Today, March 31, 2016, is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) 2016 and I. AM. STOKED. LOL. Every time TDOV comes around it feels like my birthday and I am more than ecstatic to celebrate it. Why? Because it’s a day on which we celebrate both the struggles and successes of the transgender community, MY community. And after losing so many communities that I was once a part of, seeing my fellow brothers and sisters standing together in solidarity, utilizing their voices, celebrating our existence and knowing that I am a part of such a superb and resilient set of individuals is humbling, and even tear-jerking.
My journey to being a visible member of the trans community has been a long and rather eventful one that started in my teens; and over the years there have been many losses (or liberations) – some of which I still feel quite deeply.
The first was the loss of my church community. Quite quickly after the rumours of me being a lesbian started spreading through my hometown, so too did whispers of such start wafting through my home church. Suddenly, my church – somewhere I thought I could receive support whilst I worked through my personal struggle to reconcile my faith, sexuality and gender identity – became a place of great discomfort. I only needed to look at someone and know whether or not that person was aware of the speculation surrounding my personal affairs.
The fellow members of my congregation started showing an unprecedented interest in my faith; questioning me about my walk with God and why I hadn’t partaken in communion on various occasions. Persons who were previously rather friendly became aloof and I was no longer included in activities I once participated in. All in all, I sensed a shift in the atmosphere, and what was once a relatively safe space felt judgmental, alienating and even hostile.
The majority of my familial unit followed closely after. Given their Christian upbringing (regardless of whether or not they still actively practiced the religion), a lot of my family members view homosexuality as a sin. And owing to their perception of me as a lesbian, my affinity for women was depraved, demonic and disgusting (to name a few). It didn’t take long for some of them to cease all communication with me.
My circle of friends was the next erasure from my life. Given the personal conflicts I was experiencing in addition to the ostracization inflicted upon me by my church and biological family, I withdrew into isolation. As a result, my once vibrant social life dwindled into all but non-existence.
Given all the significant pillars of life that were once all but decimated from the structure of my life, it is not hard to recognize how important a visible transgender community is to my sense of belonging.
Once, our community existed in obscurity; and as a teen I was hard-pressed to find reliable trans resources for, and connect with, other Jamaican trans men. I could identify no Jamaican man of trans experience I could view as a role model, nor knew of any organization or medical professional that catered explicitly to my particular demographic.
Today, WE ARE VISIBLE; and this emergence from the shadows, this act of making ourselves seen, making ourselves known, is POWERFUL.
Our visibility is:
An act of defiance: to brazenly be our authentic selves in a world that perceives different as “abnormal”.
An act of affirmation: embracing the totality of who we are: courageous, strong, phenomenal, human.
An act of kindness: accepting ourselves and realizing that being trans does not make us any less worthy or deserving of love and respect.
A demonstration of leadership: being brave and confident enough in ourselves to step forward and show the world our humanity.
An act of education: informing the world that despite what they perceive to be “other”, we are all the same: HUMAN.
Today I stand in solidarity with my trans brothers and sisters. I love you all and thank you for being courageous enough to share your stories and letting me know that I am not alone in my struggle. Thank you for fostering such a sense of community – a community to which I am utmost proud to belong.
Happy Transgender Day of Visibility 2016.
Just in case you are of the opinion that there is no need for trans visibility.
(Photo credit: @transstudent)