Being Seen

Today is the International Transgender Day of Visibility. 

I spent 40+ years hiding from everyone, from myself, and even after coming out I was afraid to be “out there”. Being out-out meant that I was opening myself up to attack or ridicule, the two very things I spent a lifetime avoiding. It took me the better part of a year to gather the courage to even go into a store as myself. I would change the clothes I wore only at home, into clothes that most men wore (boy mode). I would pull my hair back and remove any cosmetics, including removing nail polish. I was afraid for anyone to see who I was and I didn’t have the strength to go into a store as a person who didn’t pass. I would go in, get what I needed and then rush back to the car and cry. I cried for my own lack of courage, I cried because I felt like I was betraying who I was. I had to unlearn the expectations of society, the expectations placed upon me. It took many small steps to climb out of the darkness that I lived in. If you are trans, it’s likely that something of what I lived through echoes through your experience. Most of us live in the darkness until we can no longer bear it, and then we either come out and enter the light or we languish and endure it until the end.

Being visible means having our voices heard. The silence that came before, it only enforced our marginalization. Silence is the tool of the oppressor and they use it to push us back into the darkness. 

Being visible means that we will not be forgotten. History gives an inaccurate accounting of trans people, for we have always been here since time immemorial. We have walked among them and they never knew. Those who came before us hid and existed in spite of the cis ideal of “normal”. Those few who stood out were often ostracized and were made an example to others who may entertain being themselves that it will not be tolerated. 

Being visible means taking a seat at the table. We are a people, we exist and we contribute. We deserve to have a say in how we are treated and in retaining or gaining our rights. Today we fight against lawmakers who seek to deny us medical care, the right to use public bathrooms, protections in the workplace, name/gender corrections on birth certificates/drivers licenses, etc. We fight against those who would deny us our very identity, willfully ignoring gender and sex as different issues.

We celebrate this day, a day of empowerment, so that we can see that we are not alone but that we have each other, that we also have allies. And we show the detractors that we will not go quietly into the closet, hidden away for their comfort of a myopic life.

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