For six years now, an event called Rainbow Prom has existed in Hobart. This night of fun and frivolity is for LGBTQ people aged 14-24 to dress up, have professional photos taken, and be with the partner of their choosing. Many of these young folks have never had the opportunity to dress in clothes they truly enjoy and feel safe enough to openly express affection. This is the one night of the year they can do as their gay little hearts desire!
Events like these are excellent examples of how to increase queer visibility in the community. Posters were put up all around Hobart’s city centre advertising an LGBTQ pride event. Even if the event isn’t for you, seeing posters openly talking about an event for LGBTQ minors normalises such a thing existing. During the evening, I sat at the front desk and gave out raffle tickets and checked people in. The sheer excitement on their faces said it all; ‘I really get to be me?’
I think those most changed by this event are the transgender and non-binary folks who come along. Young trans boys in a formal button up shirt for the first time. Trans women trying a skirt in the only place they’d feel safe to do so. Some cried as they had their photos taken, stunned by how beautiful they looked in the picture staring back.
This belly-warming feeling is the core of Transgender Day of Visibility. This international holiday was founded 22 years ago and focuses on two main ideas: awareness of contributions to society made by transgender individuals, and for people to flood social media with selfies and personal stories. The aim is to both depict transgender folks as everyday people, and to inspire hope and confidence in anyone who may be shy or in the closet. In recent years, we have also had a lot to celebrate on the date in Australia; major law changes have come about supporting the dignity of transgender lives. This is especially true in my state of Tasmania, where we have some of the best transgender protection laws in the world.
During my time in youth support, one thing I have come to notice is that transgender kids crave this validation and visibility. It’s not always enough to have someone say ‘I accept you’; having public events like Rainbow Prom to attend allows them to find others who can say ‘I understand you’. With depression, rejection, and other hefty struggles on their shoulders, visibility can truly mean life and death for these trans youths. To put it simply – I have witnessed time after time, a teen joining these groups with no confidence, no friends, and very little joy, then come out the other side fully supported in their identity by friends they’ve made. Let’s not forget the affect that meeting older trans folks can have. Finding role models and hope in their very existence. Seeing a transgender person older than you in person is like a child being told for the first time that they can eat ice-cream for breakfast as an adult. It gives you something to strive for. To keep you going. There is living evidence, right there, that trans people can be happy.
After the conception of the prom, many other LGBTQ youth nights began to spring up. One of the youth services in Hobart’s CBD ran D&D campaigns exclusively for queer kids. Another has fortnightly snack and chat sessions in a central office building. Another has ‘anxiety meetups’ in very small groups, allowing for LGBTQ young people who are similar to meet in a quiet space with lowered stimuli levels. It means they can maybe talk and make a friend with someone in as stress-free an environment as possible.
Sometimes, this is what we mean when we say ‘visibility’. To be noticed and known by those who are similar to you. Self-harm and ideation of death are so painfully common in transgender young people. To have one friend, one person who understands what you’re going through and visibly supports you... these actions can save a life. I have a strong inkling that dancing the night away at a queer-exclusive prom is the ideal setting for the blossoms of meaningful friendships to bloom. ‘You see me as my real self.’
Held on March 31st each year, Transgender Day of Visibility is a perfect time to sit and start the conversation with friends, family, or coworkers about respect and kindness. Simple things can include asking everyone to share their pronouns, or introducing yourself with your own – you never know who will secretly appreciate the chance to bring it up! You could casually mention the problematic words someone you know may use. You could even use the day as your own chance to come out, if you are safe and ready. For cisgender people, showing your support for transgender and non-binary folks is as simple as sharing a pro-LGBTQ image on social media. Any LGBTQ person could see it and feel more comfortable around you. It also shows anyone close to you in the closet that you are a safe person to come out to. Your small gesture could mean everything to someone in your life.
Transgender Day of Visibility is also an excellent opportunity for everyone to see all the beautiful faces of trans people the world over; hashtags such as #thisiswhattranslookslike and #tdov light up on social media with smiles and pride flags. If you yourself are transgender or non-binary, consider joining the fun and share your story!
Finally, if you are a cis ally looking for a meaningful way to celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility, consider writing to your local MPs and counsellors with support for transgender law reforms. Many states don’t have proper protections or fair birth certificate laws. March 31st is a reminder to step up and make your allyship more than performative. Your voice holds power.
Itching for more transgender content? Here are some trans artists, podcasters, and musicians in Hobart who may scratch you the right way.
Making Rainbow Waves – two trans people host an educate-tainment podcast about living as LGBTQ people in the tiny city of Hobart, interviewing a lot of interesting folk along the way. http://www.rainbowwavestas.net
Lavenders - one ma’am band, electro industrial rock with an entire album dedicated to dysphoria and coming out. https://lavenders.bandcamp.com
Dee Mac – beautiful acoustic singer, songs about heartbreak. https://deemac.bandcamp.com/album/eve-of-destruction
Sensual Potential – sex therapy and sexology offered by a non-binary person who has been in the field of sexual health and sexual acts for a decade. http://www.sensualpotential.com.au
Eden S French – did someone say cyberpunk lesbian romance, written by a trans woman no less? https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14553936.Eden_S_French
Check out some of our awesome Transgender t-shirt ranges here.