I awoke this morning as I do every morning with a burning, unquenchable lust to be seen. Thankfully, what with it being Transgender Day of Visibility and all, I might finally have that need met.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the annual holiday aims to uplift trans people and affirm our existence. It was created in 2009 by Rachel Crandall-Crocker, the executive director of Transgender Michigan, to “celebrate the living”. The community already had Transgender Day of Remembrance, but the annual November observance’s focus on death and violence always left her feeling depressed and alienated.
And so we, the community, have developed a wide array of customs to celebrate ourselves on this day.
나는, personally, began my morning with a mantra: “I am seen. I am visible. I am here to represent.” I repeated this into my phone screen, its front-facing camera reflecting my face back to me, while still lying in bed, wrapped in the powder-pink weighted blanket I got for free last summer in a Pride sponsorship with Local Linens, the national bedding conglomerate that partnered with Amazon for an exclusive line of products.
My friend Xanthippe, a New York-based diversity and inclusion consultant who’s been working with Amazon for the past couple years to help them improve their facial recognition software so that it stops misgendering trans and nonbinary people, helped get me that deal. I’m so lucky to have the support of my community.
Rolling out of bed, I slipped on my fluffy, trans flag Ugg slides and ambled to my dresser where I retrieved an oversize black T-shirt made made by Macy Rodman, a musician here in Brooklyn and trans woman herself. If I was going to be seen today – think of it as me channeling Annette Bening in American Beauty, 나는 will be seen today – it would only be right that I use my platform, ie, myself, to promote members of my community, yeah?
I walked to my window and pulled back the curtains. To my dismay, there was no one there. I flipped on the lights to increase visibility, but it was no use. Every window I saw across the street had its drapes down and shutters drawn. If a trans woman is standing in her bedroom and no one’s around to see her, is she still valid? I didn’t want to stick around to find out.
Lacing up my boots and donning my new favorite mask – a cloth one featuring a beaded portrait of Dr Rachel Levine, the first openly trans federal official confirmed by the Senate, that was hand-embroidered here in Brooklyn by a local trans ally – I set out to scrounge up the visibility I deserved at the coffee shop two blocks away.
It was early in the morning, so there were very few people on the sidewalk, but I made sure to say good morning to everyone I passed, though unfortunately many did not say hi back. A staggering 84% of Americans say they don’t know a trans person personally, 에 따르면 a six-year-old Human Rights Campaign stat. I am legally obligated to cite in everything I write about trans people, so it probably has something to do with that.
Thinking about such widespread ignorance brought me down for a moment, but then I remembered the words of abolitionist Mariame Kaba: “Let this radicalize you, rather than lead you into despair.” A smile crept back across my face. There was work still yet to be done.
Visibility is a fraught subject for many within the trans community, which itself is a very real thing and not a reductive myth of a fictive monolith perpetuated to make it easier for individuals to make sweeping, universal claims on behalf of the whole collective. “Trans visibility and recognition has skyrocketed,” wrote Alex V Green for BuzzFeed two years ago, “but Black and brown trans women are still dying. It doesn’t seem like a politics of visibility can really save the most vulnerable among us.”
For the most vulnerable, visibility itself is a threat, acting as “webs of surveillance”, as UC Berkeley assistant professor Eric A Stanley put it in the introduction to 2011’s Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, punishing the most visible with violence, imprisonment, familial rejection, and other forms of marginalization.
Those are very good points, but what about me – the first openly trans woman to order an iced oat milk latte at my neighborhood coffee shop this morning? Surely, that’s significant – brave, even. That kind of representation is so important … right?