Challenging Visiblity: Transgender Day of Visibility 2019

There’s been a meme going around – particularly earlier this year saying “it’s 2k19, what should we give up?” Today is Transgender day of Visibility. Resisting the dominant narratives in transgender discourse, I’ve reached the conclusion that visibility plays into the hands of cis-normative white-supremacy, and perhaps this is the year to let it go.

Visibility is the gift of whiteness, of passing, and of wealth. When those who are not white, do not pass and do not have money attempt to pay for visibility, the cost is an ever-rising death count across the USA and in the global south.  White supremacy, and it’s close relatives colonialism and the gender binary are deeply intertwined in the lived realities of gender in the United States – and any attempt to confront gender-based oppression must acknowledge the settler-colonial state in which we live, and the ways in which settler-colonialism has and continues to shape and influence the lived realities of people of color in this country.

It’s 2k19. It’s time to give up the unawareness of the ways in which racism, white supremacy, transphobia and cisnormativity are intertwined and interdependent.

Recognizing that visibility is a gift of whiteness, it is important that visibility becomes one of the gifts I am most aware of possessing, so I can interrogate how I use it and how it impacts and influences me. I recognize that often, visibility looks like people stopping me on the street or in the hallways and introduce themselves to me, expecting that I know them.

When I walk down the street I often get catcalled, not just with misogyny but with transphobia too. That is, with transmisogyny.
Visibility means I take extra care to protect my privacy online and in public – often my social media presence and my physical space presentation are offset by a few weeks or months – just to give myself a bit of time to hold off recognition made by significant changes to my appearance.

Visibility also means that when someone wants to transition or explore their gender, I’m frequently one of the stops they make along their way. When someone has questions or wants a workshop on gender, they ask me.

Visibility is a gift, because I’ve learned to make it one. When I first began exploring my gender, I did so in the quiet corners of my bedroom, hidden for away from anything that could be tied to me in public.

These are gifts, because we learn in community with the person catcalling on the street, the person who expects that I know them – the me I hide from public exposure and the social media presence I carefully curate.

Visibility as a transgender person means I am subject to public scrutiny and that means I must use my visibilty to open up spaces for those more marginalized than I am. The sex-working trans people, the trans people of color, the disabled and the incarcerated trans people.

Using gifts to transform the conversation from one about visibility to who is systematically excluded from participation in society provides a means of using visibility for positive outcomes. Inviting the systematically removed to the conversation, even if it means giving up your seat has the possibility to change the world and to leave the community transformed. That’s what I want for visibility, every day.