Today is Transgender Day of Visibility, and as a trans person I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand I love to see trans experiences being shared, trans representation in my favourite shows, and more people seeing this and realising they’re not alone. But in some ways we have too much visibility.
Newspapers write about us every day. There’s article after article based on vicious transphobia which frames us as a joke, or a threat, but rarely as people. In broader media trans people are treated as a joke, or watch their trauma reconstructed for morbid entertainment. There’s a whole industry of journalists, academics, activists, writers, and performers who make their living perpetuating these ideas.
And in the real world, when I walk down the street with a skirt and a beard, I am hypervisible. Everywhere I go I’m met with stares, and laughter, and verbal abuse. Visibility can be a double edged sword, the more I dress in a way that affirms my gender the more I make myself a target. Whether its walking down the street, going on a date, or applying for a job – there’s a constant trade off between my safety and my happiness.
So I don’t think we’re short of trans visibility, but I think we need more good trans representation. We need to move away from harmful stereotypes, and make space to show trans people as fully-rounded human beings. Because the representation we have, the stories told about trans people, shape how we’re seen in the wider world.
I’d like to finish with a challenge to all my colleagues here at Touchstone. Today we celebrate trans visibility, but tomorrow i want you to look at the services you’re involved with and ask whether they’re trans inclusive. Look at the small things – like asking about pronouns. Look at the big things – like whether you know enough about trans issues to provide support. I’ve found rare acceptance working here at Touchstone, along with a fierce passion for helping others. I hope that these can come together to provide inclusive support for our trans service users.