Safely interacting with others online

Many people have found support, friendship and good advice by interacting with others online. However, some have also been outed or attacked by those they met online. If you decide it's worth the risk to interact with others online, there are still some precautions you should take.

You've probably seen this basic list before. Think of the web as a bunch of strangers in a park. You shouldn't give strangers any of the following:

  • Birth name
  • Birth date
  • Chosen name
  • Street address
  • Phone number
  • City or State
  • Employer, school, church
  • Friends' names
  • Social security or credit card numbers
  • Hobbies or activities which might identify you
  • Name of therapist, support group, clubs you go to, etc.

Email

A good rule: Never email or post anything you wouldn't want everyone to see if it were taped up at work or school.

I recommend using a “throwaway” web-based email address from Hotmail, Yahoo, or Google. Don't choose an email address containing identifying information, like your chosen name, your area code. Don't pick something that identifies you as transsexual. Pick the name of a celebrity you like, or a flower, or something like that. Note that some web-based mail clients like Hotmail betrays your IP address (a number which shows your general location): Hotmall puts it in the message header.

Webmail systems are only as safe as the good intentions, skills, and luck of their administrators. Many large websites have had their systems compromised.

A correspondent adds: "Web based email services have the advantage that they don't store all messages locally. Just don't forget to clear the browser cache after you're done reading."

Probably the safest form of online interaction is private email correspondence with well-known people in the community. I recommend contacting TransYouth Family Allies for information on transition as a minor. I am also happy to answe questions not answered on the site.

Almost everyone in the second group didn't transition until after 25 and are obviously not exercising the option of deep stealth, but some of us are for all intents and purposes living lives where many people don't know their status. For instance, Lynn was stealth for over 30 years, but was then outed when pioneering computer work she did prior to transition was uncovered. She then chose to go ahead and be open about her past. Personally, I have a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" policy going on, where my history is never discussed at work or with non-trans people unless I want to. However, I'm obviously not hiding it, either.

In addition, most of the women listed above are in contact with numerous women who maintain even deeper levels of stealth (i.e., not out online).

Use caution when emailing someone. Many people claiming to be transsexual, especially those claiming to be "transkids," are not. People pretending to be transsexual could run the spectrum from relatively harmless middle-aged wannabes engaging in fantasy role-playing to dangerous sexual predators.

Anyone pretending to be transsexual has the potential to to be problematic, just in different ways. The "harmless" types who are "just having a little fun" have been known to dole out advice as if it were based on their personal transition experiences. I consider this a serious problem. This type of behavior is nothing compared to the tiny handful of pretenders who deceive young women for exploitative purposes, but it's a problem nonetheless.

Keep in mind that some of the people attracted to transsexuals are themselves transgender or transsexual. Only a tiny handful of transgender and non-transgender transfans are predatory, but it's good to understand that some transgender folks who want to help are doing so because they secretly hope they might score a little action with you. And a few "helpful" women are far more interested in scoring than in helping.

If you're asking a question, try to do it without divulging personal information.

Some email programs store your correspondence where anyone can read it, so be sure to find out where your letters will reside if someone shares your computer.


Transsexual forums and bulletin boards

This has been expanded into a separate article. For tips on interactng online with others, as well as a list of transsexual forums, please see Transsexual forum list.


Social networking sites

A good rule of thumb is not to use these. They provide a ton of identifying information, even at the most private settings possible.

Calling and meeting people from online

Be very careful calling or meeting anyone who is aware of your TS status. A good rule of thumb is not to call anyone unless someone trusted whom you have met in person will vouch for the person who wants to meet you.

I don't recommend calling people you meet online unless you are absolutely certain of their identity and sanity. There are a lot of people in the community who may want to be your friend and meet in person. Most will not pass, and a few are emotionally disturbed.

Do not speak to someone on the phone until you have emailed for a while.

Remember, once you call someone, they will have your number and will be able to call you back.

Do not call from home if you live with others.

Do not call from work if you aren't out at work.

Only meet someone after you've emailed and spoken on the phone long enough to be satisfied the person is not a kook.

Another good rule of thumb is to meet people close to your own age, since it's more likely you'll have things in common.

Meet in a public place, but not where you might run into people you know. Early on, I met a couple of people who were not as passable as they claimed and I was getting clocked left and right by association.

As I mentioned in the section on email, be aware they might be attracted to you. This is true for TSs, as well. Generally, the older the TG/TS, the more likely this will happen.

After you're full-time and done with SRS etc., I suggest trashing your old email account, username and Internet service provider and starting over.

In this section:

Transgender web safety

Safely visiting transgender websites

Safely interacting with others online

Putting up your own website: pros and cons

How to minimize an existing web presence

Readers who have been outed online

Reader tips: online safety

Other web resources