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Be the One They See

Jude Samson discusses transgender visibility and what it means to be seen for whom we truly are.

The word “visibility” is pretty straight forward and easy to understand defined as “the state of being able to see or being seen.” The LGB community has made leaps and bounds in becoming visible and now, nearly 50 years after the Stonewall Riots demanded that the world see us it’s nearly impossible for someone not to know someone else in the LGB spectrum. The “T” however has only more recently gained visibility and that was, in large part, due to the bravery of Laverne Cox and Jazz Jennings. What made “transgender” a household topic was when Caitlyn Jenner finally announced she was transitioning and then paraded around in a short-lived television show that did less to help the trans community other than making it a topic of discussion. Wherever one may stand on Caitlyn – especially more recently – we cannot take away the fact that she brought the topic of trans people to nearly everyone as she spanned generations in her own personal notoriety. Be that as it may, the transgender community is gaining ground and we can hear it in the language lately with many cis people stating “look at the trend,” or “everyone seems to be trans lately,” and other fairly ignorant comments.

We are far from being a trend and “becoming” transgender is far from what the reality is, and living as a trans person is definitely not something one would “choose.” As much as we want to slap some of these people upside the head we have to actually take a step back and at least acknowledge that the topic is being spoken about, WE are being spoken about, and by that very action, we gain visibility. While there are still many people in the LGB spectrum who remain closeted or come out later in life, they are met with much less resistance than they would have met even ten years prior – although they still have plenty of battles ahead of them most especially during this regime.

“TRANS PEOPLE ARE COMING OUT FASTER THAN WE EVER HAVE BEFORE, AND WE’RE BREAKING STEREOTYPES, LABELS, AND THE BINARY IN GENERAL.”

Trans people are coming out faster than we ever have before, and we’re breaking stereotypes, labels, and the binary in general. No longer can the world see just male and female. They can’t even see cis-male, trans-male, cis-female, trans-female anymore either. Our brave younger generations are tearing the binary to shreds by exploding in a true prism of genders, sexualities, and expressions. Gender fluid, queer, gender queer, pansexual, bi-gender, a-gender, gender non-conforming, polysexual, demi-sexual, and so many more are now part of our dialog. While understanding the truly vast array of sexualities and genders can be overwhelming, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Back a few decades when a few folks would bravely step from the LGB closets we started to hear more frequently, “I know someone who is gay.” Even if it had been their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate, a hetero person was trying to make that connection in “knowing” a gay person and would often make the statement in an attempt to put the other gay person at ease. Now practically everyone has a close person who is LGB and it is no longer so far removed like a game of six-degrees of separation. Now it’s “my father’s gay,” my “brother’s gay,” and so on.

The trans community is a good 40 years behind the LGB movement and, as such; we are only just now reaching the six-degrees of separation stage with people. Too many of us are terrified to come out and, unfortunately, those are very real fears. Each of us who has taken that step has a long road ahead and we are the new pioneers paving the way for others. It becomes our responsibility now to be ‘the one they know.’ We need to start closing the degree gap and start letting people know that the TGNC community is not just here, but we are vast and varied. That we are proud, we are humans deserving of equal rights, and we are your friends and family. The more we come out, the more we’re open, the more other people will have a direct connection with us. The more it forces society to create and utilize words and dialogues that are new and more inclusive, the more we will be seen and heard.

“IT’S IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT WE ARE OUT THERE AND WE ARE SUPPORTING EACH OTHER.”

Each person has their own reasons for coming out or staying hidden, and each person has their own timing in which they will handle each stage of their personal process. It’s important to know that we are out there and we are supporting each other. The online community can tend to get a little dramatic and harsh, especially to those just learning about themselves, but there are plenty of others out here ready, willing, and able to help. We will be your shoulders to cry on, your ears to listen to, and your guide through the complex maze. Reach out to peers whether it is through an online community like Facebook groups, Reddit, twitter, or any other social media platform. Seek out local LGBT centers and if your nearest center doesn’t have a “T” related program, speak with them to see about getting one started. If you’re there asking, there’s bound to be others who are waiting in the shadows. Reach out to us here. While I can’t speak for others here, I can say with fair confidence most of the authors here are happy to respond to messages or offer resources whenever available.

The important thing – be safe. While it’s so important to be seen we’ve lost far too many of our brothers and sisters, a count that seems to increase each year. You are not alone, and we are here. Lean on us so that you can go forward in strength and pride and be the one they know.

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