This morning, I was looking on as my mother scrolled through her Facebook wall, and up popped a video posted by a distant cousin of her 7-month-old’s first Christmas. Of course, being Baby Crazy, I eagerly clicked onto her page to see more of this adorable baby that I didn’t even know existed until now. As I scrolled back in time, the ultrasound and some other antenatal (before birth) analyses came up. The ultrasound made me pause, because drawn over the baby’s head was big pink bow and a speech bubble exclaiming, “I’M A GIRL!” I blew on my coffee and thought to myself, “Wow, I would’ve hated that.”
DING DING DING! Wait a minute…
What IF my mother had documented my entire life on social media, even before I myself had started living it? What would my gender struggle have been if literally every single person on the internet had the opportunity to look at my ultrasound and say “CONGRATULATIONS FOR HAVING A DAUGHTER”? How could I ever have the opportunity to control the impression that I present to people if absolutely anyone could hop on social media and, within a few clicks, post a photo of me from my first Easter in a cute little purple dress and pigtails?
It is my personal belief that the lives and struggles of the upcoming Trans* generation will be made even more painful because of the incessant documentation of their genders and formative years on social media.
In the USA, 92% of children under 2 years of age have had their photos posted online, with 34% also posting antenatal scan results (which usually are used to announce a child’s sex, but which is unfortunately connected to a presumed gender). In association with the University of California, The Williams Institute published an article in June 2016 that found that there are about 1.4 million (0.6%) adults in the USA who identify as Trans*. Think about that for a moment: 92%, almost ALL of the people born within the last few years, will have had their presumed gender announced to the global public….and then millions of those people will spend their lives fighting to take it back. The general pushback from your family after you tell them you’re not the little girl they’ve come to know already feels like the weight of the world….what about when it is LITERALLY the entire world?
I personally lead a very open lifestyle. I have had the same Facebook page since some of my friends made one for me during a sleepover when I was 13. I have never deleted a single photo, stretching all the way back to that very night 11 years ago. I documented my transition online and even went so far as to post photos of my breasts before my top surgery. But this was MY CHOICE. I was a legal consenting adult and, as a Trans* person, I made the CHOICE to expose my former gender. I have always accepted the fact that a potential employer has the ability to search for my photos and refuse to hire me because they don’t like what they see. I have always accepted that I am in the public domain. I have said over and over on this blog that I choose to be open and welcoming with my private mind, body, and self because I believe that it will allow future Trans* people to have the freedom to not be asked questions. If I do it, knowledge and awareness is spread, and no one else will have to in the time to come.
But what about these children? What if they are never even given that choice? When you post something to the internet, it’s forever. What will these future generations of Trans* people experience during their inner struggle? Some Trans* people prefer to obliterate all proof of their former lives, and that’s perfectly acceptable. Everyone deserves the right to live their life in any way they choose, and that includes whether or not there is photo evidence of a previous appearance.
So…what now? What can I possibly offer as a solution to the Fear Quotient I’ve brought up? Unfortunately, most people will probably tell me what I recommend is impossible, but I’m going to say it anyway:
Parents, please, PLEASE, stop documenting your children so intimately on social media. I am standing here before you as someone who has experienced great pain and mental anguish, and I am begging you to save your children from the (rather likely) situation of having to experience those feelings so publicly.
It might seem unfair, it might seem draconian…but don’t you want to give your children all of the opportunities for happiness and success that you possibly can? Is it really so hard to believe that exposing your child and your expectations of them publicly could set them up for struggles down the line? It is being proven more and more that Trans* people have always been a part of nature, that we are here to stay, so parents of the new generation would do well to protect their children from the start.