Beyond visibility: we fight for belonging

Rainbow Greens co-convenor Jen Bell explains why Trans Day of Visibility is a day of hope.

Today we celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility. It's a day where we celebrate the lives and works of trans people today and through history.

It seems strange to talk about ‘visibility’ in a time when fear, hatred and misinformation about our community is being stoked by senior politicians and parts of the media every single day. 

For the trans community, visibility can be a double-edged sword, held above our heads and often pointed against us.

In some respects, we have never been so visible. We're demonised day in and day out by those who would rather distract from their many failures.

Take the disgraced former British Prime Minister Liz Truss blaming ‘trans activists’ for her monumental failure in office, while attempting to introduce a Private Members’ Bill to strip away gender affirming care from young trans people , who have no voice and no defense.

Trans women are ridiculed, smeared  and monstered, while trans men, and non-binary people are either infantilised, or entirely absent from public discourse. 

We rarely get to have our own platforms, and where we do we’re subject to torrents of abuse and asked to justify our existence. The result of this is that at all levels of society, from town halls to the newsroom, our rights are debated without us even being allowed a say.

This hasn’t stopped the trans community from unapologetically living our lives, changing popular culture and supporting those around us - even when we’re been relegated to the background for it. 

Think of Wendy Carlos, who pioneered electronic music and created the iconic scores for films such as A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Tron. SOPHIE pioneered Then there are the Wachowskis, who wrote and directed The Matrix and had an enormous influence on popular culture. Going further back, Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were right on the front lines at Stonewall, and founded STAR (Street Transvestite Activist Revolutionaries), which fed, clothed, sheltered and campaigned for the trans community in New York.

Despite Johnson and Rivera’s tireless work for queer liberation, they weren’t recognised for it in their time. Rivera herself had to grab the microphone at the Liberation Day Rally in 1973 and claim a platform in the movement that had been built on her back. “Y’all better quiet down,” she said. “I’ve been trying to get up here all day for your gay brothers and your gay sisters in jail that write me every ************* week and ask for your help and you all don’t do a goddamn thing for them.” She was met with boos and derision.

It wasn’t until the 25th Anniversary Stonewall march in 1994 that she was finally given a place of honour. A bust commemorating Marsha was erected in 2021, nearly 30 years after her death.

Trans people and the wider queer community don’t need to wait 25 years to learn the lesson. The lesson has been repeated to us generation after generation. As Marsha P Johnson said, “no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”. 

We are all on the same firing line. If only one or a few of us see success and stick our heads above the parapet, we will inevitably get shot down. Instead of one or a few of us being the ‘first’, we should instead aspire to create the first wave.

Our desires are  simple: we want to fully claim our humanity. We want the tools, resources and protections we need to live freely, safely and happily as the people we are. But these rights aren't just important for trans people.

We all benefit when we are free from the fear of hate crime or conversion practices. We are all made safer with inclusive education. We all deserve autonomy over our names, our identities, our bodies, and we all benefit from  being able to access the  healthcare we need to make that a reality.

Despite the backdrop, Trans Day of Visibility is a day of hope. It is a celebration of what trans people have achieved and the lives we lead. It is a day of reflection but also a clarion call for the better and brighter future that so many have wished for, worked for and strived to deliver.

More in Trans Rights are Human Rights