This is a guest blog entry by Ramona Knives.
Transgender Day of Visibility, which was celebrated on 31 March, 2016, has what would seem to be a very important message that is two-fold: to bring to light transgressions and issues that transgender people face while also casting a spotlight on us, as many Americans appear to be under the assumption that they have yet to meet a transgender person. Dig deeper, though, and you will find that quite a number of transgender individuals on social media are actually pretty disillusioned with the idea of the holiday.
While a “holiday” to bring light to our issues sounds like a reasonably decent idea, what does such a day bring to the table for those of us who are hyper visible 365 days of the year? As a black trans woman who is out to the general public, I am extremely visible every single day. When I leave the house, all eyes are on me. Even when I make no attempt to dress up or stand out in any way, I will always be the centre of attention. Not a single pedestrian fails to take notice of me as I walk down the street, and every vehicle that passes by features an uncomfortable glance from at least one of its passengers. That, unfortunately, would be a good day for me as far as public reactions go. I have also dealt with catcalls, physical harassment, bricks and rocks thrown at me from moving cars, and even worse. In fact, during a short break while writing this article, this writer was grossly sexually harassed on a bus stop, when a man stalked me on a corner and repeatedly yelled in my face offering money for sex despite my walking away multiple times. Since the day I first came out last October, I have become acutely aware of just how visible I am in society. It has just become a part of my regular everyday life to suffer through a level of street harassment. I really have to wonder just how much I would benefit from a day that revolves around granting me even more visibility than usual when I would rather just be able to blend in and be invisible for once.
Another thing to consider is just how much trans feminine people need increased visibility on a national scale. Are we not already the talk of the nation? It seems that every “anti-LGBT” legislative bill, which is really just a coded way of saying anti-transgender, bubbles up to the surface of national discourse in a way that never ceases to bring about the most vile of bigoted opinions about trans people. Each day, Caitlyn Jenner says something absolutely ridiculous, which seems to have given cisgender people the excuse to dismiss, misgender, and insult a trans woman when it is not their lane to do so, and this has given these people a way to act like trans advocates at face value while distilling their anti-trans rhetoric in a more easily digestible and accusable way. The biggest fear in America in 2016 is not mass gun violence, or the police state, but the misguided and frankly untrue idea that trans women are just predatory men who want to sexually assault young white cisgender women. Even transgender men are doing their best to hurt our own argument against these outrageous claims by flooding social media with images of themselves in women’s restrooms and playing on those same scare tactics, bragging about how they have to share a woman’s restroom with the wives and daughters of senators.
After the mass passage of gay marriage legislation, which was deemed the most important fight for all “LGBT” people within most of our community, we trans people were assured by cisgender gay community leaders that they would then work on fixing some of the issues that have plagued us forever, like restroom legislation, more access to hormone therapy, easier paths towards transition, and an overall reduction in state sanctioned bigotry against us. Allow me to be one of many trans feminine people to tell you that this has simply not been the case. The fight for our rights has been completely minimized by the gay community, which on its face should logically be our greatest ally. In an age where legal and public discrimination against trans people, particularly trans women, is an an astonishing high, there has never been less support in our favour. Increased visibility of our issues will not help us when no one wants to help us to begin with.
In 2016, we should be fighting for our trans siblings every day, not just one day.