Samantha Jane, is a scientist and GenderGP community member.
During our lives there are events which affirm who we are. It may be our first day at school, a birthday party or even a first date. During childhood we learn a lot about ourselves – our name, where we live, who our parents are and what they stand for and so on. All of these experiences help to shape us as a person. Research has shown that the more positive our interactions and affirmations, the more positive our mental health outcomes.
Now imagine that you are reborn as, let’s say a 50-year-old with a new name, new friends and even a new body. You are suddenly in a situation where the old affirmations no longer apply. All of the positivity you had built up is gone.
This is something that many trans people go through, particularly those who transition later in life. Once again, research has shown that positive affirmation has a significant role to play in securing the mental wellbeing of trans people.
So, how do they go about gathering this affirmation, based on this redefined version of themselves?
Support groups are an excellent place to start – both in person and online. Joining groups of like-minded people can help us to feel accepted as our true selves without any of the baggage of our past.
Establishing this new support network is particularly important because a great number of trans people have been shunned by their friends and family and so this source of affirmation is no longer available to them.
Many trans people use these new forums to post pictures and ask whether they look good. To those outside of the trans community this may seem like vanity and it is often used to denigrate trans people, but it is simply a way of building a new sense of self, of getting some positive feedback for those who are isolated.
Sometimes, the need to hear someone say something positive about your choices can be overwhelming. A positive comment can make the difference between depression and getting through the day.
Without positive affirmation on a regular basis, many people (not just trans people) struggle, so for those of us who need a little more help, please do try and get in contact with others through LGBT organisations. If you see someone online who is struggling, please do take the time to talk to them. Even a single positive statement can make all the difference to a trans person’s day.
We are one big community – let’s help each other.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of GenderGP or the transgender community.