The internet has allowed the trans community to come together in a way never previously thought possible. It has brought together individuals with a range of identities and experiences to share advice and help one another. But the flip side of the coin is that the internet can also be a way in which private information is shared, people are ‘outed’ and abuse can be directed against individuals and communities.
Who: Dan was a trans man in his 40s who lived with his partner Sarah. Dan used a wheelchair and their flat was adapted to Dan’s needs.
The Case: Dan had reported persistent transphobic abuse by his neighbours. The harassment escalated from graffiti and verbal abuse to smashing windows, poisoning their cat and eventually a violent burglary, during which Dan was brutally beaten.
The attackers were caught and sentenced to terms in prison. Dan and Sarah thought this was the end of their ordeal but the day after the trial ended the free newspaper was delivered, with a big front-page headline saying ‘Transvestite attacked. Did his attackers know he was really a woman?’. Dan and Sarah were devastated by this reporting, which was both insulting and factually incorrect. Dan and his wife were named and their address published. This was quickly picked up online and tweeted. A family member was tricked into disclosing Dan’s previous name, which was shared on twitter. Dan was outed at work, local young people began hanging around the estate and shouting comments, and Sarah’s family found out that they weren’t legally married and her husband had a trans history.
The Outcome: In desperation, Sarah contacted the local LGBT organisation, which immediately put them in touch with Trans Media Watch who challenged the newspaper on its transphobic reporting, leading to an apology and amendment of the article online. A formal complaint was made to the Press Complaints Commission. Sarah and Dan used Twitter’s reporting mechanism to get the tweets stopped and reported to the police. Pressure was put on the local council to move Dan and Sarah to a new property.
While trans people can face the same sort of abuse online as other people, they can also face some specific risks and types of abuse. Transphobia can appear in many areas of a trans person life, for example from education to work to health care to interactions between people. Trans people can experience unwanted and often abusive comment, attention and harassment.
This abuse is not acceptable and you do not have to accept it. You can take action against those who are transphobic and abusive online.