LIVING YOUR TRUTH: Why the Transgender Day of Visibility is necessary
March 31 has been designated the International Transgender Day of Visibility, and so it has been. It was founded by transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people and envisioned to run counter to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where we read and remember the names of transgender people who were murdered or took their own lives.
Clearly, when so many transgender individuals have lives touched by tragedy, we needed a day to celebrate life and who we are while we’re alive. The first Transgender Day of Visibility was held on March 31, 2009. It’s a day when we stand up, reveal ourselves to the world, and announce who we are – loud and proud. But for far too many of us in the community, it’s not so safe to be loud. For a lot of us, being visibly trans means, simply, painting a larger target on your back.
Lately, I’ve been focusing on the subject of “representation” and why it’s important that we speak for ourselves in open forums. In a nutshell: speaking out and representing ourselves is the best way to prevent misunderstandings, to counteract misrepresentation, and to be visible. Of course, not everyone has the same ideas about who and what we are – not even within the community.
Simply stated, our narratives can vary wildly. No one feels exactly the same way or has the same experiences, which is why having a limited number of voices speaking out can lead to misunderstandings about us. The world outside of the transgender community gets the impression that we are all alike, and we are all very, very much not alike. To counteract that, more of us need to be visible. More of us need to be heard.
The world needs to be hearing about trans women of color, trans men, non-binary folks, etc., etc. I have wrung my hands enough times in the midst of writing this column over how to best cover the spectrum of identities, genders, sexualities, and narratives to know that this is not a one-dimensional subject and that no one person should have access to the microphone. I understand only a fraction of the experiences we share in common by experience.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) March 31, 2017
For me, in this case, visibility means shedding a light on the broader spectrum of experiences and narratives. It means telling a much bigger story, and not from only a single perspective.
Visibility, used this way, could be seen as a path to empowerment. Making those other narratives visible can improve things for all of us, but we have to acknowledge that many cannot share their narratives personally. They don’t want to be identified as trans. They don’t want the microphone. They don’t want the attention, and the danger, it can bring. For them, visibility is not empowerment.
Visibility means death for many in the transgender community. Due to a wide range of prejudices, and the view of transgender people as being “inferior,” we are murdered by the dozen every year. But I must point out that when I say “we,” I am, in fact, referring to the trans women of color and other minorities who make up the transgender community. They are the ones at increased risk.
On this day of transgender visibility, let us not forget that visibility can mean different things to different people. And for some of us, the consequences are dire.
Before closing out this week’s post, I just wanted to mention that I’ve started a Patreon page as an experiment with ways of making money from my writing. Blogging is an often fruitless endeavor, and the crew here at NEPA Scene have been delivering kickass content for more than two years with little financial return on their investment. It’s been our passion project; it’s what we love doing. But we’d also like to find ways to keep doing it while keeping the lights on.
As one of the only voices for the LGBT community in the media here in NEPA, it’s been my dutiful pleasure to bring the news and topics that matter in this way. So, if I may direct your attention to my Patreon page, you will find, as a subscriber, a much more in-depth, unedited version of this blog post. In addition, you will find other posts, musings, and ramblings you won’t see here.
Rich has done a wonderful job of creating this platform, and I can only hope that we find a more suitable solution soon so that we might all benefit. Until then, however, if you love what I’m doing and want to see more of it, please consider subscribing to my Patreon and donating some money.
Much love to you all,
Artwork by Rommy Torrico