Most of the time when we think about self-care we think of fluffy Tumblr posts about drinking green tea and taking a lot of baths. And while there’s nothing wrong with those tips for feeling better (each to their own!), self-care for gender minorities is a thing that is a little more complex than that.
Being a gender minority in Britain is something that has its ups and downs. While I love my identity and am so grateful for the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had because I’m trans, there are some glaring negatives that become apparent when you stray from the societal norm.
The treatment I’ve received from others is a major thing that has been influenced by my gender identity and expression – from strangers to family members, people can go from nice to nasty in a matter of seconds if they cotton on to the fact that you’re different from them. Parents sometimes reject their transgender children; partners sometimes end relationships if their significant other comes out as trans; and a disturbing amount of violence against trans people is carried out by their families, by people they’ve never met before, and even by people who work in law enforcement who are supposed to protect them.
This then bleeds into mental health and the effect this can have on a person’s mental wellbeing. One study found that just over a third (34.4%) of UK trans adults had attempted suicide at least once, while more than one in three young trans people had experienced major depression. It has been reported that 44% of transgender people in Ireland have admitted to self-harming. All of this, along with the fact that trans people are more likely to deal with homelessness, poverty, and unemployment, makes self-care an integral survival tool for trans people: because we don’t always receive care and support from the people that we should.
How one might practice self-care
Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your transition
While this might sound like an obvious point to make, being around people who respect you and what you’re going through can honestly make a huge difference if you’re going through a hard time (or even if you’re not, to be honest). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been getting ready for a social event, with butterflies in my stomach and nerves making my teeth rattle in my skull because I’m unable to stop thinking about potentially being misgendered all night or causing a scene if someone decides to vocalise any transphobic thoughts. But then my fear is instantly calmed when I remember that someone (be it my sister, or my partner, or just an amazing friend or family member) will be there, and I know that even if things do get rough, I’ll have someone there who’ll have my back. And this applies to casual days too – if I know I’m going to be spending a day with someone who supports my transition and who always tries their best to use my correct name/pronouns, then any anxiety I may have softens because I know I won’t have to worry about any negative gender-related thing happening that day.
Don’t feed into dysphoric thoughts
If, like me, you are a person who suffers from dysphoria, then you’ll know that it can sometimes be tough watching other trans people move forward in their transition while you’re still waiting for yours to progress. However (and I am guilty of this myself), immersing yourself in blogs and tweets and videos all about how far others have come and how happy they are after reaching goals that you’re still working towards is not a healthy thing to do. While it’s wonderful to see those people progressing and being happy, more often than not, this can be detrimental to your own mental wellbeing and can sometimes send you into a darker place. My advice? Avoid news on other’s transitions until you’re in a more positive headspace, where it won’t make you feel resentful and miserable, and where you can appreciate other people’s joy while also celebrating your own.
Focus on what makes you happy
Again, this might sound like something that’s painfully evident, but focusing on things that make you feel good is something that is possibly one of the most important aspects of self-care. And while this isn’t just trans-specific, it does tie into this post because being a gender minority isn’t always an easy thing, so positivity is something we need to grasp with both hands and refuse to let go of. Whether it’s a movie that never fails to make you happy, an album that makes your heart sing, or a book that transports you to another world; find something that brings a smile to your face, especially on those days when life is really getting you down. Find that thing and lose yourself in it for a while, until the noise in your head quietens down and the pain in your chest releases its hold and you can breathe again.