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Groundbreaking research from Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, has recently shown that almost three quarters (74%) of people who believe anti-transgender views do not personally know a transgender or non-binary person. Why does this matter?

In October 2021, I joined Just Like Us as one of the charity’s many transgender ambassadors. I grew up having hardly known another transgender person in my everyday life. I received no education at school about the existence of trans people, and I saw hardly any trans people in the media. It felt like being trans was something that was meant to be hidden. It felt like I was never supposed to know that I was transgender, or if I did, that I should never come out.

Being at an all-girls school, I felt isolated from the rest of my classmates in my experience with my gender. All the other students around me seemed happy with who they were, content with their womanhood, whereas I felt an overwhelming sense of discomfort. Being a woman for the rest of my life just didn’t sit right with me.

I turned to the internet, and was finally able to figure it all out at the age of 14, thanks to what I learned from researching on social media. LGBT+ charities like Just Like Us have also created trans-inclusive educational resources for years now, which helped me to understand why I was feeling the way I did.

However, I couldn’t fully socially transition until I was 16 and had moved to a school two boroughs over for Sixth Form. At my former school, I had been constantly surrounded by transphobia. Many of my classmates would say horrible things about characters in TV shows that were trans or about social media stars who had come out; all of this without the knowledge that I was listening, or without them knowing I was transgender.

I remember a lot of the people I was able to come out to saying to me, ‘You’re the first trans person I’ve known in real life.’ This included friends who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and a whole range of other sexual orientations. I always found this statement shocking. Most of my friends were transgender or non-binary. My best friend growing up had an older brother who’s trans. Was it that these people didn’t know a trans person, or was it that anti-trans views were so normalised that trans people didn’t feel safe disclosing their transgender identity to most people in their everyday life?

Just Like Us’ new research echoes my lived experience perfectly. Many people who say anti-trans things or repeat transphobic statements they’ve seen online do not know a trans person in real life. People who do know a transgender or non-binary person are much more likely to consider themselves allies to the trans community. This is simply because we have much more empathy for the struggles of those we know in our real lives, outside of social media. Being able to know someone who identifies under the transgender umbrella allows that person to see the struggles we face on a day-to-day basis just to be recognised.

Though social media would sometimes have us believe that those who identify as LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) do not support the trans community, overwhelming evidence shows us the truth. Just Like Us’ research has shown that 96% of lesbian young adults support transgender people. Personally, I am yet to run into a person in real life who is as hateful towards my trans identity as some of the people on social media can be.

It’s clear that many of the loudest voices are representing the minority opinion. Hate will seemingly always get more people talking online and so anti-trans topics seem to trend everyday. However, there is comfort in knowing these trends are over-exaggerated and false.

Though social media platforms can actually be a great place to spread awareness and find support, it’s also so important to me that I can take these things offline too, through the work I do with Just Like Us. Being able to share my experience with young people in schools has been enlightening, and I know that my story has benefited them. I hope that we can reach a point where young trans people don’t have to search for answers on social media, but instead are able to receive that support and information from the people around them.

Matty is a volunteer with Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity. They need LGBT+ volunteers aged 18-25 to speak in schools – sign up now.