Cookies and allyship

Tl;dr Even while loads of self-proclaimed allies do not deserve cookies, there is quite possibly a use for ally cookies in the form of positive feedback and reinforcement to encourage those allies that are already putting in the energy.

November 2016

I’ve always supported the idea of not giving allies cookies. Like yes, you are a decent human being, congratulations, now shut up./end sarcasm

But, at the same time, I’ve found myself willingly giving out “cookies” quite a lot and, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s not necessarily bad to give an ally a cookie when they do a Good Thing, no matter how small it is.

Let’s take pronouns for a second:

Scenario 1: I have the super well-meaning cis ally who wants to use ne/nir/nim, which I tend to mention as my preferred pronouns alongside “they”, but this person keep stumbling. I tell them to just use ne/nir/nim in writing for practice and use “they” when they’re speaking, because it will be easier. They refuse. I tell them to just use “they”, they refuse because they know using someone’s correct pronoun is a bare minimum and feel like using “they” is like a kind of concession and they really really want to do the Right Thing and call me by the Right Pronoun, even though it’s something that’s causing struggle and I’ve asked them not to do so. Conversations with them suddenly become very difficult.

Scenario 2: A slightly less well-meaning cis person wants to prove to others that they’re a really good ally without doing much work. They start using my pronouns in front of everyone without checking if it’s someone I want to be out to and policing people I barely know. Suddenly, I’m inundated with people who barely know me demanding an explanation for my weird pronouns (and claiming they’re grammatically incorrect) and assuming a Gender 101 comes with the explanation.

Scenario 3: I ask a clueless, but well-meaning cis person to refer to me as “they”. They struggle with it. A lot. It’s frustrating. I ask them again. And again. And again. Every time, they apologise, say they try to do better, and then continue to refer to me incorrectly. I eventually give up. A year later, they use the right pronoun.

So, who gets the cookie?

Ally 1 definitely knows their stuff. They’ve done reading outside of what I’ve told them to understand that pronouns are important, they are aware of how much of a difference a pronoun can make, and they are even aware that “preferred pronouns” are most often secretly “correct pronouns” and that trans people may not always express what they want/need immediately due to prior experience with difficult people. Except they don’t listen, even after I ask them twice. Now they’re just draining my energy. I feel embarrassed and exposed by this constant focus on their obsession with treating me Right. This “ally” has decided what’s best for me while ignoring my requests. No cookie.

Ally 2 makes the pretty common mistake of a “one size fits all” fallacy. In some ways, they’re the other side of Ally 1, though I’d argue they’re lacking in some knowledge, because they seem to have no understanding of the dangers of outing someone. They are similarly exposing me, draining my energy, and putting me in  a position where I am constantly on the defensive and have to educate others. They are also guilty of not listening. While Ally 1 doesn’t listen to what I say, Ally 2 doesn’t listen to what I don’t say. Because I don’t tell them when to use my pronouns, they assume my pronouns should be used the same way in all scenarios. Without background knowledge, it’s an understandable mistake, but it’s still harmful.

More importantly, this is a self-proclaimed ally. They are using my pronouns not so much to respect me, but to show others that they are a Good Ally (ie. One that deserves a cookie…) Of course it is hard to judge the intent of someone else, but here, it is very clear in the fact that the job of the explanation falls back to me. Ally 2 makes no attempt to explain why they are using these pronouns or to protect me from the people who are all suddenly very curious about my gender, which they could easily take the time to do. All they’re doing is the surface, showy form of allyship without taking the time to really figure out what that means for the people they claim they are allied to. No cookie. (Especially not if they ask for one).

Ally 3 is a person. Admittedly, a frustrating person. However, even in the throes of my frustration, they apologize. They try to do better. They fail. They try to do better. When I’ve given up on them, they haven’t given up on treating me correctly, even if I don’t see the results of their work until much further down the line. And it was hard for them. By using the right pronoun, they’ve accomplished something that didn’t look possible. So…would I give them a cookie? Hell yeah. They deserve to have their work and commitment recognized.

I think something that’s absolutely necessary to remember is that everyone comes from different places. Something that might look like “basic decency” to one person may be a giant mountain to another. What I need out of allies isn’t a set of rules to follow – I really don’t care if someone always gets my name right if they then use that as a bragging point with their friends (actually, I’d prefer they’d get my name wrong, because that’s a much easier issue to tackle). What I need is the recognition of my humanity and the willingness to try something hard in order to best recognize my identity respectfully.

Allyship is about engaging with something out of your comfort zone, it’s not about 5 Ways to Check Your Privilege or 10 Things Cis People Can Do for Trans People, it’s about approaching a problem to the best of your ability, being willing to fuck up and doing better. And if someone is really doing that, they need cookies, because they’re in a place that they don’t understand. There are no boxes to tick off, there is no “I did this, so I’m obviously learning”, no measurable sign that their allyship is effective. The only way they can know they are on the right path and should continue is if I say “hey, thanks for asking” or “I really appreciate how you did that”. It’s positive feedback, it’s how we learn.

And, above all else, it is a way of prioritising trans voices. Ally 1 and 2 both follow lists and checkboxes of how to ally with trans people, but their hugest mistake is listening to set criteria more than they listen to me. They’ve decided that all trans people need the same thing. Except we’re much more diverse than any random article on the internet will make you believe. The only way anyone is going to get allyship right is by listening as hard as possible to as many trans people as possible.

If an ally shows they are listening and trying and changing to the best of their ability and recognizing, above all else, that every trans person is different, of course I’m going to give them a cookie or say thank you or let them know I see what they’re doing and appreciate it. Because these are the people that are going to become my best allies and I’d be a fool to not encourage that.

(That said! Checkbox lists are great places to start taking on allyship because it’s a great way to get first steps without having to drain a trans person’s energy and then, with that new knowledge, it is much easier for me or another trans person to have the space we need to give allies things to listen to).

 

My gender is not revolutionary

tl;dr Trans identities are no more political than cis ones and to pose the existence of trans people as “revolutionary” puts a lot of pressure on trans people, instead of challenging cis people to actually consider the implications of their gender identity

 

So, someone sent me this article a while ago. Don’t actually click on that link, it’s full of terf-y, cissexist logic that would make even the most patient person groan and pull out their hair in horror. It’s not worth your time. (And don’t worry, the someone and I have had a long conversation about what’s acceptable to send me for the future, that’s not the point of what I’m saying, and they are still a wonderful friend that I trust because they apologized and really worked through my response).

 

I’ve also been thinking about that new National Geographic thing with Katie Couric called “Gender Revolution!”

 

And take this quote: trans people are the ‘ultimate symbol of a rejection of conformity’

 

And see, all three of these examples, even while one is hands-down vile, another is supposed to be exciting representation for trans people and the last is just attempting to pose some questionable rhetoric as a problem (I mean, I have opinions), have the same problem – the assertion that non-binary and/or trans genders are, in some way, particularly revolutionary.

 

And this is a really dangerous, because it somehow implies trans identities are consciously political and radical.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, everything’s political at the end of the day. Queer existence itself is a radical political act and non-binary existence is definitely part of that.

 

But as long as we fail to see the political implications of binary, cisgender identities, it’s very weird and creepy to call trans identities revolutionary.  I didn’t wake up in the morning and go “hey, I want to destroy the binary system of gender, so I’m going to revolt and be non-binary”, it happened the other way around, I woke up and went “I’m non-binary, so I’d like to challenge the binary system of gender because it makes my life difficult”. These are two very different things.

 

But we act like some identities are more political than others.

 

Nope. All identities are political. The supposed neutrality of cis identities is, in fact, very very political. It encourages and perpetuates a society in which the what is considered the “default” (cis, here) holds privilege and power over the “other” (trans, here), because the power of the default is so accepted and normalized that it is never viewed or questioned.

 

So maybe before acting like my gender is a revolutionary act, cis people should recognize exactly how powerfully political their own identity is, because that’s what I’m revolting against. The gender revolution isn’t going to come from my existence, no matter how hard I try. It will come when cis people break down the power their genders hold (specific side-eye towards cis men).

 

As long as we blithely call trans identities revolutionary, we’re just pulling away the spotlight from where the revolution needs to happen and shining it on a bunch of people who are, honestly, a bit exhausted from all this revolution forced on us simply through our existence. (I mean, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m exhausted).

Teaching the genderbread person

Tl;dr I taught the genderbread person in a successful way that recognized what a mess it is, so I’m sharing the lesson plan in case anyone else may want such a thing.

August 2016

So, as I get back into the swing of writing blog posts after being too busy, I want to start by sharing something from my time off.

I recently led half a workshop on gender identity and was given the challenge of using the genderbread person. Instead of rejecting the idea and doing my usual thing, I took on the challenge, and was pretty successful. I want to share my lesson plan of sorts (with side commentary) in case this is of interest to anyone else who is done with staring at the genderbread person in horror.

(As a quick disclaimer: Some of the people in the workshop were trans, some had been living with out trans people for 1-2 weeks by this point, some were just really really smart, all of them were high-school aged or older. I did pretty much this exact same thing two days later in a one-on-one session with someone that was a little less read-up on gender and it worked, but it definitely took some tweaking. What was really good about this plan was that it worked for a “mixed-level” group. I was asking people who were familiar with the genderbread person to analyse it and question it more closely, while I was also guiding people through the basic “gender/trans 101”. That said, I definitely think I was lucky with the group and it would require a lot of thought to take this to other audiences.)

The lesson:

(at the beginning, I avoided the word “biological sex”)

Start with big question: What is gender?

  • emphasise self-identification

What is assigned sex?:

  • sex assigned by a doctor to almost every baby born (ASSIGNED doesn’t say anything about the baby)
  • body configurations can impact an assignment, but the assignment doesn’t necessarily say anything about body

What is presentation?

  • How we present ourselves to other people.
  • (The next time I do this, I would include “perception” here too, as it was brought up later in the workshop.)

What is missing?

Answer: Biological sex

(at this point, no one had brought up biological sex, when I did the one-on-one, it was brought up, so I reworded it to be more along the lines of “what hasn’t been necessary to this discussion so far?”)

Hand out genderbread person (I used the original version from itspronouncedmetrosexual as the later versions are just as frustrating, but take longer to piece apart, for this one, the limits are obvious)

What’s the same here?

  • Idea that gender identity is separate from other categories
  • Expression is basically presentation

What’s different here?

  • Terminology (ie. Presentation v. expression)
  • Biological sex
  • Sexual orientation

What’s missing?

  • Assigned sex – genderbread person replaces what is assigned and constructed by society with biological sex
  • Emphasise: Biological sex is not necessary to discuss, EVER. (why is it on the genderbread man? ick)
  • (could also discuss romantic orientation here, I would do it later)

Using the genderbread person:

  • As “warm-up”, I asked everyone to place themself on the genderbread person scales
  • I then asked them to place me on the genderbread person scales, with the disclaimer that I was well-aware we were breaking the rules we set up in the beginning that no one can define a person’s gender except that person (I might have a thing for making people uncomfortable). (side note: I had been living and working alongside these people for 2-4 weeks by this point, but had not been explicitly out, so they had had time to build up assumptions about my identity)
  • We discussed a few of the ways people tried to place me, how people tried to work with the fact that they were being asked to break the rules, what people were comfortable saying, what they weren’t, what assumptions they realized they had about me
  • I shared my personal genderbread person with lots of parts crossed out, dots off the scales, etc.

I used this model and discussion to ask: “how would you change the genderbread person?”

  • sexual orientation scale is super-weird
  • this is where I would discuss romantic orientation
  • gender a lot more complicated than this – impossible to fit into these boxes
  • general conclusion: it’s confusing, we might not be able to understand it, and that’s ok

Final reflection circle – EVERYONE has to say something, it can be stupid or simple, but it has to be something

  • something you learned
  • pronoun

So, it’s definitely not a perfect lesson, and is clearly bound by the situation I was in, but it made a huge impact on the group I was working with. I’m pretty proud of myself for getting this done and for the impact it clearly made on the participants.

Trans Day of Visibility 2017: FAAB Feminine Visibility

tl;dr Visibility for femme, FAAB nonbinary is complicated because femininity is devalued by society, so FAAB trans people are assumed to be vaguely masculine. So, this TDoV, I would like to make this particular experience more visible. 

 

So this Trans Day of Visibility, I really want to talk about visibility for People Like Me and what that means. Because the thing is, visibility is different for everyone and the trans umbrella is HUGE umbrella and accounts for loads and loads of different experiences. And it’s often simplified down to “visible” and “invisible” identities, but there’s a lot more to that.

 

First off, what do I mean when I say People Like Me? I mean trans-identified, nonbinary, female assigned at birth (FAAB) femmes.

 

Now there’s a lot of discussions about the use of FAAB/AFAB/CAFAB and MAAB/AMAB/CAMAB language and I agree with a lot of the reasons for not using it. It is a way for cis people to ask “But what are you reeeaallly??? Tell me about your parts please!” without technically asking a person about their genitalia which is on every list of Transphobic Things to Never Do Ever (and some people still haven’t figured out is just…not a thing to ever do ever?). To be clear, I do not, in any way, believe that it is necessary for a trans person to ever use this language.

 

 

But, for me, my identity, and my visibility (or lack thereof) comes directly from the intersection of being FAAB and feminine. It is useful for me to describe myself in those terms because it illustrates a huge tension in my life. Being both FAAB and feminine is what creates my invisibility. Those two traits placed together mean that I am (almost) always perceived as a cis woman. They mean that it’s impossible for me to be visible as my gender.

 

I’m a little less attached to the term “femme” because it has a history that doesn’t quite lend itself to the FAAB nonbinary experience. It’s been an important term for trans women and for lesbians and I honestly go back and forth on whether it’s a term stuck in those communities or something I can use.

 

I tend to use “femme” in the same way I use “queer”. It’s not a descriptor, but a way of positioning myself socially and politically. When I describe myself as “feminine”, it is simply that I like my pigtails and wear dresses and am generally feminine in nature (although that is, of course, completely up to interpretation. Someone once told me I was “masculine” simply because I “got things done on time”…so….).

 

For me, femme is a power that comes from being feminine. And it represents my choice to be feminine despite the way society values masculinity. And beyond all else, femme is about the fact that, no matter how feminine I appear, I should be taken seriously.

 

Because society prioritises masculinity. And this isn’t just a cisgender, heterosexual problem. This is something seen in queer communities, and I see it all the time in trans communities. We talk a lot about how trans men get more quality visibility and representation because society can understand why someone would want to be a man. Similarly, FAAB nonbinary folks that lean towards the masculine (especially the white ones), have become the image of what it means to be nonbinary. Leaning or moving towards the masculine is understandable in a society that prioritises it, even if it’s not actually acceptable.

 

The increased visibility of masculine-leaning nonbinary FAAB folks and society’s understanding of moving towards the masculine creates pressure for all FAAB folks to present in a masculine way. And this is something I thought I had to do for a long time. I was terrible at it, but I truly thought the only way I could be trans was if I actually showed that I was “changing my gender” in some way, and that I was less trans by not succeeding at it. I learned two things from this general disaster:

 

  1. Viewing any FAAB person as nonbinary is often a retrospective act. It’s understandable for a woman to “want to look” masculine, and there is a beautiful history and tradition of butch women that has its own visibility and impact on how society perceives gender. Especially in places like the middle class, liberal, predominantly white town I come from, where “women breaking gender roles” is a value, a FAAB person that doesn’t dress feminine could easily be a woman. It’s not until you tell someone, “by the way, I identify as nonbinary” that they pause and go “oh yeah, I can see that” or, in my case, “you don’t look like it”.

 

It doesn’t matter how FAAB nonbinary folks present, we are still “female until proven otherwise”. Our visibility always has to be accompanied by explanations. Even many of the most visible among us are not visible enough to be able to live as our gender without having to explain it. You could even argue that visibility is impossible.

 

At the same time, I also learned this:

 

  1. No one was going to take me seriously. Because point 1. No matter how I dressed, even if I actually succeeded at looking masculine, I was always going to be considered a woman.

 

Among cis people, I’m perceived as a woman and, even though we have made advances for the rights of women in Western society (and other societies, but I’m talking about the one I live in at the moment), women, especially feminine ones, still aren’t taken seriously. Masculinity and manness is still directly linked to access to power.

 

And among trans people, I’m not “trans enough” because I “present as my assigned gender.” I have “passing privilege”, which is a giant can of worms I don’t want to really open at the moment. I’m the “easy” version of trans because, even if I told a cis person I was trans and explained my identity, they’re most likely to just conveniently forget it and decide I’m a strange cis woman, instead of lashing out in a violent, discriminatory way. And I honestly used to believe that meant I had less of a right to be trans than other trans people. That my trans experiences were less important.

 

Story time: Tiny little fresher me gets to uni and engages with the lgbt+ society at their school full of excitement about meeting OTHER TRANS PEOPLE (and is also graced with the existence of OTHER ACE PEOPLE and nearly collapses in surprised excitement, that’s another story). I, and a bunch of other trans people, work with our then trans rep to put together a trans 101 event. I definitely wasn’t the most integral part of the event, but I helped with some logistics and was present for the planning. During the event, I was sitting with the other trans folks. A trans person that wasn’t involved in our planning, but was Very Important politically within university lgbt+ spaces was asked to speak at the end and they offered for all of the trans people who had organized the event to introduce themselves. Going down the line, I was set to be last. Except, when it came to my turn, the speaker continued on to start closing down the event before I could open my mouth. Luckily, some of the other trans people there spoke up for me, but by that point, I was flustered and embarrassed and the harm had been done. Another trans person had decided I didn’t deserve recognition as a trans person. Or, that I wasn’t trans. Or, if I was trans, it didn’t matter.

 

And, it’s not usually this blatant. Sometimes it’s a trans person that completely subscribes to the idea that presentation and gender are not the same thing, but who only starts to discuss trans things with me when I cut my hair short, or stop wearing heels, even though they’ve known I’ve been trans the whole time. Sometimes it’s just sitting in a trans group, surrounded by trans masculine people and trans men and feeling expected to nod along and agree with their experiences because we’re all FAAB, so our experiences should be shared, even when the experiences shared by trans women sometimes resonate more fully with me. Sometimes it’s the trans person at a TDoR ceremony who asked me rather belligerently why I was there. Sometimes it’s the fact that, while every trans 101 makes a point of mentioning that presentation is not the same as gender, the examples used of FAAB nonbinary people in educational literature about transness are almost always masculine leaning. If I listen to the subtext enough, I start believing that my trans experience is worth nothing because of my femininity. Because society devalues femininity.

 

So, for me, femme isn’t about being feminine. I am feminine, partially in my incapability of being masculine. But femme is the thing that allows me to embrace my femininity instead of being frustrated by my non-masculinity. Femme is what says “so what if you perceive me one way? I still matter. My experiences are important. And you are going to take me seriously even if I have to step on your toe with my very painful high heel in order to ensure that happens.”

 

(Ok, I have stepped on my own toes with my heels, it’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy, but still…the idea is there).

 

And that’s the thing: Visibility for FAAB feminine nonbinary people like me isn’t about being seen, or being seen as our gender identity, it’s about being listened to. It’s about saying “yes, what’s visible isn’t what you expect, but the things I have to express are still important” and accepting that maybe Visibility, in the simplest sense of the word, isn’t possible.

 

It’s about the fact that us FAAB, nonbinary femmes are so often silenced – by cis people who decide we’re actually cis women with a fancy name for our identity, by cis people that get it on a surface level but keep looking for that one masculine thing that will validate our identity, by trans people who believe we are less trans, by trans people who simply think our struggles are less important and that we might as well be silent and support the trans people that face Real Oppression ™, and even from other FAAB nonbinary people who have defined their identities so much through masculinity that they struggle to understand that other FAAB nonbinary people may not share that experience.

 

But, the fact is, we are still trans. And our existence and our experiences do not deny or invalidate any other trans experience. It’s just a different way to experience society’s weird notions on how gender and gender presentation works. And, most importantly, we matter. We deserve to be taken seriously. We deserve to be heard.

 

And, in the past, I’ve allowed Trans Day of Visibility to silence me. I’ve sat and thought long and hard about hypervisibility and how it’s harming trans women (and it is! If you haven’t stopped to read a bit about it, I highly recommend doing it because yes! Important!), I’ve liked hundreds and hundreds of images of trans masculine people with captions talking about mixing genders, androgyny, or the importance of visibility for nonbinary people, I’ve discussed the ways nonbinary visibility is complicated because society only sees the gender binary. All of these things are important. All of these things are necessary discussions and actions that, to be perfectly honest, should happen on more than just one day a year.

 

But this TDoV, I’m talking about me. Because visibility is a huge issue, and every trans experience is important and requires recognition. And that’s it: every trans experience requires recognition. Including mine. And, in my case, visibility might not be possible, but that doesn’t mean my experiences are not worthy of sharing. It doesn’t mean I should be silent.

 

Thoughts on visibility: TDoV 2016

I wrote this for Trans Day of Visibility 2016. I am bringing this back now as a reminder to myself to reread this and prepare new reflections on visibility and resistance for TDoV 2017. These thoughts haven’t changed, but I’ve learned a lot in the past year and I’ve been working a lot with the question of visbility and invisibility in my choreographic practice recently and I’d like to add more to what I already have.

So Trans Day of Visibility happened. And it stirred up a lot of emotions for me this year. So I want to write up some of my thoughts on visibility for trans people.

Currently, very few of my dance teachers know me as trans (only the ones at the queer/gender neutral studio!), nor do my tutors at uni. One of my tutors this year actually informed me that “gender is a social construction, which, of course, has major consequences for transsexual people”. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to keep from informing him exactly how aware I am of that (and that Judith Butler, while she may have a good idea or two, is not an all-knowing god, the way I’ve found many sociologists and gender theorists think).

I haven’t necessarily been “stealth” or “closeted”, I simply have been quiet at just the right moments. Instead of defending myself against microaggressions, particularly misgendering and that painful assumption that because I dress “feminine”, I’m OBVIOUSLY female, I let them pass through me. But, even if I let that pain go, it’s been inside of me enough to leave a mark. Everything that goes through leaves a trace. It builds up. It hurts.

Even when I attended a dance program, scratched out the gender options and wrote “no gender” angrily on top of the registration form, they conveniently forgot that little detail, looked at my name, and put me in the girls’ housing. Because I am so easily (mis)gendered, I am safe from the violence and discrimination that fills many trans narratives.

The violence I face is internal – I question my choices at every turn. Does this shirt make me look too feminine to enter a trans space? Don’t I want to go into a trans space looking feminine as a fuck you to any of the elitists that think I might not be “trans enough”? But what if I’m not really trans, I mean, I do dress as my assigned sex? Who do I think I am, calling myself trans? Isn’t it my own fault that people misgender me?

I convince myself that I don’t matter. That I am so barely trans, that the only thing I can do as a trans person is raise the voices of those that are “more trans” than me. I am the first person denying my identity, forcing myself to fit imperfect boxes.

Except that’s not true. Every time I hurt myself, it is because of messages I’ve internalized from society. It’s what I’ve been told about transness, about gender, about femininity. It stems from femmephobia and that patriarchal assumption that the only position a person, especially a FAAB trans person, who has the “liberty” to “break gender norms”, would want to hold is that of the male, the masculine.

This is the price of invisibility.

The question I am constantly facing is not – am I trans if I am FAAB but not transmasculine? The question I am facing is a lot simpler – how can a nonbinary person that is both FAAB and femme be visible?

And, of course, the more telling question – do I want to be visible?

Trans Day of Visibility had the annual discussion of the benefits of visibility v. the dangers of hypervisibility. From my facebook page, it looks like it got to a larger audience this year, which makes me beyond pleased, but it is still the same discussion every year. Invisible nonbinary identities want more visibility and recognition while hypervisible trans women are wary of a day that celebrates this harmful form of visibility.

But what actually is nonbinary visibility? We’re not actually invisible to begin with, we are outside the realms of what society understands. We are incomprehensible. We don’t need visibility, we need an entire shift in societal comprehension of gender (NOT the destruction of gender, a reworking of it). We can’t actually be visible until this happens. What we consider “visible” nonbinary existence is important, it’s part of what is (hopefully) changing socially enforced gender, but it’s not truly visible, because that is not a possibility in current western society.

On one hand, I crave any kind of visibility, true or not. I long for one single day in which I am not misgendered. I wish for a day in which I do not have to prove or justify my transness.

On the other hand, my invisibility gives me power. As someone that is read as cis, the most dangerous transphobic people are incapable of seeing me as trans, even when I shout it in their faces (and I have). I am weird, and often treated as a token, but I am safe. I am able to enter spaces “visible” trans people can’t. I am able to challenge cis people and force them to listen, because I am less threatening than the Big Scary Trans Breaking Down Gender Norms (even if I’m exactly the same thing).

In daily life, invisibility might be power, but when I dance, I am visible. When I perform, I am a body underneath a spotlight, seen by my entire audience.

Someone once told me that, because it is done through one’s own body, it is impossible to lie through dance. As a trans person, I know how wrong this is. I know how easy it is to lie with my body and how much my body lies for me without my permission. Physical honesty, like any other form of honesty, is an act of hard work.

Being visible as a dancer, for me, requires visibility as a trans person in order to be honest. It is a necessity.

But that is hard work. I am constantly choosing between the exhaustion from the work of visibility and the exhaustion from the struggles of erasure and invisibility. And I don’t think either is necessarily bad or wrong or better than the other.

Trans day of visibility is about celebrating the moments when visibility is empowering, when it creates greater understanding and makes a positive impact on our lives. It is not (or should not) be about negating the importance of invisibility, the ways it keeps us safe and makes our community stronger. And, of course, I hope we can all recognize, as we discuss the oppositions of invisibility v. visibility, that hardly ever is one person either one or the other. These concepts manifest in a huge variety of ways, both from conscious choice and or forced on us by society and others. And we end up navigating with these with our own methods. No method is the same, every method is valid.