By Derek Sullivan, CCPRD Substance Use Prevention Services
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event dedicated to celebrating and acknowledging trans* individuals around the world while also raising awareness of the discrimination and violence the community faces. While we may be thinking, “I don’t know anybody who’s transgender”, take into consideration that we don’t know the stories of each and every stranger that we interact with. In our heteronormative and binary-enforced society, we assume that every face we meet is cisgender. However, the HRC Foundation released this video to dispel those myths, noting that there are more than 2 million transgender people in the United States alone. The trans* community has been here the whole time, existing in our families, friend groups, neighborhoods, and communities. We have all met a transgender person, we just might not have known.
Still think you’ve never met a trans* person? Then let me introduce myself: Hi, I’m Derek and I use he/him/his pronouns! I identify as a transgender man, and I am committed to being a visible member of my community in the social spaces that I occupy. I came out as trans* after high school and took going away to college as my “golden ticket” to exploring my gender identity. In the beginning, I felt very vulnerable, as if there was a spotlight on me; my gender was constantly called into question. Being pre-testosterone and only 18, I had to stay as hidden as I could. The fact that the world did not see me as I saw myself kept my authentic self locked away in fear of being any more of a target than I already was.
I never thought I would get to the point where I am now, and I could not have done it without the support of my community. It wasn’t until I was four years into my physical transition that I felt safe disclosing my trans* identity to others. And it is only because of my privilege that I am able to be visible. As I walk the world today, I have the privilege of “passing” in our society. This means that I am perceived by others as a cisgender man. As a man in our society, I have a multitude of privileges in that identity alone, in addition to having white privilege. Being seen by others as a white ‘cis’ man, I immediately have social status and am treated with that respect in the majority of situations.
I am one of the lucky ones. A majority of my trans* siblings still live their lives in fear. They still tuck themselves away and make themselves small because the world is not safe for them. It’s easier to be invisible than to fight an endless battle just to be seen. I’ve been there, and that is why I choose to be visible for those who cannot. It’s important that I put myself out there to advocate for my community and fight for our rights, respect, and equality.
The transgender community is facing an epidemic of hate crimes; the most vulnerable of identities being black transgender women, who face a deadly mix of sexism, racism, and transphobia. I refuse to stay silent when my community is being targeted with hatred and violence. To me, being visible means being open about gender identity. It means educating those who have any misconceptions or questions. It means standing up for my community when others try to tear us down. I refuse to let fear silence me and keep me from being my true authentic self. We are trans, and we are beautiful.
Looking for resources? Check out our LGBTQ+ Center in Schaumburg, Illinois!
Kozuch, E. (2020, March 31). HRC honors International Transgender day of visibility. Retrieved March 26, 2021, from https://www.hrc.org/news/human-rights-campaign-honors-international-transgender-day-of-visibility
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