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

The Value of Visibility

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 the
trans 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
to have.

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 if
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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