Monday, 25 May 2020

Conversations Matter: the dangers of online one-stop-shop TGD info sites.

Conversations Matter: the dangers of online one-stop-shop TGD info sites.

We’ve all had that experience. A runny nose, a cough or a sore throat sends us online for a quick digital diagnosis. When we re-emerge hours later its usually loaded up with a history lesson on horrible obscure diseases as well as the nagging feeling of an impending public health disaster. Crucuially, we often feel less safe, less empowered, and no healthier for all our new found knowledge.

There is of course nothing wrong with getting an internet opinion, especially from a reputable source. But if the internet age has taught us anything, it’s the importance of talking with and getting advice from actual professionals.

For the transgender and gender diverse community this is vital. Anecdotally, TGD folk have always been incredibly resourceful at navigating their needs online, finding and gathering information and sharing it with the community. It’s a model of knowledge transmission that we’ve used to keep ourselves safe; overcome gate keepers, understand our identities, access hormones, find supportive doctors, get advice on transition and connect with each other. But there are still dangers. Trans people have and continue to access and self-administer hormones, medical discrimination frequently leads to purchasing outside of the public health system, and unregulated DIY transition sites are easily accessible.

And while there are a few reputable, highly informative sites accessible in Australia, the issue around the best way to support the TGD community is still complicated. Well researched, up-to-date information on transition and TGD healthcare can never replace the front-line community-focused information that is most valuable to trans people. In other words, all the access in the world is not going to help you navigate the complex and shifting issues in and aroundTGD health.  There is a danger too in providing information designed on the assumption that TGD people are digitally savvy, when the most vulnerable members of our community are older, culturally and linguistically diverse, and face fundamental challengesto accessing the internet or consistently paying for data plans.

Other dangers exist. While almost all TGD folk are able to access information and make their own decisions, there will always be a section of our community who don’t have the capacity or (in the case of children) the maturity to do so without consequence. 

Similarly, mental health remains a major hurdle for TGD folk. This is almost entirely due to the wear and tear that society’s prejudice places on the daily lives of TGD people, but that wear and tear can be exacerbated by ‘wall-of-text’ sites and a lack of accessibility.  Access after all is not the same as accessibility and access without accessibility makes things worse for the more vulnerable members of any community. 

In all of these cases the solution is simple. Do provide information on TGD health and well-being, but only if you can also ensure accessibility. Trans and gender diverse people do best navigating the complex often discriminatory systems when they can access one-on-one support. Some TGD folk will never need this kind of support, but even they can save hours of time trawling through page after digital page with a quick call to the Gender Centre. And our most vulnerable community members find this one-on-one access vital.  Any other model puts at risk our communities well-being.