For those that don’t know, a recent episode of “Survivor” featured the outing (the disclosure of one’s being transgender) of a transgender man on national television. A gay man from North Carolina went on television and said “Why haven’t you told anyone you are transgender?” I’ve watched edited clips and read a good bit about the context of the comment, and it was done in a disgustingly malicious way. The perpetrator outed Zeke Smith in order to try to save himself from being voted off the show.
In some ways telling transgender people that we have to be transparent with our gender histories is just another example of the demands of the majority on the marginalized majority to conform to their ideas of how we should act. More specifically, it is another example of the objectification of trans bodies. When you publicly out someone it can send a message that binary trans people are not men and women. Just to be clear, transgender people don’t owe cisgender people anything when it comes to disclosure unless you are our doctor or romantic partner.
I think Jennifer Boylan said it best in her New York Times article when she said that being transgender isn’t a secret, but it can be private. Privacy in our trans identities is about more than individual autonomy. It’s often about safety. Forcibly outing a trans person in public can get him/her/them killed. This is not an exaggeration. My initial thoughts about the show airing the episode as is included questioning the worthiness off putting Zeke’s safety at risk for the rest of his life for good ratings. I later found out that Zeke approved the episode being aired as is. I think agreeing to air the show was incredibly brave of Zeke.
I do think that LGBTQ people should generally push themselves to be open about being LGBTQ. Now I am not saying that 15 year olds still living at home should announce to their homophobic/transphobic parents that they are LGBTQ, but I do hope that financially stable people over the age of majority take reasonable steps to come out. I can get frustrated with people who sit on the sidelines while out and active members of our community risk their lives to further equality. The ability to be recognized as one’s true gender is a privilege that not every trans person has. Often trans women, and for sure nonbinary people, do not have the privilege of being seen in this way. Not coming out adversely affects those people and our movement as a whole. Is being out hard? It sure can be, but now more than ever visibility matters.
As you know, I’ve been MIA these past couple of Sundays. I’ve been incredibly busy with school stuff. I’ve got some big things to talk about this week since I’ve been gone. The biggest thing that I’ve missed sharing is that I have now passed one year on testosterone. March 25 was the big day. I celebrated by having supper with two dear friends and then night on the town with a much bigger, diverse group of friends. Many of my law school friends and some of my friends from the local trans support group came.
Over this past year my shoulders have broadened, my feet have grown a shoe size, my hairline and jawline have squared off, and my voice has dropped. I’ve had an explosion of acne and hair. My weight has begun redistributing from my hips to my growing beer belly… lol. I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I’m told that I walk with a greater amount of swagger. I can truly look in the mirror and be happy with the man I see looking back at me.
This past Friday was Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day to celebrate the lives of all transgender people. It’s a day to celebrate the successes and diversity of our community. It’s an interesting day for me because at this point in my transition experience I am no longer misgendered by the general public. If I choose to not out myself people presume I’m a young cisgender man.
Visibility is important to me, especially as a transgender man who has the privilege of being recognized as male. I think when people think of being transgender the first image that comes to mind is a transgender woman. The issues of transgender men and nonbinary or genderqueer folks are largely left out of mainstream conversation. When I come out to people, oftentimes they say that they would have never known. Maybe so, but I also wonder how much of that may be due to the existence of trans men never coming to mind. At the same time, we are not talking enough about the struggles of trans women, especially trans women of color. There has truly been an epidemic of trans women of color being killed that is not being talked about. And the fact that we have to focus on the issue of just not being killed takes away from other serious, but more mundane issues for the trans community.
Shifting within the topic of visibility– I was lucky enough to be elected yesterday as the Young Democrats of Georgia Stonewall Caucus Chair. I am incredibly excited and honored to be elected. I look forward to working with the Caucus Vice Chair and Secretary. When I was giving the Caucus report to the entire YDG membership I mentioned that I am the first openly transgender person to be elected a caucus chair in YDG. I received a standing ovation by most, if not all, in attendance which felt incredible. I think its fair to say that as an organization, the Young Democrats of Georgia supports transgender equality.