Visibility: noun vis·i·bil·i·ty \ˌvi-zə-ˈbi-lə-tē\
: the ability to see or be seen
: the quality or state of being known to the public
: capability of being readily noticed
: a measure of the ability of radiant energy to evoke visual sensation
– select definitions from The Merriam-Webster Dictionary
What is the Transgender Day of Visibility?
TDOV is a day to show your support for the trans community. It aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of trans people around the globe while fighting cissexism and transphobia by spreading knowledge of the trans community. Unlike Transgender Day of Remembrance, this is not a day for mourning: this is a day of empowerment and getting the recognition we deserve!
Last year was the first year I participated in Trans Day of Visibility. At the time my support system consisted of a couple friends and all of you wonderful folks online. Since then my support system has grown considerably. The main reason for this increase in friends was connecting up with The Santa Fe Trans & Gender Non-Conforming Support Group.
Santa Fe is known as The City Different, it is the capital of the State of New Mexico which is, in turn, known as The Land of Enchantment. Set in the shadows of the 12,000-foot Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the high-desert city of Santa Fe has long cultivated a loyal following among creative spirits and open-minded souls, including writers and artists, outdoors enthusiasts, and plenty of LGBTQ folks.
The Santa Fe Trans & Gender Non-Conforming Support Group exists to support trans and gender non-conforming individuals in Santa Fe. We are a peer support group for trans people of any spectrum, gender non-conforming folks and our allies to discuss experiences, personal issues and transgender community news. A warm and caring group of trans and gender non-conforming people who want to help other trans & gender non-conforming people and allies. All ages & experiences welcome to a loving and supportive group. Current attendies ages range from 15 to 62. Special welcome to folks exploring their gender Identity experience and beginning to explore the possibility of transitioning. We all need a support network and everyone is welcome.
A few of us are going to share a little bit of ourselves with you. We want to be an inspiration to everyone in the international trans community. You are not alone!My name is Jerry aka Fairy JerBear and I am the creator and author of this blog. I was born in Vermont but lived in Maine, New Brunswick, Canada and Pennsylvania before I moved to the small town of Norridgewock, Maine where I lived from 6th grade through high school. I attended the last two years of high school in Freeport, Maine where I stayed with families during the week.
In one of those homes I lived with a middle age couple who had a daughter that was away in college. It was in her closet and dresser that I found her nylons and a dress. I remember the exhilarating feeling of pulling the nylons up my legs and across my crotch. I put on the dress and looked at myself in the mirror. The truth was I looked slightly ridiculous, at least that is what I thought. I had a full mustache which I had from my Sophomore year on. I know I was pleased with my facial hair. Looking back, I wonder if some of that was to outwardly look more manly so I wouldn’t get teased. Anyway, the rest of my memories about this secretive cross dressing are cloudy. Years of repressing them has deprived me of that particular window into my past. Part of the reaeson was the bullying including the incident I had that involved some physical harassment in the restroom.
At the end of the school year we received our yearbooks. Others were just letting their yearbook be passed around for the obligatory messages and signatures. Later I was looking through the yearbook reading the mostly nice things people had to say when I came upon an inscription that said, “to a fine faggot.” I was shocked, the air rushed out of my lungs. I grabbed a pen and tried to scribble over the top of the offensive word with limited success. Later there was another derogatory sentence about me being gay, (I was completely in the closet at the time). That was a second shock and I vowed never to show that yearbook to anyone.
Over the years that followed I attended college in Massachusetts where I lost an effeminate gay friend to suicide my freshman year. As a result I stayed closeted until 1987 about my sexuality and until 2014 about my gender. I spent time in Asia volunteering while in college which exposed me to different cultures and clothing like sarongs which reminded me a bit of skirts.
In 1987 I came out as a “gay man” and thought that I could find what I was seeking in the gender non-conforming philosophy of the Radical Faeries. I met a wonder guy who was attracted to beards and masculinity. I put my gender confusion aside for the sake of the relationship. During this time I worked in HIV/AIDS education and prevention in Worcester, Massachusetts where I met two African-American trans women who both had AIDS. In the couple years I knew them I learned about the challenges they faced and began to once again look at my gender. The problem was I knew I didn’t feel like a woman yet I didn’t feel like a man either. After seven years my relationship ended and I moved New Mexico.
Over time I slowly altered my gender expression by growing my hair out and referring to myself as a fairy bear. After working for the state Department of Health for over a decade I had to quit working due to disability. After a couple years I started this blog and began to explore blogs both on WordPress and on Tumblr. Eventually I discovered posts that explored non-binary gender identities and began a period of introspection. Then the news story of an agender person named Sasha who was the victim of a hate crime. Like me, Sasha, was assigned male at birth but now identified as neither male or female. Their gender expression mixed male and female clothing and loved wearing skirts. Right away I felt a connection and thought that agender was the identity I was looking for. I became more convinced, after reading more about that identity, that after 4 decades I had discovered a name for who I was.
On my birthday in August of 2014 I shared my gender questioning with my dear friend Anji and her nephew. I chronicled my exploration and discoveries on my blog; the links to these posts can be found in the header of my WordPress blog. After my post for last year’s Day of Visibility I decided to seek out support and friendship. I remember walking into the room of the Santa Fe support group and feeling very nervous as I sat down. I was fearful of how I’d be received as a non-binary gender identified person thanks to negative feedback online. I needn’t have worried, I was welcomed with open arms.
Over the past year I found a family, some of whom are also featured in this post. I continued to explore my identity becoming comfortable defining myself as an Agender member of the Trans community. I participated in last Summer’s LGBTQ Pride, joining my friends in the Trans contingent. Over the last year I have become more comfortable going out in public in my preferred attire; usually a skirt and either knee socks or leggings and either a t-shirt or sweat shirt. I love the freedom of being able to be myself and show the world that I have a right to be authentic everywhere. I now help out with occasionally facilitating the support group here and have done my first public speaking as chronicled in a recent post.
I am proud to be an Agender member of the Trans community. For me it’s about not being defined by gender which is why I call myself agender. I am free to be who I am without constantly censoring myself. I don’t identify as a woman or a man. As an agender person I am genderless; I am beyond gender and am a mixture of traits and style associated with masculinity and femininity as well as a mix of young and old and a bunch of other traits, likes and passions thrown into the mix.
The most important part of learning to accept myself was forming friendships with members of the support group and the statewide Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico. Those friends have been there for me and I have tried to be there for them.
Now meet three of my friends…LynnAnnRose shares her story:
LynnAnnRose is a femme transgender photographer. She has been seriously shooting since 2004. She began with sports photography and currently she is an advanced photography student at the Institute of American Indian arts. She also makes short films for 360 degree dome theaters.
LynnAnnRose was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She came of age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. During this time the Canyon Road art district was just beginning to develop into an art market. Her early influences were Marijke Koger, the primary visual artist behind the four-person art group ‘The Fool’ a Dutch design collective, Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Ansel Adams, Salvador Dali & Richard Avedon.
During the Mid & late 1970’s LynnAnnRose prepared herself to enter the monastic ashram of Paramahansa Yogananda in California. In 1980 the ashram asked her to manage their farm. But due to a motorcycle accident and subsequent surgeries she had to turn down the offer.
She left California and got married in Boulder Colorado. Over the next 5 years she graduated from the MBA program at the University of Colorado, Boulder and had three children. Her career took her to Washington, DC where she stayed until her kids were grown and out of the house.
In 2007 LynnAnnRose moved back to Santa Fe, NM where she can indulge all of her artistic desires. She is a coordinator of the local Santa Fe Trans & Gender Non-conforming Support Group which has a relatively large number of artists. Her current projects are a dome time lapse film about reincarnation and a portrait series of transgender individuals.
The reason I want to participate in our Trans Visibility Day is by being visible to folks who don’t often see a transgender person there is a chance my visibility might, just might, have a positive effect on them. As more children see folks like us the horizon of their experience grows as does their vision.
Often I’ve seen children around 4 to 6 look at me with an open heart and smile with a wonder about the possibilities of gender presentation. Seeing folks smile at my unusual gender presentation is reward enough to make me feel safe in public. But I live in the wonderful city of Santa Fe, New Mexico where acceptance of different cultures & people is very high.Here’s Quinn’s story in his own words:
My name’s Quinn Fontaine. i’m 48 years old and have been on testosterone for a year and a half. I finally feel comfortable in my skin! it’s been a long and winding road back to self. I’m so grateful to be alive at this time in human evolution. A lot of my mentors in the trans and gender non-conforming world are the younger ones who come onto the planet knowing full well who they are in terms of gender. I’m also in awe of the parents that listen and take action for their kids. It shows so much progress and instills so much hope.
As an artist, performer and inspirational speaker i’m paying it forward by combining comedy and truth-telling. you can see my solo shows on my website with my birthname: www.kathleenfontaine.comHere’s Moriah’s story in their own words:
I’m a gender non-conforming queer person. I don’t fit into a lot of categories, which is fine with me, because I feel that rigidly enforced categories are the stuff hierarchies are made of. I enjoy that my place of comfort is disruptive to those systems. In some ways more work is required for people with complex identities; particularly the work of visibility is harder. I haven’t figured out a successful way to pass as Not Very Good at Following Directions But Having a Really Good Time Even Though I’m Confused, Too. The other day I decided my gender was Gonzo and my pronouns were chicken, chicken, and chicken.
I have mixed feelings about Trans Day of Visibility for several reasons. For one, it’s not safe for many trans and gender-variant people to be out (I personally am banking on the fact that my employer is unlikely to follow Fairy JerBear’s blog and tumblr). I especially have mixed feelings because of the backlash against visibility which gets directed at the most marginalized trans people, particularly queer-trans people of color. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a good idea to let trans representation, when it exists at all, to be only in the hands of non-trans people, which is a stance that also ensures total non-binary erasure. And it’s important to me, as someone who has experienced violence and who has experienced serious illness to be in charge of the narrative of my body and my being. So I don’t think there are any easy answers, and there is a lot of hard work in continuing to build safe spaces which include all of us who do not fit the genders that dominant culture assigns us.
Now a Parting Paragraph
All of us are excited for the future. We want you to know that you have friends in Santa Fe and elsewhere in New Mexico that care about you. Our community is wonderful and diverse as evidenced by our 4 very different stories and identities. If you are looking for support look for a group like ours in your community. We are stronger together! Happy Trans Visibility Day everyone!