Trans Day of Visibility

The importance of representation

Transgender Day of Visibility is a day of celebration for community accomplishments and empowerment.

The transgender community has two international days, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which occurs annually on Nov. 20, and Transgender Day of Visibility, which occurs on March 31 every year.

Jocelynn Mallette is the co-ordinator for the Women-Trans Spectrum Centre at the University of Winnipeg and identifies as non-binary.

They say having a Trans Day of Visibility is important, because other days of recognition, like the TDOR are usually based on mourning. They also say it is important because the history of trans people has been silenced by many factors.

“More positive visibility instead of focusing on violence is a big step working towards a present and future where more trans people can feel comfortable being themselves,” Mallette says.

The transgender community in Canada has a long history, especially with language and visibility. The term trans isn’t the only one that is used when talking about trans folk. Other words used which are not interchangeable but represent different community members, as per the Trans-Equality Canada webpage, are transsexual, intersex and Two-Spirit.

According to Unifor Quebec, transgender people are those persons who identify with a gender other than the one assigned at birth. Often trans people are targeted because of their gender, and they experience hate, bullying, harassment and discrimination in many forms.

Bryce Byron says that a Transgender Day of Visibility is a time to celebrate the lives of trans people who are able to be both safe and visible, and to find a way to create a safer environment for all trans people to be visible.

“Living as a transgender person is tough, especially for those who are visibly trans. Often I try to blend in with cis-normative gender expressions and roles in order to avoid the casual transphobia that exists everywhere in our society,” Byron says.

In March of  2018, Peppermint, the first openly transgender contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, made headlines when coming out as transgender. RuPaul also made headlines because of comments he made regarding Peppermint’s participation as a trans woman on the show to the The Guardian, which many people believed to be controversial and transphobic.

Mallette says they feel upset that the conversation about trans people is focused on a cis man’s opinion, referring to RuPaul.

“There is a lot of potential for visibility to make an impact and educate people that trans people exist and that their stories matter, but also there is a lot of room for error on the way trans stories get told by non-trans folks in media. I look forward to accurate representation in media if it’s non-exploitative of the work and lives of the people it’s depicting,” Mallette says.

“Trans representation must be done by trans people. There is so much history of media misrepresentation and exploitation of trans people that I tend to be skeptical of most media representations,” Byron says.

For Alex Moreau, someone who identifies as a lesbian, media can be a means of visibility and normalization, but for her, media can come as a two-edged sword, as it often normalizes toxic ideas like violence but can normalize things that should be accepted.

“Trans people exist. They exist, they are valid, and their identities are valid. The sooner society as a whole stops seeing the existence of trans people as something that is somehow ‘abnormal,’ the sooner we'll see widespread acceptance,” Moreau says.

Published in Volume 72, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 22, 2018)

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