In terms of international LGBT+ celebrations, Transgender Day of Visibility is a relatively recent movement, founded by trans activist Rachel Crandall in 2009. In contrast to the more sombre Transgender Day of Remembrance, which serves as a day of mourning and honouring those in our community we’ve lost to transphobic violence, March 31st is a day of celebration, a day for trans people on a global scale to stand up, loud and proud, and demand to be recognised and respected. In 2017, a time when our rights to be ourselves in the public sphere is once again being called into question, Friday is a really important day to so many people around the world.
In response to the aforementioned political focus on trans people – which has been predominantly, depressingly negative – the theme of this year’s TDoV is “trans resistance” – with the hashtag to match. Resistance found in standing up, in speaking out, in taking direct action to improve the safety and wellbeing of the trans community. Attempts to delegitimise and silence trans people indicate that a day of visibility is the ideal platform for – in our case, existence is resistance.
With this in mind then, it’s important to recognise TDoV as a day of personal celebration, community support, and political action. It’s a little amazing at times to think that just being proud of your identity can be considered a political action, and in 2017, too. Increasing visibility in the public sphere increases understanding of our world, its joys and its struggles. I, personally, am extremely proud of my non-binary transgender identity, and this pride is something I carry with me every day – even at times when my dysphoria is acting up or I’m being misgendered even more than usual – but on TDoV there’s a definite sense of increased power in celebrating it.
In terms of ‘visibility’, I personally place high importance on the issue of transgender representation in the public eye, whether that be through real, living trans people or fictional characters in the media. I firmly believe, from my own personal experience, that having figures to look at and recognise yourself in can prove to be a really important part in understanding and accepting your identity, especially for young trans people, especially as their rights in the States are being directly questioned, with Trump lifting Obama’s bathroom guidance – a decision that impacts perspectives on an international scale. The hashtag ‘protect trans youth’ was emblazoned across social media, and for good reason.
Statistics provided by TSER (Trans Student Educational Resources, who have taken over most of TDoV’s social media, promotion, and outreach in recent years) indicate that around 80% of trans students feel unsafe at school because of their gender. Trans youth deserve to feel safe, and prominent, outspoken, proud role models such as actresses Janet Mock and Laverne Cox, musician Laura Jane Grace, and writer Tyler Ford can really help with that. When I first started questioning my gender (at a much younger age than most people who know me are aware), not having anyone to compare to, nor having access to the terms I can now use with confidence, prevented me from understanding myself and exploring my identity until I was 19 years old. Transgender Day of Visibility gives me a chance to stand up and be proud of who I am in a way that 15 year old me would’ve really benefited from seeing.
Of course, in talking about my own experiences as a trans person and existing within this community, it’s important to address the myth of ‘the transgender experience’. Yes, we are a community, but a community is made up of individuals. Binary trans people have different experience from non-binary people. Some trans people feel more dysphoria than others, some of us transition, and to different extents, and some of us don’t. And of course intersectionality always plays into discussions of identity. One of the reasons the previously mentioned Janet Mock and Laverne Cox are such important figures is that they are black trans women, representing several different experiences that are vastly different from mine, as a white non-binary person. I feel very grateful that they seem happy to openly discuss and educate those of us who don’t understand and can’t relate to their experiences, to allow us to become less ignorant. Visibility and education are important within the trans community, as well as outside it. On a day like Transgender Day of Visibility, a day of love and support, it’s essential we all listen to each other.
In closing, I would like to wish the rest of the trans community a very happy Trans Day of Visibility this Friday. Whether you feel safe in being out, loud and proud, or you aren’t in the position for that, I hope you get the recognition and respect you are all worthy of and all deserve. I hope your visibility brings you power, and I celebrate you for being who you are, in a time when our personal has been made political and a lot of us are feeling disheartened and afraid. Our existence is resistance, and we will continue to love and support each other, and fight back against those who don’t. The ‘T” in LGBT+ is just as important, and I am happy, and proud, to be here today to celebrate it with you all.