The Two-Edged Sword of Visibility
Christine Jorgensen gained fame as the first American to have undergone sex reassignment surgery as it was known then. On Dec 1st, 1952, the headlines of the NY Daily News “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty. She was viewed as an anomaly, a curiosity that verged on being a circus sideshow to Americans her first few years back from Europe. She then had a successful career as an actress, singer, and recording artist. Her life brought awareness to the public for the first time that people like us existed.
The word transgender didn’t exist till 1965 and it wasn’t until 1993 that a few gay rights groups started to use the acronym LGBT. And for the longest time, there was pushback to adding the “T” to LGB. In 1994 the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) was first introduced by Gary Stubbs to protect Gay and Lesbian rights and failed to pass. In 2007, Barney Frank, the gay congressman from Massachusetts reintroduced this bill to protect the rights of Gay and Lesbian people while Gender Identity was left off, which caused an uproar among the trans community. Rep Frank had said that by including Gender Identity, the bill would guarantee it not passing. It was left off and still failed to garner enough votes. On August 5th, 2009, and with extensive lobbying from Transgender Rights groups it was added, and ENDA finally passed in 2013 protecting LGBT folks.
Marsha P. Johnson is synonymous with the Stonewall Inn riots as well as Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia has also remembered for her “Y’All better quiet down” speech at the 1973 Christopher Day March. Where she jumped on stage to passionately describe the sacrifices and work and abuse of trans-women and their exclusion from the gay rights movement, after the NYC pride march organizers banned drag queens that year. Both Rivera and Johnson marched ahead of the parade.
Marsha P. Johnson
Trans-pioneers include Amanda St Jaymes and Tamara Ching whom were witnesses of the Compton's Cafeteria Riot in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco by drag queens and trans-women in August of 1966.
They were all part of it as participants to history, with that comes the recognition of what they had done. The visibility brought when their names and deeds are spoken out loud. All of them notable and Iconic activists and advocates for the Transgender community. Everyone of them stood up and would not sit down, when told to sit and would not be quiet when told to be silent.
Laverne Cox, Elliot Page, Chaz Bono, Jazz Jennings, Lili & Lana Wachowski and their Matrix films brought visibility by sharing their own personal journeys publicly. Janet Mock and Jennifer Finney Boylan told their stories in words. The visibility of pen and paper.
Geena Rocero had her gender confirmation surgery when she was 19 in Thailand in 2001. She came to NYC in 2005 and spent the next 9 years becoming an internationally recognized model. However, to the world, her outside matched her inside. It was something she had kept hidden from neighbors and friends, colleagues and even her manager, until giving a powerful TED talk on Transgender Day of Visibility in 2014. In the video, which was watched by more than 2 million people online, Geena says: “The world makes you something you’re not, but you know inside what you are, and that question burns in your heart: How will I become that?”
Geena continued: “All of us are put in boxes by our family, our religion, our society, our moment in history, even our own bodies. But some people have the courage to defy those boxes—so she decided she would no longer hide within the status quo."
Later in her speech she says “I could no longer live my truth for and by myself. I want to do my best to help others live their truth without shame and terror…my deepest truth allowed me to accept who I am. Will you?"
So on this Day of Trans Visibility. Your Visibility can be as subtle as accepting what you see in the mirror each morning. If there is no need to broadcast to the world who you are, you can be a human that creates visibility that the world can see and take notice of by the every day action of simply being you. Both of these are equally powerful to change the perception of us.
“A government cannot be “of the people, by the people and for the people” if wide swaths of people have no seat at the table." - Sarah McBride (Trans activists & Member of Delaware Senate from 1st District).