What a week to end with Trans Day of Visibility.
In a “normal year”—if there ever was or will be such as thing—I’d love to spend this day mocking bad corporate attempts at trans allyship, side-eyeing trans influencers who post thirst traps on the verge of showing hole with earnest captions like “trans rights are human rights,” and gathering with my other trans friends for a snack in the park. Maybe I’d post my own picture and message, showing off the body I’ve fought hard to love for myself. Maybe I’d share inspirational posts from celebrities I look up to. Maybe I’d go to a flag-raising, where my trans community would dance together to Kim Petras music and relish in the joys of being trans and alive.
Instead I’m here feeling incredibly bad, scrolling news that keeps making me feel worse. You probably are too.
It’s been a rough week, a rough couple of months, a rough couple of years and, frankly, a rough lifetime, depending on who you ask. But let’s focus in on this week in particular. The news that the shooter who killed six people at a Nashville-area school earlier this week was likely a transmasc person, and how the right-wing media has weaponized that fact to further villainize queer and trans folks, weighs heavily. Previously bits we as a community have found joy in like “Trans Day of Vengeance”—a tongue-in-cheek pushback against twee visibility—have been corrupted and twisted by nefarious actors to the point it’s divorced from its original silliness.
The continued passing of anti-trans and anti-drag legislation is a direct erosion of fundamental rights we’ve fought so hard for—on Wednesday alone, 13 separate bills targeting trans folks were heard in state legislatures. Drag queen story hours are being threatened by dangerous protests rooted in deep transphobia—ask any anti-drag activist why they’re opposed to drag, and it will boil down to the fear of kids being trans.
And as we gather today to mark Trans Day of Visibility, the threat of violence at these peaceful events that are supposed to be about pride and living our truths means many trans folks don’t feel safe attending and many events are being cancelled. Even in Vancouver, where I live, ostensibly a safe, progressive bastion, I feel the tension in the air. I feel hyperconscious of every gaze on the bus that falls on my trans flag pins, or my teen-boy mustache and suspiciously too-wide hips, as the gender fuckery I have found such joy in has also quickly become a giant neon sign flagging my transness to the wrong eyes.
For trans folks, visibility is a double-edged sword. After years and years of fighting for the right to be ourselves publicly, to access live-saving care and to life without fear, it feels like every day those rights are being eroded and threatened across the board. For a lot of trans folks like me who came out and started transitioning during the pandemic, this world we’ve re-entered feels slanted against us.
The fact is: we are hyper-visible right now, and it’s terrifying. We are at the top of every Fox News broadcast and Republican agenda. We are talking points at school boards, and continue to be the storybook villains of a certain British fantasy author. People I went to high school with are sharing Facebook screeds about drag queens “grooming” kids into transitioning like that’s the worst thing that could happen. TV pundits are blaming life-saving care like hormone-replacement therapy for the Nashville shooter’s actions. Bad actors are threatening queer and trans events. Frankly, I’m scared, I’m angry and I’m tired.
Do I want to be visible right now? Not really. What I would give to log off, go to some island on the seaside and read books and drink wine and play cribbage with my friends where no one can perceive me. I would love to never have to think about Matt Walsh or the New York Times or whether or not my distant family members in red states think I should have basic human rights. I would love to live in a world where my transness is no bigger a part of how the world sees me than my eye colour or favourite sports team.
At this point, you might expect me to cite the power of community and trans joy for getting me through tough times, and recommend the same for you. When people ask me how I cope with doing this work and being online amidst such a crushing news cycle, I often point to those things. How my personal trans joy—getting top surgery or finding other trans people I relate to—is a victory worth celebrating itself. That my right to live as me is something my ancestors fought for, and I shouldn’t take that for granted. That us being sad and angry and miserable is letting the bad guys win.
But man oh man, this week has worn me down and the joy itself isn’t doing it. I am sad and angry and miserable. The Nashville shooting and the toxic media cycle that has sprung up in its wake has felt like a worst-case scenario. A person did a horrible thing and they happened to be trans, and now that fact will be weaponized against us as a collective over and over. There isn’t a silver lining to that. There is just the knowledge that we have to, somehow, keep going through all of the muck.
It feels almost cathartic to admit defeat on that front, to give in a little bit to the doomerism and acknowledge that trans joy can only get us so far. Visibility can only get us so far. Sometimes things really are just super shitty.
That doesn’t mean we give in. We need collective community action. We need to show up. Allies need to show up and listen to trans folks and follow our lead. We need to continue to fight against anti-trans legislation, whether it’s through weeks of filibusters or voting out the transphobic legislators. We need to hold media accountable when they publish dangerous inaccuracies about trans folks. We need to show up for rallies. We need to support trans kids and let them grow up into trans adults. We need to keep going and embrace all of those feelings: the rage and the sadness, but also the generosity and joy.
Weeks like this make it hard to keep going, but we can. We will. We always have.