We want to make this International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHoBiT) May 17th, a time of revival and restoration for trans people.
We’ve come a long way since March 2020. COVID has changed the world, in ways big and small, and our lives have changed with it. With social distancing and the move, for many of us, to working from home, there has been an increasing emphasis on self-care as a response to the stresses of the pandemic.
This is almost certainly not the first self-care article you’ve read (although we hope, as things get brighter, it might be one of the last).
Self-care isn’t an automatic solution to everything, and it’s important that you seek out help if you need it – GenderGP has a team of gender specialist counsellors who are on hand to provide a listening ear.
Join GenderGP’s Psychological Therapies Lead, Marianne Oakes, and friends for a Livestream on May 17th: International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Join us on our YouTube channel and have your questions answered and your tips shared with the community.
There are plenty of things we can do in our day-to-day lives to keep on being our best selves. This is particularly true for the LGBTQ+ community. LGBT-friendly spaces have been hit hard by the pandemic, with clubs, gay bars, and cafés being shuttered or closing down entirely. When we feel distanced from our community, it can be easy to start feeling distanced from ourselves.
So how do we respond to this? Inevitably we’re going to be sad – and that’s okay, everyone feels sad sometimes, especially now – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be opportunities for new connections and fresh reflections. And with the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHoBiT) coming up on May 17th, we want to make this a time of revival and restoration for trans people. In fact, we’ve polled the GenderGP team and the trans community and gathered up their favourite tips and insights into fun, healthy, and – above all else – trans-positive self-care.
Here they are:
Try something new!
Perhaps you’ve got a lot of time on your hands now that you didn’t before, or maybe you’re tired of spending all day looking at screens and fancy doing something different with your evenings. It’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument (second-hand ones can be surprisingly cheap), start learning a language (there are loads of good free services like DuoLingo), or look up a recipe you’ve never tried before. And remember: it doesn’t matter if it goes well or not. That’s what can make trying something new a really affirming experience: it’s not about being perfect or even being good, but about doing something that feels right for you.
Do something good!
Now, more than ever, is a great time for those of us who are able to start giving back to those who aren’t. Blood donations are at an all-time low, and with the restrictions on who can give blood being relaxed from summer 2021 you might be able to help out even if you couldn’t previously because of your sexuality or gender identity. More people than ever are reliant on food banks and homeless support charities, with trans people being disproportionately likely to be affected, and they’re always looking for extra hands. Find out where your nearest soup kitchen is or talk to your council about which organisations provide support in the area. And, of course, there are lots of LGBT-specific organisations doing work within the community, from local groups like London Friend to nationwide efforts like Mermaids. Every little helps – and even the most selfless person can admit that doing good feels good.
Get some fresh air!
While it’s safer to gather outside, we may as well make the most of the nice weather. Get online and see if there are any green spaces nearby you’ve not visited before, and maybe even arrange an LGBT+ gathering (your queer friends will thank you for getting them out of the house!). Lawn games like rounders or kubb are a great way to have fun and get some exercise, or if you want a bit of quiet time you can try your hand at birdwatching or go looking for tadpoles in the local pond. Wherever you go, it’s going to be way better for your mental health than doom-scrolling at your desk.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden then why not cultivate your own paradise at home? Garden centres and plant shops could use your support, and growing something new will give you a wonderful Spring feeling. You could even put some fruit or vegetables in – tomatoes aren’t too hard – and you can show off your homegrown produce with pride (not to mention enjoy the satisfaction of growing your own lunch!).
Get in shape!
Physical health and mental health are closely interconnected, as the saying goes, look after your body and your body will look after you. It’s been hard to keep up with exercise while gyms have been closed, but there are plenty of ways to keep fit while keeping safe. Running is a good way to exercise outdoors, and great for your cardiovascular health (important if you’re considering hormone therapy or planning on surgery!). Most outdoor sports facilities, like basketball and tennis courts, can operate safely under COVID guidelines, and often offer training sessions if you’d like to learn how to hone your skills. If you’re nervous about going on your own then why not look for LGBT-positive fitness groups online – they’ll be able to give you advice as well as tips on how to work out safely.
Of course, not everyone has the time, energy, or ability to go running for miles, but even taking a ten-minute walk around the block or doing some yoga on your lunch break will make a difference. Instagram and YouTube have hundreds of tutorials for all body types and (dis)abilities so don’t feel discouraged – give it a shot.
Escape to another world!
So far these suggestions have been quite energetic, but that won’t always be the case. Sometimes you just need time to recharge your batteries, but that doesn’t mean you can’t fill your time with fun, stimulating things. If you’re into video games you can build a queer paradise in Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, and The Sims, and surround yourself with a virtual community (and if you don’t play games or don’t have access, there are thousands of LGBTQ+ streamers online).
Want to kick back and relax on the sofa? Streaming services like Netflix usually have their own sections for LGBTQ+ film and TV. There’s an unfortunate stereotype that queer cinema has to be either sad or exploitative (or both), but there’s also some great, warming, affirmative content out there. Look for content made by and for queer people, like the mind-swapping sci-fi thriller sense8, directed by trans sisters Lilly and Lana Wachowski and starring trans actress and activist Jamie Clayton. Some of the best watches for difficult days come from shows aimed at children and young adults. Steven Universe and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power are both made by nonbinary creators (Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson, respectively) and have plenty of laughs, action, and warm messages that stay with you after you have to get up and get on.
These don’t have to be activities that you do on your own. Why not get a few friends together for a book club, or seek out like-minded people on social media for a group film viewing online.You can find discussion questions for most popular books and movies with a quick Google search, and once the conversation starts flowing you’ll find an evening goes in a blink.
No self-care list would be complete without this one. It can sound patronising sometimes, but it really is one of those ‘annoying-but-true’ things. LGBTQ+ people are statistically more likely to be affected by depression, even more so if you’re trans or nonbinary. One of the main ways this can present is not looking after or paying attention to your physical needs, and hydration is the most important one. If you’re feeling like you can’t get out of bed, at least go fill up your glass of water. It might be the only thing you do that day, but it might just clear you up enough to do the next thing.
…and keep going!
The most important piece of self-care advice is that it’s okay to be surviving. Not every day can be the day that you try something new, or do something fun. But if you get to the next day, that might be one of the really good ones. So if you’re exhausted after the past year, take a minute to collect yourself – remind yourself you’re beautiful, and you’ve got this – and keep on going. The next exciting thing is yet to come.