Guest blog by Mars, SOAR Social Media Ambassador
For as long as I can remember, gender dysphoria has always been a part of my life. I felt it when I was five and my grandma bought me a set of princess dresses. When I turned nine, I was an early bloomer and my first moon was full of bouquets, flowers, and people saying, “You’re a woman now.” In rejecting this identity, I started to dress in a different style, all baggy clothes, with no more “girly colors” like pink. In the sixth grade, a boy told me he thought I was a “pretty girl.” No thank you, sir, hard pass on being perceived like that. I dressed more masculine and (regrettably) in more black. At night I would look in the mirror and I would feel this incredible disconnection between my body and how my body should be. It’s difficult to describe, but it’s as if your mental image of yourself and how you are is different, but you didn’t invent the mental image, it’s always been there. It’s like nature is personally telling you something is wrong. It’s as though someone added a private part to your body without your permission. It feels like sandpaper and chipped teeth. The older I got, and the more feminine my body got, the more prominent this feeling became. This has led to a lot of turmoil in my life. During quarantine, I’ve noticed that these feelings are exaggerated. Maybe it’s because there’s less to distract me, or maybe it’s because I’ve seen myself in the mirror in the past couple of months more than my whole life, it seems. Either way, if dysphoria was cheese, I’d be extra cheddar.
“In essence, it’s a big gay dance party”: Connecting online to alleviate dysphoria
Dysphoria (sometimes even when treated or managed) has been shown to cause mental health issues. I’m not alone in my trans struggle with mental health, and recently the COVID-19 pandemic has exaggerated these struggles for everyone in the community. People in the LGBTQ+ community are three times more likely to struggle with mental health, and 38-65% more likely to struggle with suicidal ideation. Post-quarantine, there have been higher rates of unemployment and more disconnection from communities and support systems like friends, LBGTQ+ centers, and gay-straight alliances due to social distancing. All of these factors have made transgender people and especially transgender youth more vulnerable to the stress and instability of this pandemic.
However, online queer communities have been popping up in every facet, that I really encourage you to seek them out if they could be of support to you. Word of resources like the Trans Lifeline (which is peer staffed and run 24/7) has spread like crazy in these past few months, and even more, the community has found a new way to spread joy and meet new people in quarantine, utilizing a digital club! This popular LGBTQ+ club named Club Q meets on Zoom daily from 9-12am EST time except for Saturdays, when the hours are extended to 4-12am to accommodate the club’s European patrons. In essence, it’s a big gay dance party, which is a great way to connect with the community and de-stress at the end of a day. In addition, GenderSpectrum.org is offering free group therapy to trans and gender non-binary people in all age groups, pre-teen to senior.
“The community always brings me joy”
Personally, I have not medically transitioned at all, but instead I go to an alternative gender-affirming school, surround myself with others like me, and am very involved in my trans community. All coping methods which quarantine makes it harder to access. My family uses my correct name, but in general isn’t syked about my queer identity, and not empathetic to my trans struggles. They use terms like “girl” “daughter” and “woman” to describe me. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a huge change compared to my school, which is somewhere from 70-90% queer. During quarantine, many teens have been around their family and home environment much more and adults have been moving back in with their parents, whether to not be alone, to look after their older counterparts, or because of unemployment, this transition has been very difficult for those with parents or guardians who aren’t accepting. Being in a house where your preferred name and pronouns aren’t being respected can be very difficult. And if it makes sense in your situation, transfamilysos.org provides free family therapy through Skype to help family members understand more about what being trans means and how to support.
While these struggles are hard enoug,h some of us in the community have ended up on the street and are now struggling with finding homeless shelters that will take them in and avoiding violence, two things which are made more difficult when you identify as transgender. If you’re in this situation, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce has collected a multitude of grant opportunities for small business owners, and local queer centers have been updating their websites to include resources for the homeless, like the Lambert House here in Seattle.
Something I’ve always admired about our community is our ability to rise above and fight against every challenge. We’re all natural badasses simply because of our silent power in knowing exactly who we are. Tough times like these fill me with sadness, but the community always brings me joy. I’ve been coping by venting with my friends, cutting my hair, and doing small gender affirming things every day. There are so many ways to stay connected during quarantine, and I encourage people to have some good, old fashioned, gay fun. Even though the trans and gender non-binary community is facing new and usual challenges, we are stronger than we know, and have found even more unusual ways to share joy and support each other. As Trixie Mattel says, “We’re going to top our own expectations of ourselves!” Please remember to reach out to any of these wonderful organizations if you need support. The last thing I’ll leave you with is my LGBTQIA+ playlist.
Listen to Mars’ Queer Playlist
See you at Club Q,
Gay City – Central hub for LGBTQ individuals seeking affirming and responsive resources, wellness, and community. Resources available for COVID-19, LGBTQ families, youth, and community members.
- Phone: (206) 860-6969
- Website: www.gaycity.org
Gender Spectrum – Gender Spectrum works to create gender sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens. Online support groups, educational resources for individuals and organizations, and more available.
- Website: www.genderspectrum.org
Club Q – LGBTQ dance party averages about 400 attendees, ages 16+. Join 9pm-12am or 4pm-12am Saturdays, Zoom code – 832 0853 3972
Ingersoll Gender Center – Peer-led support groups, virtual events, advocacy, education, and financial assistance available for trans and gender diverse community members.
- Phone: (206) 849-7859
- Website: www.ingersollgendercenter.org
Lambert House – Lambert House offers LGBTQ youth over 30 different programs, activities, resources, and services on an ongoing, year-round basis.
- Phone: (206) 322-2515
- Website: http://www.lamberthouse.org/
LGBT Chamber of Commerce Small Business Grants: Opportunities and resources for small busisness owners
- Website nglcc.org/covid19
Peer Washington – Made up of Peer Seattle, Peer Spokane and Peer Kent, Peer WA provides emotional support, coaching, advocacy, and resource navigation for LGBTQ+ community members impacted by addiction, mental health and/or HIV/AIDS.
- Seattle Website: www.peerseattle.org; Phone: (206) 322-2437
- Spokane Website: www.peerspokane.org; Phone: (509) 867-3778
- Kent Website: www.peerkent.org; Phone: (253) 277-4942
Q Chat Space – Online chat support groups for LGBTQ youth, facilitated by staff at LGBTQ community centers around the United States. This is a great way for LGBTQ youth that don’t have local resources to connect with peers, give and receive support!
- Website: www.qchatspace.org
Seattle Counseling – Resources, counseling and therapy referrals for LGBTQ individuals, and support for LGBTQ community based organizations.
- Phone: (206) 323-1768
- Website: www.seattlecounseling.org
Trans Lifeline – A trans-led organization that connects trans people to the community, support, and resources they need to survive and thrive. Peer support hotline available 24/7 in English and Spanish
- Phone: (877)-565-8860
- Website: www.translifeline.org
TransFamily Support Service – No fee, confidential Family Engagement sessions provide education and resources to families so everyone is prepared to navigate a transition, and most of all to understand and accept their child.
Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) – A youth-led organization dedicated to transforming the educational environment for trans and gender nonconforming students through advocacy and empowerment.
- Website: www.transstudent.org
The Trevor Project – Crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. Available 24/7.
- Phone: 1-866-488-7386
- Text: START to 678-678
- Website: www.thetrevorproject.org