The Value of Visibility

The Value of Visibility

Godemiche Silicone Guest post With a trans flags and an image of Kelvin Sparks with the words The Value of Visibility by for International Transgender day

International Trans Day of Visibility is an annual event, that takes place on March 31st each year.The day aims to celebrate the lives and achievements of trans people, to amplify voices from thetrans community, and to spread knowledge about the trans community. TDOV events can take the form of outreach on social media, or throwing celebrations off the internet for local trans communities.

There are two main reasons I think Trans Day of Visibility is super important. The first is that it’s the main trans awareness day that isn’t a day of mourning. The International Transgender Day of Remembrance pre-dates Trans Day of Visibility by a decade (TODR was founded in 1999, while TDOV was founded in 2009), but, as the name suggests, is a day of mourning. I think Trans Day of Remembrance is a vital holiday, and honours both those who’ve lost their lives in anti-trans violence, and the strength and resilience of the trans community. But it is still a day of mourning, of looking back on those we’ve lost, rather than a holiday to celebrate the community as it survives now, and looking forward into the future. It is vital that trans people know that they can have a future, that they can have a life that is successful and happy as the lives that cisgender people get

Trans Day of Visibility did exist when I came out, but barely. When I came out, for a few years, I didn’t know of any other trans men who weren’t Brandon Teena. There’s a saying that “You can’t be what you can’t see”, and when the only expectations you give a teenager for what their future could be like are people who’ve been murdered, that has a big impact on them. As a teenager, with my access to hormones being pushed further away constantly, and with nobody I could see my adult self in other than the dead, I genuinely expected to die before my mid twenties. Getting to see adults who were like me- letting me see trans men who are athletes like Chris Mosier and Schuyler Bailar, scientists like Ben Barres, public officials like Tomoya Hosoda, entrepreneurs like Kortney Ziegler, and Oscar nominated film-makers like Yance Ford- would have helped me immensely. It would have let me know I could have a future, and let me actually believe it.

The second reason why I think that Trans Day of Visibility is so important is that – while trans people have become more visible in mainstream culture in the last few years (and definitely way more visible than we were when I first came out)- this visibility very often is not on our own terms. The Amazon series Transparent may be a multi award winning TV show, but its star is a cisgender man. Scarlett Johansson has quit her role on the film Rub & Tug, but not until after she (a cisgender woman) was set to play (real life!) trans man Dante “Tex” Gill. And these are not isolated stories- I can name several films off the top of my head where cisgender writers, actors, and directors are the people who tell transgender stories. About Ray, Girl, The Danish Girl, Dallas Buyers Club are just some of them, many of which have received awards and critical acclaim for telling trans stories, while not centring trans people in telling those stories. In a world where mainstream trans visibility so often does not seem to include trans people at all, the fact that Trans Day of Visibility is a day created and led by trans people ourselves is a breath of fresh air. Trans Day of Visibility is important because it is trans visibility that we as trans people create for each other.

This isn’t to say I think visibility is the be-all end-all of trans activism. I absolutely think it is not, and I also believe that trans visibility without movements towards trans liberation actually put trans people more at risk. My trans-feminine friends and partners, for instance, are more visibly trans than I am, and this means they receive trans-misogynistic street violence and harassment in a way I, as a trans man, don’t. But I do think that it provides a space in which people who don’t know much about trans issues can easily access information on how to act on solidarity with us, through donating time and/or money to organisations like Trans Student Educational Resources, Trans Lifeline, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Mermaids, or to any of the many trans people trying to fund-raise healthcare at any one time (check out the #TransCrowdfund hashtag on Twitter i you’d like to directly support a trans person in accessing healthcare). It provides trans teenagers and young people with an idea of who they can be in the future, as well the idea they have a future to begin with.

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