In Visibility

I have seen a few posts responding to Trans Day Of Visibility with the idea that somehow, visibility is just too dangerous for transpeople and we are crazy to pursue it.   I responded to one such post:

Any reason that we stay invisible will be sufficient for those who want to use fear to silence and erase us.  They don't long for a day when transpeople didn't exist, instead they long for the good old days when transpeople stayed in the closet where they belong, keeping the culture "sanitized" on the back of our denial, dehumanizing us through the power of our internalized shame.

Transpeople share the experience of being shamed into the closet, into severe self policing to keep the “bad” parts of themselves hidden from the world. Even when we emerge and are presenting as the gender associated with our trans heart, we still feel the need to self-police, keeping our history in the closet so people won’t use it to hurt us.  For transpeople, the political is personal; our emotional healing is the only way we can help the world heal around separations that run though hearts. Healing ourselves is where trans liberation always has to start, and that means making what is inside us visible, first to ourselves and then to the community.

Being visible in the world is being vulnerable in the world, yes.   But as Brené Brown speaks about in her shame work, being vulnerable is the only way to have people love you.   It is the only way to show your heart, only way to find emotional connection with others who see and respond to your naked humanity.

Vulnerability demands prudence, of course, because simple expressions of our truth, like refusing to pee in the bushes, have been politicized by those who gain from spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in the population.    Hiding, though, is not a strategy that is tenable in the long run, because we are who we are and the truth will out.   That's why we have to out ourselves on our own terms and in our own way all the time.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
	-- Pastor Martin Niemöller

Your silence or invisibility will not protect you.  Your bonds with others in society are the only things which can do that.   The current bills not only spread fear but they also spread indignation by those who see them as cruel assaults of human freedoms.   They activate not only those who hate us, but also those who love us, or at least love the idea of freedom.

Finding our own centre, our own peace, our own beauty past the internalized heterosexism and transphobia is the basis of healing ourselves in the world. Healing ourselves in the world is the basis of creating healing in the world, of helping people past their own internalized gender policing, into a world where we value the contents of other people’s hearts much more than we do the shape of their genitals.  Nothing heals in the dark, dank shadows, though; sunlight is said to be one of the best disinfectants.

We need to be visible so people will include us, not marginalize us.   Does this vulnerability mean we have to take all the emotions people have?  Yes.   The only way to do it is to believe, really believe that in the end, love always wins, no matter the bumps along the way.

Invisibility is where we came from.   Out is what we claim.  That out comes with a cost demanded by retrograde reactionaries who want to keep us dehumanized.  But it also comes with the humanizing joys of vulnerability beyond shame.  

Letting haters scare us back into the closet by their threats is succumbing to shame.  And that is not a place I want to be.