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Being Visible – Because It’s the Only Weapon I Have

Hi, this is Lilith, and I’m going to be taking over the blog solo today for Trans Day of Visibility. It’s not often that Amy Erica and I separate our voices while writing, but today calls for my story in my voice.

What a year to finally be fully out.  As I became one of the ever-increasing number of out trans folk and really came into my own as a trans woman, the government of Iowa, where I live, and many others have been pushing out record amounts of legislation challenging the rights of people like me to exist. So, here on Trans Day of Visibility, I’m going to write an intensely personal description of what being trans and coming out has meant to me and how I’m dealing with the current environment, and beg anyone and everyone reading this to spread this message, in hopes my words can be one small drop in the ocean of public understanding we need stop these oppressive laws.

Let me start by saying that I am absurdly lucky. I have an amazing family and wonderful friends and live in a relatively progressive pocket in the state, and because of these things I have never had to deal with a lot of the horror so many other trans folk have been subjected to. To an outside perspective, I’ve lived a charmed life. I say this all to provide context for the fact that despite all of the advantages in my life, before the day I accepted myself as trans, I don’t remember a single day past my mid-teens that I didn’t at least briefly dream of dying so I wouldn’t have to face the next day. I never took the step from that steady state of being passively suicidal to actively so because of all the wonderful people in my life who I couldn’t imagine doing that to. But oh how I hoped each day that some oncoming truck would swerve and hit me or some other accident would keep me from having to ever wake up again. Even before I reached the point of dreaming of dying, by the time I was eleven I assumed I wouldn’t make it to twenty, and that thought never bothered me. It never even occurred to me that it wasn’t a totally normal thought. 

Sitting comfortably, out and as myself, at Taliesin in Spring Green, WI

Once I accepted myself as trans, though, trite as it is to say, it really was like a dark fog lifted, and I suddenly felt happier than I everhad in my life. Early on, I briefly made the mistake of thinking, “Oh, I’ve lived with the depression of presenting as male for my whole life, I can keep doing so for the sake of others.” I was so very wrong, and that darkness closed in around me tighter than ever. I knew my options were working towards transition or eventually moving from passively to actively suicidal. 

By preventing kids from coming out safely, and by preventing them from accessing the care they need to begin their transitions, politicians here in Iowa and around the country are dooming at least tens of thousands of children to this fate right now — and more children every year that such laws are allowed to stand. And I promise that many of those children don’t have the luck of an amazing and supportive environment like I did. That’s a million children being sentenced to near certain suicidal depression. And if these trends continue, as signs in states like Florida and Oklahoma show they will, these people are not going to be satisfied with just destroying kids’ lives, they are going to do everything they can to destroy my life and those of millions more adult trans folk too. 

When trans folk say these bills are a death sentence for many of us, we are not exaggerating. I read an article a few months back on the numbers of self reporting trans folk in various generations; it pointed out the dramatically higher number of people self reporting as trans among Millennials and subsequent generations, while in Gen X and older, the numbers steadily drop. The article then theorized a reason for this: that few of the trans folk born into those older generations had survived. That theory hit hard in how true it felt.

So what am I doing about all this now? I’m voting and protesting, but given where I live, my local and state representatives already support me, and my city’s vote is drowned out in the state legislature, not to mention voting for national office.

Mostly, though, you’re reading it. I’m doing the best thing I can: being visible, sharing my experience, and asking for help from non-trans folk to amplify the voices of trans folk. I’m writing books with trans representation, both to normalize it and share facets of the trans experience. My hope is that my voice and others like it can slowly reach more distant people, and help them understand that we are not a threat and just want to be allowed to live our lives. Visible, yes, but mostly in peace.