4 resilience practices for trans people stuck in cissexist homes during self-isolation

hey, loves. i know it’s tough times out there for everyone, but trans people currently stuck in homes where their identities are not affirmed during self-isolation have been especially on my mind lately. i grew up in an unaffirming home and the difficulties of that linger in my body and heart. i want to provide you all with some resilience practices to help get you through.

(if you’re in a home with cis folks who are open to learning about trans identities, there are resources for you here.)

i first heard the term “resilience practice” from autumn brown, a “mother, organizer, theologian, artist, and facilitator” whose work i admire. i can’t remember if i first heard her say it as a guest on another podcast or whether it was on the podcast she hosts with her sister, adrienne maree brown, titled “how to survive the end of the world.” either way, “how to survive the end of the world” is well worth checking out, especially right now, as we enter this new phase of apocalypse (framed in the brown sisters’ podcast as an opportunity for creative rebirth).

resilience practices, for me, are the next growth step after coping mechanisms. coping mechanisms serve a purpose — and have kept me alive — but they are ways of survival that are no longer what’s best suited for me. i honor the ones i’ve used but prefer to build resilience practices now because i want practices that allow me to do more than just survive the hard times. i want to maintain and grow my resilience, my health, my well-being at all times.

here are some resilience practices ideas i have for trans folks stuck in unsafe environments. please take what’s useful and leave what’s not. remember that you can modify these for your own needs and levels of safety. ❤

1.) reach out to other trans people. if you have other trans friends, set up regular communication with them to the extent that it is safe for you to do so. start a group chat, have a zoom meeting, write each other coded letters (i enjoy using kryptonese for things i need to code, but you can always have fun inventing your own). be mindful that the jury’s still out on whether mail is safe right now; you might need to write the letters and send pics of them to each other.

if you don’t have trans friends handy (or even if you do, but you want a different kind of support), you can reach out to trans lifeline, a support line staffed entirely by trans and/or non-binary people. they will understand your struggle; they will recognize you as you are. their united states number is 877-565-8860 and their canadian number is 877-330-6366.

2.) talk to someone who affirms your identity and ask them to use your name and pronouns in spaces where it’s safe for you to experience them. my partner occasionally refers to me in the third person in my hearing/sight as a habit these days, because the use of my pronoun brings me such relief and gender euphoria. he does this verbally and over text. you can ask people who are in the know about your pronouns to do the same, using whatever communication method keeps you safe. you can also ask these folks to use your true name more often than they typically do during these times.

for me, hearing my correct name and pronouns helps remind me that my experience of myself is valid. it repairs some of the damage done by misgendering and deadnaming. i hope it can do the same for you.

3.) remind yourself that you are not alone by engaging with trans media. it makes a huge difference in my life to hear other trans and/or non-binary folks talk about themselves and their experiences. i feel validated by it and seen by it. to that end, i love the podcast gender reveal, which features host molly woodstock (they/them) interviewing humans with diverse gender experiences about their lives, philosophical thoughts, and projects. molly is a fantastic interviewer and the conversations they have with folks are often funny, always real, and winningly personal.

all gender reveal episodes have transcripts! and the podcast also has a slack, if you’re interested in connecting with other trans/non-binary folks in that way.

another thing that helps me is to get in touch with trans history. learning about marsha p. johnson and sylvia rivera makes me feel part of a legacy of resilience. i recommend the following episodes of the making gay history podcast, which include firsthand accounts from both marsha and sylvia (and also have transcripts):

be mindful that some of what you’ll hear on these episodes will be emotionally difficult. please be careful with yourself in deciding whether that’s something that’s good for you right now.

there are also many episodes of the podcast queer as fact which tell the life stories of folks that were trans or were gender non-conforming in ways which we might now describe as trans. each episode features content warnings, so you can determine ahead of time whether it’s healthy for you to listen. not all queer as fact episodes have transcripts, but you can see the transcripts they do have on their tumblr.

4.) create an affirming ritual for yourself. i am really into rituals both as regular practices and as a tool to fall back on as needed. i generally use mine in the latter way, since i’m not great at maintaining any kind of routine. feel into how they’re of most use to you!

some ideas for rituals you could pick up:

  • look at yourself in the mirror, if you’re comfortable doing so, or picture your truest sense of yourself. say your name to yourself. say your pronouns to yourself. do this out loud or internally. remember that no one else needs to acknowledge who you are for you to be who you are.
  • build a secret altar — camouflage it, build it in a place where it won’t be seen, craft it in a way that makes it easy to hide, or make it a mental altar. place items on/in it that remind you of your legacy. remember sylvia rivera, marsha p. johnson, leslie feinberg, other trans and/or non-binary ancestors and elders you know personally or otherwise. greet them in the morning. say goodnight to them at night. bring them with you throughout your day. remember you are not alone.
  • write down every trans/non-binary joke you think of and can’t say to the people around you. write them in code if you have to. burn them in the backyard (safely) if you can and it makes you feel safer to destroy them. share them, before or instead of burning them. tell them to the people on trans lifeline, tell them to your trans/non-binary friends, tell them to the gender reveal slack. remember your trans/non-binary joy and the power it holds.

if none of these ritual ideas hold interest for you, you can modify them or create your own from scratch. there’s a lot of power in a ritual made by someone for their own specific purpose.

i hope that something among these practices is useful to you. i see you and i’m rooting for you.

(do you have other resilience practices that you’re engaging in right now? please share them in the comments!)

(want to support this project? become a patron at patreon.com/kymagdalene. or toss me money for a coffee on venmo, @Ky-Magdalene.)