Jude Smith was just trying to become a better ally to the trans community when she read a tweet in early July about the Gender Dysphoria Bible, an online document that serves to educate people on the topic, and began reading it.
Immediately, the document began to resonate with Smith, a 27-year-old from Washington state, on a deeper level.
“It was, ‘Oh, every single part of this seems to apply to me,’” she told BuzzFeed News. “‘It’s written from a trans femme perspective. Oh, wait. That’s it. That’s what I’ve been missing, this language, this terminology, my entire life.’”
The document helped Smith realize she is trans, a conclusion she said she would never have made without Twitter. She’d become active on the social media platform to connect with other autistic people and fellow gamers, specifically fans of the video game Destiny. At the intersection of those two worlds, she found nonbinary people, and communicating with them led her to realize and accept her trans identity.
Smith is just one of thousands of trans people who have found a safe space on Twitter. While the offline world might not always be as accepting, trans people BuzzFeed News spoke with said they felt accepted and heard in their niche Twitter communities. But ever since Elon Musk bought the platform for $44 billion, trans people are wary of where the site is headed. In the past, Musk hasn’t been exactly welcoming, tweeting in 2020, “Pronouns suck,” before deleting it. He later followed up with: “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an aesthetic nightmare.” With people already fleeing Twitter, some trans people fear their community will be gone, too.
“I personally don’t think the app is going to be here in a month,” Smith said.
She is part of a queer Discord server and is trying to move the connections she’s made on Twitter to Discord, but the platform is more of a chatroom than a social media app, so it doesn’t have the same effect.
“I don’t think there’s ever going to be another platform like Twitter that allows queer people to connect and that is sad,” she said. “I am going to lose the parasocial relationships that I had access to.”
Cal, a 24-year-old trans man who lives in Atlanta, runs the Twitter account @OpenYourWallett, which crowdsources for Black trans people who might be in need of money for relocation, surgery, and more. Cal, who doesn’t want his last name used for fear of his safety, said he started crowdsourcing for others after Twitter helped him raise enough money to move out of his unsafe living situation. In the couple of years he’s been crowdsourcing, he estimates that he has helped raise nearly $100,000 for hundreds of Black trans people.
“Unfortunately, our housing, employment, and rental discrimination plays a role in the way that we are able to engage with certain resources,” he said.
According to a study published in February by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the country’s oldest national LGBTQ advocacy group, Black trans people had an unemployment rate of 26%. Around 41% of Black survey respondents said they had experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. The threat against trans people is serious, according to an Everytown for Gun Safety report, homicides of trans people increased in 2021, and Black trans women were killed at a particularly disproportionate rate.
While things might be dangerous for Black trans people offline, Twitter can sometimes feel like a refuge.
“Twitter is a safe space and a space for trans people to really allocate or get much-needed funds in really dire situations,” Cal said, “especially trans people who have been kicked out of their homes or in need of surgery.”
Rain, a 22-year-old college student in Australia, sees the value in a space like Twitter because it’s the only place they are out as nonbinary. They started becoming active on Twitter with their fan account of Our Flag Means Death, a period romantic comedy that has received praise for its LGBTQ representation. Rain said they hyper-fixated on the show and discovered fellow fans were “welcoming” and “willing to use the correct pronouns.” Soon, they came out as nonbinary.
“I was like, ‘This feels right,’” Rain said. “‘This feels like the community that’s going to be welcoming and accepting and I’ll just use my name and my pronouns, and it all felt right.’”
If Rain’s Twitter comrades jump ship, Rain will lose that community.
“It is really worrying because, for myself, that account is my only space where I have all of these close mutuals who are willing to provide community,” Rain said. “There’s not really any other platforms that have that text-based conversation. You also have private messaging.”
But despite the concern that other trans people will abandon Twitter, Cal said he plans to stay on Twitter until the very end.
“Twitter has changed my life because it’s been a resource of opportunities for work, understanding the needs of my community, and what they need in order to allocate resources for them,” he said. “It’s allowed me to engage with a community that I couldn’t engage with too much locally because I didn’t grow up in an area where there’s a lot of Black people in general, so Twitter allowed me to have those connections.”