Transgender Day of Visibility – Why it Matters

With huge thanks to Nick for writing this blog on #TDoV15

Today, 31st March, has been kept by the transgender community as a Day of Visibility since 2009. Today stands as a companion to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is observed on November 20th, remembering those who have been killed or taken their own lives in the face of transphobia. Whilst the Day of Remembrance stands therefore as an important acknowledgment of the struggles transgender people have for acceptance, not only of those around them, but of themselves, it risks being seen to be a day of pessimism about the fate of transgender people. The Transgender Day of Visibility celebrated today encourages trans people to focus on the positives of their experiences, to stand as representatives for the community and to remind people that in the struggle for gay acceptance, trans people have often been overlooked.

One of the most important aspects of TDoV is the opportunity to give hope, especially to transgender young people, who may well be the first transgender person anyone in their family, school, or community has encountered. The feelings of isolation at a time when young people struggle anyway due to the changes of puberty can lead to mental health issues, unhealthy coping mechanisms, and suicidal thoughts or attempts. Through the Day of Visibility, young people can come to realise that they are not alone, and not only connect with other young people going through similar feelings and situations, but also see adult transgender people, who have completed their transition and stand as living examples of the fact that life can, and does, get better.

Representation is hugely important, and sometimes even just learning that there is a term, a label, for being transgender can start a process of self-acceptance which is boosted by seeing that other people can, and do, transition. This knowledge that you are not alone impacts hugely on feelings of wellbeing, and can reduce isolation and fear, as well as leading to greater education of trans issues within wider society. The use of hashtags on twitter such as #RealLifeTransAdult, and tweets from high profile organisations such as the Human Rights Campaign and Stonewall today have the potential to reach many and varied groups of people, educating others and making transgender people visible, rather than people who live in the shadows occasionally featuring in ‘real life shock story’ magazines. Transgender Day of Visibility gives transgender people the opportunity, and confidence to remind society that we just want to get on with living our lives, and to give representatives to those who struggle with their gender identity, to tell them that things do get better, in the hope that they won’t be added to the list of names read out on November 20th.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance reminds us how far we still have to go in the fight for transgender safety and respect, but the Transgender Day of Visibility gives the community a chance to celebrate how far we have come, to find role models for the future, and to remind society that we have the right to a voice, one that cannot be silenced.