at the DNC. Her speech came at the end of a week in which the party has pushed to ...
Thanks to Seth Meyers, diehard Sen. Sanders supporters are feeling the comedy burn. Even if you missed the Democratic National Convention, you've ...