Transgender Day of Visibility 2022

Tomorrow is Transgender Day of Visibility. Its supposed to be a day to celebrate the achievements of transgender people and to spread awareness of the societal issues that still plague transgender people. As an out and-not-very-subtle-about-it trans person, I feel like its my duty to be visible and help raise awareness… but I am feeling absolutely crushed, demoralized, and an intense desire to simply disappear.

Over the last few years (especially in the last two), transgender issues have become an increasingly popular topic for mass media to discuss. Unfortunately, it seems the Republican party has decided to make it into a wedge issue, and so all too often the narrative falls into one of these buckets.

  1. Outright bigotry talking about how transgender people are perverts and fetishists that are destroying society and undermining womens rights.
  2. Dog-whistle-rich calls for "debate" where the topic can be summarized as "should transgender people be allowed to exist and participate in society?"
  3. Blaming transgender people for all sorts of things unrelated to their existence.
  4. Complaining about how trans people and their supporters are canceling everyone.
  5. News about another state bill designed to suppress the rights of queer people (especially trans people) or a representative railing against trans folks.
  6. Complaining about how trans people are adored and given unconditional support for self-mutilation (i.e. transitioning)
  7. Mocking trans people for their appearances or how they choose to express their gender.
  8. Largely performative or milquetoast expressions of support that lack any substance or real calls for change.

And, last but not least, sports. Suddenly everyone seems to have become very interested in sharing their deeply-held beliefs about womens sports – an institution that they have always cared deeply about. Ah, right. After 10 years of the NCAA allowing trans women to compete in the womens division of collegiate sports, a trans woman did a sport and did well. It turns out that one of the 1.1 million adult trans women in America is good at swimming1. She's not at the Olympic-level of performance, mind you. She is just doing well in collegiate competitions. Well, I guess all sport is ruined now, and trans people are to blame.

I have neither the time nor mental energy to collect extensive examples and point out all the hateful subtext, misinformation, and fallacious arguments contained within them – just getting out of bed today was hard enough. Besides, I think other people are doing a much better job at that. I'm writing this because I want to describe how it feels for me to be a trans person today. I want to talk about how it feels to wake up every morning and see new essays and articles accusing you of being a pedophile, being the human embodiment of a joke, a deranged fool, and an incel that hates women.

I want to help you understand the human side of this. I want to cut through the stereotypes and show you how painfully cruel and deeply ironic the hate is.

The news will tell you that trans people are attention seekers. My whole goal is to blend in and become invisible – just another person in the crowd. Before I started my transition, I was absolutely terrified of people knowing that I was transgender. I wanted to crawl into a cave and disappear from society for the ~5 years it takes to complete a transition. I moved to the most LGBT-friendly neighborhood in quite possibly the most LGBT-friendly city in the world out of fear about being "clocked" as transgender. I wanted to move to a new city and change jobs after I started passing so no one would know I was trans. I wished I could fake my death so I'd never have to explain myself to my friends and family. I'm normally fine with public speaking, but when my boss invited people on his team to discuss annual events for marginalized groups, I got so in my head about not wanting to be seen as a self-serving attention whore that I could barely string together a few coherent sentences about what Transgender Day of Visibility is.

The TERFs will tell you trans women are wearing "woman face", reinforcing traditional gender norms, mocking or appropriating femininity, or an ugly man that isn't fooling anyone – depending on how they look or choose to express themselves. There isn't any way to be trans that satisfies these people: masculine trans men, feminine trans men, masculine trans women, feminine trans women, androgynous people, those who pass, and those who don't are all mocked for how they look. No matter what I do or how I present myself, I hear the voice of the transphobes telling me that I'm a terrible person for it. I am wearing pretty much the exact same clothes I did pre-transition, and I keep having to ask myself "is this what I want, or am I just too afraid of being attacked to try something new?". I remember being verbally mocked and harassed by people on the street when I presented femme pre-transition. I remember how stressful and scary it was, and then I decide to just wear the same sort of T-shirt I've been wearing for the last 10 years. Its safe and familiar, at least – even if they will criticize me for "not even trying [to look like a woman]".

The transphobes will tell you that trans women are predators that want to assault women. When I decided to transition, I had to accept the fact that I was drastically increasing the probability I would be sexually assaulted, physically attacked, or killed. The world immediately became a much, much more dangerous place for me to exist. Even in the western world, I started to find that the number of places I felt safe visiting was shrinking at an alarming rate. I guess I don't ever need to leave California.

They'll mock trans people for asserting themselves and requesting their preferred terms of address (name + pronouns). It took me over a year after coming out at work before I felt brave enough to correct cashiers at stores when they called me "sir". Even now, sometimes the best I can muster is a quiet and feeble "its miss". Usually they don't even seem to notice I said anything. I want to be strong and proud and correct people, but I see how other trans people have been attacked for doing so and I just wither. Should I even bother continuing to correct my apartment building's manager when he refers to me with he/him pronouns? He hasn't gotten my pronouns right once in the 2 years since I came out, and I'm moving out next week.

They accuse trans people of being liars and deceivers that prey on innocent men and women: tricking them into having sex. Its no coincidence that a common slur for trans people is "trap". Trans people are frequently cast as sex-crazed maniacs that are trying to "groom" children and coerce people into having sex with them. Meanwhile, I was afraid that after transitioning I'd never be able to have another significant relationship again. I thought that if I transitioned then no one would ever find me attractive again – that I'd forever be a pariah in the dating scene. A pale imitation. I read stories about trans people who had been physically assaulted when their date found out they were trans. I wondered if I'd ever even be able to enjoy sex again. By the time I decided to transition, my dysphoria had gotten so bad that I was prone to burst into tears after having sex with my partner.

Its not just that the stereotypes and the media's portrayal of trans people cut directly into my deepest insecurities around being trans. In many cases, the media made those insecurities. I feel boxed in and afraid to express or assert myself because any time a trans person does they get ridiculed and dragged through the mud. I'm not innately afraid of the world. This is a new thing! In fact, I used to move through it with all the confidence of a white (and presumably) cishet man. Now I feel like everyone has their eyes on me and is looking for ways to attack me. And, can you blame me? Everywhere I look in the media, I see stories about how bad trans people are. When I look out to see people like myself in the world, I so rarely see anything positive.

I can feel the pervasive anti-trans hatred in our society. I am constantly marinating in it every second of every day. Like all trans people, I've learned to live with it, but the recent up-tick in anti-trans news has started to overwhelm me. The last thing I want right now is more spotlights pointed at transgender issues. I can hardly handle the ambient levels of "civil discussion and debate" about transgender issues these days.

So, anyway here's to 2022's International Transgender Day of Visibility: a day about shining the light on the successes of transgender people and the oppression they face.




Some estimates say that as much as 0.7% of American adults are transgender. People assigned female at birth and people assigned male at birth seem to identify as transgender at roughly equal rates, so we're looking at about 0.35% of the country. America has about 331 million people.