Take it away, Sister Golden Bear!
Today is the annual Trans Day of Visibility, and for trans folks (and our non-binary/gender non-conforming siblings) it’s both the best of times and the worst of times.
I mostly post about the latter because the effort to eradicate — and I don’t use that word lightly — trans people from public life is hateful, alarming and requiring direct action to combat. The on-going hate-crimes murders of trans people, usually almost all trans women, usually almost all women of color, usually the vast majority Black trans women. The demonization of trans (girl) athletes — because it’s almost always trans women/girls who are targeted — by an unholy alliance between social conservatives and purported “feminists,” who are really Feminist-Approriately Reactionary Transphobes. (Because if you’re “feminism” aligned you with the Immoral Minority, then you’re doing feminism wrong.) State legislatures proposing — and passing — laws to criminalize providing trans-related healthcare to trans kids, to allow doctors to deny healthcare in general to trans patients.
Like the attack on voting rights, even when they fail these efforts are meant to intimidate us. They force us and our allies to expend time on effort that could go to more worthy purposes — such as reducing the shockingly high rates of suicide among trans teens. In a 2018 study, 85% of trans teens reported “seriously considering suicide,” while over half of them attempted suicide. Because life is that fucking tough for them. In another study, 78% of respondents reported being harassed, 35% attacked and 12% sexually assaulted. Trans adults have suicide rate comparable only to combat vets suffering PTSD, because yes, life is that fucking hard for too many of us as well. I only post about a fraction of this stuff, not only for my own sanity, but to prevent myself from becoming Janie One Note. Trust me, there’s a lot of other things that I’d rather be posting about. So if you know a trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming person, today is a really good day to show them some love, because although there’s now a lot of good things happening, there’s still all too much threatening and scary stuff going down.
It’s also the best of times. Like for many other minorities, the existential terror of The Former Guy’s administration is now gone. The current administration has our backs, and they’re walking the walk. They’re rolling back the hateful policies of the prior administration. The Biden administration became to the first to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, while also today the Pentagon reversed the military’s trans ban. That’s a big Joe Biden Deal. (Even if presidential executive orders mean my rights are at the whim of who’s in power.) The love shown to Elliot Page shown when he came out. The increasing visibility of, and support for, trans men, who’ve traditionally flown under the radar (for better or worse).
Dr. Rachel Levine getting confirmed by the Senate as Assistant Secretary of Health — the first trans person to do so. Dr. Levine’s accomplishment is a double victory, because like a lot of later-in-life transitioners, including myself, she’s “visibly trans” due to the unwanted changes testosterone wreaked on her body. Previously the high-profile trans woman activists, like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock were less threatening: they fit the cisgender heterosexual norms of beauty, they’re attracted to men. Which is not to knock their activism, far from it. But life is different when you look like, well Laverne Cox. I still regularly get “sirred” by store cashiers and others. I’ve resigned myself to always being “sirred” on the phone. I’ve learned to let roll off my back since it’s often not worth correcting them, but for part of me it’s still always another slice in the death of a thousand cuts. (If you don’t think pronouns are important, try misgendering a cisgender person’s pet.) I don’t know Dr. Levine’s sexual orientation, but since she was married to a woman (the married didn’t survive transition), I suspect that like many later-in-life transitioners, including myself, she’s attracted to women. (Sexuality attraction being independent from gender identity.)
Dr. Levine doesn’t really have a choice whether she’s visibly trans. Myself, I blend in more often than I’d hoped for, and for the most part I’m treated as the woman I am. But I still choose to be visible for those who can’t be. (Yes, I’m one of the examples that yes, it does get better, and I have enough privileges to be visible.) But I’m hoping that being trans ends up being the third or fourth most-interesting thing about me. That said, not everyone can be, or wants to be visible. (If you don’t think you know any trans people, trust me you do.) There are many reasons. Some don’t feel safe doing so, some are trying to keep jobs or preserve marriages, some feel it’s nobody else’s damn business. But regardless of the reason, it’s totally cool, and they’re just as trans (or non-binary or gender non-conforming), just as valid, as those who are out.
But in the spirit of visibility, I’d encourage you to check out FORGE’s series of short videos where trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming folx share their experiences and feelings about being seen. In particular my friends Helen Boyd and Rachel Crowl. (Helen is an incisive thinker about gender, amazing writer, and fierce advocate — buy her books!, and check out her Trans 101 talk. Rachel is a bad-ass actor, musician and photographer who got stellar reviews for co-starring in an award-winning indie film, and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — cast her!)
To my trans sisters and non-binary, and gender non-conforming sisters, brothers and siblings, to their partners (who are too often unsung heroes), to their families. I’d like to give a shout out to all those on the trans spectrum who don’t socially transition and therefore never go public for various reasons (most don’t feel the need to transition and are happy being “just a crossdresser” etc.), and often are deeply, deeply closeted—there’s probably 10 of them for every public transitioner, making them the vast dark matter of the trans universe. Unfortunately many of them are looked down upon not only by society at large, but also too often by other trans people. Yes, I see you, and yes, you’re “real enough” too. To quote Helen, you’re amazing and you’re awesome. Love to you all. Don’t let the bastards get you down.
Many thanks for writing this up, SGB.