Creating Safe Spaces for Trans and Nonbinary Youth

June 21, 2023

Creating Safe Online Spaces for Trans and Nonbinary Youth

“I’ve never met another trans or nonbinary person before–I just want to know that others like me exist.” I frequently hear this when I ask teens nationwide why they want to join Trans Mentor Project (TMP), our innovative national virtual mentoring program. Not surprisingly, young people— including those who know other trans and nonbinary people—turn to online forums and social media platforms to seek identity-based role models and peers for information, affirmation and social connection. The problem is these sources are not always trustworthy, supportive, or appropriate. Yet a growing body of research indicates that mentoring and feeling supported and connected to a peer community can benefit trans youth as they navigate the challenges to their well-being resulting from bullying, discrimination and stigmatization based on their gender identity.

This is precisely why Sam & Devorah Foundation for Transgender Youth developed Trans Mentor Project. As an evidence-based e-mentoring program, it uses a secure online video/chat platform to support and empower trans and nonbinary teens nationwide. Here are a few of the ways TMP creates a safe, online environment that provides the tools and guidance needed to increase resilience and well-being by building confidence, self-agency, leadership skills, and a sense of community:

Providing 1:1 Mentorship with a Trusted Trans/Nonbinary Adult

  • TMP mentors are identity-affirming trans and nonbinary adults eager to give back to their community and connect with the younger generation. 
  • Mentors undergo an extensive vetting process that includes an application, an interview, a background check, and reference checks. In addition to pre-match training, they participate in ongoing monthly supervision to help them be successful as mentors. 
  • Because we know how important it is for a parent/caregiver to feel comfortable with TMP and their teen’s mentoring relationship, we encourage them to join a TMP staff person at the first  “meetup” between their teen and mentor.

Creating a Supportive Community 

  • In addition to mentoring, we provide a safe space for our Trans Mentor Project community members to bond, pursue interests and hobbies together, and share joy through video and chat interaction on our securely monitored mentoring platform. 
  • Some of our favorite group conversations include uplifting moments of gender euphoria, sharing pet photos, learning about trans history together, and participating in an advocacy workshop. This month, we have also discussed what pride means to us and how everyone is celebrating Pride. 
  • To protect the privacy of our mentees and mentors, they do not share their last names, email addresses, phone numbers or social media handles with one another.

Embracing A Positive, Youth-Centered Approach  

  • TMP centers mentees in all aspects of our programming. We believe they know best what will make their experience positive and empowering.
  • Mentees choose their mentor and determine how they want to spend their time together. This might include talking about shared interests, gender expression, or how to interview for a job. 
  • Mentors take the lead in shaping the direction of TMP through opportunities to help develop and lead workshops and peer groups, by continually providing input through check-ins, evaluation surveys, and by  participating on the TMP Advisory Council.

Trans Mentor Project has become the vibrant, inclusive community it is because of its mentees and mentors. We are proud it is a safe space where trans and nonbinary youth can be themselves, feel their experiences are understood, and be celebrated for who they are.

Trans Mentor Project currently has mentees and mentors in 36 states and continues to grow. If you know a trans youth or young adult who might be interested in free mentoring or to learn more about Trans Mentor Project, visit our website or email us at 

Written by

Carter Roberts

Carter Roberts (he/him) is the Program Director of Sam & Devorah Foundation’s Trans Mentor Project, a national e-mentoring program for trans/nonbinary youth and young adults. Carter has nearly a decade of clinical experience working as a Licensed Professional Counselor in Missouri and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Iowa. Carter received his Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Gender Studies. He has also served as Vice President of Ottumwa Pride and volunteered with One Iowa to cultivate an affirming community for trans/nonbinary folks.