Saturday, March 16, 2019

Et Tu Facebook

I, like the rest of my cohort, came to social media in my middle years.  I wasn't raised on it and, while I will abstain from stories of a tech free childhood, I never the less lived them.

When I started my account, I did so because everyone else was doing it.  I was half interested and developed an extensive list of maybe 70 friends.   

Then, there was a major shift in my life.  I discovered my gender identity was not as I was assigned at birth.  I was transgender.

It's no surprise that the magnatude of that discovery was obvious to my 48 year old self.  I could lose everything; my family, friends, job, really everything. Regardless, once I knew who I was, there was no stopping the changes.  The need to transition is overpowering and increased for me with every milestone I overcame.

Loneliness was pervasive in my early transition.  I didn't know anyone who was trans and I had nobody to reach out to for help navigating the enormous complexity of transitioning to the opposite end of the gender spectrum.  Young women relied on their girlfriends and the women in their life to navigate their way into womanhood. I was trying to do it alone.

I created a new Facebook account.  With my new account, I joined support groups, I explored my personality, I tried out my chosen name and most importantly, I connected to people like me.  People who had shared the trans experience. People who understood what I was going through and people who could advise me and help me find my way.

I found a local meetup of trans people called TGQ and my Facebook friends list began to grow.  I shared my transition experiences openly and slowly, over time, gained a group of friends who lived my ups and downs with me.  

As my connections grew, my ability to make a difference grew as well. Connections across the country allowed me to help people.  Trans people in need or their allies would reach out to me for advice and connections.

One man in New Jersey, across the county from my home in Central Texas, was abandoned by his church, his family, and his community.   He connected to a co-worker on twitter who had an affirming ministry in Austin. My friend reached out to me to see if I could help. A quick search of my Facebook account found a connection to a PRIDE organizer who attended an affirming church a short public transit ride into New York City.  

An organizer in Alabama was in need of a trans speaker to do a cultural competency training for a VA Hospital Staff.   They asked if I could come do it. Again, a quick search of my Facebook connections allowed me to find a local trans activist to complete the training.  

I have so many stories like these where I felt I was able to make a difference.  Connecting people with therapists or doctors who do HRT, finding emergency housing for trans people with no place to go; making a difference is all I ever wanted to do.

Perhaps the people I feel like I was the most connected to were the mothers of trans kids.   My openness about my transition had led to a following in the mama bear community. These mother's read about my journey and learned along with me the challenges their trans kids would have to overcome and, I believe, received a little piece of mind that their kids could live a happy life.

Over time, I tried to find new ways to make a difference. I started a Facebook Page to share transgender news. I started another one to share transgender history. Other subjects important to me also were represented. I had a long running page where I shared clean eating information.  When I published my book, He/She/They - Us, I created a Facebook page for it. The very name of my book came from a discussion on Facebook.

I carefully curated my friends list with supporters, allies and other transgender people.   I blocked trolls and I wanted no part of arguements. If I dissagréed with someone, we went our separate ways and I made extensive use of the block feature to avoid internet trolls and chasers ( men who fetishize trans women ).

Thursday March 14th, 2019, things changed.  I received a message at 6 in the morning as I popped online to see what I missed while I was sleeping.   I got what looked like a routine message to veryify my account and I followed the directions casually expecting to be on Facebook again.  The outcome of the verification though was a disabled account and a label of “violating community standards.”

I was in shock.  

Intellectually, I know.  I know losing my Facebook account was the most first world of first world problems.  Dozens of people I knew abandoned Facebook voluntairally. That said, I thought about my connections I had worked so hard to build.  I thought about the people I had been able to help with those connections. I felt the loneliness of my early transition waft over me.

I grew to recognize how I had allowed this faceless corporate entity to grow into a position of power over me, over my advocacy, over my activism and over my interpersonal communications.

Here I sit; but a few days into my forced Facebook free life. I pick up my phone to look for messages and connections from my online community only to find silence. I feel like my ability to make a positive impact on people's lives is diminished and I look for clarity, I look for resiliency as I plot my path forward.   

I remain hopeful my account will eventually get reinstated.  Until then, perhaps I need to try and build connections another way.  I way not subject to the whims of a transphobic Facebook employee.

I know that moving forward, the connections that I have built over time remain even if I don't have a means to contact them.  I'm going to work hard to build resiliency and Independence into my activism.  Don't create circumstances that allow your voice to be silenced.  I know I have learned my lesson.

Please connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and together he will make a difference.  Don't be afraid to email me.

Edit: Sunday March 17, 2019.   Without comment or communication, my Facebook account was restored.

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