In 2015, visibility seems to be the buzz word in the transgender community and movement. I, too, have participated in the trans* visibility trope on numerous occasions. While there has certainly been a significant jump in making the trans* community visible to the public eye, most of it seems to have an underlying tone of curiosity and fascination of the very concept of being transgender, rather than an actual concern for trans* lives.
Aydian Dowling became a final contestant in the Men’s Health “Ultimate Guy” Contest. Laverne Cox has practically become a household name, being known as “that trans woman” and is regularly in films and television shows. ABC came out with the series “Becoming Us”, as well as Caitlyn Jenner’s documentary series “I Am Cait”. News outlets regularly air and report on sensationalist stories about random trans* folks’ “brave journey in becoming a man/woman”. Yet with all of this “visibility”, gender identity discrimination is legal in most cities and states.
For example, Ky Peterson has spent over 3 years in jail for killing his rapist, and India Clarke is still the most recent of the nearly 20 transgender women murdered in 2015 alone, along with Papi Edwards, Lamia Beard, Ty Underwood, Yazmin Vash Payne, Taja DeJesus, Penny Proud, Bri Golec, Kristina Gomez Reinwald, Sumaya Ysl, Keyshia Blige, Vanessa Santillan, Mya Hall, London Chanel, Mercedes Williamson, and K.C. Haggard. The truth of the matter is that visibility is failing to keep trans* people, especially trans* people of color, alive.
Many have argued that trans* people will become the primary focus of the “LGBT Rights” Movement. I think they’re probably right, but I question the form these “rights” will come in. While marriage equality is certainly of importance to many in the queer community (and useful in regards to immigration and familial legalities), marriage equality does not necessarily capture the everyday issues such as addiction rates, homelessness, and mental health affecting the community.
All in all, for the trans* community, there are many issues that must be brought to the center in order to improve our lives. These include: access to gender neutral bathrooms, access to inclusive and affordable healthcare (including mental health and other forms of healing), the ability to be legally recognized with the proper name/gender without extensive court processes and fees, a restructuring of everything that uses legal sex to “officially” identify a person (ie: drivers licenses, job/school/other application forms, prisons, medical training, etc.), a reform of the way gender is taught in schools at all age levels, and a restructuring all remaining laws that do not already ensure the protection of trans* people. Finally, there must be a holistic visibility of trans* people of color in the future of the trans* rights movement.