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The Importance of Moving from Trans Visibility to Trans Allyship

By Evan Mahony, Patient Advocate Supervisor at Texas Health Action

November is a difficult month for many trans people. Transgender Awareness Week (November 13th-19th) raises awareness of prejudice and discrimination faced by trans people, and is followed by Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) on November 20th. TDOR is a day of mourning for the trans people who’ve been killed due to transphobic violence in the past 365 days. On TDOR, we honor and remember the names of the people who’ve been taken from us by violence, and we hold close in our hearts all the names we’ll never know, and the stories that’ll never be told. The names we know, and the names we don’t, almost always belong to trans people of color, specifically to Black trans women.

Spring and summer events honor gender diversity beyond November. We celebrate trans people on Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st. In May, we commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 Cooper’s Donuts Riot in Los Angeles; in June, the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City; in August, the anniversary of the 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco. These riots were led by the same groups of people who are most vulnerable to transphobic violence today: trans women of color, especially Black trans women; trans sex workers; and homeless trans youth.


Why Trans Visibility Isn’t Enough

Many observances related to trans people in the United States are centered on “awareness” and “visibility.” “Visibility” is a fine goal, especially as we endure a pandemic that isolates and separates many trans people from the wider community and continue to live under state and federal administrations that seek to erase trans people by pushing us out of public life. But I would like to challenge cis allies to move beyond just being aware of, or just seeing, trans people. Especially when it comes to the most vulnerable members of the trans community, awareness is not enough. Seeing is not enough.

As Alok Vaid Menon writes in Beyond Trans Visibility,

“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.”

Similarly, Alex Verman Green writes in Trans Visibility Won’t Save Us, “Visibility and representation can be deeply affirming for those marginalized from the mainstream. But a politics of identity and its recognition have come to overshadow the ways in which recognition carries unique consequences for some trans people and not for others.” Green writes, “In many ways, transphobia is a by-product of societal racism: Gender is racialized and consequently policed; racial logics make certain trans people more visible–and dangerously so—than others. Thus, for Black and brown trans people, visibility isn’t always a goal” because “visibility doesn’t translate to acceptance, but greater attention, scrutiny, and restriction.”


How You Can Be an Ally

No matter the season, organizations led by trans people of color always need resources. Some organizations working for trans liberation in Texas include:

Giving material support –your time, talent, or treasure– to organizations led by trans people of color is the first step to move beyond “awareness” and into true allyship.


Evan Mahony, MPH

Evan (they/them) is a patient advocate at Kind Clinic, a program of Texas Health Action that works to advance sexual wellness and health, and an organizer of Gender Unbound, a multidisciplinary arts festival featuring trans and intersex creators.

Read more from Evan in The Republiq’s “Stand Up for Trans Rights in Health Care” and Houston Public Media’s “COVID-19 Forced Clinics To Adopt Telehealth. That Helped Some Transgender Patients Access Health Care.



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