This article seeks to inspire self care and wellness for trans and gender non-conforming individuals.
Over the past year there were more than 300 laws proposed around the United States seeking to limit the rights of trans people. Even if you live somewhere that fully supports trans individuals and our rights, remote actions and threats against trans dignity deflate pride and increase physical, emotional and spiritual violence towards trans people and communities around the globe.
With growing negativity surrounding trans and gender non-conforming individuals, it is important to counter these narratives by cultivating our trans joy. This article contains five ideas about how to spark Trans Joy. Please add additional ideas and recommendations for others in the comments.
1. Get Curious About History
Being trans can feel lonely, especially if you are the only trans person in your geographical area, profession, or social group. Learning about the history of other trans people who have lived similar lives or advocated for trans rights can help you feel less alone, help you find words for contemporary struggles and dream about a future that is joyful.
Lou Sullivan, a San Francisco based trans man was a founding member of the GLGBT Historical Society because he believed that preserving stories about trans people in history could heal trans people in the future. Lou was a pen-pal to folk in geographies where trans people were few and far between and (as seen in the video below) he helped educate therapists about the trans people.
If the world around you is not able or willing to love you and your full fabulous, learning about other times and places can give you the strength you need to make it through another day. If nonfiction and history does not spark joy in your life, science fiction that imagines a fabulous future is a similar way to safely escape the slings and arrows of this world.
2. Get Joyfully Angry
Trans history is often full of joyful anger. The trans women at Compton's Cafeteria threw sugar and salt shakers threw the windows in protest. The trans women at Stonewall threw bricks and shoes. Stories about these angry activists grew into movements that continue to inspire activists to Act UP and fight back against laws, businesses, churches and people who discriminate.
Justice long denied sometimes makes it impossible to contain anger. Often, trans people recycle their anger into actions that expose injustice, repair the world or educate others. Trans anger can inspire participation in nonviolent protest, running for public office, lobbying political leaders, advocating for kids or breaking the glass ceiling in a career.
Those who make decisions based on polls, financial costs and "good order" regularly seek policies, platforms and cultures that support majority opinions. As a minority community, trans people need to amplify our "NO" vote against discrimination. Anger is a political amplifier.
Sometimes anger fuels justice and joy, but be on the look out for times when anger is unhelpful for your wellness. Joyful Anger says "no" to discrimination and "yes" to love, hope and joy.
3. Get Embodied
To help ensure that your anger is pointed outward and not inward, it is important to check in with your body. Some may have dysphoria after years of ignoring their body. Don't worry If your embodied barometer for pleasure, joy or selfcare needs to be recalibrated.
Too much selfcare is never selfish - especially if you are trans. In a world that tells us that our lives are expendable, every act of love and embodied care is life saving.
Embodied selfcare is anything that sparks joy in your senses (touch, taste, sound, smell, sight) and sensuality. You can go to the spa, spend time with a beloved, listen to music, dip your toes in a stream, eat a meal that delights you (or helps your body look a way you'd desire) or exercise. Embodied joy is anything that helps you feel a bit more comfortable in the body that you currently have or helps you cultivate the body you seek.
4. Get Glittery
Whether or not you experience embodied joy, you can also experience the joy of a great accessory, clothing that makes you feel like you, soothing grooming or if it is your thing - fabulous amounts of glitter. Dress up. Dress down. If it sparks joy, enjoy it.
You don't have to have some where to go to dress up for a special occasion. There are so many things outside of your control, spend at least one day wearing something that makes you happy. For some this may include make up. For others this could be a favorite pair of fuzzy slippers or undies. If it makes you feel good on a hard day, it is an act of joyful resistance.
5. Get Your Voice Back
You are so much more than the history of trans people. You are a human worthy of a safe and abundant future.
You are so much more than the anger you may carry from mistreatment you have encountered or the injustices of this world. You deserve the fullness of life, without having to beg or get angry first.
You are so much more than your bodily appearance, health or the ways others view your body. You deserve to feel comfortable in your skin and to care for your whole body.
You are so much more than what you do or do not wear. You deserve to be safe and respected in whatever you put on or take off.
For too long trans people have been silenced. Medical advice is provided by people who do not have lived experience in trans skin. Laws are written about our lives without trans people in the room. When trans folk are brave enough to ask for what they need, or to be named the way they prefer, we risk dangerous encounters.
When you are able, when it is safe and when it adds to your wellness, reclaim your voice (publicly or anonymously). Some chose to shout through bullhorns. Others prefer letters. No matter how you chose to do it, stick up for yourself at least once this week, or once a day if you can.
If the voice in your head is the one that is getting in the way of your wellness, find ways to amplify the positive and delay the criticism. Some people do this with a positivity journal. Others counter each critical thought with five nice things.
Self care is important for everyone. It is even more important in a world that is actively seeking to harm and shame trans people. Try some of the ideas above, or find additional ideas in Kate Bornstein's book Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws. Kate is a trans woman who believes anything other than suicide is a better option. This type of self care is called harm reduction.
How do you cultivate your Trans Joy? Share your favorite activities and ideas in the comments.
Those interested in Trans Joy may be interested in our new collection of Trans Joy swag: