I hate Trans Day of Visibility.
For someone who is not visible, TDOV isn’t a day to be recognized and celebrated, but it’s a reminder of the walls that confine those of us who aren’t or can’t be visible. Every year, I have all of my trans friends post on social media their before and after photos, the ultimate Transformation Tuesday, along with a spiel about how they are thankful to be out and to live their lives authentically. Now, I don’t dislike any of my friends for posting about this. Being able to be visible is huge, and visibility it such a crucial piece for our community. Unfortunately, TDOV is about celebrating those who are already out and not supporting those of us who are still deeply in the closet.
I’m talking not about everyone, and everyone’s experience. I am focusing on a subgroup of the population who is aware that TDOV is even a thing. I am talking about the people who know what trans is, who identify as such, and who are not out of the closet in some capacity. Take me, for example. I am out at work and within my immediate relationships. I am not out to everyone on my facebook feed nor my family. So on TDOV, I don’t have a way to celebrate that I am out in certain spheres of my life. I guess I have this blog- but it feels like nothing in comparison to the positive feedback that my friends get who post on facebook. I don’t get to share my story with my family or friends. Shit, half of my friends don’t even know about my queer double life.
What’s an enby to do?
That’s a silly question because unless an enby wants to do something, there isn’t anything they have to do. Gender diverse individuals have to do enough, more than they should, when I comes to being out and visible. Instead, let’s look at what allies, both gender diverse and non, can do to be supportive.
Share your pronouns in group spaces. It’s a small thing and will probably feel weird, in all honesty. However, doing that opens the door for others to share their pronouns and lets the gender diverse person who is sharing space with you to know that you are an ally. Providing space for queer people is hard as an ally; there is a balance between lifting people up and standing over them that can be hard to find. Sharing your pronouns allows you to hold space for others to make the decision to speak up for themselves and become more visible in a way that does not add pressure on others or create an unsafe environment.
Focus on the narrative, not the before and after. Stories have power, pictures have expectations. Not to say that a picture isn’t powerful, but showing before and after is problematic because it sets up an expectation that physical transformation = trans, and that the bigger your transformation the better. That isn’t what it’s about people, so let’s stop perpetuating that. (I also find it problematic because it sets a bar for other trans people to compare themselves to and when they don’t have the stunning 360 degree transformation that they see on social media, then what… but that’s for another day) So tell your story; share your success and your struggles.
Find other ways to be visible. What does it mean to be visible? That looks different for everyone, and not everyone wants to be visible. If you do. think about what you want to do in terms of visibility, for yourself or the community, and do that. I’m sure google has a lot of great ideas; I’m also sure that you have something that google hasn’t come up yet. Do what feels right to you, not just what everyone else is doing.
Let your trans friends know you see them. Even though they may be out to you, if they aren’t out to everyone, TDOV can be a challenge. Sending a text to let someone know you see them is a huge validation, especially on a day where they are invisible. You know that trans friend who isn’t posting on TDOV- they’re probably still in the closet (or maybe not, I don’t know everything, though it sounds good).
Remember, visibility is daily. I don’t have the luxury of one day a year explaining and celebrating my gender. I don’t “pass” as nonbinary and people never assume that I am anything other than female. I have to remind people of my gender and pronouns daily, even multiple times a day. To do that, I have to be the kind of visible that brings fourth vulnerability and possible rejection. It is exhausting. Generally the only time I am celebrating my gender is with sarcasm laden texts to my girlfriend: Got misgendered, AGAIN 🎉. Offer support to friends who are nonbinary or somewhere in between where they are and where they want to be with their gender and transition. Provide safe space for gender expression and for others to be visible when they need it.
Each year I care less and less about being visible on facebook, especially as I am able to produce work that feels valuable for the community. It has been a struggle, TDOV, ever since I started questioning and exploring my gender. I am constantly in a place where I feel like the oddball queer kid, invisible and misunderstood. That’s why writing something like today, though it feels like a Buzzfeed article, is something I find value in. I can tell you that had any of my trans or ally friends reached out to me on TDOV and said that they saw me- that would have allowed me to go through the day with less angst, hurt, and shame. Instead of the day being a reminder that I wasn’t out, and may never be out enough to be as visible as my friends, the day could have been one where I was supported. Imagine feeling all of these things ant not even being able to talk about it with anyone. It isn’t like I could post on facebook adjacent to all my friends that TDOV sucks because I feel invisible. I also don’t want a pity party. I just want to be seen, especially on a day where everyone else gets to be seen.
I know I’m not the only one who wants that.