Life in lockdown has caught the best of us off-guard.
But as the majority of us learn to cope with isolation, stories of LGBTQ people facing difficult decisions and life quarantined with unsupportive families have become a worrying reality for many.
At the best of times, it's difficult to be transgender or non-binary and right now the increased isolation has made that even more challenging. Multiple studies are now showing in particular why this isolation is having a disproportionate impact on trans youth.
And that's precisely why a group of trans activists have banded together, to provide a daily ray of light in otherwise uncertain times.
The Validation Station is the new free text service created for the lockdown, from non-binary radio presenter Jacob Edward, queer, trans woman Kes and Grace Hayhurst with support by cloud communications company Vonage.
Over 500 signups are now getting a daily reminder of not only how great they are, but how valid their identity is.
"I've struggled to feel valid a lot over the past few years, and working on a project like this gives me the chance to help people in the same boat feel a little better," Kes tells me.
"I came to realise that in my identity as a trans woman, I faced very little support and validation in my day-to-day life. But the amazing community of friends I have made online has been helping me through this massively. And I think The Validation Station helps to bridge the gap between that almost ethereal online community and the real world."
It's the kind of service Kes wishes they’d had in the early days of their transition.
"So much hate is aimed at our community every single day, and we spend so much of our energy as a community having to fend that off, defend ourselves from it, and keep ourselves safe."
The project was inspired by non-binary radio presenter Jacob Edward who reached out to another young trans person on Twitter, just as the lockdown began:
"I saw a trans person I follow tweet about being misgendered a lot already – just two days into the lockdown," Edward tells me.
"It made me feel so sad for them and others not living in supportive environments or alone, like I am. I desperately wanted to do something for that person."
Fortunately, trans twitter is well connected. And before long Kes was working with Grace and Jacob to produce The Validation Station, to provide connection and relief for trans and non-binary people in lockdown:
"I hope it helps to remind people that their identity is valid, the more we get told the opposite, the more it will cement in our minds. Therefore this daily text is worded to use names (and pronouns where we can) so trans and non-binary people get a reminder that this is who they are," Edward adds.
Grace, who is providing the technology behind the signup portal got involved because they wanted to help rebalance following 'Internet Creator' Tim Berners-Lee calling out some of the vitriol that women and LGBT+ people face online:
"Berners-Lee has written about how the web is not working for women and girls – and he is right. One of the most disappointing things I find about the current state of the internet is how so many use it to spread hatred.
In Berners-Lee's recent Medium piece, he also adds that "it's up to all of us to make the web work for everyone." And that's what inspired Grace to get involved:
"The Validation Station is a step in the right direction to bring back the joy and creativity that the internet brought to so many before the silicon valley boom of the 2010s.
"I'm glad to be part of a project that supports the marginalised, and I hope that other people can learn from the project and spread positivity in their way."
Example text that The Validation Station is sending out to its over 500 users
THE VALIDATION STATION
The Validation Station may just be one small, albeit growing, corner of the internet. But like recent victories over gender inclusive emojis and the inclusion of the trans flag in the unicode consortium, these wins count.
And Kes is hoping in these uncertain times, that their project is at the very least now providing a ray of light to people desperate for a reminder of how valid they are:
"This project is our way of fighting back with love, compassion, and kindness. It's a gentle yet tangible act of peace in the face of the ongoing war on LGBTQ+ people, trans people in particular, and that is no small thing."
Get your daily text from The Validation Station now.