Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. This is my first TDOV as a trans community member, though I’ve been marking the day at home and at work for years. Those times were for boosting other folks though. This year it feels like my turn to stand up and say “See Me for who I am, as a whole person, not a caricature.” TDOV is celebrated every year on March 31st for the past decade to bring awareness of the trans community and our contributions to society. Contributions to politics, art, music, business, and just by living everyday lives as part of our communities. Today is a day of celebration for all we bring to the world.
But there is a darker side of visibility too. Visibility makes you a target to those with malign intentions. As we have seen lately with all the recent legislation around the country which attempts to force us out of existence. For too many trans folk, particularly women of color, visibility is even deadly. Trans people are under a microscope right now by the larger culture, the slightest inadequacy or mistake blown into a full-on moral panic, which is then used to curtail more of our rights. So it feels a little counter-intuitive to bring more visibility to our vulnerable people.
I am no critical race scholar, but I have studied it somewhat in relation to librarianship, and one of the parts of it that resonates for me the most is using counter-stories to resist the dominant narrative. That is how I want to use today, as a way to tell a more authentic story of transness than what the media is pushing these days. I can tell my story, and use my relative privilege to take some of the heat off other trans folks as well. After all, I still “pass” as cis right now if I need to, and I look like a Nice White Mom. I am anything but, but if I can use that perception to do some good in the world then I am here for it!
When I was a little girl, I always used to think of myself as ‘the tomboy in dresses’ because I always wanted to climb trees and sword fight and play with the boys, but I still loved wearing pretty dresses. I could be a model picture of a little girl as long as necessary, dress just so and long blonde locks in beautiful braids. And then I would go put on a different dress and climb a tree to hang upside down by my knees with my underwear on display for all the world to see. So, everyone including me thought I was cis. And it wasn’t like I lacked for representations of trans folks, though I did lack the language. One of my best friends as a tween/teen was trans. I didn’t understand him, how could he be so certain he was a boy, and not a girl? Everyone said he looked like a girl, so that must be what he was, right? I didn’t have a concept of an innate sense of my own gender. Gender was just…a thing that happened to you.
I remember the first time I wished I could get rid of my breasts. I was 13 or 14 and they were horribly embarrassing, uncomfortable, and not at all how I wanted to look. Too big. Too much. I was too much. I don’t remember when I started wishing I could stand to pee like the boys did, but it was early on too. As an adult, I wished to be able to do other things more like men. But still I reveled in my apparent power over men with my body, I enjoyed dressing up and wearing makeup, getting my nails done, wearing a wedding dress, being a mother. As I got older, I started to hang around more trans spaces online, and meet trans women, including my platonic partner. I began to feel envious again, this time of the trans women and gender non-conforming men I was seeing. They had it all, all the parts I wanted, the gay swag, the sparkles and pastel colors, the dresses and unique blended styles.
It finally began to hit me that cis women didn’t have these secret fantasies like I did. They didn’t wish to have been born with different parts. But I also didn’t want to perform masculinity in the way men did. I’ve never been a very masculine person, and I was sure I wasn’t a man. I was becoming increasingly aware that I might not be a woman either. It took me a long time to find the language to express what I felt, and I’m still not entirely sure of the exact right words. This is probably the most coherent I’ve been about it to date, even in my own diary.
Once I did find the language though, it was like a light came on and there was an avalanche of words to describe how I felt. Nonbinary. Agender. Genderqueer. Gender-fluid. All resonated with me in various ways and at various times. Realizing I wasn’t forced to live in a binary, that there was a third option, was life-changing, and I grabbed it with both hands. I could start dressing in a mixture of femme and masc styles. I could ask people to use gender-neutral pronouns for me. My name was expressly picked by my parents to hide my gender, and it felt like fate to have a name so completely devoid of any gender connotations. There are so few Kestrels in the wild, who is to say what gender each of us is? We are all genders, and we are none. Being freed from the binary was a relief. And with the realization came the realization that I could have the body I’d always wanted after all. A body that felt comfortable, and like it belonged to uniquely me. I’ve only just begun what will be a long journey, and I already feel time nipping at my heels. I’ve wasted so much time already, I’m already in my late 30s, do I still have time to transition properly? Evidence from other late transitioners suggests Yes, but still I’m in a hurry. I started Testosterone therapy just last week, and I’m turning my mind toward breast reduction perhaps late this year or early next year, providing nothing else comes up for me health-wise (the eternal chronic illness struggle). The future seems bright and exciting.
Except. My government is trying to take away the beauty of this new discovery of myself. They want to make the care that I will rely on illegal, not just for kids but for everyone. They want to take my son from me, deeming my very existence a threat to him (funny how they never thought my and my sister’s abusers were a threat though, despite evidence to the contrary). They want to drive me back into hiding myself from the outside world, to make me too afraid to stand up and say “This is who I am, it is unique, it is beautiful”. I refuse to let them.
I will not be shamed. I will not be silenced.