As with anything these days, the odds of finding “it” on Facebook are pretty great. Simply typing the word ‘transgender’ in the Facebook search bar yields a plethora of choices, but which ones are the best to join? While it would be impossible for me to say in this article as each person is seeking something specific to them there are some things to consider when joining any group.
First, while most pages try hard to prevent those who are haters or chasers from getting into the groups (most will require approval before allowing you to join), there’s no way to truly prevent every single troll, so you must first understand that being in a group will require a certain level of thicker skin. Even without trolls, it is inevitable that people will not agree the majority of the time, and if someone disagreeing with you is difficult, joining a group with a huge number of members may not be the best avenue for you to explore.
“..huge membership numbers do not guarantee anything.”
Second, huge membership numbers do not guarantee anything. There are plenty of people who like to lurk (those who do not post and just read the pages). Furthermore, having big numbers may become overwhelming. Even if you limit the notifications or how much a group’s posts fill your wall feed, the sheer number of posts to scroll through may become mind-boggling. Then again, it could be a great place to read a ton of material from many different viewpoints and see the greatest number of trans-related articles and materials shared in one central place. While you should be aware of the membership numbers, don’t make knee-jerk assumptions, but also make a mental note of how much you’re comfortable with.
Third, consider if the page allows for dating-related posts or if it is dating-specific. These groups will inevitably attract “chasers” or “fetishists.” These are folks who derive sexual pleasure from considering a trans person as a fetish or a taboo, as they typically do not respect that trans person and are only interested in their personal sexual thrill. You will also encounter many who declare themselves “sissies” who are typically cis-men who enjoy dressing as a woman because it makes them feel humiliated or inferior. Beyond these types, you will find a pocket of others who are genuinely interested in dating people regardless of gender or who they are in the TGNC spectrum and feel most comfortable dating someone else who is TGNC. If you join these groups be sure you have a good sense of humor or a thick skin because you will undoubtedly have to wade through ignorant and offensive posts before the person is deleted. Some groups do a great job keeping the trash out and become a comfortable space to post about dating – whether you’re actively seeking someone or want advice on the dating scene as a trans person. It does take some trudging through the muck to find the best places, but I would say groups with dating purposes will be the ones you may have to watch for the most.
Fourth, there are groups just for MtF, FtM, Fluid-only, and more – and that’s okay. We all need our own space sometimes and while the TGNC community faces many challenges that we each share, there are specific things that trans men and trans women face that are different. There are plenty of groups that are open to anyone in any area of the TGNC spectrum that is open for you to discuss or ask questions that pertain to your identity and those who identify similarly, but there are also identity-specific groups. If you do not fit into the specifications of the group, don’t join it. If you’re a trans guy, don’t join the trans woman group because you feel you’re trans and therein entitled to join any group with “trans” in the title. Respect the sanctuaries that are set up – they’re already dealing with trolls, we don’t need to add to the mess and should know better.
Fifth, there are great places to ask for insight and advice but remember – you’re talking to non-professionals. Asking how much of a medication you should be taking is often a huge no-no, and many groups will actually prohibit these types of questions. Some groups restrict dosing information to the point that you cannot even discuss how much you personally take because someone may infer that it would acceptable to take that amount as well. Many of the groups are inundated with younger folks who may not always be fully aware of the consequences of self-medicating. Someone may have unidentified genetic issues where self-medicating could cause disastrous results. There are many other logical reasons behind not posting your doses to prevent self-medicating. Some argue that if a person is determined or desperate enough, they will either just do it or find something random online and try that. They could wind up hurting themselves significantly more than if they see what a large group of people’s doses range at. Be that as it may, it’s a risk you shouldn’t really encourage or ask about because there’s really only one true answer to dosing – your doctor.
“If you feel someone is speaking in a way that could be harmful, bring it up to an administrator and don’t try to control the situation.”
Sixth, not everything is “transphobic.” Nine times out of ten, the matter is simply a disagreement. However, as the word is a hot catchphrase these days, it’s often thrown about carelessly. The second someone disagrees with someone else, it’s inevitable that you’ll see “you’re transphobic” get tossed into the mix. I previously discussed how the word ‘transphobic’ is incorrect but it’s worse when people within the same community use it to disparage another with no real basis. Is it possible for a trans person to be anti-trans people? Sure, take a look at what Caitlyn Jenner does/says most of the time. Is it usually the case in a heated debate in a Facebook group? Odds are it’s just someone slinging mud. If you disagree with something, try to discuss it like a civil person. If you feel someone is speaking in a way that could be harmful, bring it up to an administrator and don’t try to control the situation. If the conversation deteriorates, it’s often best to just block the person and move on with your day.
Ultimately, remember this is the Internet. There are real live people on the other side of these screens. What you say can impact someone in ways you may not even realize. It could save a life or it could take a life. It could brighten someone’s day or it could give them a whole new way of seeing something. Words have power, so use them wisely. You also need to know you are responsible for yourself. What you say, what you post, how you handle it – this is on you. If you’re troubled then contact an administrator, if you need help, contact a friend or reach out or utilize hotlines. Do not take what’s posted in groups as the end-all-be-all as it’s merely someone’s opinion – verify information given to you with proper research and/or discussions with your doctor/counselor.