Photography: Kohl Murdock
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility, which many have publicly commemorated, including Laverne Cox, who brought attention to North Carolina’s unconstitutional anti-trans bill, and Janet Mock, who reposted a Candy Magazine photoshoot featuring a fully trans cast of models. The annual holiday, created by trans activist Rachel Crandall in 2010, was a celebratory response to Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20, which mourns the loss of trans lives to hate crimes. While this acknowledged those who’ve passed, there hadn’t been a day dedicated to living trans individuals until Crandall carved one out.
For Alok and Janani of the non-binary performance art duo Dark Matter, TDOV isn’t the solution to bettering trans lives. They took to Instagram tonight, listing off a series of “some feels” about the international day and raised five key points that haven’t yet been widely discussed on social media. (See part one and part two of their posts, or read it in full, below). Regardless of how you interpret Dark Matter’s criticism, the most important piece of their commentary is that media visibility, such as this, needs to somehow result in greater support of trans organizations and campaigns. With this in mind, we asked Alok and Janani to tell us their favorites:
1) “Trans” “Visibility” is an oxymoron. Trans is who we are, not what we we look like. We shouldn’t have to look like anything in particular in order to be believed for who we are. Visibility often is a form of (nonconsensual) labor that we have to in order to make our experiences coherent to others.
2) Trans Visibility is a cis framework. Who are we becoming visible for? Why do we have to become visible in order to be taken seriously? Non-trans people will congratulate themselves for our visibility but will not mention how they are the ones were responsible for erasing us in the first place. The trans movement isn’t about trans people moving forward, it’s about cis people catching up with us.
3) Invisibility is not the problem, transmisogyny is the problem. Trans people are harassed precisely because we ARE visible. Mandating visibility increases violence against the most vulnerable among us. The same system that will require trans people to be visible will not give institutional support to us when we are harassed precisely because we are visible.
4) Visibility often means incorporation. Often the only way we are respected as “legitimately” trans is if we appeal to dominant norms of beauty, gender, race, and establishment politics. Trans people should not have to be patriotic, change what we wear, undergo medical or legal transition, really should not have to do anything in order to be respected. We were and already are enough.
5) Visibility is easy. Organizing is hard. Sharing photos of trans people and calling us “resilient” and “beautiful” does little to address the persecution so many of us face. We cannot love ourselves out of structural oppression alone. How come media visibility of trans people has not resulted in the funding and support of our organizations, campaigns, and struggles?
Let’s push harder and demand more.