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Trans Visibility: Both Vulnerable and Necessary

Edmund's Words! 

To me, trans visibility means dismantling the narrative that there are a limited number of ways to experience gender. It doesn’t mean having one trans woman, one trans man, and one nonbinary person speaking on a panel. It means acknowledging that the myth of gender is a system of categorizing people, and like any system that tries to categorize nature, it utterly fails to account for the complexity of life. There are no boundaries. There are no rules. There is only your experience. 


For years I didn’t realize that people like me existed. I knew that when people treated me in a way that acknowledged my masculinity, it felt right. I felt seen. I knew that I wanted facial hair, body hair, and big muscles. I knew that I loved wearing dresses, colorful clothing, and having long hair. My experience didn’t fit into the narrative I had been fed about gender, or about trans people. 


C0-Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.



How can we learn to trust our own experiences over the narratives we are fed? And how can we trust the experiences that others share with us when they contradict the narratives we’ve believed our whole lives? How can we learn to see each other as just human, with no preconceived notions, and really listen? 


I had a friend tell me recently that for years he had avoided being involved in activist work for trans rights because he was afraid people would think he was trans. How can we create a world where being perceived as trans doesn’t put you in danger?

Co-Author Bio:

Madeline "Star" Dintino (they/them) is a queer, enby, and transgender individual who specializes in thinking, creating, and designing for radical inclusivity. They are a queer theorist with a focus on fashion design, and they believe that with the liberation of the most marginalized among us, we all are set free. 

Madeline runs a zine publication called LooseChange under their brand, the Flower Punks Collective (@flower.punks). 

Co-Author Bio:

Edmund Green Langdell (they/them) is an ever becoming enby, whose work focuses on promoting human and environmental wellbeing through design and education. They work for Play Out Apparel as a Marketing Assistant. They strive to spread love and healing in the world through connection and education. They also design eco-friendly needle felted packers. They earned a BFA in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design, where they worked as a Peer Health Advocate for four years, and created and led Gender Venting, a group for transgender students.

Co-Author Bio:

Madeline Dintino (they/them) is a queer, enby, and transgender individual who specializes in thinking, creating, and designing for radical inclusivity. They are a queer theorist with a focus on fashion design, and they believe that with the liberation of the most marginalized among us, we all are set free. 

Madeline runs a zine publication called LooseChange under their brand, the Flower Punks Collective (@flower.punks). 

Edmund's Words! 

To me, trans visibility means dismantling the narrative that there are a limited number of ways to experience gender. It doesn’t mean having one trans woman, one trans man, and one nonbinary person speaking on a panel. It means acknowledging that the myth of gender is a system of categorizing people, and like any system that tries to categorize nature, it utterly fails to account for the complexity of life. There are no boundaries. There are no rules. There is only your experience. 


For years I didn’t realize that people like me existed. I knew that when people treated me in a way that acknowledged my masculinity, it felt right. I felt seen. I knew that I wanted facial hair, body hair, and big muscles. I knew that I loved wearing dresses, colorful clothing, and having long hair. My experience didn’t fit into the narrative I had been fed about gender, or about trans people. 


How can we learn to trust our own experiences over the narratives we are fed? And how can we trust the experiences that others share with us when they contradict the narratives we’ve believed our whole lives? How can we learn to see each other as just human, with no preconceived notions, and really listen? 


I had a friend tell me recently that for years he had avoided being involved in activist work for trans rights because he was afraid people would think he was trans. How can we create a world where being perceived as trans doesn’t put you in danger?

True Visibility... for All

Something that feels difficult to talk about, but also necessary, is acknowledging that many trans spaces and media aren’t inclusive of all trans folks. There are many trans spaces and media that focus on a particular type of experience, like binary trans folks. While these spaces and media are important, healing, and validating for many people, they still reinforce the narrative that there are a limited number of ways to be. 


How can we create spaces and media where trans visibility means lifting up, and truly seeing and listening to the people who are the least understood, and the most marginalized, even within our own community? Where trans visibility means continuing to break down our understanding of gender, wherever we are on that journey, whether this blog post is the first time you’ve ever considered that gender is something you can think about, or if you’ve been out and involved in the trans community for years. Where can we go from here? There is work to be done. 


If I had seen examples of people who look like me, and express themselves the way I do, it would have saved me years of self hate, and shown me that freedom, love, and community is possible for me. 

We need allies, today. 

Trans people are in crisis now, and we need your help. We need you to speak up in our defense when you hear transphobic jokes. We need you to call out your family, your coworkers, your friends, when they misgender people. We need you to make it socially unacceptable to treat trans people as if we are less deserving of life, dignity, joy, and freedom, than anyone else is. 


The onslaught of anti-trans legislation being introduced in recent years (skyrocketing in the past few months) breaks my heart, because this legislation will end lives. And there is nothing to be gained in trying to deny the existence of any group of people or ways of experiencing. Or trying to block certain groups of people from participating in society. It never ends well. We are not going anywhere. As long as humanity has existed, so have we. We are as much a part of humanity as everyone else. See us. 


How can we keep moving away from resting in the comfort that we understand gender, and therefore how to interact with people, and what to think about them, and towards a continued questioning? How can we let our hearts break open out of love for people we don’t understand, but recognize as human, like us?


Star's Words!

What does it mean, to be visible? Visibility is, in many ways, vulnerability. If you are seen, you are exposed. We cannot pretend otherwise: when the spotlight shines on us, when the world turns to look at us, it’s not just the kind ones who can see. 


So why do so many of us do it? Why do we introduce ourselves with our pronouns, even when there is danger? Why do we correct people and choose new names and bind our chests and change our style? Because visibility is not just vulnerability; visibility is also liberation. It is freedom. To be visible, for some of us, is to be alive. To be seen by others for who you are is a luxury many humans take for granted. You can feel how vital it is only when it is taken away. 


I use they/them pronouns. I feel like I am part female and part male: a culmination of parts which create something totally unique. My experience of being an enby is different than others', and for a long time I thought it was wrong, that I still use some binary concepts as building blocks to create who I am. But building out my "male side" has saved me from a world of dysphoria and hurt, and helped me explore who I am, authentically. We all have the right to self determination, beyond any required categories. 

Visibility... As Vulnerability and Freedom

To be seen, recognized, accepted and celebrated: for many of us, this outweighs the danger and discomfort of being visible. And for many of us, it doesn’t, and that’s ok too. It’s ok if you want to be out to only a few, or not at all. These are all ok. The point is, we should have the choice, and ideally, it shouldn't be a choice influenced by danger. 


Visibility is a complex thing, but so are humans. We are complex, nuanced, and in so many ways, beautiful. Humans are wonderfully communal: we need others to survive. It is not wrong or weak or shallow to want to feel seen. It is simply human. There can be danger in being visible, and there is also danger in being erased. Visibility is not a "clean" concept, but it is a necessary one. 


For all the trans folx out there, you are not wrong for wanting to be seen. You are not wrong for being hurt when others don’t see you. You don't have to "not let it bother you." You definitely don't have to "get over it." It is so important to surround ourselves, when possible, with those who make us feel visible. 

an invitation... What makes us feel seen?

And furthermore, I will pose the question: how do you see yourself? How can you make yourself feel seen, in the moments when others cannot show up? It is so important to nurture our relationship to ourselves, especially when external forces wear down our own self-images. 


Maybe you draw yourself as you know you are. Maybe your write in certain terms about how you exist in the world. Maybe you foster your sense of self with carefully curated outfits, or by spending quality time with yourself in the mirror putting on making. Whatever it looks like, we need to make ourselves feel seen, and we need to have our own back. It is ok to still have dysphoria, or still have work to do. That is all ok. It’s just about being as kind and respectful to ourselves as we would to others. 


For all the allies: making your trans/enby loved ones feel visible, by listening, using their pronouns and name, and truly putting the work in to alter your perception of who they are, you are telling them they deserve to exist in this world. This may sound like a given, but for many of us, it is not. Your work and effort will help create a world that is safe for us to live in. 


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