Why online anonymity is important to me, a trans teenager

Artie is a 17-year-old transgender boy living in Auckland. He tells IRL why being anonymous on the internet helps alleviate his gender dysphoria and promotes a sense of safety. As said to Madeleine Holden.

I guess I’m a bit unusual in my use of social media, at least compared to other Zoomers I know. I don’t use TikTok – the main platform where memes and things of “Zoomer culture” are shared – and I only use Instagram to message my friends, not to post photos. My favorite platforms are Discord and Twitter.

I would much rather use social platforms like these that focus on written text because I have issues with audio processing, but I also prefer to be anonymous online, like I am on Twitter. When you’re anonymous, you can choose people’s first impression of you and how they perceive you, whereas in real life the other person’s perception of you is dictated by how they see you from that he knows you. .

For me, Instagram is a place where my identity is known, meaning people who follow me, and people I follow, are always people I know IRL or friends of people I know IRL. I’m trans and I don’t date most people, so it’s kind of uncomfortable to be in a space where people will assume you’re a cis girl and treat you as such, because you never gave it to them reason to believe otherwise.

Instagram also causes me discomfort because most people my age use it to post selfies. I don’t like seeing myself in pictures because it triggers gender dysphoria – it’s the discomfort that many trans people feel with things that are usually associated with the gender they were assigned at birth; what their body looks like or the clothes they wear or how they are treated by other people. Gender dysphoria can be different for everyone who experiences it: there is no single trans experience.

It is painful to look at images of oneself and to feel the evil of them. Dysphoria in many trans people, myself included, manifests as thoughts like “Fuck, I look like [gender assigned at birth]’, and that the pain is specific and hard to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s like when you look in the mirror and feel revolted by what you see because it doesn’t match your appearance. It doesn’t fit the gender expression that would bring you joy.

Being online, and especially being anonymous online, also fosters a sense of security for me. High school kids are always homophobic and transphobic, and for students like me, you can’t really escape people you know are bigoted because you’re all in the same school, class, or age group. If someone disgusts you somewhere like Twitter, you can block and report them. So at least they are out of your space, and often the account saying these things will be deleted. In real life, however, teachers can’t do much to help you without lots of hard evidence.

The sense of community I found online was amazing, and I know that’s true for many other queer people my age as well. At school it’s quite lonely: I’m the only openly queer prefect, for example, but online you can express yourself more, you can try different names and pronouns, because the fear of vitriol and hatred are far away to be as serious as IRL.

Again, anonymity definitely helps, because you can do things like come out as trans and know there will be little to no repercussions from people around you IRL, like family or peers. – and these repercussions can be quite serious, like being hit. away from home or experiencing physical violence.

I first came out as transmasculine on Twitter, but since then I’ve been slowly telling more and more people in my life about it. There’s something to be said for the fact that I found it easier to announce my transsexuality to 2,000 people on Twitter than to muster up my courage to tell anyone in real life, even if I trust a lot.

There are a few things that make dating in a space like Twitter easier than IRL. First, there is the knowledge that many people here are trans and therefore would understand and respond well. Second, there’s the media itself: if people react badly to you online, it’s easy to block or mute them and move on. The separation between users makes it more difficult in some ways to socialize as we do offline, but it is also essential for marginalized minorities to ensure our own safety.

In terms of community, as someone who is in high school, the appeal of platforms like Twitter is that you can choose who you surround yourself with: I can easily find and interact with other queer people and block zealots and trolls, while at school I can’t exactly walk away from the boy who threatened to hurt one of my buddies just because he’s a fag. There’s no real-life screenshot or report button when someone calls you an insult in the school hallways.

The first person I dated in person was my dean at school; he has been incredibly supportive and I appreciate him very much. The problem with environments like the school, however, is that it’s incredibly lonely, there are no trans staff members that I know of, so there was no one I could really relate to. spin specifically when it comes to being trans. Online, however, there are many people who have been in my position and understood it. It’s nice to be understood, and that’s certainly why I stayed here so long.

Public interest journalism funded by NZ On Air.

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