Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to consider the trans people in their community, hear their experiences and understand the challenges they face.
This years theme for the day is More Than Visibility (#MoreThanVisibility). This recognizes that while visibility is important, we must take direct action against transphobia around the world. Visibility is not enough alone to bring transgender liberation.
Rachel Crandall started the Day of Visibility in Michigan back in 2009 in reaction to the often-negative portrayal of transgender people. While some consider the event to be a pre-cursor to the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November (commemorating transgender people killed in the previous year) as Rachel herself explains “While TDoR is absolutely vital, we needed something else, something that celebrates life and transgender cultural achievements, and that’s the Day of Visibility !”
I love the fact that transgender topics are now broadcast, analysed, and debated. Mainstream society actually SEES us, they may not agree or approve, but they acknowledge we exist, and that’s important. Accurate representation of transgender people is becoming mainstream. We’re seeing an explosion in TV shows dealing with trans topics that have trans people in them, and casting of trans actors is way up compared to two years ago. From “none” to “few” is still an improvement; remember, we’re looking for the upside, here!!!! While mainstream representation has been making slow progress over many years, we’ve made a lot of gains in the last year.
Take for example the news that broke here in the UK about Channel 4s announcement that they were appointing Amy Stanning as an announcer for the station (you can catch the announcement here) this coming off the news that Bethany Black had landed a role on Doctor who (see link), Paris Lees appearing on question time and Juliet Jacques and Caroline Cossey publishing memoirs. Internationally too, people like Laverne Cox, Tiq Milan, Janet Mock, Jay Kelly and Kye Allums have challenged traditional thinking, even Caitlyn Jenner (love her or hate her) has moved the transgender debate forward. Indeed, so prominent have these people been that time magazine featured Laverne Cox on the cover of their magazine under the banner “25 trans people who influenced American culture“.
I’m also going to include a very good friend of mine in this list, Sumayyah Dawud. Sumayyah regularly puts herself in danger, actual physical danger protesting for the rights of Transgender people within Islam. She routinely suffers emotional abuse too – but she still finds the courage to keep putting herself out there to promote her beliefs and convictions. You can learn more about her through your favourite search engine and by joining in the #IstandwithSumayyah campaign. It’s a really worthy cause.
As a trans person, you may not always agree with these people or their views, they may seem to live in a world of privilege or opportunity that you are excluded from, but on this day of Transgender visibility, now is the time to recognise their contribution, take courage from it and pride in who you are. The consequences of not doing so are born out in the statistics shown in the graphic to the right. Taken from last years event – they make sobering reading (don’t forget also the 250 or so people whose murders are commemorated each year at TDoR)
There’s also the underlying work that needs to be done to allow trans people to enter mainstream society. Did you know for example in the majority of Australian states and territories, trans and gender diverse people cannot change the gender marker on their official identification documents without providing evidence that they have had surgery and are unmarried ? Also, transgender youths and their families must apply to the Family Court of Australia for a court order to access second-stage hormone treatment, despite the consent of parents and medical practitioners. This process can cost approximately $30 000.
Here in the UK, there’s the well documented backlog of people waiting for gender reassignment surgery, estimated at 7-10 years at the current rate of progress. Remember, this is just the number of people “in process”, there are also a number of people waiting to be admitted onto the process !!! Reported hate crime too has risen in the 2015-2016 year, indicating there is still much work to be done on the acceptance front.
So how can you help ? Well if you’re a trans person yourself, put yourself out there – safely – be proud of who you are. If you are in secret, tell a close ally about you. If you’re more open, blog about your experiences to help people see there is a path to acceptance. You could even join in one of the numerous events that are being advertised on Facebook, or perhaps volunteer to a transgender organisation and make a contribution to the community local to where you are.
If you’re not trans there’s no need to feel left out, there are things that you can do too !!! You can promote transgender voices in your community or organisation, maybe you could write to a transgender organisation and ask for some literature or a presentation from a transgender person to show that you are accessible to transgender issues. Going further, you can support the Transgender people in your life by educating yourself about Trans identities and how gender diversity is different to sexual diversity. There are almost as many ways to be a trans ally as there are trans people !!