I didn’t know when I got up this morning that March 31st is the International Transgender Day of Visibility, but I discovered it was when I logged into Twitter. Its purpose is to support transgendered people and to raise their profile to help cisgendered people to start recognizing that there are a lot of transgender people out there.
(Cisgendered: identifying with the gender one is assigned at birth. I’ve only come across this term in the past year or so, and I’m not particularly proud to admit that my first thought about it was “OMG seriously do we need a specific word to describe people who identify with their visible gender?” and then I thought “You’re an asshole, Catie,” and got over myself, because if I think combating racism isn’t so much being “color”-blind as making sure I learn to describe somebody as “a white guy” if I would say “an Asian guy” under similar circumstances, then yes, in fact, there’s an arguably excellent reason for “cis” to be in our gender vocabulary the same way “trans” is.)
I have close to a dozen trans friends and acquaintances, which has, for some time now, impressed upon me how extremely likely it is that most people have at *least* one trans person in their social circle, whether they know it or not. I mean, I’m a kid from small town Alaska, and if I have that broad a range of transgender acquaintances, how many do people from big cities have?
I remember when I made my first trans acquaintance. I was about nineteen, and I was STUNNED! *STUNNED*! I had NO IDEA there were transgender people! (I also recall her laughing at me, because I was SO SURPRISED. *laughs*) When I got done being stunned I was like “Well! Okay! Wow! Uh! Wow!” & then went on from there knowing slightly more about the world.
A while later, someone who was trans and whose family had put her through absolute hell (we’re talking electroshock therapy, the whole nine yards) re-joined a community I was part of. I knew who she was, because she’d been mentioned while she was gone, and I was friendly to her, because I’m a friendly person. Years and years later she asked me if we’d known each other before she’d been put through shock therapy. I said no, we hadn’t, and she was astonished, because she thought we must have and that the shock therapy had made her forget me, because, she said, I was always so kind to her that she thought she must have known me Before.
That confession still hurts my heart, because no one should have to assume kindness only comes from long acquaintance, but especially because her experience had been so difficult that she didn’t assume anyone who had only met her recently would be kind or supportive. I know a number of trans people who have had much more supportive transitions, but I don’t want *anyone* to have to go through that.
And it’s really just…it’s not that hard to accept people for who they are. It’s–if you can’t immediately assign a gender to someone you see, take a moment to ask yourself why it even matters. Easy gender identification gives us social rules to follow, but if our social rules were “No, really, just go ahead and treat everybody really decently” instead of “treat some people this way because they present that way and treat other people that way because they present that way” we’d all be in a much better place. I realize we’re a long way away from that, but it’s got to be the goal, or else what’s the point?
Fairly recently I was in a public space with someone I had known for a very long time, and we stopped to ask directions from a very tall person who presented as entirely female until she spoke with a *quite* deep voice. To my surprise, my friend spent the next half hour or so struggling to assign a pronoun to that person, and I kept saying, “She. Her. She. Her,” because it’s really not that hard. It’s really just not that hard.
So all of this is why a day designated for trans visibility is important to me, even if I’m a cis straight white woman. I want everybody to have my acceptance and advantages, and more.