Since the very start of social media, trans people have been using it to build digital safe spaces for the community.
It was trans communities on Tumblr and Instagram that became my own safe space as a trans teenager. It allowed me to explore my identity and connect with my community in a way that simply wasn’t possible for me in person at that time.
Through social media, I could connect with other trans kids who understood the experience in a way no one else could.
The power of social media has allowed the trans community to connect and build these digital safe spaces for over two decades. But trans digital communities and content have been a fairly small portion of the internet, until the last two years.
Dylan completely changed the way that cisgender allies view and interact with trans content. She ignited a new era for the community.
The era of the trans TikTok influencer.
Dylan’s rise to TikTok fame hasn’t come without some serious backlash and transphobia. But she’s handled these negative experiences with consistent kindness and honesty.
And while she’s helped lead us into this new era, it’ll be the work of other trans influencers and the wider trans community that will define it.
One of the most impactful examples of this community-focused work on social media is #TransJoyIsResistance which was started by artist and content creator Mars Wright.
The original piece of artwork was created by Mars in 2020 and has since taken on a life of its own. On TikTok, the hashtag has over 30M views and is filled with videos of both Mars and other trans creators sharing their joy.
And this movement has started to transcend social media. Mars shared a video in August 2022 of him painting a ‘Trans Joy is Resistance’ mural for LA-based queer non-profit ProjectQ.
When speaking to me about the impact that Trans Joy is Resistance has had on social media, Mars made sure I knew that ‘Black Joy is Resistance’ came first and though he was the one to bring this movement forward on social media, the trans community has “really taken it up as a collective.”
“I came out in 2018 and all I had was the internet,” he tells me about how social media had an impact on his own transition. “I moved to LA and I had no friends, no one to talk to and I would just sit in my room all day watching YouTube videos, watching other trans people, hoping and praying that one day I could have one trans friend. I promised myself when I made that friend I would give back what I was given and show the world that there was hope because that was the only thing that kept me going.”
Finding hope through social media was something that almost every single trans creator I spoke to brought up. From the outside looking in, the transphobic debates and discourse appear to take center stage. But behind the inflammatory media coverage and hateful comment sections is a community coming together and finding hope through each other’s experiences.
Trans creator Amelia Fennec has built her own community on TikTok through sharing her life via TikTok Live. Her followers have affectionately dubbed themselves “Amelia’s Angels.”
Amelia told me that Dylan’s prominence has made her “more wary” about being known as a trans creator but she stressed that right now, the most important thing is for “trans creators to focus on the positives, and show our humanity and personalities.”
Ninja trainer and trans influencer Shelby Mack, @smackshelby, used social media to get answers to questions they had early in their transition.
“I have found SO much trans joy through social media and often find myself searching out other nonbinary and trans people to see their journeys and delve into the possibilities of what I can become,” they tell me. “Through social media, I have also found community, validation from those with similar stories, and hope.”
The timeline through which trans content consumers become trans content creators seems almost entirely influenced by the idea of giving hope to the community through shared experiences and being open about trans life.
This was something that was particularly important to Dionysus Chilcote, @thenakedbard, who has seen his TikTok account grow from 15K to over 50K in 2023.
He spoke to me about the joy he finds in connecting with the trans community through TikTok.
“I feel completely fulfilled in my transness and in my life whenever a trans youth comments on my content to let me know that seeing me live my happy trans life has affected them in some way. That makes my whole week,” he says.
For a while, Dionysus says he wrote these comments out on paper, taking them everywhere with him.
“The only thing I’ve ever wanted was to be a queer mentor like the ones I had growing up for someone else. Getting to have my TikTok and getting to be as open as I am and as happy as I am for everyone to see and to hear that it actually does help people? I really feel like I’ve made it,” he explains.
Using social media to find and connect with other trans people and their experiences is something that fibre-artist and influencer Onyinye, @scarysappho, is familiar with.
“I’ve slowly surrounded myself with other trans people and trans lesbians and it’s something that has made me feel affirmed in my identity as well as seen in an effortless and easy way. It makes me happy to see others in my community happy and thriving and it reminds me that there is so much beauty in being trans,” they say.
Sharing the beauty of trans lives on social media has allowed us to connect and build communities that exist both virtually and in real life.
Through the power of TikTok, our community can see the simple joy that comes from existing as a trans person on a scale we’ve never seen before.
The era of the trans influencer is only just beginning, and I for one, cannot wait to see where it takes us.