Trans Day of Visibility: The Bittersweet Reality

Trans flag. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Today is International Trans Day of Visibility. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate trans people and focus on the good, while raising awareness of the discrimination we face. This day was created to counter the negativity of Trans Day of Remembrance, which has a focus on death. For a day that is supposed to be celebratory, it’s also depressing because the trans people who are currently visible in the media are not representative of the majority of trans experiences. Today is filled with bittersweet emotion.

So, it’s time for some real talk. Please excuse a little preamble. The following background is important.

Every time trans issues come up among the GeekDad and GeekMom writers, the burden falls on me to be the educator. While there may be other writers on staff who belong in the trans umbrella or who may be gender-questioning, I’m the only one who is out and loud. And while I don’t mind educating people who truly want to learn how to be an ally — becoming an ally is a never-ending process — there are days that doing so is very draining and depression begins to seep in. Days like Trans Day of Visibility or Coming Out Day even more so because it is on those days that I feel the most invisible. Then when these days just happen to fall on a week when trans rights have been attacked on multiple fronts, it’s difficult.

I don’t want to be known as the “trans dad writer” but, the irony is: In order to be visible, I have to constantly be the person who speaks up on these issues, and does the educating. The writers at GeekMom and GeekDad want to be better allies. It’s a mix of being thankful for belonging to a group that is earnestly trying while also dying from a thousand paper cuts.

Today is bittersweet. I try my best to ignore Trans Day of Visibility and Coming Out Day because, while the sentiment is nice, there are also harmful aspects to these days. One of the GeekDads asked if we were planning to write something. I wasn’t. But after some discussion, I decided, “Maybe I should and then, maybe, just maybe, I can help make this day better for all trans people even if the emotional toll on me at this moment is heavy. Maybe, just maybe, my small contribution will help to truly make trans people not only visible but heard.”

So, here is a list of things to keep in mind and to help you to become a better ally.

1. Trans Day of Visibility Creates Pressure to Come Out

This is not a good thing. For a lot of trans people, it is simply unsafe to declare their true self. Doing so would put them at risk for both emotional and physical harm. It is important for you to tell trans people the following:

Come out only when you are ready and it is safe to do so. I’m here for you when it’s safe for you. I’m here not just today because a calendar tells me to do so, but every day.

2. Trans Day of Visibility Can Increase Suicidal Ideation

Between the pressure to come out, having a day that creates hyper-awareness that it may not be safe to do so which can increase knowing you are invisible, and no real representation in the media, today is rough. What can you do?

Share the Trans Lifeline. The number: US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

3. On Trans Day of Visibility, Acknowledge the Reality of Trans Bodies 

As I previously stated, there is no true trans representation in the media. The majority of trans people do not have “passing privilege,” meaning, they are not read as a cisgender person, and they never will have that “privilege.” I put privilege in quotes because it really isn’t a privilege, but that’s the word with which most cis people are familiar, and that is a topic for another day.

The majority of trans people do not desire medical intervention. They simply want to be accepted and validated as they were born. Being read as cis does not equal transition. As I wrote in the gender identity and language primer, transition can be as simple as stating a person’s true gender.

Until society stops demanding that trans people undergo a medical transition before their real gender will be validated, plus stops assuming and forcibly assigning gender, trans people will remain invisible. One my personal blog, I wrote a post about the healthcare ramifications this has on assigned-female-bodied-at-birth trans people. Don’t click the link unless you want to dive into political issues.

This one is a much larger issue to tackle, but there are still things you can do help:

Do not assume someone’s gender when meeting someone new. Always ask a person, “What are your pronouns?” Normalize this. And if you must use a pronoun before you have confirmation, then use the singular they/them/their.

Demands truer forms of trans representation in the media; forms that do not include pretty and handsome trans people who are read as cis.

Our non-cis passing bodies are gorgeous, thank you very much. Celebrate them.

4. On Trans Day of Visibility, and Every Day, Change Your Language

This one is difficult because you’ve gone your entire life thinking and speaking using the default white male cis hetero language. But, it is important to continue to remind yourself:

Some men get pregnant and require access to reproductive healthcare. Not all women are born with a uterus and they need access to things like prostate exams. Biological sex is not a binary and this years-ago debunked science needs to stop being mainstream.

5. On Trans Day of Visibility, Read the Following if You Write About Trans People

I saw the following last night. It’s a list of guidelines for writing about trans people. I have said everything on this list, multiple times, but always in little bits when a specific issue comes up. Read the list. Save and download the images. Commit it to memory.

There are many other things you can to truly make trans people visible on Trans Visibility Day and every day. But these were the first five things that popped into my head because they are the things that constantly cause me to shutdown and close myself off from the cisnormative world. Maybe some trans people while have enough internal strength today to jump into the comments and add something.

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