What is Transgender Day of Visibility?
Falling on March 31st each year, Transgender Day of Visibility is a worldwide day for transgender and other gender non-conforming people to celebrate their identities and to bring awareness to the issues they face in society. Despite increasing awareness of transgender people through traditional and social media, there is still a lot of misinformation, misunderstanding and discrimination out there. Transgender Day of Visibility gives them a chance to share their stories and experiences, and allows allies to show their support towards the trans people in their lives, as well as those worldwide.
Why is it so Important?
It’s such an important day because traditionally, trans people have a hard time being heard. While we’re seeing increased representation in all forms, the voices that seek to silence us, invalidate our experiences by calling us mentally ill, and seek to make laws denying us basic human rights and dignities, tend to be loud and drown us out. Even then, when we voice our concerns, we’re told we’re being “special snowflakes”. When Ricky Gervais opens his recent NetFlix special with a transphobic rant, he’s defended because it’s “just comedy”. When RuPaul defends his use of the T-slur (CW racial/homo/trans-phobic slurs), it’s okay because he himself is gay, and “look what he’s done for the LGBT+ community”. When we call out transphobia, we’re summarily dismissed and denied our right to define what actually is transphobic.
Not only that, but often when the talk of transgender issues arises in the media, it’s almost always focused on trans women, completely passing over and ignoring trans men, gender queer and non-binary people. Bathroom Bills are made to “prevent men from entering women’s spaces and assaulting them”, while not even mentioning or making an issue of trans men using men’s spaces. Personally, I’ve seen trans women represented in media, in series such as Sense8, or movies like The Danish Girl or the Japanese Close Knit. But I don’t see the same representation for trans men.
Not only that, but because society is very focused on the idea of a gender binary, trans people and especially non-binary people often don’t fit into the conventional concept of what a man or woman are “supposed” to look like. Trans people are held to a very high standard of appearance and mannerisms to be accepted in society. If you happen to fall outside of that standard, you’re often treated badly, othered and excluded. Transgender Day of Visibility helps to show that trans bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and those differences don’t make them any less a man or woman just because of outwards appearance. Cis people embody just as much bodily diversity as trans people, and all should be accepted and treated equally.
Often ignored as well are those trans people who don’t have the support – whether it be from family, society, or due to race, culture or socioeconomic reasons – to identify as they are and to be their true selves. These people above all need a day of recognition so in their darker hours, they know that they’re not alone, and that people out there love and care for them.
Transgender Day of Visibility gives us all an opportunity to raise our voices and be heard, to share our stories and experiences, and push for understanding and acceptance, and the rights that are regularly denied to us. It serves to help start conversations and to bring awareness to trans issues, and for us to say “we exist, we always have, and always will”.
If you’re an ally, know someone who is transgender, or want to show your support and haven’t known how, today is the perfect day to begin. Honestly, you don’t even need to do much, and nobody is asking you to go out guns blazing trying to take down the oppressive system. It’s the little things that you do that mean a lot to trans people. Simply stating your support on Facebook and Twitter can make such a difference to a trans person. But you can also stand up for transgender rights when they come under attack, and speak out when you see transphobia in the world. If a trans person confides in you, or comes out to you, be supportive and listen to them and their concerns. Listen to other transgender people’s stories and seek to understand us in earnest. Don’t give your support to famous people or businesses that promote transphobia. Don’t ignore the identities of trans men or non-binary people who are often forgotten about in discussion about trans people. Don’t ignore news of trans people, especially those of colour, who are assaulted or murdered at a staggeringly higher rate than others – the most recent of which was the murder of Amia Tyrae Berryman which only happened within the last few days.
As I said, you don’t have to start as an activist, but start with those little things. And don’t let those actions be confined to just one day a year, make sure your words and support are heard all throughout the year. Being an ally doesn’t stop just because the day is over, or because the conversation has left the public spotlight.
For Transgender People
Transgender Day of Visibility is a day to be proud of who you are, and to share yourself with the world, and to stand up for your rights, and those of every other trans person around the world. I know it’s not always that simple, and your own circumstances may prevent you from speaking up, and there’s no shame in that. More than anything, you need to be safe, and if that means staying in the closet or being silent for now, then so be it. Just remember and know that no matter what the world says, you’re not alone, you’re valid however you identify, and you’re loved. The people who are in better situations and can speak up will be your voice today, and every other day. We’ll push to make our stories be heard, and our rights protected, and will clear the path ahead for you.
Visibility is most important because as I mentioned earlier, trans people exist, and society can’t just ignore us or sweep us under the rug – we certainly won’t let it. See the trans people in your life and around the world, and know that above all else, we just want to live in peace with the same rights as everyone else. It’s a long road ahead, and within the last few years, we’ve definitely seen improvement. But there is still a long way to go, and while we’re still ostracised and discriminated against, we’ll remain visible, and won’t let the world forget us.