How to combat transphobia

The world is gradually becoming a more accepting place but there are still some people who aren’t willing to let others simply be their amazing selves. Unfortunately, the trans community has had to deal with a lot of these types throughout history. The Mix is here to help with that.

A young woman is looking at a paper. She is thinking about transphobia. This is a wide-angle image.

What is transphobia?

Let’s start off with some foundational questions – What is transphobia? and What does transphobic mean? 

Transphobia is a term used to describe prejudice against people who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, also known as transgender people. This can include nasty comments and actions, either online or in person, that harm trans people. The transphobic meaning is just a way of classifying this type of person and/or behaviour. Sadly, if you’re transgender, this might sound familiar. It may even be affecting your mental health or making it harder to come out.

Going through the process of gender recognition, which may include updating your birth certificate, and having your transgender identity validated in whatever way you need will hopefully be a liberating moment for any transgender person. Suffering from gender dysphoria can often feel suffocating and having to deal with the hate after finally being able to alleviate some of that inner turmoil can be overwhelming.

We want you to know that you have the right to be accepted for who you are without being bullied. If you need any support at all, feel free to reach out to our support services. We are often taught to believe that the gender binary, aka being born either a man or a women, is the only way to understand gender, but this is not the case – there’s a whole spectrum of different gender identities and each is equally as valid. Read our article on being young and trans to find out more.

Why are people transphobic?

People are often scared of what they don’t understand and in response, they turn to bullying. This, sadly, includes members of the LGBT community – especially trans people. When someone does this to people who are transgender, it has nothing to do with the trans person. Some people just can’t deal with their own problems and decide to make others’ lives a living hell. But we understand that knowing that doesn’t make the comments or actions any less painful. It’s also important to note that the transphobic meaning isn’t limited to just bullying; there are various actions and words that are deemed transphobic.

Whether you’re experiencing pointed comments from your family, or you’ve been stopped from going to the right loo, it can feel like transphobia is everywhere. Forms of transphobia include:

  • Physical violence including being sexually assaulted.
  • Threats, mean comments and calling names.
  • Misgendering you on purpose. This means, for example, intentionally using the male pronoun ‘he’ when speaking to a trans woman with the intent of upsetting that person. 
  • Ignoring you or excluding you. Whether it’s at school, in the workplace, or at home, if people are intentionally leaving you out because of your gender identity,  it’s transphobia.

How to combat transphobia online

There will always be people who get a thrill from hurting others and these people feel most at home behind a laptop screen. The key is to see it as THEIR issue, but we recognise that that doesn’t take the pain away. If you’re experiencing transphobic abuse online, try the following:

  • Create a positive, online environment by blocking negative people or accounts. Instead, try following empowering accounts. This should fill your feeds with uplifting content.
  • Try not to react. When we read something offensive, our immediate reaction is to hurl abuse right back at that person. But it’s best not to engage – knowing they’ve upset or angered you is exactly what they want so don’t give them that satisfaction.
  • Report transphobic behaviour online. Before you start reporting, you should have a clear answer to the question ‘ What does transphobic mean?’ Transphobia, and by extension transphobic behaviour, is a hate crime and people spreading hate need to be stopped. For more advice, read Childline’s guide on how to report abuse on social media. 

How to deal with transphobic family or friends 

It can be really hurtful if the people closest to you don’t understand you. But remember, this is your life and it’s important to live it authentically. Don’t let the attitudes of a family member or a ‘friend’ stop you from being who you truly are. Easier said than done, we know – so here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Put yourself first. If it no longer feels safe to be at home because of your family’s transphobic attitude, it’s important you seek the support you deserve. Organisations such as Galop and the Albert Kennedy Trust can provide advice in this situation. In extreme cases, where you feel at immediate risk, dial 999.    
  • Try educating them. For parents or friends with no knowledge of the trans community, it can feel quite overwhelming. Oftentimes, they’ve grown up believing that men and women play certain roles and marry only each other. That doesn’t mean it’s hopeless though, as long as they’re willing to put in the work. Suggest books, documentaries and websites which you think might help them understand.  
  • Create your own support network by surrounding yourself with people who understand you. That could be people at school or work, teachers, or friends you’ve met online. These people will raise you up even if others don’t. If you need help making friends online, then click here!
  • If you’re scared to come out because of transphobic attitudes, try reading our article on coming out as trans for some tips.
  • Boost your self-esteem. Try doing things that make you feel good, such as running, dancing or whatever you enjoy. The better you feel about yourself, the more you’ll be able to focus on living your best life.

Support for dealing with transphobia

  • If you’re under 19, organisations like Mermaids and Childline are a fantastic place to find expert support. Either call their helpline or use webchat to talk about your experience of transphobia or any other issue.
  • Join a support group in your area. Trans Unite will show you where your nearest support group is. You’ll also get to meet some new people.

If you feel unsafe in a public space or someone has committed a hate crime against you, you can call the police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency)

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 13-Nov-2021