Tiktok helped me discover my gender identity

Aria Zahler, Staff Writer

Photo provided by Aria Zahler / The Runner

My name is Aria Zahler. I am a 26-year-old transgender woman and I use she/her pronouns. For anyone who does not know what this means, it means that I was biologically born as a male, who later transitioned to a woman. 

I have been on hormones at the time of writing this for about 2.5 years, but wish I had started sooner. The longer I waited for the moment to start my transition, the worse my mental health grew throughout my early life. 

To best describe gender dysphoria, it’s something that eats away at you. It’s feeling like you are constantly fighting and struggling to stay above water, but never being able to raise your head above it long enough to breathe. It’s living every second with distress, but never being able to ask others for help due to the fear of being hated and feared.  

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine,82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves and 40% have attempted suicide.”  

It is a constant battle, a constant struggle even for those who have been transitioning their whole lives.  

Part of the reason the suicide rate is so high among trans people is due to the lack of education and resources that are provided.  

Issues regarding identity, even sexual orientation, are seen as taboo in our society. Because we are not often seen in the public sphere, ignorance about our existence looms.  

Politicians in control of our lives share this same ignorance and instead of being willing to learn and understand, some choose to try and erase our existence especially in our current political climate. 

I had been affected by this ignorance too. Had I known what the word transgender meant, or had I known someone who is trans when I was younger, that might have helped me at an earlier age discover my true authentic self. But this was not the case.  

I progressed through my childhood and even parts of my young adulthood, living as a male. It was torture living life like that, not understanding why my life felt so wrong; it just did.  

Most people don’t feel that every action, every word or every movement they make somehow feels off. Or waking up out of bed in the morning after having a bad dream, only to look in a mirror and realize you never really woke up. But it did for me. And for so long, I had no idea what was wrong.  

It grows until you finally begin to understand that what you’ve been experiencing is gender dysphoria. 

TikTok became more widespread around the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. At the time, it was the new way for anyone to post short, mostly raw, unedited videos for the world to see and interact with. But TikTok had something unique and powerful.  

It uses an algorithm to show you content based on your interests and likes. It was through this platform that I was able to meet many other people who experienced the same things I have in life, people who have lived through the same nightmares.  

As I kept scrolling through the endless feed of content, I discovered that I kept seeing more content about finding your identity and feeling dysphoria. I had seen more content from people who shared similar battles as I had. It became a safe place for me to explore.  

It is through this platform that I learned about the symptoms of gender dysphoria and began to understand myself. It was through baby steps that I began my social transition.  

This means that I came out to my friends, my family and to my workplace. I changed my name, changed the way I did my hair, wore women’s clothing daily, even started vocal training. I don’t believe I would have known how to start without the exposure I had through TikTok. 

The social constrictions that had clouded over me and limited me were quickly dissolving away.  

Without TikTok and its incredible algorithm, I would not be where I am today. TikTok has helped me every single day throughout my early transition. But it should not be up to a social media platform to help discover myself.  

We need to encourage transgender health studies. We need to be seen, heard, listened to, and understood. It should not be in the hands of an algorithm for us to understand ourselves. We are not a taboo, never to be discussed. We exist.