March 31st. It’s the end of the year of accounting for many, when all the bills and income are balanced and reported. Profit or loss, tax overpaid, or tax overdue; was value added, or was it just a taxing time. My ambivalence about this date also being assigned International Transgender Day of Visibility is unsurprising. It is the mental battle between ‘Why should I need to be visible’ and ‘Thank goodness enough people were visible for me to come out and go through my transition’. This blog by itself leaves me highly visible. It could have been anonymous, but four years ago it was a way of speaking to people who knew me as much as those who did not. Now it is out there, it is a reminder that whilst from day to day being trans is not on my mind, it is on others’, and a simple Google search reveals everything.
I am not going to join any procession, or indulge in online selfies though. I do believe that trans people should be active, not hidden, but I think that being present is more useful most of the time, than being something special. The selfies inhibition cuts both ways. If a huge splash of selfies shows that there can be no expectations of what any trans person should look like, and also avoids an impression of anything other than ordinariness, well and good. I don’t want my ‘passing privilege’ to become anyone’s paradigm, but neither do I want too much bizarre devil-may-care to make being trans seem like a wacky lifestyle decision, because it is not.
And so on International Transgender Day of Visibility, I shall not be hiding. In fact in all likelihood, I shall be seeing some old colleagues for the first time in a few years, some of whom have shown visible disquiet when my LinkedIn profile threw up the switch-over in 2012. I shall just be there in continuity of friendships, not to make a point.
Visible as not invisible
I have watched over the past weeks and months as US states have thrown up House Bills on what they call ‘bathroom protections’. The situation is entirely absurd. They are creating laws that oblige bearded, muscular, testosterone-dosed trans men to enter women-only toilets or sports changing-rooms, whether or not they have a vagina or a penis. And trans women with ample cleavages, similarly, to stand in line with men grasping their penises. Why? Because enough ignorant people spread the rumour with a zero evidence base, that transwomen (not trans men) are predatory or paedophile. Partly, it is a matter of common sense, partly pure ignorance, and partly malicious. There’s no point, really, rehearsing the ridiculous situation of examining the genitals of one person to protect the apparent privacy of another. Nor the situations that have already arisen of cis women who don’t look feminine enough, or men who look too feminine. Nor indeed the oversight that women don’t pee in fear of a lesbian in the next stall, nor men in fear of the next penis in line belonging to a gay man.
If trans people are invisible, this kind of stupidity will persist. If they are hyper-visible, they will be misunderstood as choosers of their destiny, where trans women are presumed clothing-fetishists, and trans men are, well, probably butch-lesbian. And it does no favours to the very many people who are androgynous, gender queer or simply gender fluid. Why does anyone have to be something specific in order to go to the loo? I see more gender neutral loos these days, and they are very welcome. Providing men don’t pee on the floor, and treat the facilities with respect, it’s no different to the loo in any family home.
Oh, so you want to be a voyeur, and spy on people having a pee? And you like going around in disguise, to get away with the attempt? And you are neither gay nor lesbian? I suppose you know that this is already illegal … It has bugger all to do with the one to two percent of the population being transgender, and any new ‘bathroom bill’ can only place these people in danger.
The moon was visible last night. Well, actually I was asleep, but it must have been. No; wait; we had storms, so probably it was cloudy. But maybe there were breaks. Did you see it? Ah! The astronauts in the International Space Station can vouch for it, because they had no clouds, and went round fast enough to catch it several time. The moon didn’t come out specially to prove anything, and I sort of know that the moon was still there like yesterday. Visibility means that no-one is pretending the moon does not exist, so whatever time of day or night, you might see it. Under the right conditions, it won’t be obscured, and even a new moon shows a pale disk to the careful eye. Some trans people are a full moon, some a crescent, some behind clouds, others scarcely noticeable at all. No-one should be obliged to hide, and none should be obliged to reveal all, as if we were all completely unambiguous anyway.
What is visibility?
Visibility, I think, is not about clearing the clouds away, nor about being bright and shiny. Visibility is about opening your eyes and doing your best to see. An International Transgender Day of Visibility should be about saying: ‘Hey, didn’t you know that millions of people are transgender, it is inherent not acquired, and it has absolutely nothing to do with sex drive, mental illness, criminality or predation.’ Almost 100 percent of that is down to heterosexual, strongly gender-binary males. And transgender women, whatever we are on a gender scale, are not that!
What they day needs to portray and be reported as, is that transgender identity is only partly about trans women, the majority is about trans men, gender queer, androgyny, gender fluidity …
Unfortunately, it is a religious right-wing that has taken it upon itself to assign predation, spread fear, and place us instead in danger. They infect parents and schools, and force trans people into invisibility, fear of discovery and hatred, and for too many, to suicide. Yes, dear loving-god-loving kind people: your bigotry and narrow-mindedness has zero to do with protecting anything other than your own stupidity. We are visible, we are here, and you simply refuse to see it.
So if you remember on March 31st, or see a news report, reminding you of the International Transgender Day of Visibility, it isn’t about the big personalities, it isn’t about fetishists, and certainly nothing about sexual mores, or perversions. It’s about human beings with small differences, who, if only your eyes were open, are already living among you, and always have. It’s a day for opening your eyes and seeing what is there instead of acquiring false fears from stupid people who should know better, and who, if they do believe in being loving and protective, would do better to shut up and sit down.