Why We Need More Than Visibility on Transgender Day of Visibility
Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility, a day to celebrate transgender people and their accomplishments, but it’s also a day to recognize the need to take action towards a safer future for all.
Recent bills restricting our right to use the restroom, like HB2 in North Carolina, are not just dehumanizing acts of fear, but acts of ignorance. From where Gov. Pat McCrory is sitting, he truly believes he is protecting women and girls from male predators in women’s restrooms. I am certain that he is unaware of the reality of trans people - what we look like, what our needs are, that our agenda really is simply to pee. Is his continued ignorance in this growing age of awareness due to fear and disgust blocking his desire to become educated on trans people? Yeah, probably. But it’s genuine ignorance all the same.
That’s why darkly comedic posts from trans people like James Sheffield and last year’s #WeJustNeedToPee campaign started by Brae Carnes are so powerful. They show that many transgender people are read fully as the men and women they are. Whereas proponents of these bathroom bills envision cisgender male predators in dresses sneaking into the women’s restrooms, the reality is that not only does that not happen with the way things currently are, but laws forcing people to use the restroom matching the gender on their birth certificate actually create a closer reality to the one they fear. Probably everyone has used a public restroom alongside a transgender person and not known it. But with this new law? Men like James Sheffield are legally instructed to use the women’s restroom.
But even these photo campaigns only go so far. They leave out the many many transgender people who are actually at risk due to bathroom bills. The folks in these photos are binary trans men and women who are consistently read as men and women in their day-to-day lives. The people who truly need protecting are the transgender people who are not read as men or women, whether due to choice or to circumstance. The nonbinary people, the trans women who can’t afford hormones, even the cisgender people with more androgynous presentations. All of these people and more are at risk of verbal assault and physical violence every time they have to use the restroom and now in North Carolina, the law isn’t even on their side.
I look forward to a world where everyone knows that gender is more than man and woman, where nonbinary people have an accurate option to list on their IDs (or where gender is simply done away with on identification because, really, what purpose is it serving?), but we’re not quite there yet. Many of the people in power, who are supposed to be protecting us and serving our interests, still believe that all trans people are nothing more than confused gay people or sexual predators.
So that’s why this year’s theme for the Transgender Day of Visibility is #MoreThanVisibility. Awareness of transgender people has finally been on the fast-track for the past couple of years, but with that comes many missteps and a lot more danger. As transgender people are given more visibility, we all need to work to make sure that visibility is accurate, intersectional, and empowering.
Visibility becomes dangerous if it’s lazy, abridged representations of our true lives and needs. It is vital that we continue speaking up and showing the world who we actually are so people like those who support bathroom bills and other “anti-discrimination” laws will no longer base their decisions on outdated, inaccurate stereotypes perpetuated by the media, but rather on the facts and faces of real people.
If you want to help make the world a safer place for people of all genders and expressions, you can work to amplify trans voices, educate yourself and others, and take a stand. Here are some good places to get started: