Today is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV); the one day of the year when transgender people appear from behind a rainbow, and anyone who catches us is granted a wish.
(That joke belongs to Crystal Frasier. Sorry, Crystal. It was too good not to steal.)
Kidding aside, TDoV is the one day a year where we as a community band together and celebrate the presence and contributions of transgender people.
At least, that’s the idea. A lot of trans people are visible 365 days a year, and it’s not always a blessing. Sometimes it’s a target. This is especially true for transgender women of colour who face disproportionate degrees of discrimination and violence.
Which is why, I believe, that there is a more important conversation to be had on this day, and that those such as myself who benefit from visibility have an obligation to talk about the wider issues.
What I am about to share I share as someone who has benefited from visibility.
By being visible as a trans person I’ve gained a platform to talk about trans issues on the radio, and through that had opportunity to explore more radio and entertainment work.
My own visibility coupled with willingness to share myself has lead me to conversations with curious and connected people who’ve taught me a great deal; especially the youth, who give me hope for the future.
Through visibility I have been able to serve as example for other trans people, and am forever humbled by the knowledge that my contributions give them hope.
But that’s only one side of it.
This year I’m presenting a two hour special on Joy 94.9, highlighting voices from the transgender community, including my own. The celebration part is the music; an entire two hours of bops from trans and non-binary artists. Between tracks I’m playing interviews with a number of brilliant, articulate community figures, all of whom while giving props to their community agree on one thing; that visibility is only a blessing for the privileged.
Some of you might not be sure what that means. God knows there are enough folks out there who react to the word ‘privilege’ with over the top outrage, as though the thought of some in our society having an advantage over another is impossible.
But I can tell you first hand that being a visible trans person is not a blessing during a job interview when the interviewer is clearly uncomfortable. Worse, they don’t need to say that your being transgender isn’t what cost you the job – any excuse will do, and they can pretend discrimination didn’t happen.
Visibility is not fun on a late night bus when an angry drunkard takes umbrage with the fact you were ever born, or that anyone like you would dare to walk the street with ‘normal’ people.
It’s even less fun when people hide their children from you, likening you to a predator, just because you embrace a gender that wasn’t the one you were given.
Every justification I’ve ever heard for this type of treatment – and there are many – are tenuous at best.
Knowing this it would be irresponsible to put these conversations to one side, even on a day of celebration, given the dearth of opportunities to engage with the wider community. Ignoring it is more dangerous still when you factor the mortal cost of silence.
And that’s what I encourage you to do. Talk, listen. You have statistics. You have my own anecdotal input. There’s probably a TDoV event happening near you.