March 31, 2020
Today, March 31, is Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day when we draw attention to the power – and often the necessity – of being seen as who we really are. But how does visibility take shape, and what might legibility feel like, as we practice physical distancing? What if the people we are with do not see us as we see ourselves? What are the layered, sometimes fraught and other times reinforcing relationships between visibility and survival?
There are as many valid answers to these questions as there are trans people. And although there is urgency to affirming trans visibility in a society often bent on trans erasure, in this moment questions about visibility may resonate with many cis people too. Here are some ideas for marking Trans Day of Visibility 2020.
Physical distancing can provide an opportunity to be more visible to yourself, to intentionally attune to who you are and provide yourself with the tenderness you deserve. Especially if you are staying alone or with people who do not respect your identity, checking in with yourself about what you need to feel affirmed can be the first step to then asking for what you need.
Completing Census 2020 is an imperfect but important tangible way to be seen. Tomorrow is Census Day. Participating in the Census is crucial to ensuring fair representation in government and allocation of public resources, including representation and resources for trans folks. Information about Census 2020, including how to respond to questions asking about your name and sex, are included in Western’s Census 2020 FAQ.
Although many trans people can’t be together in person right now, we can be deliberate about creating space to see one another remotely through video chats, texting, and social media. Within your personal social communities, you might discuss how to support one another in feeling safely seen and loved. Many of Western’s LGBTQ+ student clubs have also created ways to connect electronically; these clubs offer outlets for trans Western students to be visible in community.
Take time to learn more about the powerful lives and legacies of transgender people, including trans women of color like Lorena Borjas, a beloved community organizer known fondly as the mother of the trans Latinx community in Queens, New York. Her work was dedicated to organizing communities of care and advocating for immigrant trans women in New York. Lorena died yesterday from complications from COVID-19.
If you are a cis person working in solidarity with trans people, decide what you will do today to show trans people that you see and love them or to mitigate the burdens some trans people experience by being hyper-visible. Trans Day of Visibility this year might be an especially good time to check in with trans young people in your life. A simple email, text, or phone call can go a long way to demonstrating you care. And as we shift to more online interaction, consider sharing your pronouns on platforms you’ll use such as Canvas and Zoom so that the few trans students in your classes who share their pronouns to avoid being misgendered aren’t the only ones doing so (in Zoom, just add your pronouns after your last name).
I have had the pleasure of emailing and talking with a number of you these last few weeks. You are on your porch and in a community garden planting seeds to grow food that will nourish your community. You are working in a lab running COVID-19 tests. You are doing your part to keep Western running, planning tremendous classes for our students, and holding spaces for connection through your leadership in student clubs. No matter where you are and who you are with, you are phenomenal. Your brilliance doesn’t diminish even if you are less visible to others right now. No matter what, you are you, and you shine.