Finding Support Online
Oct 22, 2015
Thinking back on my own gender journey, I recall a few periods of time when I found crucial information, acceptance, and affirmation from resources on the internet.
This was primarily during a time when I wasn’t totally ready or sure how to articulate what I was feeling about my gender to the outside world. My exploration and questioning was an internal process I kept very private for many years. At times when I felt I had no peers who could relate to or understand my feelings, I would go online to find information about gender films, trans* and gender-expansive youth, gender affirmative health care, and gender-focused research. Pretty much anything gender. Though the experiences and information featured on these websites rarely reflected all the same elements of my experience, the narratives were a place where I found an indescribable sense of belonging, and affirmation I was seeking but didn’t feel able to talk about. I feared others wouldn’t understand and that talking about my gender would change my relationships. Over time, the validation and support I found online gave me self-confidence. This eventually led me to fully pursue who I know myself to be.
The majority of my gender education was informal and occurred by immersing myself in the online communities where other gender-expansive young people were sharing their experiences and stories. The individuals whose stories I read on Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, and other websites gave me a glimpse into what my future could look like socially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They provided inspiration in times of hope, and comfort in times of difficulty. Though I rarely connected with others through live conversation, I found relief in reading conversations they were having and a sense of community in the online forums. It was reassuring to know that I was not alone and it was a reminder that there were many people— caregivers, professionals, researchers, educators, college students, youth, and allies– who are eager to learn, educate, and contribute to conversations about expanding notions of gender.
Over the last few months, I’ve been helping to test the beta release of the Gender Spectrum Lounge, an online support system for the broader community. The Lounge aims to centralize conversations about gender by providing a digital space for community members to ask questions, share stories, access support programs, and connect around common interests.
Last week we launched the new Gender Spectrum Lounge. I’m excited for this opportunity to help facilitate the conversations that were helpful on my own journey. The gender-expansive community, and those who love and care for them, is a large one, but there remain many physical barriers preventing gender-expansive youth, parents and caregivers, and professional providers from accessing support and resources. The Lounge is a resource hub, providing support and a safe place to explore questions and ideas about gender with others. It is a free membership-based digital community setup with privacy settings to ensure the safety and comfort of all our members.
You can register and log in to The Lounge by visiting the homepage here. I look forward to seeing you in The Lounge and continuing the conversations about gender!
– Mere (Lounge username: @meredithabrams)