Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility!

March 31st, 2010 is the second annual International Transgender Day of Visibility. Rachel Crandall, who leads Transgender Michigan, started the day last year and it’s already catching on in the community. Since Transgender Day of Remembrance is focused on remembering and mourning those we have lost to violence it is good to have a day to celebrate the amazing lives of trans folks as well. You can demonstrate your participation in the day by RSVPing to this Facebook event, which includes some info about local celebrations.

Visibility is a loaded concept for members of the transgender community. Being out about our transitions – or being outed – can be incredibly dangerous. Trans folks, especially trans women of color, are often barred from public spaces, discriminated against in employment, and experience high levels of harassment and violence. For those of us who identify as men or women, being out too often undermines our gender identities. “Transgender” is emphasized over “woman” – in the eyes of many people we will always really be our assigned gender. For many trans folks being out is not a choice – presentation or other people’s knowledge of their personal history means they cannot keep their transition private.

I made a decision when I began writing for Feministing almost a year ago that I would be visibly, publicly transgender in this space. The internet is one space where many trans folks have the option of presenting our gender without it being overdetermined by our trans-ness. But I joined Feministing largely to raise awareness about trans issues, and I knew I wanted to be able to speak from personal experience.

What I did not have at the time was a clear understanding of what being so visibly trans as part of the feminist internet would mean. I am just one person and can only really represent my own views and experiences. But there are so few recognized trans voices in feminist spaces that I feel a lot of responsibility for representation. My own unique intersectional identity means I cannot speak from personal experience about the needs of many of my community’s most marginalized. Which is part of why I think it is vital to create spaces where trans folks can safely be visible and speak our own truth. Too often we see people who are not members of our community fail completely at representing our identities and politics. Trans folks need to be able to tell our own stories safely.

While being out can be an amazing opportunity and a real relief sometimes, there should be absolutely no pressure for trans folks to out themselves publicly. The potential danger associated is far too great. Additionally, our transition status usually shouldn’t matter – we are the gender we identify as, and most of the time that should be enough information. The myth that being transgender is dishonest or a deception needs to be exploded, not supported by calls to come out.

While writing for Feministing I have had to look the ugliness of transphobia and transmisogyny in the face. Comments on my first post on the Community site included a lot of ignorance and transphobia. I have seen the same atrocious arguments made countless times in comments that do not make it through our moderation system (Anna, our superstar Community Moderator, now keeps me from having to see the majority of this hate). People off site have written things about me that I am still amazed one human being could say about another person.

But the rewards have been extraordinary. I get to speak my own truth publicly. I get to present my own view of trans issues to a broad audience, hopefully helping to shape the way people think about topics that have a huge impact on myself and my friends. I get to raise awareness of issues that need to be given a lot more attention. I’ve gotten to connect with other trans women like Toni D’Orsay, who also writes about trans issues online, and advocates like Kim Pearson of Trans Youth Family Allies who are doing groundbreaking work for our community. I’ve been in a position to direct folks towards necessary resources and support. And I’ve been incredibly blessed to hear about the positive impact my work has had in people’s lives. All in less than a year!

I dream of a day when whether or not a person is visibly transgender doesn’t matter all that much. When visibility is a safe possibility for everyone that does not undermine our identities in other people’s eyes. When there is no expectation that we be out but no danger in sharing this information, either. Transgender Day of Visibility is an important step towards creating this reality.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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