As I sit down to write this it’s two days before the annual observance that is the Transgender Day of Visibility, or as it is more commonly referred to: TDOV. I am angry and anxious all at the same time. Now mind you it’s not like I never felt like that when I’ve written blog posts or op-eds before, but here’s the thing – this year’s TDOV feels very different to me. Probably because it IS very different. And it’s really not all that hard to explain. It has everything to do with a heightened sense of importance that people, that society writ large, fully and completely understands the moment that the transgender community finds itself in.
We are under attack – from all sides.
With each passing day that another piece of utterly vile legislation is put forth in some Republican-led state legislature, the vice that my community is in as the political wedge issue du jour gets that much tighter. And as I recently stated to my dear friend Fabrice Houdart in our Five Questions piece, “Buckle up, my friend. They’re just warming up!” And that’s because they really are. Think about that for a moment. The 2024 presidential election cycle really hasn’t even cranked up yet, and we are already at nearly 400 anti-trans bills in some form of consideration in state legislatures throughout our country.
But understand this, please: the forces of hate, bigotry, and mis-information are shaping and driving a narrative that seeks only one goal: total eradication of transgender people. And this is not hyperbole – I only wish it were – this is the reality of our moment. It cannot be glossed over; it cannot be whitewashed. As if we needed yet another example, while I was in the middle of writing this, the news broke that the Kentucky state legislature overrode the governor’s veto to pass a bill that is widely viewed as among the most extreme anti-transgender bills in the nation, banning transition care for trans youth and limiting the discussion of gender identity in schools.
So, here’s the thing. I am trans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I do not choose to be visible just on March 31st. I am visible EVERY DAY. I am visible because that is how I live my best, fullest life. The life that, quite frankly, I deserve to live – that EVERY transgender person deserves to live. I am visible for all my trans siblings that aren’t – yet. I speak up not to hear my own voice, but to give my voice to those in my community that have no voice. As I have said many times, when I first came out, it is because I gained the courage to do so by standing on the shoulders of those transgender individuals that came before me. The very least that I can do is set my shoulders so that those that are to come after me can use them to reach higher heights and greater achievements for themselves and for our community.
So now comes the time where I ask YOU, dear reader, what are you going to do? Right now, right at this inflection point that the transgender movement finds itself. The time to act is NOW. WE NEED YOU! AND for those of you employed in the corporate sector, WE NEED YOUR COMPANIES TOO!
The transgender community can no longer afford to have you and your workplace stand on the sidelines. Especially if you live and work in states where these beyond-harmful bills are being considered or have unfortunately become law. It’s time to get off the bench and get in the game and get involved. It’s time to get your hands dirty. It is time to make “good trouble” (bless you, John Lewis). And if you are at a loss as to where to begin, there are plenty of “how to be an ally” resources on the Interweb. Now is not the time for excuses, or “I’ll get to it later’s.”
The time for VISIBILITY is NOW! And not just today, but for every single day from here on out.
With Transgender Day of Visibility here once again, I find myself thinking a lot about the word vulnerability. At one of my most recent speaking engagements I challenged the audience with this question, “What is your relationship with vulnerability?” I’m willing to bet that for many of you reading this, that is something that you rarely think about – because why would you in the first place? You may find yourself in the fortunate position of being gainfully employed, with a roof over your head and food in the cupboard. So why would a concept like vulnerability ever enter your stream of consciousness? The simple answers to these questions are that you wouldn’t – probably never. And judging by the collective “Hmmmm” sound the audience made I doubt they had too.
The exact opposite, however, is true for far too many transgender people who choose to be visible in our society. By being visible as their authentic selves they risk being vilified by those who choose hate and fear over knowledge and allyship. And for transwomen of color, this can be particularly dangerous, leading to being victims of violence at alarming levels. Everywhere we turn it seems as though there is another anti-trans bill being rushed through conservative-led statehouses that seek nothing more than to eradicate the existence of transgender people of all ages.
But what choice is there? To remain silent and shuttered away never to be seen in public is simply not an option. Yes, we are different – and if you stop long enough to listen to the stories of our journeys to our authentic selves, trust me, you’ll be moved because they are powerful beyond measure.
But there’s another side to vulnerability that I’d like to bring to your attention. As we begin to change the narrative that seeks to position my entire community as a political wedge issue it is vitally important that we have ever-increasing numbers of allies by our side, standing in solidarity with our quest for equality and inclusion. And at the very core of allyship is education. I have learned over 17 years of talks and trainings that for learning to truly happen, one must allow themselves to be vulnerable. To say to yourself, or out loud, “I don’t know everything, but I’m willing to learn.” It is at that precise moment that the heart, the mind, and the soul open and allows teaching to take hold.
By being intentional about learning and allowing that experience to fuel our allyship is how we begin to move the needle on equality and inclusion for transgender individuals of all stripes and all ages. It can be a truly transformative experience – if you let it. And that’s something to consider not just on the Transgender Day of Visibility, but every day of the year.