Hi, my name is Effy, and I’m a girl. Are you surprised?
Probably not, right?
Well, 2015-me certainly was. He had no idea. But then…well, the internet happened. You see, a year earlier, 2014-me didn’t know he was a girl. He’d spent his entire life being told he was male, a boy, or even “a man.” He’d gone along with that. He didn’t really have a reason to question it. Sure, there had been a couple of “incidents” as a child – moments of non-conformity and depression in his past that would later be identified as gender dysphoria. But he’d mostly forgotten those.
A year earlier, 2014-me didn’t know he was a girl. He’d spent his entire life being told he was male, a boy, or even “a man”
Oh, and here’s the other thing you should know about 2014-me (let’s call him “Robin”): He was incredibly dull. Dull, dull, dull. Boring. Lifeless. Devoid of identity.
Robin moved to Melbourne in 2014, crossing the country from Perth to take up a new job.
And then, he met a boy. A cute boy. A unique, interesting, wonderful boy. A boy who showed Robin that yes, he was definitely bi.
And that boy showed him Twitter. Not just a site for politicians, the media, and news articles. But an online community – of people from all across the world, who shared interests, experiences, and hobbies. People who knew each other and supported each other, who formed families and networks.
On Twitter, Robin started to meet queer people. Actively, proudly, wonderfully queer people, with diverse sexualities, genders, and identities. He met pansexual people, polyamorous people, and most importantly trans people: Trans girls, trans boys, non-binary folk, enbys, and more.
When he became close to the people in this amazing community, they began to notice things. Things that would suggest that Robin was rather more like them than he realised. They were very vocal about this. Robin was very surprised, but he liked to keep an open mind. He started to think about gender, about the concepts of “boy” and “girl,” and “man” and “woman.” It took Robin nearly a year, but finally, it dawned on her: she was a girl.
This was a hard thing to realise, and harder still to deal with. She knew the hardships, discrimination, and abuse faced by most trans people for the rest of their life after coming out. She’d seen the pain and hurt in her community caused by the prominent death of Leelah Alcorn the previous year, who’d committed suicide because her family had refused to acknowledge her identity, trying to subject her to inhumane “conversion therapy”. She’d already begun to feel the effects of living in a community wreaked with mental illness and suffering, one where 48% of her fellow young Australian trans people have attempted suicide, and four out of every five have self harmed.
She knew the hardships, discrimination, and abuse faced by most trans people for the rest of their life after coming out
But she was fortunate. With the help of Twitter, Facebook groups, and other online queer communities, she had built a strong support network, both online and locally in Melbourne. She felt safe to come out to them, and to her remaining friends from her past life in Perth. She came out to her family too, who proved wonderfully accepting. In yet another case of good fortune, she was working for a progressive political party, so coming out to her coworkers was easy.
Inspired by all the wonderful queer identities she’d met online, she started exploring clothing, aesthetics, and finding her femininity. With the help of her community and resources such as /r/transgenderau on Reddit, she found a therapist, saw a doctor, and started taking hormones.
She became a person. One with an identity, with friends, with a community, both offline and online. In 2015, Robin faded out of existence, and Effy was born.
Hi. Here I am!
I exist because of the internet. Because of technology. I’m not alone in that.
This is a story that will resonate with thousands of people across the world. But one that was impossible just 30 years ago.
The story of how I became a person is a story of online communities and social networks. A story of finding community, kinship, and ultimately myself. I’m fortunate to exist in an age where this was possible, as are many other trans and gender diverse people across the world. Without those communities, without the support and solidarity offered by a global, open, and diverse internet, my story could be very different, and much less fun to write about.
I’m fortunate to exist in an age where this was possible, as are many other trans and gender diverse people across the world
I’m passionate about technology because I’ve seen first-hand how it can change lives, create friends and relationships, and form amazing communities. I hope that my work as a technologist can help bring people together. It’s why I work for ThoughtWorks, somewhere where I feel like I can truly be myself and still contribute to making the world a better place. Check out my staffing profile with ThoughtWorks below, with custom genders and pronouns.
It’s also why I contribute some of my time and energy to the Mastodon project – an open-source decentralised Twitter alternative. Twitter might have been where I found my kind, but it has become an increasingly hostile space for queer and trans people. My communities are under threat, but Mastodon lets people create safe networks based around common interests and values, with an effective model for community moderation and user safety.
Technology changed my life. Hell, it gave me my life.
The above is Effy Elden’s first person account of how technology changed her and gave her a life.