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Safely interacting with others online

Personal safety starts with online safety. Many people have found help, friends, and good advice online. Some have also been outed or attacked by those they met online.

Think of forums, apps, and platforms as a bunch of strangers in a park. You shouldn’t tell strangers any of these:

  • Birth name
  • Birth date
  • Chosen name
  • Street address
  • Phone number
  • City or State
  • Employer, school, place of worship
  • Friends’ names
  • Banking or credit card information
  • Identity documents
  • Hobbies or activities which might identify you
  • Name of therapist, support group, clubs you go to, etc.

Don’t trust online strangers

Forums do not always have the right information. Many members may be just starting out. Some may not know much, even if they act like they know a lot.

If you don’t know the person who wrote something, you should try to confirm what they say from another source.

“Private” communication

Anything you send to someone else is no longer private. People will share your private messages, private posts, and comments from private lists.

This is most true about “private” photos.

Toxic and troubled people

Some troubled people post to forums. I’ve made a list of toxic online communities where you should think very carefully before participating, especially with personally identifying information about yourself. Some will try to find out who you are and where you live. Some can find out through clues you leave.

Read forums for a while before posting. Your question may already be answered.

If you decide to post

Some platforms let you create a username. You may want to choose one that does not have personal information. Instead of your own name, use a different name you like, or a username you don’t use to post elsewhere.

If someone says mean things about you, try to ignore them. They want you to respond. Tell the moderators. If you do respond, be nice. Do not say something mean back. That’s what they want.

Email and text

Never send anything you would not show everyone at your work, school, or home.

I recommend using a throwaway web-based email address that is different than your main email. Don’t choose an address with identifying information, like your chosen name or your city. Don’t pick something that identifies you as transgender. Pick the name of a celebrity you like, or a flower, or something like that. Email may show your IP address (a number which shows your general location). Many large websites have had their systems compromised.

Probably the safest form of online interaction is private email correspondence with well-known people in the community.

Watch out for fakes. Some people pretend to be transgender. For more, see my section on hoaxes and fakes. Fakes might give out bad advice or might try to get something from you like photos or your phone number.

Some of the people attracted to us are themselves trans. Many are very nice, but some may want a romance.

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.