Transmissions: In visibility

  • by Gwendolyn Ann Smith
  • Wednesday April 3, 2024
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Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith

Though completely random happenstance, Easter and the Transgender Day of Visibility occurred on the same day this year, Sunday, March 31. Of course, this did not go unnoticed, with the right wing deciding that the conjunction of both events was a sinister, anti-Christian plot.

It wasn't planned to be on the same day as Easter, however. It just sort of happened. Much like, I suppose, being trans itself.

I've written before about having somewhat complex feelings about the Transgender Day of Visibility. On one hand, I agree with its founder, Rachel Crandall, that our community needs more than simply a memorial to anti-transgender killings to honor our lives, which is why I founded the Transgender Day of Remembrance years ago. (It is observed each November 20.) Our lives are valuable, and deserve to be both seen and celebrated.

Yet, perhaps ironically, I find myself never a big fan of events like this. I feel that they get hijacked by organizations seeking a new event to fundraise off of, and by well-meaning but milquetoast allies looking for a quick and easy way to show support that doesn't involve actually doing anything of substance. I want action, not just pretty words.

I also see a lot of confusion as to what the visibility day is even about, or questions about how it is any different from Trans Awareness Week (November 13-19) or National Coming Out Day (October 11) — or even Pride itself. What sets this day apart from the others, and what even are we supposed to be doing on a "visibility day?"

Of course, I've also heard plenty of frustration from those who might feel that, given all that is happening in the United States and elsewhere around transgender rights, that maybe we're a bit too visible for comfort. It certainly feels like there is a bright neon target on us nowadays.

The United States is a patchwork of states, with all too many of them actively hostile to transgender lives. According to the Trans Legislation Tracker, 533 bills have been introduced in 41 states in just the first three months of 2024. The majority of those are still active.

These legislative proposals are clearly having an effect, with a new poll from Data for Progress showing how bad these bills have been for transgender people. According to the poll, of the 873 LGBTQ+ adults surveyed (with an oversampling of trans adults), two-thirds of transgender respondents reported their quality of life has decreased in the past year, and 20% have reported disruptions to their care — with more than half saying it is difficult to access gender-affirming medical care in general.

Likewise, researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health who looked at data from a survey of nearly 3,700 U.S. teens aged 13-17 found that 36% of trans or nonbinary students facing restricted restroom and/or locker room access reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months.

Meanwhile, trans people having any rights are considered by Republicans as a major issue going into the presidential election season. We're treated as something that must be eradicated, and the right is seeking every means it can to see that happen.

Take for example "Project 2025," the Heritage Foundation's plans for a conservative victory in 2024, meaning, at this stage, a return of former President Donald Trump, who's the presumptive Republican nominee. Among the expectations is the rescinding of "regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status, and sex characteristics."

In short, conservatives want a country that is as brutal to transgender people as they can manage, to claw back from us every right we are currently — desperately — clutching to.

Yet, I also want to note that many conservatives don't tend to talk about transgender people. No, instead we are reduced to the "gender ideology," or called a "contagion." Indeed, in some of the worst examples, we are considered "vermin'' — but not people. This is intentional, stripping away our humanity and treating us as something that needs to be eradicated before it corrupts.

Likewise, many media outlets tasked to report on these issues are doing the right-wing's work, parroting its language while shutting out trans voices from the discussions about laws that impact our very lives.

GLAAD and Media Matters for America have found that the New York Times did not bother to quote a trans person in articles about anti-trans legislation 66% of the time over the past year. The time frame is notable, as it comes one year after an open letter asking that the Times do more to treat trans people fairly in its coverage. Thus far, none of the open letter's demands have been met.

Though the Times is particularly egregious, I suspect you can find a similar lack of trans voices in other outlets. It is almost as if we are, well, invisible.

That brings me back to the topic at hand.

Perhaps Transgender Day of Visibility isn't simply about showing ourselves, but is about bringing voice to our very right to exist. It is about facing a world that is interested in erasing our presence, and shouting, "I exist." It isn't simply a moment to come out, but a moment to be defiant.

That said, I think it is in all of our best interests to show this world who we are, no matter how much they want us to remain unseen. In a world where they want you to be hidden, your visibility can be a radical act that makes it clear that you will not be party to erasure.

So, please, be visible, every day.

Gwen Smith can't help but be seen. You'll find her at

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