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Creations > Finding (and Weighing) Safe Spaces

Finding (and Weighing) Safe Spaces

By Phosphor
Last updated: 7/15/23

The question of "how do I find a safe community space?" is an evergreen one in a community as stigmatized and rife with drama as the plural community. Here's some thoughts I have on that.

First: there are no totally safe spaces.

There are safer spaces where it's less likely you'll encounter a certain kind of harassment, but no space is watertight, and the more open to public membership a space is, the more unpredictable it is as a rule. I'm not just talking about the risk that a troll might infiltrate and take screenshots to crosspost to a cringe subreddit, or even the risk of there being a capital-A Abuser in the community, but rather... the risk that things will go sour, and that people will handle it poorly, and you'll be left feeling the emotional equivalent of being scraped raw all over, metaphorically thrown out of your house with all your treasured belongings still inside.

I feel like an alarming number of people join supposed safe spaces and immediately unload all their vulnerabilities when really, some things are better kept close to your chest, especially in semi-public spaces. On that note...

Second: it's a valuable skill to stop and think before you share something.

For those who are afraid that what they share will be used against them, let me walk you through a thought exercise that I do whenever I think about sharing something:

Third: what's actually the worst that can happen?

This is a genuine question! Like, don't get me wrong, it never feels great to catch the mockery of a bunch of Internet strangers, and stalking is a real concern. But let's say you do get posted to a cringe subreddit. In the vast, vast majority of cases, people who were already assholes will look at the post, have themselves a little asshole laugh... and then move on to their next source of asshole entertainment, forgetting about you along the way. And if you don't check the subreddits yourself (and if no one tells you about it) you will NEVER KNOW. And that's not terrible, actually!

Again, like, I understand why people are anxious, and I want to make clear that just being posted there now and then is a different ballpark than being stalked, doxxed, etc. But while I feel like acknowledging the harm is good, it's also important to acknowledge that in many cases, being posted is not something that will have any effect on you, and that making what's basically a bunch of losers making fun of actual children into, idk, some omnipresent boogeyman is giving them a lot more power than they deserve over you. And yeah, it's just frustrating in general that these things exist, but also, bigotry against plurals was a thing before them and would have been a thing without them, and either way, people have been horrible gossips since the beginning of time.

Anyway, cringe subreddits aside, it's good to think about other reasons you have for not wanting things to escape containment. For example, if you're a minor, you might be living under unaccepting parents who will abuse you over being plural; if you're working, you might be anxious about it getting out to your workplace; and so on. If this is a concern, and you use your Discord for a bunch of IRL stuff, then it might be worth making an alt and making sure you don't disclose details like your legal name, birthday, location, and so forth. (You shouldn't be disclosing those things anyway, but I digress.)

If you're afraid various friends will find out that you're plural and give you grief over it, that's understandable, but also consider: do you actually want to be friends with people who give you grief over your identity? Like, all friendships will have their share of friction, but that's on the scale of like... having an occasional miscommunication. Not "I have to hide who I really am around them or they'll bully me," or "they have a narrow idea of how the world works and get angry when I don't fit into it." Friends who treat you badly are not friends.

It's easier said than done to leave a rancid friendship, but if you can, you'll be doing yourself a favor in the long run by freeing up more time and energy to spend on people who actually respect you. (And if you can't leave a friendship for whatever reason, you can still set boundaries. Spend less time around them, leave a hangout if they start pushing you around, and so forth.)

Finally: learn how to gauge safety for yourself.

This is a whole other post, but just as a few rules of thumb: don't assume shared identity = safety, look at how people handle "no" rather than how they handle "yes," don't be quick to dismiss your own discomfort, and it's always okay to lurk and hold back on interaction while you assess the space.

Okay, but *how* do you even find spaces to weigh in the first place?

It's, unfortunately, a lot like making friends: you keep trying and trying, going through a bunch of subpar ones until you find the diamonds in the rough.

I won't suggest specific communities or directories, mostly because I don't feel confident enough to recommend any of them. However, you can start by trawling the plural tags in your social media of choice and seeing if anyone's recommended a space they enjoy. (Be sure to check who's doing the recommending, though.) If there's a space you're in that you already enjoy the vibes of, you can see if they've linked any others as "partner" spaces. And if in doubt: you can always ask!

And as scary as it might be, don't restrict yourself to plurals only when looking for communities and friends. You'll be missing out on a lot of cool people.

Good luck on your hunt, and travel safely!

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