Month: March 2019

About Transgender Day of Visibility

FYI, here’s a piece I was asked to write at one of the political blogs I follow:

As I mentioned in the comments, today is Transgender Day of Visibility, held every March 31, intended to honor and celebrate transgender and gender non-conforming people (GNC) — both those visible and those invisible.

It started a decade ago but only took off a few years ago, and is intended as a complement to the annual Nov. 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance, which honors the memories of that year’s victims of anti-trans violence — usually always all trans women, the vast majority of them trans women of color, in particular Black trans women. For years, TDOR was the only national/international event for trans people, and while it is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, it’s also, needless to say, more than a bit depressing. Hence TDOV, which focuses on the living.

It’s all too rare that trans/GNC people have chance to celebrate who we are, and it’s also a chance to express our defiance of attempts to eradicate us from public life (the Talibaptists have a literal five-point plan to do so, and under the Trump administration, and red state governments, they’ve made significant progress on several fronts).

But perhaps the most important aspect is being visible. These days roughly 37 percent of Americans know someone who’s trans/GNC. Think you don’t know someone trans, well you actually probably do. There’s still an unfortunately-huge number of us who never leave the closet, and for those who do, there’s can often be a desire to fly under the radar, to blend in. For those in red states, this can be a matter of literal survival. But it’s also because — unlike coming out as LGB, which tells who people who you are — coming out as trans, invariably puts the focus on who you were. At least for a binary trans woman like me, i.e. I’m someone who prefers to be seen as a woman who’s trans.

OTOH, there are definitely trans people who are out and proud, and don’t care about that. There are GNC folks — who may also refer to themselves as non-binary or genderqueer — who are proud to be out and visible. (As well as those GNC people who struggle with being visibly “betwixt and between” which can be an enormously hard place to be.) There’s also trans people who can’t be invisible even if they wanted to, because they physically can’t blend in — most of us weren’t blessed by the androgyny fairy — and being “visibly trans” can be an exceedingly hard life. And some of us trans/GNC folks have had no choice but to be visible and fight like hell for our rights and humanity (to quote from the fierce and fearless Black trans advocate, Monica Roberts, whose blog is well worth following).

Personally, this TDOV, I’m feeling quite ambivalent about being visible — even if for years my motto has been “visible for those who can’t be” — for personal reasons that I go into at my blog. The tl:dr version is that 1) while my divorce from masculinity may have been amicable, the past three years still have been hugely stressful, with trans issues dominating my life, and I’d like to a break from that for some time to do some self-care; 2) I’m facing a Catch-22 where the more I writing and activism I do, the more “being trans” becomes the thing that defines me, when I’d rather it be the third or fourth most interesting thing about me.

I’m not quite sure how to square that circle, but this Teen Vogue article by 11-year-old trans girl about how visibility has changed her life inspires me to figure a way to do so. 11-year-old me didn’t even know that trans — or trans people — existed. I just knew that I was “different” and thought I was the only one in the world. I don’t want trans kids today to know that feeling. My hope is that we “late-life transitioners” are the last of a lost generation, that the younger generations will have the freedom and support to find themselves without wasting decades of their lives.

Unfortunately, we still have a long ways to go — a 2018 study found that up to half of trans/GNC teens attempt suicide. It’s hard to swim in a sea of poison without swallowing some. And so we fight.

And Forget About Everything

So today is Transgender Day of Visibility, and this year I’m feeling extremely ambivalent about it as far as myself. <tl:dr, long soul-searching post ahead>

OTOH, we need visibility and activism, especially in these times, and I’m one of the examples that, yes, it gets better. Likewise, when I was young, I didn’t even know other trans people existed — or that trans itself existed — and I don’t want other 11-year-olds to feel “different” but not know why, and feel like they’re the only ones in the world who feel that way.

But OTOH, there’s a huge difference between coming out as LGB and coming out as T. The former puts the focus on who you are, while coming out as trans inevitably puts the focus on who you were — at least for binary trans people like me. That’s one reason that I haven’t been posting much about my transition lately. And who I was… that’s a part of my life that I’d prefer to leave in the past.

Especially right now. My divorce from masculinity may have been amicable, but like many divorces, the past three years still have been hugely stressful with Teh Tranz dominating my life.

A friend who’s watched trans people transition for decades once observed that three years after transitioning, the vast majority of them had not only changed job, but changes fields; and many of them had moved as well. They weren’t necessarily going “stealth” —  i.e. living a life where no one knows that you’re trans — but they, consciously or not, wanted to start over, free of the preconceptions of people who knew them “before.”

I’m really feeling that pull myself. To start over. To not hide the fact that I’m a trans woman, but not have it be the first thing people know about me, and have it be the third or fourth most interesting thing about me. But to do so would mean giving up performing, which is one of the few things that has given me joy in life. So I’m feeling a bit trapped.

This year, I’m also coming to terms with how much not being able to be myself, and having to hide myself, really damaged my life. (I’m in the middle of some necessary, but painful work with my therapist about this.) So it’s for me hard to say “being trans is wonderful” given what it’s cost me — although I’ve got no desire to be cisgender. And it means Teh Tranz is still dominating my life right now, as I work through the anger and grief at the decades that were stolen from me, the life that I didn’t had, the life that I never will have, the other damage it’s done to my life. Hiding my core self, and walling myself off so that I couldn’t get hurt was a necessary survival strategy, but one that’s left me feeling lonely and isolated.

So lately I’ve been wishing I could move away from Baker Street and settle down in some quiet little town and forget about everything. Sometimes part of activism is taking time out for self-care, and trusting that other will take up the fight. That’s where I’m at.

Consequently, to paraphrase The Waitress’ Christmas song: Happy TDOV, happy TDOV, but I think I’ll miss this one this year.


Tap, Tap… It This Still On

I realized that it’s been months since I’ve posted. Mostly it’s because no news was good news. The short version is that the physical recovery went well, and I’m back to normal. Although I’m going to have to return to Thailand for a revision to fix something that didn’t quite heal as desired. (Fortunately, it’s more of a cosmetic issue.)

I’ve also been dealing with a massive amount of burnout from the past three years, and so I haven’t felt much like writing about trans issues.

Plus there’s less to say day to day, now that I’m more or less through my transition.

But I’l still be posting occasionally.