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Trans and non-binary people are bombarded with doom and gloom. Everywhere you look it’s bad news. And this is understandable: The news tends to be bad right now. Around the world the combination of a hostile media climate and challenges to rights and healthcare has produced a profoundly negative narrative.

But the bigger problems aside, this narrative has become an issue in and of itself. Being a trans person online is already hard enough, it’s harder if you’re surrounded by negativity all the time. We know that trans and non-binary people are significantly more likely to be seriously anxious or depressed, and environmental factors are a major contributor. Put simply, you’re more likely to feel miserable when you only see misery.

We’re not going to tell you to ‘stay positive’ or ‘look on the bright side’. It’s patronising and doesn’t really recognise the difficulties facing trans and non-binary people, and besides, there’s already plenty of wellness content out there that will do that. What we can do is talk about why it’s important to try and insulate ourselves from this negativity – as individuals, and as a community.

Negative portrayals affect how we perceive ourselves. If the only representations of trans people we see are negative ones, we start to identify with those representations. This can be social media that shares hate, media that reports only on the loss of rights and healthcare, or film and TV that focuses on trans trauma and pain (we’re looking at you, The Danish Girl). Cisgender people get to see positive representations of themselves all the time. Trans and non-binary people don’t get these same positive role models, and the impression is that happiness isn’t an option for us.

It also affects how we’re perceived outside the community. We tend to think that the cisgender world is divided cleanly into pro-trans and anti-trans – and this isn’t helped by the way we’re portrayed in the media. But the fact is that the vast majority of people outside the trans and non-binary people have no strong feelings about trans people either way, and just want to get on with their lives. If all they ever see of transgender people is splashy headlines and sad stories, then that becomes the idea of transgender people. Rather than being neighbours, colleagues, and friends, trans and non-binary people are made out to be something different.

 

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So what can we do to stop this cycle? Even if we can’t control what’s in the papers or on Netflix, we can all do our part to change the narrative. As individuals, we can filter what we see and what we engage with. It’s not possible to totally avoid all the bad stuff on social media, but we can still make a conscious decision not to follow transphobic accounts or share upsetting content (or to take a break from social media altogether!). There’s a fine line between raising awareness and perpetuating a negative narrative. Just think: Do people want to see this, and how will it make them feel?

As well as deplatforming the negative representations, we can also boost the positive. Look for trans artists, creators, influencers and celebrities who are sharing stories of success:

You can also share your own moments of hope and success. Small personal gains are just as important as sea change events, and we’re more likely to change the culture by celebrating lots of individual milestones than by waiting for one big one. Whether it’s something you made, a transition goal, or just getting out of bed in the morning, take the time to validate yourself. If we all work together, we can create a more positive narrative for all trans and non-binary people.

At GenderGP we know that trans and non-binary life can be difficult, and we’re making an effort to provide feel-good stories and useful content to the community. Plus, we’re always here if you need support. You can talk about gender identity (or anything else) with our expert counsellors, or ask our team any questions you have. If you want to follow our positive trans content or share your own you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.