Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility, and it’s my first one being out as transgender. I really wanted to come out last year on this day, because visibility was, and still is, important to me but unfortunately it wasn’t quite in the cards. If it wasn’t for past days like today, I might still be in the closet, dealing with my gender dysphoria in private, and being miserable in the process.
Today is a day that should mean so many things to so many transgender people. Before the popularization of the Transgender Day of Visibility, the only day that transgender people had that wasn’t shared with the rest of the LGBT community was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. While the Day of Remembrance is just as important, the transgender community needed something to celebrate, rather than mourn.
The Transgender Day of Visibility is a day where transgender people shouldn’t be afraid to be themselves. I feel like a large portion of the life of a transgender person is trying to fit in as their preferred gender, constantly worrying about being misgendered, and just wanting people around them to accept them as the person that they are. Today is about not worrying about that, for one day.
So, what is visibility and why is it important? Visibility is about being seen and heard. It’s about making people aware that transgender people exist. It’s about fighting transphobia. It’s about reminding our family and friends that we are transgender, and that being transgender is important to us. It’s about transgender pride. It’s about activism in the transgender community. It’s about letting other transgender people who may still be in the closet that it’s okay to come out.
Visibility is why videos such as Jordan Raskopoulos’s coming out video is so important, as well as her Elephant in the Room music video. It’s why an entire album dedicated to gender dysphoria by Against Me! is so important. It’s why Netflix’s Orange is the New Black having an entire character, with story arcs surrounding her transition and played by an actual transgender woman, is so important. Even Amazon’s Transparent, despite it’s problematic aspects, is important. People such as the Wachowskis, Chelsea Manning, Narcissa Wright, Kolorblind, ContraPoints being openly transgender are all important. They’re the people who helped convince me to come out, and encourage me to make myself visible in whatever way I can simply by being who they are.
Even if they don’t want to be transgender icons, just being transgender and in the public eye, whether that’s in small niche internet communities or all over the international news, makes a difference. They might want to argue that they just want to make movies, or music, or play video games, and not be political about it, but it’s simply not possible. The fact that transgender people in the media exist at all is political in today’s climate. It’s sad that merely existing is enough to be a political statement, but transgender acceptance isn’t anywhere close to that of the rest of the LGBT community, who have had at least a 20 year head start.
To me, and so many other transgender people both in and out of the closet, anyone who is out and visible make being out ourselves so much less scary. One of the things that kept me from transitioning for so long was that I had a family, friends, and a career. I built a name for myself, and there was a history to it. Transitioning, in a way, feels like it can be throwing all that away. But to see someone famous come out as transgender and have the world not end, it’s a sign that anyone can do the same. To be able to watch their careers continue, and in many cases flourish, is empowering. I’ll never be as famous as the transgender people that I look up to, but knowing that they did it encouraged me to do the same.
Coming out as transgender to my family and friends was the scariest thing that I have ever done. For a long time it was so terrifying to me that I truly felt like I could never actually do it. The dysphoria, depression, and anxiety I felt hiding who I was constantly overshadowed by the fear of coming out. Being able to watch someone famous come out in sometimes very public ways helped to alleviate that fear.
As equally important are all the people I’ve met in various transgender communities online, from Reddit to Discord to Twitter and Tumblr. I can’t possibly thank them all enough, and there are far too many to name. Regular people being able to come out and tell their stories on social media is incredibly empowering. It’s a reminder that yes, regular people really can do exactly what the famous transgender individuals are doing. Even small coming out announcements, such as a simple photo of pills, made it easier to come out myself. They are reminders that someone else has traversed the same path that you have, and came out the other side.
Growing up I didn’t have anyone who is transgender to look towards and make the connection that other people struggle with the same struggles I dealt with. It took years of transgender people in the media, and who I followed online before they came out, to realize that “hey, maybe coming out of the closet isn’t the end of the world after all.” Even the stories of trouble, lack of support, disowning, and the worst of the worst that can happen to transgender people when they come out is a reminder that someone has lived through exactly what my worst fears and made it out the otherside. The more people who share their stories, the better it is. Everyone is different, but in everyone’s story you can find a piece of yourself.
I wanted to give back to the same communities that has helped me these past few years, which is why I started this blog. Even though, at the time I started writing, I assumed no one but my close friends would ever read it. I was already starting to write a journal privately, that later turned into the first few posts of this blog. I posted them publicly because I told myself that even if I only reached one or two people who were questioning that it’d all be worth it. Even if the only thing that my blog did was bring to light the struggles I deal with on a daily basis to my close friends, that visibility would be worth it.
Every comment I get from someone who wants to share my story with a loved one, or finds themselves and their own story mirrored in my experiences, means the world to me. It means my visibility is helping someone. It means that my words are filling the void of someone else who may be failing to find their own voice, or to put their own journey into words.
I remember an email I wrote to my parents after I came out. It was a mess. While most of my writing is a very emotional stream of consciousness, this particular email had a purpose. I wasn’t just writing for myself, and allowing people to read it. I was trying to convince my family that the decisions I was making were right, that I knew myself, and I knew that transitioning was something I had to do. I don’t think I particularly succeeded at that email, but I got an amazing response from my dad, that to this day means the world to me.
Visibility is also about saving lives. I sometimes think of the lives that could be saved if they had the support network they needed. The life expectancy for a transgender person is 30-32 years. That is a very depressing number. I have no idea how true it is, because it seems that there isn’t enough real information and statistics to base it on. Plus, the fact that the transgender revolution is only just beginning. Transgender acceptance is extremely recent fight, and one that’s not over yet. What we do know is that the life expectancy of transgender people is far below what it should be..
Violence against transgender people, as well as suicide, are contributors to these numbers. Visibility is about not accepting that number. It’s about fighting transphobia by showing the world that not only are we here, but that we are normal people trying to live normal lives. It’s about reminding transgender people who are struggling that it gets better, and that there are people that you can reach out to who have shared your struggles.
I remember when I came out, one of the concerns my mom had was that transgender people are a high risk for suicide. I don’t think she realized at the time, or if she even does now, that my coming out was a way to prevent that risk. As I’ve written about in my post about depression, I’ve been struggling for most of my life. When my depression was at its worse, I was very much suicidal. I never sought the help for it that I truly believe that I needed at the time. I didn’t talk to anyone about it at the time. The stigma with depression, suicidal thoughts, and mental health was too great and kept me from admitting to anyone my true struggles. I hid everything from my own depression to my own gender dysphoria.
It’s my goal to no longer hide the fact that I’m transgender. I spent too many years hiding. I shouldn’t have to. No one should have to hide who they are. I’m not going to let myself become a statistic, and I don’t want anyone I know to become one either. That is what visibility means to me. If by being visible means that one transphobe might think twice about taking action against a transgender person, then I want to be visible. If being visible means that one transgender person is convinced to keep going, and to strive to turn their lives around, then I want to be visible. If being visible means that the statistics surrounding transgender people are improved even the slightest, then I want to be visible.
All of these reasons are why I encourage everyone in the transgender community to spend today being visible in whatever way that you can. Post on your social media accounts. Share your stories, both of triumph and heartache. Talk to your friends and families about your experiences. Write your senators and representatives. Speak out against injustices that you have to face, or that other transgender individuals have to face, on a daily basis.
To anyone who may be reading this that is not transgender, use this day to amplify the voices and experiences of transgender people that you know. Help them share their stories. Make today about them, even if it’s as simple as thanking them for being a part of your lives as a way of showing acceptance and support.
Happy Transgender Day of Visibility. Help make it a good one.