Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Hannah Fuhlendorf M.A, LPC
10 Self-Care Tools for Trans and Non-Binary Folks
Published Feb 9th, 2022 & updated on Feb 10th, 2022
Transgender and non-binary people have a lot of reasons to practise self-care. It’s enough stress to deal with everyday things like finances, relationships, family, and school, but if you add gender politics into that mix, it’s super easy for that stress to become too much. So you need to take care of yourself!
There’s a common misconception that self-care is taking a bubble bath, putting on a face mask, and watching a nostalgic childhood movie. Those things can be helpful! But self-care is more about prioritizing your mental and physical wellbeing beyond the superficial so that you have the emotional resilience to take on the many challenges life throws at you.
Self-care is going to look a little different for someone whose gender expression and identity can make them feel like an outsider, or even put them in danger. But we want trans and non-binary people to find—and keep—joy in their life! So this is a self-care list that has trans and non-binary folks in mind.
1. Find Your Support System
Everyone needs support! And this is especially true for trans and non-binary people. Finding your family—whether given or chosen—is so important. The idea of the found family is all about finding people that make you feel safe, loved, and respected, outside of the boundaries of a biological or nuclear family.
Many transgender and non-binary people face rejection from or conflict with family members after coming out. So whether or not your relatives are willing to accept your trans or enby identity, your close friends, their pets, and your work bestie can make a fantastic support system! Maybe keep the pets away from the Friendsgiving table tho.
Your journal is such a great tool to work through your thoughts and feelings. If you’re grappling with your gender identity and expression, or want to dig deep into your feelings around gender, journaling is a great way to take care of your mental health!
You can journal to build gratitude, work on loving/ accepting your body, and learn how to love yourself. We’re veeeery pro-journaling at DiveThru, and have tons of prompts in our app to help you work through whatever you’re thinking about. And your journal is yours, so you should def use it to get out all those complicated thoughts and feelings, but you can also journal about how Laverne Cox looks gorgeous literally all the time. Like… how? What’s her secret??
3. Style Yourself How You Want To Look
An affirming way of embracing your gender identity is to style yourself however you want to look. For transgender and non-binary people, many grew up with the pressure to look a certain way that went against their gender identity. So developing your personal style and rocking it can be an amazing form of self-care!
It’s okay if you’re not comfortable going out in public in your own unique style at first. If you want to strut around your house wearing what makes you happy, full support! Your hallway is a runway. Hunter Schafer would be proud.
If you want to try to change up your look but you’re scared to do it alone, reach out to your support system, have an eighties makeover montage, and let them give you all the emotional support you need (and maybe a borrowed outfit) to look like your true self.
4. Find Activities and Hobbies That Bring Joy
Living with a gender expression other than cisgender can be stressful. That’s why it’s important to pursue experiences that bring you joy!
Artistic expression can be a great way to lose yourself in something while working through how you feel. And if you don’t think you’re very skilled at the art you create, remember Bob Ross’s wise words: “It’s the imperfections that make something beautiful. That’s what makes it different and unique from everything else.”
Of course, art isn’t the only option. You can go for a hike, play some video games, bake, and do any number of activities that make you happy!
5. Get Moving
Speaking of hiking!
Physical activity is a fantastic emotional regulator and it includes so much more than just hitting the gym. But we know that exercise can be intrinsically connected to diet culture so here’s the type of movement we want you to focus on. You should move in a way that makes you happy and do the type of activities that you genuinely enjoy — whether that is stretching, yoga, dancing, running, biking, swimming, or going for walks in your neighbourhood. As long as you’re bringing some joyful movement into your day, that’s all that matters.
6. Become An Activist (With Safety In Mind)
It’s an unfortunate reality that it’s more dangerous to be transgender than it is to be cisgender. 2021 saw the most violence on record against transgender people than any year before (“on record” is being specified because a lot of violence will go unreported). In the United States in 2021, a record breaking amount of states passed anti-transgender laws that allow awful exclusionary policies like banning trans women in women’s sports leagues, letting businesses signal customers when trans people are using public washrooms, banning gender changes on birth certificates, and medical professionals being allowed to turn away trans people simply for being transgender.
You have every right to be upset about political moves like these and want to get involved. Part of self-care can be taking action towards making the world a better and more accepting place. Look up local 2SLGBTIA+ organizations that you can get involved with, join online communities that are fighting to make a change, and donate to 2SLGBTIA+ shelters and funds that help at-risk youths get the financial aid they need.
But you have to take care of yourself in all this. Activism can be self-care, but it can also become destructive if you let it take over your life.
As registered therapist Hannah Fuhlendorf explains in our DiveThru course Sustaining the Activist: How to Take Care of Yourself While Changing the World, the idea of the self-sacrificing activist is not worth it. You must prioritize your time, money, and energy for yourself so that you can help the world and yourself when you do get involved in a cause!
Check out the course in the DiveThru app for more tips on getting involved, finding your community, and how to take care of yourself while making a change.
7. Follow 2SLGBTIA+ Influencers and Activists
Social media affects how you think and perceive the world. So curating your feed is a big step in finding people that share your values. Whether you want to follow 2SLGBTIA+ activists who are trying to make changes in the world, or trans and enby people who post OOTDs and cottagecore inspo pics, your feed is yours to control! Unfollow toxic and unsupportive people and fill your feed with amazing Queer influencers and adorable animals. You’ll be much happier while scrolling social media.
8. Allow Yourself to Disconnect
This goes along with the previous two points.
Yes, it can be a form of self-care to be involved in the 2SLGBTIA+ community, and to follow people on social media that inspire you, match your gender politics, and generally have a positive vibe. But along with activism and social media comes that 24 hour news cycle, clickbait-y articles and posts, and the sometimes ignorant opinions of strangers on the internet. Every once in a while, a break is needed.
Taking a break to disconnect doesn’t invalidate your activism, involvement in the community, or how much you pay attention to the world. Disconnect for a bit and read a good fiction book, take a leisurely walk in your local park, or just have a nice, long nap. Do what works for you!
9. Practice Mindfulness
It can feel comforting to repress your thoughts and feelings sometimes. As a transgender or non-binary person, you may deal with a lot of shit from a lot of different angles, and may even be struggling with trauma and PTSD. Practising mindfulness is a way to bring awareness to those thoughts and feelings and work through them in a way that reduces stress and, with practice, brings a lasting sense of calm when you need it.
Mindfulness is used to check in with your thoughts, allow them to come, and accept them without judgment. In a mindfulness practice, thoughts aren’t good or bad – they just are. For someone struggling with gender dysphoria, that can be a helpful tool!
Studies confirm the potential benefits of mindfulness for transgender and non-binary people, too. In a 2016 study on 2SLGBTIA+ youth, mindfulness was shown to help young people deal with sexuality-based victimization. As well, a different 2016 study found a positive correlation between trauma-informed mindfulness practises and a reduction in PTSD symptoms, which many transgender people struggle with.
Mindfulness will look a little different for everyone. Whether you want to do a full 30 minute meditation, or a five minute check-in before bed, play around with it and see what sticks!
10. Go to Therapy
At times, self-care will need more than one person to do it right. It takes a village, as they say. Pretty sure they were referring to raising children but it can take a village to prioritize your mental health, too! That’s what mental health professionals are here to do.
Therapy can be an amazing tool to help you work through your concerns and talk about things like your gender identity, trauma, and any other concern you might have. Finding a therapist who is transgender and non-binary affirming will be key, so that’s why we wrote a whole article on it.
Self-care is an ongoing process. Doing any of these just once when you’re having a bad day won’t make a lasting difference, even if it helps in the moment. So take these tools, put them in your metaphorical self-care toolbelt, and practise using them regularly! Go out there and live your best gender-affirmed life.