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Andi smiling at the camera, holding a mug in both hands. Andi has red and black hair, two visible facial piercings and they are wearing a black sleeveless top and jeans. They are seated in a white chair against a black background. Andi's visible tattoo is of a vampire angel and is on their left upper arm
February 7, 2022
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Today I want to talk about how as trans+ people it is hard to stay safe online, even if you follow all the guidance.

Bring your whole self to work

Beyond Reflections are recruiting. This means an internet search of everyone who we are considering. What is best practice for the employer can feel ‘like spying’ for the potential employee.

For trans+ people this automatic search brings on a new aspect of fear. Is your history safe? Will your new employer find out you are trans+? Is this the reason for your last rejection? If your new team members connect you to your deadname will the bullying and harassment you experienced at your last five jobs, follow you here?

Casual comments cost too much

In our blog takeover last year we spoke about the personal impact of disclosing someone’s trans+ identity. Our blogger talks about the damage a “thoughtless, throwaway comment” did, the potential for that disclosure to have a permanent impact on someone’s professional life.

Beyond Reflections commitment to safety

When I search someone’s online history I want to know if the person has expressed anti-trans views. Do they follow people who could cause issues for us? Are their values aligned with our own?

Beyond Reflections’ commitment to our members requires us to do due diligence in recruiting. We need to keep those inside our organisation safe.

What does feeling safe mean?

Feeling safe means: you do not anticipate either harm or hurt, emotionally or physically. Inside Beyond Reflections we create safe space through the mutual agreement of all to abide by an agreed code of conduct. All our staff, our members, our volunteers have made a commitment to respect, accept, and include each other.

Rule #1

Our strict adherence to keeping the confidentiality of others means people can be free to share their vulnerabilities, be open about their fears. Rule number 1 is: we do not ‘out’ people. Keeping a member’s confidence means not sharing they are part of Beyond Reflections unless we have their explicit permission.

This can lead to an amusing dance when we meet someone outside our safe space. Do we acknowledge them? It might be rude not to, but always we abide by Rule #1. Everyone should be free to bring their whole self to Beyond Reflections even if they are not out anywhere else.

Take it or leave it

Coming into a safe space allows people to open up about their intense, personal stuff. We find out more about each other, and our own self in the sharing.

Sometimes a person needs to leave something in that safe space, never to be revisited. Other times feeling acceptance for the first time for that dark part shared can be the key to finally being able to speak about it outside.

Our respect for each other means that no one will take someone else’s ‘stuff’ outside. This is safety.

Social transition is “everyone’s business”

For most trans+ people coming out is part of the process. This creates a duality, people who knew you before, and people who meet you afterwards. Social transition creates a data trail. For the trans+ person they must review every aspect of their online persona. Determine which accounts to keep, which to delete, which to rebrand.

For those who transitioned during more positive times they may not have considered an increase in transphobia as part of their transition plan. Very few expect that transition will bring an increase in the number of potential stalkers.

Keeping your history safe

As I said at the start of this blog. When you are trans+ your history is a vulnerability which most people never have to consider.

Trans+ people have to continually and consciously monitor their presence online because we live in a world where trans+ people are not accepted. Where there is the constant threat of harm and almost one in five LGBTQ+ people were discriminated against when looking for work.

Hidden discrimination

These people have done nothing wrong. They have not expressed anti-Semitic views or published papers calling for a return to hanging. They are not contentious people.

Applying for a job is hard enough, for trans+ people having your trans history visible online is another barrier.

Diversity and confidence at work

I am out. I run a charity supporting trans, non-binary and questioning people. My being open about being non-binary is important to our mission, to our credibility.  In being open about my lived experience I add value to the charity.

Beyond Reflections staff, volunteers, and members are wonderfully diverse. They have a variety of visible and hidden aspects of diversity. Many are proudly cis gender. We respect that all identities are valid and all disclosures of identity are down to the individual.

Yet being involved in a charity like ours comes with a risk in a society where many espouse transphobic views. Often people assume that everyone who is involved with the charity must be trans, otherwise why would they care? Putting aside the question of how discriminatory, isolating, and downright rude that assumption is I ask you to consider the potential for harm to someone who is trans historied.

Sometimes even the safest place is not

One of our volunteers was identified through their connection to us on LinkedIn. They were messaged by a complete stranger asking to meet up. This stranger had worked out where they lived and assumed they were trans+. The stranger wanted to know what genitals my staff member had. They asked my staff member for sex and when the staff member turned them down, they became abusive. This type of abuse is terrifying for anyone, for my trans historied volunteer this pushed them right back into their history of dysphoria and poor mental health, undoing the work of years.

Make your workplace trans+ inclusive

If you share our vision, of a world where every gender diverse person can be their authentic self, then sign up for our workplace training. Make your space safe so your trans+ colleagues can bring their whole selves to work.

Stay safe

If you want to find out more about staying safe online then check out https://staysafeonline.org/resource/lgbtq-communities-know-online-safety/

Happy Safer Internet Day 2022

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