Transgender Day of Visibility
Author: Stevie Ashurst
Why is there a Transgender Day of Visibility?
I have to admit that initially I didn’t really know why there was a Transgender Day of Visibility. It sounded like a good idea but as with a lot of things you only get a better understanding by digging deeper. According to Amnesty International, The International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), which is held on 31 March, was initially created as a more positive addition to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held on 20 November, which is an occasion intended to remember trans people who have lost their lives, either to murder or suicide. So the day of visibility is an opportunity for the trans community to be seen and accepted in a positive way.
There is a certain irony that in recent years the transgender community has had a fair amount of news coverage and attention, but often not for the right reasons; such as the murder of Brianna Ghey. And it would seem that the trans community themselves are not in control of the media surrounding them. Given these recent issues it could be said that more than ever the trans community need visibility for being themselves, not solely to be seen as part of a cultural clash.
Visibility for me 4 years ago
March 31st 2019 was the first time I was really aware of the Transgender Day of Visibility. I’m not sure whether I would have noticed any media attention before then. But at that time I was struggling with thoughts of coming out. I hadn’t dared tell anyone at that point and reading about it online gave me an odd mix of excitement and terror. At the time my concern was very much about feeling exposed and vulnerable and that I would be laughed at and made to feel ashamed for being different. But this was oddly contrasted by the fact that by having a Transgender Day of Visibility, there must be some level of acceptance within society to have created this day of recognition, which made me hope, and to some degree worry, even more at the thought of coming out for real and letting people see me.
It took me another three months before I finally plucked up the courage to tell someone, followed by another six months to come out and tell most of the people in my life. It then took me another five months from then before I felt able to do something about changing my appearance in public. Visibility was a significant concern for me and initially and not in a positive way, I had the conflict of wanting to come out and be myself but without exposing myself to almost expected public ridicule. My inner voice had been so set on keeping my identity secret I felt that making this known publicly would be earth-shattering.
Visibility for me now
Four years later, I feel now that the majority of people I meet or see on a regular basis are either supportive of me or simply unconcerned. I mean that in a positive or at least neutral way, because if someone doesn’t take issue with me adopting a gender identity different to that assigned at birth then there is no issue, it’s as simple as that.
One significant thing I’ve found since coming out is that I had initially expected to deal with a black and white, masculine or feminine identity. That if I didn’t want to be masculine then I would need to be feminine. It took a while and a good deal of self-education to realise that this didn’t have to be the case. As I had found I tended to have masculine days and feminine days I was essentially adopting a gender fluid role, so for the time being I have chosen to identify with this. I also became more aware that I didn’t have to aim for fully feminine or masculine, I could deliberately choose somewhere between the two. I have spent a little time exploring this option but have found that on the whole I don’t think this is the right thing for me. When I have a feminine day, I choose to look and feel feminine in a way works for me. I appreciate that this will mean different things to different people and that’s fine.
Something I was aware of when considering coming out was that I didn’t really see many trans people on campus. That doesn’t mean they weren’t there, just that the people I saw out and about on campus didn’t stand out as being trans. So when I did see someone who I believed to be trans, I felt my heart race for them and I wanted to run over and congratulate them for their courage. Obviously I didn’t as that would likely have been embarrassing for both of us. But it did make me realise that if I wanted to help other people in a similar situation to myself four years ago, it would be helpful to be visible as transgender person who appears to be happily out and about around campus. So I decided that’s what I would do. It also had the added benefit of significantly reducing my own nervousness at being visible, because I felt I had something of a mission to achieve. I don’t know if it has actually helped anyone, but if it’s made even one person feel less nervous about coming out then it was worth it.
Visibility in the future
As I mentioned at the start, I believe awareness and a level of acceptance has been achieved for the transgender community, but as with a lot of things that gain attention, it seems to have attracted negative attention too. Originally I was worried about a societal lack of acceptance due to rejection of something different and new. Now I worry about people with strong opinions fuelled by an understandable history of women’s inequality, wanting justice for one part of society at the expense of another. Where the trans community are being portrayed as aggressors looking to gain unfair advantages, rather than people who are trying to live their lives without fear of rejection or attack. There will always be exceptions in any situation, but surely these need to be dealt with individually and not to turn on an entire community instead.
As someone who doesn’t like confrontation or aggression online or in person, I really hope that this current issue can be resolved peacefully and that the future treats everyone with kindness. The Covid pandemic over the last few years really was a matter of life and death and I think for most people has helped them to put things into perspective of what’s really important. So I truly hope that the trans community will be seen and accepted as normal people trying to lead normal lives.
- Happy international day of trans visibility to all of the trans community – Amnesty International website
- Brianna Ghey: Boy and girl in court charged with murder – BBC website
Photo by Katie Rainbow 🏳️🌈 from Pexels
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