Friday , 22 February 2019

Why Transgender Day of Visibility is so important

International Transgender Day of Visibility
International Transgender Day of Visibility

Today (March 31st) is Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV), a day when transgender people like myself make ourselves openly visible on social media and elsewhere to stand up as role models and show the world that we are proud of who we are.

It’s also a day to show simply that it is OK to be transgender. We also highlight that it is far from easy being trans people – not everyone is lucky enough to pass and not everybody still have their families standing by them. Some people will have lost their partners, friends, homes and even jobs. Even something as straightforward as getting an appointment to see a specialist and telling them that you’re trans (which is hard enough in itself) can be more difficult than it should be, with many waiting years.

Unsurprisingly, the difficulties many trans people face inevitably leads to mental health issues such as anxiety – sadly, in some scenarios people self harm and all too often take their own lives because they are not getting the help and support that they need. it is estimated that around 40% of transgender people either take their lives or attempt to – a staggering statistic that needs to be addressed.

Hate crime is another issue that needs to be highlighted, as many trans folk suffer this day in day out and sit alone in silence. Whether it be at school where many young trans people experience name calling and physical abuse, whether it’s bullying at work because of who you are and not receiving any support from your employers, or whether it’s abuse from members of the public it’s never acceptable. If you are a victim of a hate crime please do report it, even if it’s to a friend – don’t ever feel you have to suffer in silence.

trans
Why do trans people need a special day? This graphic from TSER spells it out.

I can say that working in Peterhead as a marine electronics engineer on fishing boats that I was absolutely terrified when I came out at work, knowing that the fishing community is generally quite religious and that I would potentially suffer by being ridiculed and possibly physically bullied. To my surprise, however, their reaction was totally the opposite and their help and support through out my transition at work was amazing. Which brings me to another group of people for whom TDoV means so much: our allies.

Allies are those people in society who are not trans yet support you in every way that they can. they are often family, friends or colleagues. They speak up to others and say “Hey that is out of order!” They advance transgender equality, often courageously. One of my personal role models is Therese Procter of Tesco, who has stood by me and helped make me proud of who I am. Allies are extremely important because without them coming out and being ourselves would be made even harder, and often they have  So thank you if you are one of those people – what you do is absolutely amazing and you should be celebrated too!

Seeing visible trans role models like Ayla Holdom and Stephanie Hirst showed me that it can be OK and that I can lead a normal life – I now hope in some way to be able to do the same for others. 

Transgender Day of Visibility is vitally important.  It’s not simply a special day for a group of people to celebrate their identity – but an opportunity to advance equality, to educate, and to highlight the unique difficulties trans people face.

About Justine Smithies

Justine Smithies
Justine (trans & proud ) is a marine electronics engineer based in Aberdeenshire by day and lives in Cruden Bay with her wife and daughter. She has written for the Glass Closet , YWCA Scotland and also on her own blog. Justine has also started an LGBT group called "Just Be Yourself" for people of all ages based in Aberdeenshire, whose website can be found at http://www.justbeyourself.org.uk

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