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Visibility is important all year long


Visible, to be seen.  As transgender individuals this one word can be both terrifying and yet so freeing and it is so very important to us all.  On March 31 we celebrated Transgender Day of Visibility.  And just recently, all of Europe celebrated it as well.  One Day devoted to being Visible.  My question to you all is Why just one day?

Initially, when we, as transgender individuals, are closeted and struggling with our identity the one thing we fear most is being visible or being seen.  In that moment when we find a small window of opportunity to be our true selves, to feel whole, and free of the daily struggle of gender dysphoria, the one thing we fear most is someone seeing us or, being seen, or visible.

Later as we decide that we can no longer live totally closeted, we seek out support, we may confide in someone we feel to be understanding and sympathetic or we speak with a therapist.  And for a brief period, we feel both terrified and yet relived to share our story and be visible or seen for who we are.  Finally, we can talk to someone about what we have dealt with all our lives.  We can be visible in a small and controlled environment, yet we are still fearful and terrified of others learning our secret, of being truly visible.

Later we learn of other individuals like ourselves, we continue to open up, but in limited measures, in very controlled environments.  We go places where we are surrounded by others like ourselves.  We associate with other transgender individuals.  We may even create a separate Facebook account with our transgender persona so that we can connect with our transgender friends.  The entire time keeping the rest of the world out of this aspect of our lives.  All this time we feel we have become somewhat visible, and yet we are still terrified of being truly visible to the rest of the world. 

Finally, for some of us, we take that next step, we make that giant leap.  We finally choose to live some, or all, of our lives outside that controlled environment, amongst the rest of the world.  We are finally free of that daily struggle with our gender identity, yet at the same time we are still so scared, so terrified of being figured out, harassed, singled out as we go about our lives, or to places such as to the grocery store, or out to dinner.  We are fearful of possibly losing loved ones, losing friends, losing our job, being singled out for who we are.  Because now we are visible and seen by all.

Until we step out amongst the rest of the world, become visible, and let everyone know that we are here, that we are human, that we are no different than anyone else and that we deserve to be seen, we allow the years of prejudice and lack of education amongst those who simply do not understand control our lives.  For their inability to associate the face of someone they know and love to the years of stigmatism associated with being transgender allows them to disassociate themselves from us.  It allows it to be less personal.  It allows them to see us as less than.

Until we prevent them from thinking in this manor, we will not be able to bring an end to the years of prejudices and misunderstandings.  It is time we are visible and educate those around us.  It is time to end the years of prejudice and put a face on who we are.  For as our friends and families come to know and love us for who we truly are, and as we educate the world around us…our own little piece of this planet, opinions will change.  We will progressively educate them one at a time, the walls of prejudice will slowly come down and acceptance will become the norm.

I know that it takes time to achieve the confidence needed to go out on your own among others.  So, take it one day at a time.  One step at a time.  Go and do things with friends, in small groups.  Build your confidence.  For as we gain our confidence being visible, those around us get to be more comfortable and accepting of us by simply being around.  We educate them simply by our presence.  Don’t be afraid to extend your hand and offer a kind gesture.  Be a positive role model, an ambassador for the transgender community, be visible.  As those around us get to know us and put that face to who we are opinions will change.  Education is a good thing—fear and prejudice are born out of ignorance, or a lack of education. 

It is my vision for TransCentralPA and members of the transgender community to be more visible and more involved in our communities.  You don’t need to carry a sign or make a scene—simply be yourself.  Own it.  Be truly Visible.  In doing so, we continue to help, support and inspire others who maybe still closeted, hiding in fear and looking to find the courage to be their authentic selves.  Help pave their way and BE PROUD of who you are.

Holly Evans is the President, TransCentralPA.