Content warning : Article contains elements of transphobia and murder.
The 31st of March is Trans Day Of Visibility, a day where trans people celebrate ourselves, our achievements, and our community. It's also a day where allies can celebrate the trans people in their lives, and to make themselves known as allies in a very active way. Below, I want to share some of the times I have felt most affirmed and celebrated. I also want to share some of what's going on for trans people right now, and I want to suggest some ways you can show allyship.
I am a trans man. I started affirming my gender almost ten years ago. Back then, you had to go to a psychiatrist to talk about gender affirming treatment. After two sessions with the psychiatrist, I was ready to tell him I wanted to start testosterone. Third time lucky, right? It was a huge moment. After months (really, years), I was taking a massive leap. I wanted someone with me who knew what it meant, so I asked my best friend to come along.
She met me in the carpark, grinning. She presented me with a flanno, because 'every Aussie bloke should have one'. I still have a love for flannos, and I still think of her every time I put one on. Having someone with me, in the nerves, the newness, the affirmation, the anxiety, was so meaningful. And so it has been each time I've taken a significant step.
I asked a few of my favourite people to come with me for my top surgery. The day before, three of us travelled on the train together. We laughed a lot. I was sick with anticipation and excitement. The night before, we hung out and made stupid jokes at my cousin's house. The morning of, it was raining. I donned my binder for the last time. Two of my friends waited with me while I did all my pre-op checks. I couldn't stop talking. The nurse offered me a Valium. I hadn't had surgery since I was 11. I think I would have thrown up if they weren't there.
When it was all over, addled by anaesthesia, I told everyone it was the best day of my life. And that I was a boy. A lot. My friends still tease me about that. It means so much to share those memories. Those moments. I remember, sharp and clear, my cousin sitting beside my hospital bed. She shared some big stuff with me, as she was with me for one of the biggest things I've ever done. Sharing that space, that solace, is something I hold very dear.
The week before another step of affirmation, some friends gathered at my house for a gender reveal party. We had an Avengers tablecloth and a rainbow cake with blue-dyed white chocolate in the middle. I felt so utterly, completely celebrated. These are moments of affirmation, celebration, and allyship that I will always remember, and that I carry with me as an integral part of my becoming. In the coming months and years, I know I will need to draw on them more and more, as with the increasing visibility and participation of trans people in society has come a backlash.
In the UK, JK Rowling has become the most prominent member of a movement that touts itself as for women's rights, and protecting children and (some) queer people but is really about restricting trans people's access to affirming care, and to self-determination. Also in the UK, a trans girl, Brianna Ghey, was murdered on the 11th of February this year. Some of the commentary around her death was unspeakably cruel. In addition, because of the laws around minors getting gender recognition certificates in the UK, Brianna will be buried without legal recognition of who she was.
In the US, anti-trans legislation is sweeping the country; several states are passing, or trying to pass, laws that restrict or ban affirming healthcare, bathroom use, affirming practices at schools, participation in sports, and drag performances. So, essentially, prohibiting trans folks (and other folks who don't fit into cis-normative ideas about gender) participation in almost every facet of life.
Although (thankfully) things haven't been as horrific in Australia in terms of direct legal threat, there have certainly been some pretty brutal examples of anti-trans sentiment. The moral panic about drag queens exists here, too, with Senator Alex Antic labelling the appearance of drag queen Courtney Act on Playschool 'grooming'. Although drag performance and trans identity are not synonymous, there is certainly overlap in identity and experience between the communities, and as Courtney Act herself points out, fear of drag queens is also fear of trans people.
Another politician, or rather former political hopeful, Katherine Deves, has spouted incredibly bigoted views. These include that trans kids are 'surgically mutilated and sterilised', that trans women are 'addled and entitled men', and that allowing trans girls to participate in Girl Guides is indoctrinating kids into 'the Rainbow Reich'. Was this a fringe right-winger? No, Deves was backed by our very own Scott Morrison as a 'captain's pick' for the seat of Warringah.
And just recently, a woman from the UK, Posie Parker, toured Australia attempting to whip up anti-trans sentiment. One of her rallies was attended by Nazis, and a Liberal MP. The MP, Moira Deeming has been suspended, but so far, not expelled. Deves was also there.
These are just a few examples of the ways in which the system, and those protected and emboldened by it, are harming trans people. To be frank, seeing all this, both internationally, and at home, is exhausting. It is scary. It feels like we are going backwards. I am tired and sad. Seeing people like me under attack is…heart-breaking. And I am afraid things will get worse here.
I am afraid, that as trans people, we just don't have the systemic power to stop that from happening. We need our allies now, more than ever. So what can you do?
Show your support in visible ways. For example:
- Put your pronouns in your fb/insta/twitter bio, and your email signature
- Share queer news/affirming jokes/informative articles and videos
- Come to rallies
- Offer to take your trans mates shopping for affirming clothes
- Advocate for your workplaces/schools/churches/sports teams to be explicitly
- Support the Trans Justice Project from Jackie Turner
Ultimately, ally is a verb. It is something that all of us must continue to do throughout our lives, not just on days of awareness. Trans Day Of Visibility is a great time to affirm and celebrate the trans community, but it is not the only time. Trans people can, and should, be celebrated, affirmed, and visible every day.