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In Conversation with my Trans School Bus Driver: Social Media’s Strengths and Shortcomings

A look into the trans community and social media. Inspired by a conversation with Tazmin, my primary school bus driver. 

Source: nbcnews.org

Without social media, how many individuals would still feel like an outcast in their own bodies? Credited with its ability to provide a platform for a community of transgender voices, social media is an essential device for the trans community. Yet, Tazmin and I discussed the ways in which social media has been both a blessing and a curse for the trans community. 

After 3 and a half hours of conversation, and six cups of coffee consumed between the two of us, we spoke about the innumerable experiences that accompanied becoming transgender within a rural Welsh community. With the occasional feature of elderly mutterings and wailing babies in the background, she kindly detailed her journey of self-discovery, both offline and online. 

Tazmin recalled her school days with disappointment, as she expressed how the education system failed to highlight the internet’s boundaries, but also its considerable potential for spreading goodness. At the beginning of the interview, Tazmin took us back to the emergence of the printing press. This was the essential prerequisite for the ‘whirlwind of social evolution’ that has taken no rest day since its establishment in the 15th Century. Tazmin not only views social media as impacting the ‘socioeconomic infrastructure’ of lives internationally but also on a much more personal level. 

“You feel less alone knowing that there are others like you” 

Despite its drawbacks, Tazmin credits the internet for its ability to connect likeminded individuals from across the globe: “If it wasn’t for the internet, I would have never known that there are people out there who felt exactly the same as me.” To this day, Tazmin uses Facebook as a virtual diary, with refreshingly honest posts that detail her best days, as well as her very worst days. As an admin for Facebook group ‘Tranarchy 2’, social media has acted as the crucial enabler for Tazmin to virtually connect with thousands of likeminded individuals and share her personal narrative. 

Social media is certainly a vital facilitator for self-expression within the trans community. With 75% of trans youth feeling unsafe at school, it provides the global youth with an opportunity to express themselves freely within a bursting online community of affirmative voices. Organisations like the Queer, Transgender and Intersex Coalition of Colour have used WhatsApp as the essential device for coordinating their work, as well as a means to provide “emotional support and intellectual stimulation.” 

Source: QTI Coalition of Colour logo youtube.com

Similarly, in the midst of the Covid-19 Pandemic, a Facebook group called Trans Georgia set their sights on providing minimal disaster relief for the trans community, raising money to cover rent bills for many trans individuals struggling financially due to the pandemic. 

While the power of social media certainly cannot be understated, it does have a natural propensity to attract individuals that are not as interested in filling social media with messages centred around social inclusion and individual empowerment. Despite her many positive experiences with social media, Tazmin told me the reason as to why her Facebook group was called ‘Tranarchy 2’: the previous two tranarchy groups were shut down due to toxic infiltrations from unwanted transphobic incel trolls. 

Moreover, Tazmin told me of the Facebook accounts that messaged her as she began to experiment with her style and “became more feminine with each passing month.” 

During these years, Tazmin was contacted by fake Facebook accounts seemingly belonging to children. As Tazmin was a well-known bus driver in the local area, what started off as a simple message to ask when the next bus to town was soon became much more sinister: these fake accounts would go on to make the conversation explicitly sexual. On five separate occasions, Tazmin had to report this vile form of abuse to the local authorities. As anyone would be, she was horrified by the gross assumption the individuals behind these fake accounts had made about her, purely based off her changing identity. 

This form of abuse does not end with the termination of five or six Facebook accounts. The memory does not go away. As Tazmin herself told me: “The thought still makes me sick to this day”, as these individuals made such a vile judgment on someone purely based on the expressive alteration of their physical appearance. 

Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community has been faced with the spread of extreme disinformation about their chosen causes to support. In fact, LGBTQ+ people have increasingly been wrongly associated with paedophilia. In 2021, as a part of his new bill to tackle paedophilia, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán also proposed to limit content related to transgender people and homosexuality. 

In 2017, rumours started to circulate that the letter ‘P’, representing pedosexuals’, was to be added to the LGBTQ+ acronym. A spokesperson for GLAAD reported how it pains them “to have to clarify that no, the LGBTQ community does not embrace pedophilia, and LGBTP is not an acronym used or supported by the LGBTQ community.” 

While online transgender abuse overall is certainly not lacking, it seems that anti-transgender online communities can also fester on smaller social media platforms. In 2017, a 4chan misinformation campaign created a fraudulent poster showing the incorrect acronym ‘LGBTP’. The multiple ideas for the poster were posted within a thread on 4chan, as started by this individual post:

Alright you f****** morons. 

You're letting the LBGTQ "community" outsmart you.  

If they want to demand that society accept their horseshit identities, then it's time we slip in one of our own, for godly keks. 

How do we do this? 

We convince them that Pedos deserve rights too. 

Think about it, if this were to catch any traction at all it would only further remove any legitimization they've gained. 


While these rumours have since been shut down, sites such as 4chan and 8kun remain largely unregulated. As 4chan is used by over 27 million people, anonymous users on an international scale are free to spread hateful disinformation, often never having to face the consequences. 

Source: comparing transphobia across different sites brandwatch.com

On the government page explaining the proposal for an Online Safety Bill in the UK, which has been put on hold until Conservative members choose a new prime minister, there seems to be no mention of smaller less regulated social media sites. As argued by Alex Davies-Jones, the Shadow Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the bill largely overlooks smaller websites. However, as these individuals are removed from larger social media sites, they instead migrate to other platforms that are considerably less regulated. As these platforms eventually become more regulated, users will just take their anti-LGBTQ+ content elsewhere. 

During our interview, Tazmin and I discussed the ways in which JK Rowling’s offensive online contributions regarding trans rights has affected the social media sphere. It's true, JK Rowling has certainly been reprimanded by the online community for her reductionist commentary. She spoke of her strained relationship with her father:

“I struggled with severe OCD as a teenager. If I'd found community and sympathy online that I couldn't find in my immediate environment, I believe I could have been persuaded to turn myself into the son my father had openly said he'd have preferred.” 

Clearly, Rowling is guilty of extreme simplification. As Tazmin explained to me, her decision to transition was not based on a whim, neither was she persuaded by others. While nobody deserves to receive death threats, as Rowling received many, online anti-transgender rhetoric has caused significant damage. An international LGBTQ+ review by ILGA-Europe has noted a steady increase in hate crimes against transgender individuals. 

On an international level, on both larger and smaller online platforms, online transphobic abuse is widespread. Out of the 10 million transgender-related comments on social media platforms between 2016 and 2019, 1.5 million were transphobic. 

Source: transphobic abuse, the most common themes brandwatch.com

However, while social media has in many ways hindered the trans community, transphobic abuse pales in comparison to what it has enabled them to achieve overall. Social media has provided the trans community with communication links that were certainly not accessible in the 90s, and it has made all the difference. 

Both national and international camaraderie is prevalent across the online platforms, inspiring young and old alike to embrace their true identities. As Tazmin told me, “having a healthy support network is essential.” We must ensure that bigotry will never possess enough power to drown out the incredible voices that are permeated throughout the trans community. 

Lucy Thomas 

Lucy is an undergraduate BSc Politics and International Relations student at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include social stratification and international political theory.

Linkedin: /in/lucy-thomas



In Conversation with my Trans School Bus Driver: Social Media’s Strengths and Shortcomings Reviewed by Lucy Thomas on Thursday, August 18, 2022 Rating: 5
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