This will be my second Transgender Day of Visibility, and yup, I’m still here. I haven’t marched or worn my testosterone poisoning shirt. I don’t plan to, but you never know. Last year, I posted a before and after shot. That became a thing my family appreciated. My youngest brother in particular would use it when he started talking about his sister to older friends who got confused.
The day is important but in a weird way. There is a huge number of transgender folks that aren’t visible. They either can’t be because it’s dangerous or they choose not to be. There is also this strange perception that transgender people are around when they transition and after that they slip into this magical queer garden with all the other ascended, never to be seen again. So you know. It’s good to sort of wave our hands around and let folks know we’re still here.
I’ve got a fiction project I’ve desperately been trying to release a story for by the weekend (it won’t be done by the weekend) and I’ve peppered random queer people in there. Because why not? Visibility is a thing; we’re about. Why shouldn’t we show up in a story? There is a snag though: how does a person get a binary identifying transgender person in a story without dealing with their transition or making it a point of conflict? How is a person just visibly transgender? It’s a problem.
Folks elsewhere on the spectrum are easy to represent. A simple shift of pronouns or showing a scene with their romantic interest often does the job. It’s quick and easy and doesn’t disrupt anything. This stuff drives a story forward without drawing attention to the queerness. It’s just there and it’s often accidental. My first short story featured a lesbian relationship because the first two names I could think of were women’s names. They could have been white men… it didn’t matter. That’s the point.
"I THINK OF HOW I’M VISIBLE IN LIFE AND MOSTLY IT’S JUST BY BRINGING UP SOCIAL INJUSTICE OR JUST TALKING ABOUT GENDER AS A CONCEPT."
I think of how I’m visible in life and mostly it’s just by bringing up social injustice or just talking about gender as a concept. I manage to sneak it into a conversation. I don’t really come out, I just start talking genders and folks get the picture. I’m quite cisgender passing, really, so the only way I’m going to be reliably visible is if I just make the point to bring it up. So I do, and I’m transgender and visible. Still here, folks.
I’m fortunate to be in a setting where visibility doesn’t present serious danger; where my transgenderness is unremarkable - or at least unimportant - to most. But people still get attacked around here. One lady was recently killed a 40 minute drive away in Heathrow, so I wouldn’t describe anywhere as safe. It’s just safer here. Safe enough to be matter of fact about my transgender status.
I said to a friend at lunch that, despite my visibility, I really hope that the first thing people say when asked about me isn’t to do with my gender. That it’s actually kind of boring when you think about it. I get up, I go to work (I get dressed first), I do my jobs and I try to do them well. I meet up with friends and we talk about stuff. I still have a love of education and special education despite leaving rather dramatically last year. I’ve got mental health issues. I’m a pretty normal girl, all in all. Just a transgender girl, too.
Maybe that’s what makes visibility important: that it’s not actually important. Inundated with a lot of nasty stories, I lamented that I felt powerless and I didn’t know what to do. One reply:
Just existing in the world is an act of heroism. Young trans kids see us and see a future. That wasn't something I had growing up
Just so. My first example of anything transgender was Rocky Horror, which is a horrific representation of transgender people. It doesn’t actually represent transgender people, I know, but when you’re ten and that is the image you have then it becomes the representation of what you might be. I looked at that and knew I didn’t want to be part of that. I hid away where I might have spoken up. That example endured until I was in my thirties when Nadia won Big Brother and Channel Four started making documentaries about transgender people of dubious sympathy. That was the first time I saw a real transgender person, knew that’s what it was, and identified with them. Examples like Rocky Horror kept me in the closet for at least an extra twenty years.
"GOOD EXAMPLES ARE SORELY NEEDED, AND EVEN NOW WE DON’T HAVE MANY."
Good examples are sorely needed, and even now we don’t have many. I can’t actually think of any, but I also don’t watch TV anymore so that might be messing with my perception. The good examples I have now are the real people around me both online and in my chosen family. Again, I’m very lucky to have that, but before that it was the girl, Lucy, on that documentary some six or seven years ago now where I argued with my ex that she was what she was (I learned then that coming out would end my marriage). Knowing what I know now, the actual show was a bit horrible but reasonably sympathetic, if laden with the sex swap language the British are so fond of.
So that’s what Transgender Day of Visibility is really all about. We’re here, we’re trans, we want to go to work. We want to have families, friends and relationships. We want to be appreciated for what we are as people rather than our genders (or lack of genders). Sometimes, we want to enjoy our hobbies. So we’re here. We’re not all visible and society punishes visibility, so I don’t blame the invisible ones. It’s a risk not everyone can take. I’ll just keep going to work, chatting to friends, and breathing. I’m transgender, I’m visible, and I’m still here.