Since 2009, March 31st, International Transgender Day of Visibility, has been a special day for the transgender community. It has been a day of celebration, empowerment and education. It has been a day to show the world what being transgender really is and what being transgender looks like.
In some small way, I have taken part for about half that time and found many receptive to the message the day strives to bring. But this year was different. This year I felt the need, the drive if you will, to do more. I felt the message of equality and justice needed to be heard on a larger scale. As it turns out, I was not alone in those thoughts. The hashtag #MoreThanVisibility had already begun to make it’s way though Twitter and other social media platforms.
This year the need for more visibility and more support has never been so paramount. Legislation being purposed all across the country has pushed the need for allies to rally to support the transgender community to a critical level. The bill that was passed and signed into law in North Carolina has brought the issue of transgender equality to the headlines on the evening news and is just one example of bills that would severely discriminate and harm the trans community, bills that seem to be pushed through at rapid rates.
At the time I was propelled into the public eye due to the discrimination I faced where I worked, I really had very little contact with the transgender community. Living in the far West suburbs of Chicago, I had little chance to connect with others in any truly meaningful ways. But as the years passed and I had the opportunity to educate myself on a deeper level about the serious issues trans men, women and youth face not only in this country but world wide, as I took the opportunities to learn from the advocates that had paved the road I now travel, I began to be drawn into a role that I thought I was ill equipped to play.
Just as they say “Some are born to lead and some have it thrust upon them.” It is the same for advocacy and activism. Some are born to lead and advocate for causes, ideas, and whole communities. And some find themselves discovering the willingness to put ourselves out there due to the circumstances that surround them. It often means being a target for the trolls, but often it can lead to helping others understand and learn even if it is in the smallest of ways.
What I have slowly learned is you don’t have to be a Levergne Cox or Jennifer Boylan to be an ambassador for the trans community. As Miss Cox has said, “Being visible in a world that tells us we do not exist is a revolutionary act.”
The very act of being public with who I am, which I had no intention of being when I transitioned, affects the world around me. Sadly, people have chosen to walk away over the years, but many more have taken up the standard that I carry and for that I am proud to have them as my allies.
The motivation for organizing a social media event for Transgender Day of Visibility was out of pure need to have allies step up and speak up. Discussing ideas and planning strategies with my co-organizer Pamela Valentine, was a learning experience all in it’s own. The opportunities to share the message of transgender equality that came about where on a level I could only have dreamed of.
For the past 5 years, I have had some of the greatest supporters within and outside the trans community. They have championed my fight for equality, they have loved me during the pain and spoken up for my community in ways I may never know.
I found encouragement in the lives of trans men and women that I have been so graciously allowed to be a part of. I have learned from everyone from leaders to the softest spoken members of the community. I strive with every effort that I under take to help continue the movement forward that so many before me who have worked so hard for.
Not to sound conceded or arrogant but I consider myself to have been blessed to see the impact that just being visible and accessible can have on those around me. I know that the interactions I have are just ripples in a great ocean of change that is happening around the world. One life lived authentically truly does create change. Those ripples may carry on through people and places you may not even be aware of.
You don’t have to take on the label of trans activist and I know that being out and visible is not for everybody. I deeply respect that each and every person has to choose the path that best suits their needs. But if you do decide to be visible, if you decide to show the world we do exist – the ride is worth it. There are so many people willing to come along side you, to love you, to support you, to be your ally.
Please feel free to pop over to our Transgender Day of Visibility page to hear more stories and learn more all year round.
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