Skip to content

Seen and Visible

“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” -Laverne Cox

SHARE THIS POST

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on reddit
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility, and I, a cishet white dude with not a queer bone in my body, am gonna talk about it. Why? Why not Ashley Shade, the person on the council who is loud and proud transgender? Well, three reasons. Firstly, she asked if someone else would be willing to, since she’s busy prepping for the day. Secondly, unlike the far more somber Day of Remembrance, where trans people mourn their losses, Visibility is a vibrant, happy day, and she doesn’t deserve homework on being who she is! Lastly, in spite of my shortcomings, I think I might be able to cisplain some things of use.

I was born into a whiter than hell Republican family. My dad, now a Trump supporter, certainly acted like it long before Trump was in the equation. So I thought, upon reaching college age and getting heavily invested in Ron Paul and the Tea Party movement, that I was already radical and transgressive enough as it was, merely separating that far from my roots. I fell down the MRA rabbit hole, alienated a lot of people, mostly women (and likely trans people). I was an angry dude, constantly frothing over the latest “cringe compilation” of SJW’s.

But that all changed when my best friend came out as trans. Claire had been someone I had known for a decade prior to her coming out. I went to the same college as her, I worked with her at several different jobs, I attended her wedding, and I even lived with her for several months when I first moved out. So my mindset was at the time, “Ok, so most trans people are insane, but Claire, well, Claire is Claire. She’s one of the good ones.” Claire was always patient with me, explaining intricacies of transition to someone who was clumsy and likely not overly sensitive at the time. We’re still very close to this day. Although we live in different parts of the state, we still talk on a regular basis.

Then there’s Chris. Chris was a dude I used to play D&D with(and with Claire to boot!). Chris and I engaged in a fair bit of erotic roleplay between our characters in the game(my first, and only time I’ve ever done that!), before starting to broach that in our real life as well. Chris hadn’t publicly come out yet, and he expressed his truth that he was a trans man with a lot of nervousness. I too, as a confused teenager, was trying to figure out what this meant for me. I was a hundred percent straight, but I was attracted to this person who called himself a man. Chris ended up moving away before I could really work through these feelings, or any sort of real relationship took place. You really stuck with me though, dude. You left a serious impression.

Fast forwarding a few years, I met Dana and Josh. Dana, whose nickname was “Amazon Barbie,” was someone who I spoke about at the Transgender Day of Remembrance that Ashley and Ari held last year. I met both Dana and Josh at a trans support group Claire asked me to attend with her a few months before I left Houston, so I didn’t get to know them nearly as well as I would have liked to in real life. Dana ran the group with such compassion, poise, and sharp wit that I couldn’t picture a better leader for these folks. Josh was a standup dude that I wish I heard from more! He isn’t on FB, and since I live on FB we don’t cross paths as much as we should! Dana unfortunately passed last year from a sudden medical condition. She was immediately immortalized with a FB group where we reminisced about the impact she left on our lives.

While I’ll always be grateful to Claire for setting me on a better path, and to Chris and Josh for touching my life, it was the no-nonsense, kind yet stern words of Dana that really, really broke through my armor I had built up as an “Anti-SJW” and made me the person I am today. I stopped viewing “The Other” (be that trans, black, disabled, etc) as a whiny entitled group of people that need to silently blend into the white male hegemony, and had me start appreciating folks for who they are.

Although that was the extent of people I knew personally that were trans that I knew in real life, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other person. I never got lucky enough to meet him in real life, but I have crushed after him ever since I saw him playing Shadowcat in X-men 3, Elliot Page. I know every person probably has their “trans media figure” that helped them learn about things they might otherwise not have, but to be honest, I didn’t. Laverne Cox’s OITNB came out far too late in my journey with transness to be momentous, and I was too young to have Boys Don’t Cry cause much impact. A lot of my formative media when I was a kid was…not the best. So to have Elliot Page, a person who was likely my favorite actor growing up, come out as trans? That was pretty special.

So why am I giving you my life story? To make this point: I was on a dark path in my teenage years. I was on trajectory to become a paleo-libertarian, a total dickhead who shared bigoted posts to “own the libs” and basically be a total misanthrope. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to have made it out of that pit, by having not one, not two, but four extremely notable trans influences in my life.

The unfortunate reality though, however, is that most people don’t. Most people’s only experience with trans folks is popular media, and viral videos, such as the “It’s Ma’am!” Gamestop breakdown. And that is a real shame.

There are over a million trans people in the U.S. alone. They’re fighting every day, not simply for acceptance, but also for their very lives. They were in the past, and still often today, forced to seek community among one another, rather than the public at large. That is changing, agonizingly slowly, but there’s still so much yet to be done. A recognition must first be made, for instance, that “Visibility” is not the same as “Justice,” and many trans people, especially trans women of color, still lack the basic comforts of safety and wellbeing. Trans people deserve our respect and admiration for the tireless work they do making society a better place, not the least of which is their advocacy in human rights discussions. They’ve made massive strides in bringing light to, and ending the practices of, horrendous and shameful behaviors of the past, whether browbeating young trans kids into renouncing their transitions out of fear of abandonment, coercive and malicious medical and psychological treatments concocted to “excise that trans-ness,” or the far more common practice of simply denying housing and employment. Trans people have made significant achievements in fighting for the rights of everyone under the umbrella of Gender and Sexual Minorities, but we must realize the fight is nowhere near won. Many many states and localities are still burdened by knuckle-draggers, either de facto or de jure. Still, with decades of tireless activism, trans people have forcefully lifted the veil they had heaped over them to keep them out of sight, and they’ve joined us as doctors, teachers, athletes, stars on TV and in movies, and in political office. Through scrappy, tiresome fighting, they’ve managed to tear a place for themselves against the apathy and antipathy they’ve been met with, and we celebrate this day in recognition of that fact.

I want to be a part of a movement that puts forth empowering trans icons in popular media, and more significantly, I want to help reduce the barriers inherent in keeping people from feeling like they can’t come out for fear of rejection.

Let’s all do our part to make that kinder world a reality.

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.

JOIN US

sign up for our monthly newsletter to keep up with our latest projects

Subscribe now