How can we be visible in invisible times?

Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV). Like the trans experience generally, no two trans people will give the same answer when asked why it is important to mark TDoV, but to many TDoV is about celebrating the bravery of those trans people who choose to make themselves visible (and therefore in many cases, a target) and highlighting the discrimination trans people as a community continue to face. However, 2020 has been a year like no other and, the citizens of the United Kingdom and many countries around the world are currently living under an enforced lockdown with public gatherings prohibited and stay-at-home orders in force. 


So how do we mark TDoV in isolation? How can we be visible in invisible times?

In past years, March has been a time when diversity organisations organise speakers and panel events to discuss the trans experience and what it means to be a trans ally. The annual focus on TDoV is welcome in a time when trans identities are under continual attack in the media and on Twitter and discrimination against LGBT+ people remains endemic in our society. However, as March comes and goes, with the positive reception our stories generally receive, one can be cautiously optimistic that trans identities will be better accepted by this time next year. But this year has been quite different: TDoV events and panels have been postponed or cancelled and it seems that TDoV will come and go with relatively little to mark the day. 

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The impact this will have on the trans community is hard to predict, but there are few things we can all do about it.

1. Learn from trans people

It is estimated by Stonewall UK that approximately 1 percent of the population may identify as trans or non-binary. However, trans and non-binary identities exist on a spectrum (not unlike the Kinsey scale) and accordingly a much smaller percentage of that population will transition. As such, the percentage of trans women in the overall population is vanishingly small, which is ironic given the outsize and extraordinarily hostile media weaponry levelled particularly at them from across the political spectrum. Although the media and trans-exclusionary feminist groups have created the bogeyman of a powerful lobby of trans women that “silence women” and “LGB” people, what they have really done is use their online platforms to villainise trans women and fabricate a “debate” about the very existence of trans people. Against this toxic backdrop, the only way to learn about trans identities is to genuinely listen to trans people, many of whom are willing to share their experiences (see links and resources below). Greater acceptance of trans people will only come about with the help of trans allies who have educated themselves and are willing to exert pressure on the media and across social media platforms. There simply are not enough trans voices to counter this toxic “debate” about their very existence.

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2. Understand their challenges

The global pandemic has created particular challenges for trans people, including by restricting access to lifesaving healthcare. Medical intervention for trans people is a complicated process that requires the interaction of a number of medical specialisations, including psychologists, endocrinologists and specialist surgeons, as well as general practitioners. As a result of Covid-19, medical treatment for non-Covid-19-related health care has been seriously impacted and many trans people are struggling to access the critical care they need. Perhaps more immediately, as part of the enforced lockdown and with people confined to their homes, many trans people are being forced to live with family members who may not respect their gender identity (in some cases with dangerous consequences). These and other challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis will have a serious impact on the mental health of trans people worldwide. Stonewall UK estimates that more than one in four trans young people have attempted suicide and it remains to be seen how much the Covid-19 crisis exacerbates what is a challenging situation.

3. Show your acceptance and support

It goes without saying that trans people need the support of their allies, and one of the best ways to show your support is to demonstrate your acceptance of trans identities.

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While this can be done in big ways, like challenging anti-trans bigotry on social media



or in small ways, like including your own pronouns in your email signature,

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a shift in individual mindset towards greater acceptance is tremendously important. Discrimination, bigotry and hate crime against trans people remain a significant issue, with a 37 percent year-on-year increase in transgender hate crime reported by the BBC in October 2019, fuelled in part by toxic media coverage and social media. Now more than ever, trans people need everyone’s support.

Self-isolation in the time of Covid-19 is for many of us an act of altruism to protect those whose age or immunity places them at a greater risk of dangerous complications. Why not apply this same altruism and compassion to those whose gender identities may not be understood by the vast majority of society but who nevertheless have the same right to live a healthy and fulling life as everyone else? We should all hope that the tremendous unity and compassion arising from the Covid-19 crisis can extend to marginalised groups (including but not limited to trans people) who genuinely need society’s support so that some good may come from this crisis.

What else can you do?

4

Training

Introduce compulsory trans inclusion training for all employees.

5

Stay Strong when confronting bigots  

Being on the frontline is not the easiest thing to do. Look after yourself, know when to take a step back. Seek for help. 

6

Collaborate

Get involved with Trans-led charities. The knowledge strength you will gain is invaluable 

7

Be Visible

Be out and proud Ally! Support your trans siblings at work, at home, our in the park - wherever you are! 

8

Stand up to hate! Become an ally

Whatever you gender or gender identity is, whether you are white, black, Asian, gay, lesbian, bi, trans or straight, have a religion or not, have a disability or not - it is your responsibility to be the ally and point out when someone is using discriminatory language or when you see microaggressions towards someone else. Be the change, don't stand by it. In the words of our role models, Lady Phyll: 'Your pain is my pain and my pain should be yours'. We need to learn to empathise with others.

9

Check your privilege!

Many of us take it for granted and don’t realise how much of an advantaged position they have in the world. Whether it's at work or in personal life, we should be consciously checking what our privilege is; sometimes it's good to give up your space or even open doors for others who don't have the same privilege as us. To understand what privilege is we invite you to watch the amazing TED Talk by Eugenie Cheng.

10

Take the Lead

Join us and hundreds of others who are speaking out and fighting for equal rights across Europe and the globe. If you are proud and comfortable in your own skin, use your privilege to help others who need support and motivation, especially when they are oppressed by governments and right-wing groups.


Important note: This article has been written in collaboration with our trans sibling who for personal reasons cannot be named. We would like to thank them for their contribution and ongoing support! 

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