It’s hard to feel positive about this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility. On the one hand, trans visibility is extremely important. It’s because of out trans people that I was able to understand my own identity. The more cis people really see, talk to, and come to understand trans people, the easier it will be for them to understand that we’re, well, just people. Transitioning is a beautiful thing. Look at any set of photos trans people share, and you’ll see that they’re not just happier, but more vibrant, more full of life, and so very genuinely themselves! This is what folks need to see more of, and what I think this day is meant to be about. Unfortunately, a lot of what folks are seeing nowadays isn’t trans people thriving, it’s misinformation and vitriol. This isn’t at all a new phenomenon, but in recent years it’s gotten overwhelming.
This year, like last year, has brought with it a record-breaking amount of anti-trans legislation across the majority of states in the country. These bills are targeting trans youths by banning them from playing sports with their peers, forbidding any discussion about gender or queer identities in their classrooms, requiring that trusted teachers and other school staff out them to families, and restricting and even outlawing their healthcare. Book bans have been sweeping the nation, intent on removing anything they consider unpleasant or uncomfortable, which has mostly amounted to anything discussing gender, sexuality, or race. There is a constant stream of vitriol flowing across social media and news outlets sowing outrage by recycling old homophobic rhetoric as they label trans people as predators, anyone supporting us as “groomers”, and claim we’re forcing children into life-altering surgeries. Trans kids do not get surgeries, but laws are being pushed and passed banning them anyway, though always with a note that those restrictions aren’t extended to intersex kids, who continue to be operated upon to make their bodies conform to a comfortable binary.
Trans kids and trans adults alike, whether they’re in states that are actively arguing or passing these bills, are having to endure watching this all happen. Watching their identities, their existence be debated, questioned, demonized, and ridiculed. We’re having to watch this all unfold, and it really feels like few people are actively defending us or standing up to this torrent of hate. Most of these bills aren’t even getting much news coverage, and those that are often aren’t in our favor, framing the issues as divisive or controversial. Even Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” bill is framed first and foremost as an attack on gay rights (which it certainly is), but leaving the very deliberate targeting of trans kids out of the discussion. Florida governor Ron DeSantis certainly didn’t hide it, claiming its intent is to squash so-called “woke gender ideology” and pointing at a large illustration from a transgender author’s childrens book just before signing the bill.
It’s hard, as a trans person watching all of this, seeing these kids, their parents, and ourselves under such constant and cruel attack. It’s hard hearing only the faintest murmurs of “we’ve got your back” from the White House as the Equality Act continues to languish, stalled in Congress. It is hard seeing so few people outside of the transgender community, traumatized so much by it as it is, raising any awareness of what’s going on. Each year we endure so much. We watch public figures tell people we’re perverts and predators. We watch where we go and what we do in public, lest we inadvertently draw anyone’s ire. We watch as some trans folks do succeed, and celebrate them, but also see all the nastiness directed at them in the media and in strangers' comments on social media. All of this is so, so traumatizing.
Ours is a community molded by trauma and loss. Our history, vibrant as it is, has been largely hidden from us or outright destroyed. Nearly an entire generation of queer people was lost to hate and apathy during the AIDS epidemic. Many continue to be lost every year to violence. Mostly trans women of color, losing their lives to hate in the rising tide of racism, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. We likely lose far more than we know as crimes go unreported or misreported, as they tend to be, when trans folks get misgendered in death. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. Discovering and living as who we truly are is one of the most joyful things in life. Being ourselves, really sharing ourselves with the people we love is such a wonderful, vibrant feeling. That more and more people are able to learn about the beautiful spectrums of identities is an amazing thing. We’ve got greater resources and representation now than ever before.
I do not believe that all of this hatred, all of these laws, any of it will win out in the end. Trans people aren’t going anywhere; being trans is just a part of being human. We have always been here, and we will continue to be. What I fear isn’t that trans people will be wiped off the earth, because that’s impossible. What I do fear is how hard the struggle may remain for us to continue to just live. I feel for these kids, terrified as they are that the world hates them. I feel for the trans community, as we struggle with vastly different degrees of discrimination and violence. It’s a lot.
On this Transgender Day of Visibility, I feel it’s important that we’re not merely seen, but seen fully. I hope that people will see our joy and our strength and our fierce love of authentic life. I also hope that people will see our pain, and find it in themselves to offer not just performative displays of support but real empathy and action. We’re out here showing you who we are and what we can be. Please show us who you are and what we mean to you.
And, for the love of everything, please leave Harry Potter in the past.