Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day for celebrating transgender people, raising awareness, and showing support for the trans community.
What is visibility?
Visibility is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: the state of being seen.
Why does it matter?
I’m speaking from a deeply personal perspective when I tell you that visibility and representation is enormously important. As a child of the seventies, I grew up in the days before the Internet and social media. As a child, teen, and young adult I never saw anyone like me represented in the media — apart from maybe George in Enid Blyton. But George was as oblivious as I was!
Therefore despite knowing that I didn’t feel like a girl when I was a child (and never feeling like a woman when I grew up) I didn’t understand that this was something that other people felt too. I didn’t know there was a word for what I was, and I didn’t know that there was anything I could do about it. The only transgender representation I ever saw in the media was of trans women. Therefore it never occurred to me that it was possible for someone to be FTM (female to male) transgender.
It wasn’t until I ‘saw’ a male transgender character in a story that I finally started to make sense of the underlying feeling of unease and wrongness that had been my constant companion throughout my life.
Visibility helps transgender people work out who they are, and know that they are not alone. And of course visibility also helps cisgender people to understand trans people better, and know how to be good allies.
Visibility isn’t just about individuals
Visibility isn’t all about individual trans people sharing their stories. Advocates are important and do a huge amount for raising awareness. But it’s important to remember that many trans people don’t want to be visible in that way. They may value their privacy and not wish disclose their history, or they may not live in a place or a situation where it would be safe for them to do so.
Visibility is also about positive representations in the media, in art, in books, in movies, and TV shows.
If you would like to know more about trans issues this link is a good starting point: