This play on Shakespeare’s classic line, “To be or not to be,” is a very important question in the transgender community. On the one hand, as a community we want all of the visibility. We want to be seen as equal and part of the rest of the human race (which we are and always have been). We want the same rights and freedoms that cisgender individuals get to experience each and every day. We want to be recognized and respected for who we are.
But, on the other hand, we also want to be able to live our lives in private. We want to be able to just live our lives without constantly having to fight for our own survival, without having to constantly defend our right to exist. We don’t want to always have to be explaining every aspect of our lives and our being trans. We don’t want to have to always be the one to educate the world about what a trans person is and what our lives are like and why we deserve the same respect and dignity that everyone else gets.
I guess the biggest question is, how do we decide whether it is better to be seen or not to be seen?
Every trans person’s answer is different. But, while we all want to be visible as a trans community, many within the community just want to be left alone – we want to grow up, go to school, go to work, have lives, have family, and grow old as the gender or non-gender we determine for ourselves.
But there are some of us, me included, who choose to put ourselves on the front-lines so that others won’t have to. Many of these fighters (more commonly referred to as trans activists) you may know by name, others through the after-effects of their actions. Some of these individuals include Laverne Cox, Gigi Gorgeous, Janet Mock, Miss Major, Christine Jorgensen, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Chaz Bono, to name a few.
There are also a lot of trans individuals who dedicate their lives to fighting for trans rights, freedoms, visibility, and education, but we often forget their names because they are not constantly in the spotlight. Although we are still very grateful for the work that they do. Some of these individuals include: White House staffer Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, Human Rights Campaign Press Secretary Sarah McBride, Hollywood Director Lana Wachowski, and Former Intel Analyst Chelsea Manning.
The individuals listed here and the hundreds, if not thousands not listed, put their careers, relationships, and even their lives on the line every day by giving visibility to the ever-present issues that transgender individuals face every second of every day.
These individuals, and the allies that work beside them, work so hard to ensure that those who want to remain out of the spotlight and live their lives in privacy are able to do so.
This blog article is my way of saying thank you to every trans activist, no matter how small your role may be, for dedicating yourself to the protection of all transgender individuals in the fight for visibility, for education on trans issues, and for equal rights and freedoms.
Sarah Jordyn Fordyce
Transgender Visibility &