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  • Writer's pictureLeoOtherland

Becoming Visible

‘What does Trans Day of Visibility mean to you?’

Faced with this question earlier today I wanted to find a deep and meaningful answer, but it was the simple reply of, ‘It means being seen and acknowledged,’ that I found. This day is a reminder we exist and that each of us is unique and vividly ourselves.

Sometimes being a trans person coming out in their thirties can feel especially daunting, as if I somehow should have known sooner and I am less valid for having not known when I was a teen, or even before that. But as a child and young adult I lacked words to even describe the trans experience. I came from an extraordinarily sheltered, religious environment and didn’t even know trans people existed.

In short, for me there was no visibility. No way to even mentally articulate what I was feeling inside.

It’s only now, years later, that I see the subtle little signs. When I was still developing a sense of self I look back and I see I never based that identity in gender or in being female. I was an entity, a being, I existed. It was only as I grew that gender expectations were imposed on me and I began to chafe at them.

Why did girls stay home and tend house, while boys got to go on adventures? I wanted to go on adventures. Why was it the princes always did the saving, while the princesses always needed to be saved? I didn’t want to be saved, I wanted a sword. Why was my value based on my body? I was myself, not my body.

These and so many other similar questions made me decide I hated being female. It was not fair, I’d never asked to be this way. I wanted to be something else. Only that didn’t seem like an option for me, and so I went on trying to be what I wasn’t.

Until I found the words I lacked, until I had a visible moment and realized I didn’t have to be invisible, I could be known. And not just known by myself, but by others.

For me that visible moment came at the end of November, 2015, when I met my first trans man and had the astounding thought, “Wait, we have a choice?”

I have since grown and learned ‘choice’ is not what being trans is. We simply are. What we choose is whether or not we are seen. And becoming visible is not an easy road and often it is not quick one, either.

Following that flash of first insight in 2015 I still had a long way to go. It wasn’t until early in 2016 that I began dissecting what the knowledge of different gender identities meant to me on a personal level. As a writer I did this via story, diving into the mindsets of diverse characters and looking through their eyes. But all of this was internal and I still lived an invisible life.

In 2017, I began reading yaoi webcomics and also began to pick apart just why hetrosexual romances had never interested me, and yet I felt a pull and a relation to these stories of men falling in love. Also in 2017, I joined a writer’s group called Creative Central. Though I didn’t know it then this group would be iconic in both my writing journey, and my path to becoming visible.

This happened because in 2018 I coincidentally scrolled past a photo of Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings on Facebook. Or… I scrolled past and then scrolled back because Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings… I found the post was about an anthology call in Creative Central. The fact the call was basically over was disappointing, but I was suddenly possessed with a story idea, and so I wrote. It just so happened the main character in this story was a trans man named Karma. And through his eyes I began to see myself.

Later in 2018 I started posting fan fiction on Ao3, and chose a male name for my pseudonym. It felt right. And a few months later when I began to take on administrative duties in Creative Central, I approached the then head of the group and admitted I did not want my given name to appear in group. It did not feel authentic. I wasn’t sure what response I would get, but to my surprise I was met with encouragement to build a new Facebook profile with my chosen name and to use that profile in group. I did so, and this too felt right.

Parts of me still weren’t sure how to process any of what I was feeling and I didn’t associate the term trans with my identity. It wasn’t until February of 2019 that I joined a friend’s Discord and was presented with the question of what pronouns I wanted associated with me. Looking at that question I chose male pronouns. I did not know if I would like to be seen as male, but I knew I did not want to be seen as female. Female was wrong. I just didn’t know what was right.

By November of 2019 I had my first publication under my belt, complete with a male pen name and male pronouns in my bio. And yet I was still highly invisible because I wasn’t sure who I was inside. Not fully. I knew, but I resisted because I was terrified of reaching out and taking on that term trans and making it mine. I was terrified of stepping forward into the light and being seen.

2020, 2021, 2022…

Slowly the years rolled by and slowly I began to change. I stopped being afraid, I stopped resisting, I started admitting who I was, both to myself and to others, and though I still have a long way to go, I am more aesthetically myself today.

Ultimately, becoming visible is a process, a journey, a becoming, in and of itself, and though I have struggled with feeling invalid due to how long my personal journey has been, if I hadn’t walked each step I wouldn’t be here. Right where I am on this Trans Day of Visibility, almost seven years after my first flash of insight. Now in this moment, I can stand in the light and be seen. Now, I can be truly visible for the first time in my memory.

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