A group of trans activists in the UK has launched a website to offer support to their community, following hurtful media coverage over the first few months of 2013.
The team behind You Are Loved has been planning the project for a while but after British newspaper columnist Julie Burchill wrote an offensive piece in The Observer in January, they decided it was time to get it off the ground.
‘Her language use and terminology were deeply offensive to all trans people, our allies and lovers,’ says Jay McNeil of Burchill’s column.
‘As activists and people working within the trans communities, we felt a strange mixture of anger, sadness and hopelessness. We turned to each other for support at a time when it felt like all the work we were doing was pointless, as we still lived in a society that considered this kind of writing (and the use of a national platform to promote it) as appropriate.’
McNeil and a group of activists behind the TransBareAll website produced a film called Trans Cabal with trans people’s responses to the column. The film gave voices to those who were hurt by what Burchill wrote. As McNeil and the people behind the film, who are in good mental health and have strong support networks, were so affected by the column, they worried how it would affect more isolated trans people.
‘In particular we were concerned about those people who have lost their families through transitioning, or who are being harassed or bullied, or experiencing discrimination,’ says McNeil.
From this background, and the findings of The Trans Mental Health Survey 2012, which showed that 88% of respondents experienced depression, the group are launching the You Are Loved project, a website that will share stories and show trans people that they are not alone.
‘We are creating a resource for all trans people, not just in the UK,’ says McNeil. ‘It’s a place where they can go if they are feeling isolated, depressed or suicidal, and see others who want to stand beside them and share their experiences, so that they can know that no matter how crap the world seems, it’s only a part of the world, and there are other parts of it where they are nurtured for who they are.’
At the moment the site is unable to offer a counseling or listening service. The project may move in that direction but it would depend on securing long-term funding.
Currently the project is funded by donations and has a page on crowd-funding website YouCaring.com to get the resource up and running. ‘The money we’re raising will be used to develop the website, help us research and produce evidence-based self-help materials for trans people,’ says McNeil.
The site has raised £1,350 ($2,000, â‚¬1,500) so far out of a £7,500 ($11,500, â‚¬8,800) goal and most donations so far have come from the trans community themselves.
‘It’s a shame that the community are having to put their hands in their pockets to get it off the ground,’ says McNeil, ‘especially when we’ve demonstrated (and the Department of Health have acknowledged) that trans people are at a much greater risk of suicide than others – but it shows how much it’s needed that so many people are helping to make this happen.’
As a start, McNeil and the other activists just want to create a safe loving space on the internet where trans people will feel valued. ‘We see it as a place where people can go when they’ve just been exposed to transphobic language or events, as an antidote to the distress and fear this can cause,’ he says.