Trans advocacy organisation, Mermaids, has warned of the high levels of cyber-bullying young trans people face, which often leave them afraid to come out. The organisation spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post as part of the newspaper’s Call It Out campaign, which aims to raise awareness of online abuse and help tackle the issue. Kerry Richards, a service operator for Mermaids’ Leeds-based helpline, said the increasing hostility of social media platforms can be highly damaging to young trans and gender-diverse people.
They told the Evening Post: “[Online hate speech] has an impact on young people, some are absolutely terrified to come out and to discuss their worries with family and friends. Their own family might be engaging in some of that negativity because it’s so easy to share negative posts with a click of a button. That causes genuine fear, real anxiety. If a family member shares that, without knowledge that their child or family member is going through thoughts and feelings about their own gender, then it just sets them back and they think – I can’t come out because my parents or family have shared this.”
Richards also highlighted the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on young trans people: “Lockdown has shown a massive increase in our contacts. Some young people feel like they can be themselves in school, their friends and young people are open-minded and they’re not pre-judged by their gender or sexuality. We find it is so much harder for them to be open at home.” However, Mermaids is continuing to offer support to trans youth during the pandemic: “We are a listening ear and we tell young people to keep being proud of who they are and to gather as much support as they can.”
Mermaids representative, Jake Edwards, agreed with Richards, adding: “We encourage young people to seek out things they are actively interested in and that bring more positivity into their social media experience, instead of seeing things that they feel like they should be looking at but make them upset.” He is also advocating for blocking features to be simplified to make it easier to ban trolls from targeting the Mermaids social media accounts.