Trans Day of Visibility turns 14 years old this year! This awareness day was started back in 2009 by American trans activist, Rachel Crandall, to counteract and balance the grief and mourning around Transgender Day of Remembrance with representations of trans joy and trans life.
Much has changed for trans and gender diverse people in the last 14 years due to the work of activists like Rachel who have made it possible for organisations like Consortium to recognise and celebrate transness today and every day.
“As TDOV rolls around, I am left feeling a little bittersweet. In my seven years of being out and a decade of actively exploring my identity, we are more visible than ever – but it doesn’t feel quite feel like the celebratory occasion younger me hoped it would be. However, in a conversation where I was seeking TDOV activity ideas for a queer youth group, a colleague mentioned how often this day is aimed at cis people and puts the weight on us to humanise ourselves in their eyes. Instead, visibility could be defined as what affirms you, makes you feel seen, and held. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot, thinking about the preconceived idea of visibility I held which wasn’t fit for purpose (with a focus on the visibility to and acceptance of cis people, and not around the comfort, protection, and celebration of trans people. ALL trans people.) So, for the rest of my contribution to this blog, I will be speaking about occasions where I have felt affirmed and recommending some artists whose works make me feel seen and held.
“Over the last year, I have been affirmed more than I ever have previously. Whether that be the person who asked me for the time as we’re sat on the train saying, “Thanks, man,” or being told by my speech therapist that my voice is noticeably getting stronger and deeper. There is one experience which tops all of these for me though. I’m sure many people are aware of the term ‘gender envy’ but for those who don’t, it’s a term trans people will use when someone looks how they want to look. I had multiple people tell me I gave them gender envy, and that I’m their transition goals – and that experience truly floored me. We can put so much value into the opinion of cis people, however I felt not just affirmed in that moment but seen with an appreciation for my journey that only trans siblings can have.
“Carrying on with this theme of disconnecting visibility from the acceptance of cis people, I wanted to share a few artists whose work makes me feel seen and held, art that is loudly and unapologetically trans.
“There are so many more artists whose work I could share but I’ve already gone on quite the extensive tangent so I will leave it here. I hope you have a lovely TDOV doing whatever makes you feel affirmed, seen, and safe.”
Damien Da Silva (he/him), TRANSforming Futures Grants Officer
“For this Trans Day of Visibility, I am reminded of the Rocky Horror Picture Show chorus where Dr Frank-N-Furter performs seductively on a theatre stage in front of a radio tower and then jumps into a pool in full drag. Singing about being brought to tears by wanting to look like a Hollywood actress of a bygone era (Fay Wray), Dr Frank-N-Furter commands the audience to give in to the pleasure of embracing oneself and sings “don’t dream it, be it”. At the time of my first viewing of Rocky Horror, I was a young queer person living in a rural farming community in the US and dipping my toe into the high school theatre community. Thus, I was not only thrilled by the imperative of “don’t dream it, be it” but shocked to see people on screen engaging in such radical, silly, gender-bending fun– satirizing the stiffness of suburban cis-heteronormativity.
“While achieving ‘visibility’ is as meaningful to some as it is vague and empty to others, it has undoubtedly meant that more people are able to see trans, nonbinary, and other gender diverse folks living their lives and think, ‘oh, you can do that?’ By simply existing as your uniquely radical self, you are quietly (or loudly!) communicating to all who see and know you that another way is possible. It is no wonder that trans joy and trans LIFE is so threatening to those who benefit from, and choose to maintain, systems of oppression. Despite the many reasons to be critical of awareness/visibility days, my message to anyone reading this is that your moments of relaxation, your loving relationships, and your enjoyment of life are all forms of activism in a society that seeks to diminish your light. You inspire me.”
Violet Fox (she/her), Trans Organisations Engagement Officer
“For this Trans Day of Visibility, I’d like to reflect on a significant thing that made me feel “visible” at the start of my journey and a memory that I made as recently as last year. I came out as trans in October 2019 and back then the internet was my safe space (plus the years before this); it was an incredible resource that I would use to watch videos of trans and non-binary people speak about themselves on YouTube and find any information I could on transitioning. One content creator who helped me massively was Alex Bertie, a YouTuber whose content centred around LGBTQ+ issues and his experiences of transitioning as a trans man. In 2017, Alex Bertie published a book called ‘Transmission: My Quest to a Beard’ and I can’t even explain how monumental it was in helping me to come to terms with being trans and feeling like I wasn’t alone in the world.
“I was attending university at the time, and I was still in a very complicated relationship with myself over my identity; I was only out to my friends at university and not to anyone else as I was so afraid of what was happening. I remember walking into my university town with the intent of going into my local Waterstones to see if they had the book and to my delight they did. I was so nervous picking it up off the shelf, afraid that the shopkeeper would say something. They didn’t, and I walked back to my student house with the book in my backpack feeling elated. I read that book cover-to-cover. I read it so many times that the pages were crinkled in places, I stuck little post-it notes in pages that I wanted to come back to, and I wrote in the margins in pencil about the sections that meant the most to me. Most of all that book made me feel seen and gave me the courage to accept that I was trans although I wouldn’t come out until two years later but that was due to several personal circumstances during that time.
“I still have that book to this day, amongst other incredible trans and non-binary authors who line and fill my shelves with their impactful words that I have collected over the years. Since then, the people who have made me feel most visible is the trans and non-binary community. It’s a community where I made friends, got support and advice when I felt lost, somewhere I could rant about the injustices that our community faces and somewhere I could reach out too when I felt that everything was hopeless. The most recent memory I have of feeling that sense of visibility was at Trans Pride 2022 in Brighton, a day that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
“I’d been to a Trans Pride a couple of years ago in Cardiff which had about 50 people in attendance, but Trans Pride Brighton was a whole other level… 20,000 people were in attendance! I remember the feeling of walking in that march with my hand in my partner’s surrounded by my community draped in flags, carrying signs, faces full of happiness and joy. During these difficult times where we are constantly subject to negativity wherever we go, whether you’re out or not and whatever your circumstances maybe, I just want you to remember that you are a part of a beautiful community who will be there waiting with open arms should you need it.”
Leo Kirkpatrick (he/they), Communications Officer