i’ve been seeing some discussion of trans visibility today and for a while before now (particularly since the trans day of visibility) and i have some thoughts on that
i’ve seen some people calling for and celebrating the visibility of trans people in online communities, popular culture, and general discourse. i think the general desire behind these posts is for trans people to be included and accepted in mainstream and alternative cultures without having to hide their transness.
part of the response to these posts has been the reminder (mostly from trans women as far as i’ve seen) that visibility can be detrimental, that in a society that hates you visibility is inherently a risk and shouldn’t be pushed on anyone. anyone visibly gender non-conforming is in danger of significant consequences. there’s also the point that trans women in particular are very used to visibility in media, but that visibility comes with ridicule, hate and violence, because it overwhelmingly presents caricatures to be treated as the butt of a joke, or something to be afraid of. the basic point behind these posts is that “awareness/fighting erasure” shouldn’t be treated as an important goal relative to material forms of support, active efforts to reduce the high rates of violence and poverty experienced by trans people. which is a really good and important point!!
both of these arguments have felt a little reductive to me though… i’ve been trying to put my finger on it for a while but i felt like visibility and support weren’t mutually exclusive. in fact i think it’s really hard to get widespread support without visibility - but it has to be visibility that comes with respect, understanding and acceptance, is the thing. just fighting erasure on its own doesn’t do much except for the least materially marginalized of us, and like people have said, being invisible can be much preferable when visibility means violence. it’s also important that visibility isn’t the end in itself, but is used as a means to gather support: visibility not just for the existence of trans bodies, but visibility of the system that exploits and abuses trans people, and the efforts that can be made to change it. it has to be inclusive visibility - inclusive of non-binary people, people of color, non-western people, disabled people, homeless people, people who aren’t conventionally attractive, people who don’t conform to western binary gender norms, people who don’t conform to western ideas of queerness - where everyone included is in control of what’s being said about them.
so i think what it comes down to for me, as i see it, is that the conversation is being unproductively framed as visibility vs. real change, when imo the conversation should be framed as good visibility vs. bad visibility. what forms of trans visibility are actual vehicles of positive change that prioritize the members of our community who are most marginalized and at risk? what forms of trans visibility just play into harmful societal narratives, or lift up some trans people at the expense of others (the sort of “hey we’re not like the weird ones, we’re normal like you!” kind of thing), or fail to deal with actual material issues? i feel like that’s what’s important to work on and seeing people dancing around it is frustrating me.
this is rebloggable + i’m open to discussion, criticism, etc. but i think cis people should stay out of the conversation, though they’re welcome to listen and to ask questions about how they can help.
(disclaimers: i’m nonbinary + transfeminine, medically and socially
pre-transition, i’ve been out on tumblr and to a few friends for almost a
year, just recently came out to my parents who have been awkward or
difficult a lot of the time but are trying to be supportive. i’m white,
american, abled, and a 21 year old college student in a pretty good
financial situation. my experiences of transphobia/transmisogyny are
mostly indirect, caused by living in a transphobic culture rather than
being directly identified as trans and mistreated for it. so that’s the
perspective i’m coming from right now. i won’t pretend to have
experiences i don’t have, but i do think i have plenty of reason to
worry about myself for the future, and to worry about my friends and
community right now.)