Transgender web safety

The very safest option is only using the web to gather transition information and not using it to interact with others. Even then, you should take a few precautions to avoid being outed.

Safest option: Your own home computer

  • The safest option is to surf on your personal computer at home, to which only you have access.
  • Put a password screen lock on your computer if you live with others. Many computers come with one of these—check the manual.
  • Be sure you securely hide any information you print out or store on disk.

Less safe: Multiple users on a home computer

If you have to surf on a home computer you share with family members or with a roommate who doesn't know your deal, you should take precautions if you don't want them to find anything out.

  • Some computers let different users each have a password-protected part on the hard drive. See if that's an option on yours.
  • AOL can be a good Internet service provider for multiple users, because you can have several password-protected screen names. See the section on AOL below.
  • Other Internet service providers might let you set up several different accounts. See if you can set up your own.
  • Most browsers like Internet Explorer or Netscape store different kinds of files on your hard drive for websites you visit, even if you don't bookmark them as favorites yourself. To delete these after your web surfing session, see the tips under "Visiting Websites," below.
  • Don't leave anything on the screen when you're done or if you're away from the computer.
  • Be careful printing anything out: don't leave it on the printer or lying around where others might see it.
  • If many people use your computer, don't download files onto the hard drive which they can find. Save it to a removable disk.
  • After you're done, empty your browser cache. The manual or the help menu should have information on how to do this if you don't know how.
  • Be sure to exit the program and shut down the computer when you're done. This helps purge temporary files stored on your computer when you're surfing.
  • A correspondent writes: "Install a secure OS like Windows NT/2000 (your hard disk must be formatted with the NTFS file system installed!) or Linux on your PC so you can hide your private stuff from people without the right password. The Windows 9x password system is completely useless to hide your personal information. If you don't want to switch from Win 9x, you could use password protected zip files to store sensitive information, or maybe even PGP encryption if you want to keep even the FBI, CIA or KGB from finding out too much about you. Turn off the option in Internet Explorer that stores your passwords."

Potentially unsafe: computers outside the home

Avoid surfing on a computer outside your home (like at libraries, work, school, or at a friend's, Kinko's, cafe¨s, etc.) unless you're certain no one you know will find out. If you have to surf outside the home, you should only look at stuff that you wouldn't mind if your boss, instructor, friends, family, classmates or coworkers saw. There's always a chance they might.

Using a work computer is probably the most risky, for these reasons:

  • Some companies monitor employee computer use.
  • They might find out what you're researching from clues you accidentally leave on your computer.
  • Most companies have a policy that office equipment is for business purposes only. They could have grounds to fire you.
  • They might discover your plans and use it as an excuse to fire you (it is perfectly legal to fire someone for being TS in many areas). It might also give them time to find other reasons to force you out.

I'd be extremely careful using group computers in high school or college if you aren't out. Word could spread very quickly among fellow students.

If you absolutely must use a computer outside the home, take all the precautions above for multiple-user home computers.

Yahoo, Google, social networking

Each user on an account can have a separate screen name and password.

Remember, others will be able to see your screen name (including those at home), so

  • Don't pick a screen name or pseudonym that identifies you as transsexual.
  • Don't put any info in your online profile that might get you outed. There was a case in 1998 where a gay sailor in the U.S. Navy was discharged based on information traced through his AOL profile.
  • Don't post to proprietary bulletin boards or chat rooms without considering the consequences.
  • Log off and quit after each use.



Visiting websites

As I mentioned at the top, this is the safest way to get information. Just make sure the site is legit. In recent years, there have been several fake teen transsexual sites put up by pathetic scumbags. Sometimes these sites have erroneous advice, but usually they want you to email them. If you aren't sure if a site is the real deal, contact me, and I'll see what I can find out.

Remember, not only can people monitor you from your end, but website owners can monitor you from their end. For instance, I can tell when someone visits my sites from a corporate site. If you are worried about this, you can surf the web safely through several systems.

Many browsers these days (Safari, Firefox for example) have a Private Browsing mode, which can help but is not foolproof. You should also turn off "third party cookies" in browser preferences. Companies like DoubleClick use that technology to build lists of the pages each individual visits.

Not secure: The Google search engine has a “Cached” option at the end of the entry. A reader wrote in 2002: "Regarding the recommendation to use Google cache to browse websites: That does not prevent your visit from being logged by the website in most cases. If the website contains images, you are still loading those images from the website rather than from Google."

As a general rule, don't order stuff, sign website guestbooks, fill out forms, take polls, or respond to phone numbers on websites.

Bottom line: surfing websites is generally quite safe, but only you can decide what level of precautions is right for you.

Parental controls and monitoring software

If you are reading this page, you probably are not being blocked by parental controls, but some computers may not let you visit this site. In addition, your parents may have software installed that allow them to see where you have been going online. It's important to be careful if you think they will respond badly.

A reader writes:

I have Norton Antivirus 2004 and it likes to block the website and put it under my blocked content under parental control. Here's the message:

Norton Internet Security has blocked access to this restricted site.
Blocked categories: Sex Education/Sexuality

If you think this web site is incorrectly categorized, visit the Symantec Internet Security Center to report it. I'm positive that AOL or any other parental control would block your site.

Anoymous Proxy may be a way to get around business or family computer filters but there will still be the trace of the proxy URL.. So I think the proxy would be more for kids who need to visit these websites under anonymity. Though alot of parental control blocks proxy's as Annoymous Proxies so it is very hard to find a good one. I use I get so much bandwidth and I can maybe read information for an hour or so.

I also found that if I look the page up on Google then click the cache link you can visit an older version without it being blocked.

Purging your web browsing history after a session

In most browsers you can set your hard disk cache to 0. This will keep your computer from storing files from pages you have visited, but you still have to do something about that pesky history file, though.

A reader wrote with ways to purge the History file most browsers keep:

There's a functionality on almost all browsers that logs all sites you visited during say the last 20 days. It's called history and the sites visited can be listed by pressing CTRL-H on most browsers. What appears in the address bar when you are typing something comes from this list.

Its data is most compromising thing stored in a computer.

To clean it in MS Internet Explorer, you go to:

Tools > Internet Options > General

and press the Clear History button.

In Netscape Navigator you press CTRL-H, mark what you want to hide and press DEL.

In Opera you have a wonderful option called Delete private data that clean EVERYTHING. You should recommend this browser.

You should put this on your site and warn the others. History is the easiest way to discover what others are doing in the Web.

A reader writes with an additional security tip:

With respect to "deleting" browser cache and history files: For maximum security, you may want to further suggest that users concerned with the discovery of sensitive information after a web session may want to consider not only deleting cache and history files--which remain on the hard drive after a delete operation and can be resurrected and restored by many disk recovery utilities)--but to also use a disk wiping utility to overwrite these files so that they cannot be recovered. I use a freeware program called "Sure Delete" to perform this task; there are many other similar products available.

A reader suggests TorBrowser:

I use TorBrowser, and it functions nearly like FireFox.  I get rendered pages, images, and everything.  I can download stuff.  The only thing is that I cannot enable Flash without breaching the tracing, so that's never been running.  Other than that, it's just a little slower than the others.

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