To Be Seen, To Be Heard: The Importance of Transgender and Non-Binary Visibility

By Rachel Hicks

December 30, 2020, I confirmed my gender identity as a non-binary femme. I felt whole, I felt happy, and I also felt a veil. I felt like I had further moved from a space of privilege (being presumably cisgendered) to another margin. American society favors and supports cisgendered, heterosexual, white men with property and money. I am a Black, queer, non-binary femme with no property; striving for pay equity. The difference is stark right? Intersectionality taught me that we exist at all intersections simultaneously, even if the identities are different. As I thought about the potential battles I might have to fight, I thought about my trans sibling in Illinois. They have been an integral part in my journey in self discovery and confirmation and I wouldn’t be here without them.

 

“Look around your circle. Do you have any trans friends? Disabled friends? Neurodivergent friends? If the answer is no, then you need to fix that, ASAP.” I remember feeling activated by that tweet from my sibling, LJ. They made me think, challenging my then-cishet privilege, “how can I expand my knowledge so that I can be more inclusive in my advocacy? How can I use my voice and whatever privilege I have to uplift my siblings in the margins?” Something I had not given much consideration. So, I reached out to LJ and we began our relationship, covering it in radical honesty, affirmation, and love. At the same time, images of violence against Black trans women became very present and very clear.

 

The life expectancy for a Black trans person is 35 years old. Transphobia is more than a “simple disease”. It does nothing but kill and destroy and it keeps ALL of us from being truly liberated. “But what can I do?” I remember thinking, at the time. I was not trans, I did not know where to begin supporting my siblings, and I could not shake my own feelings of fear as a marginalized person. “Just stand in the gap.” A simple response that actually made sense to me and was something I could do. I spent time advocating for myself and others that were marginalized, including and centering Black trans people fits right in with my internal praxis. So, I started to do some research on the needs of trans people in my community and how I could support them. What I discovered truly molded me into the non-binary femme I am today.

 

Acknowledging the importance of the existence of my Black trans siblings was first. International Trans Day of Visibility is March 31 every year. I made sure to look at all of the resources provided to learn more about my siblings and their needs. One great resource is the late Monica Roberts’s TransGriot blog spot. Monica created one of the only archival spaces of her experience as a Black trans woman and the need for archiving trans history is still necessary. Through education I learned how better to support my trans siblings; and the best way to start is with dignity and grace.

 

Another way people with privilege can support is remembering that trans women and trans men are women and men. Period. Bioessentialism has bred transphobic rhetoric that keeps trans people from their right to life. It has impacted trans people’s right to work, a home, even marriage. But through acknowledgement, not to be confused with validation because trans people ARE valid, of gender identity we become not only more inclusive we eliminate the spaces where violence against trans people can occur. Simply treating someone with respect and dignity is a first step.

 

There are other ways you can support your trans friends and siblings. Advocate for them. If you are interested in learning more on how to organize and support trans youth, check out and support: The Trans Youth Equality Foundation, The Marsha P. Johnson Institute, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and many more organizations that are working to ensure trans people are able to live safely and equitably.

 

We remember our trans and non-binary siblings that were killed. We also celebrate the mothers of LGBTQIA+ movements that have benefited us all. Trans people are more than deserving of life, liberty, and happiness. It is the duty of those with privilege to educate themselves, build community, and protect the rights of their most marginalized siblings. No one is valid until we are all seen as valid. No one is free until we are all free. Our trans siblings deserve to be affirmed, they deserve to be seen; they deserve to be celebrated.