Today is the international Trans Day of Visibility. The only other day of the year that we mark is the Trans Day of Remembrance which is a day where we remember trans people who have been killed, taken their own lives, and have been subject to violence. Today is supposed to be a day to celebrate who we are and to be visible in the world. Yet at the same time the increased visibility of trans people has also led to a backlash. Violence against trans women of colour is still rampant. Trans women in Brazil are still being murdered at an alarming rate. States across the United States of America are passing legislation that is regressive and using bathroom panic as an excuse. Here in Canada schools and school boards are still fighting against recognizing the rights of trans people. At the same time if we remain invisible we still face the violence and hatred, but it is ignored more than it is already. Thus the question arises, what does trans visibility mean?
Visibility in our day to day lives varies greatly depending on where we live, if we’re living “stealth,” if we are out to some, but not others. It varies based on our ability to “pass as cisgender,” our identification, and whether or not we are “outed” (with or without consent). This visibility is both bad and good. I have chosen to be visibly out. I wear a kippah that is in the trans colours made by one friend. I have earrings in trans colours made by Cait of [Cait Cards] that I also wear regularly. Thus, people who are familiar with the colours recognize them and occasionally comment. I’ve also had a comment that they are the Pantone colours of the year. I am visible. I am also visible by being active in the community, providing workshops, education, and being politically engaged. I am also in a place of privilege in that it is reasonably safe for me to be out and visible in most places. I also pass as cisgender fairly well, at least until I drop my voice an octave. I have the option to be out or not in many spaces.
There are many trans people who remain invisible on this trans day of visibility. They may be living in stealth, and there are many reasons for this. (See: Denying One’s Past) They may not be out to themselves, not recognizing who they are inside. They may be invisible because they have been the victim of violence and murder, or have taken their own life, yet the media uses their old name and gender when reporting it. On this day of Trans Visibility I also hold up those who are invisible. They may be invisible, but I am choosing to see and recognize that they are there. They are in the world. They are part of our society. They are to be respected for their decisions, not judged for how they are living their lives. They are to be remembered if they are no longer in the world.
Overall trans people are more visible than ever, and yet in many ways we still remain invisible. We have “acceptable” trans narratives that get a lot of visibility, and at the same time have many whose narratives are not deemed to be acceptable and thus do not get told. We are visible in the world, especially those who are deemed to be “successful” by the world, but those of us living in poverty are mostly invisible. We have greater access to medical and social transition supports (if we have money), yet we are still invisible to medical professionals who say they do not work with trans patients. “There are no
We are visible, we are invisible. We are seen, and we are unseen. While we are seen as our true gender by some, our true gender is not seen by others. We are validated and at the same time invalidated. We are visible because we meet the stereotype of our gender, yet we are also visible because we do not meet the stereotype. We are trying too hard, or not hard enough. I say, enough. I am who I am, I am who I will be. I am visible to myself, and when I ask myself who I am, I find myself drawn to these words from Exodus 3:14. We are all who we are, we are all who we will be. Like YHWH in the Exodus story I choose to be visible. For those who believe, this can be a model for how to be in the world. Strive to set free those who are marginalized and enslaved. For those who do not believe in a divine being, there is a message here that there is a responsibility to others and an obligation to strive to help those who are marginalized.
I am trans, transgender, a woman. I am visible, and will continue to be visible. I will continue to help others.