TRANS VISIBILITY NOW
Being visible to me means being seen and noticed, and the degree to which we trans people are seen in our communities is important.
Tina Kolos Orban, CEO of TENI
Social invisibility often makes us feel neglected and disconnected. As a non-binary person myself, I’ve always felt that. On March 31, Trans Day of Visibility, we celebrate ourselves, the trans community, and our contributions to society. The day was designated to create visibility for our existence as our full selves.
Being trans is often pictured as difficult or as a hardship. It is rarely portrayed as something that can be fun or joyful. We enjoy our lives and want to be seen because we do exist , and nobody should have to hide who they are. Our lives, trans lives, are to be celebrated just like everybody else’s.
Trans visibility is not about just having a gender identity or expressing our gender, it is about being our authentic selves in our communities. All of us in and outside Ireland deserve to be seen and respected as our true and authentic selves.
Not all trans people have access to positive, safe visibility. The phrase ‘Recognition, Care and Protection for All’ will mean various things to trans and non-binary people. Recognition is when a trans person’s documentation reflects their true name and gender. Recognition is also when our genders are recognised by our friends and family.
Care means that trans and non-binary people have access to services designed with trans people which are accessible and supportive. Protection is where there are measures in place to prevent and address discrimination. Protection means that trans people can live lives free from violence. The world is unjust and requires resilience for survival. With Recognition, Care and Protection, trans people may need less resilience and be more able to thrive.
To move forward, we must know where we have come from. We must learn from our history and build on our progress. Trans history has been invisible in Ireland and across the world. In 2015, Irish Trans Activists fought and achieved gender recognition legislation built on autonomy and self-determination. TENI continues to be responsible for building on that legacy.
When I arrived in Ireland in April 2022, my vision was to serve the Irish trans community and increase visibility. We have a lot still to do to achieve that vision. I see great things happening, with many positive steps toward a better society and many of us standing together for trans people. However, at the same time, we lack adequate healthcare, and there is no recognition for our young and non-binary community members. Our very existence is under constant attack. Our loved ones are not safe. It is time for all allies of the trans community to speak up and show their support.
I have a 15-year history of working on trans issues, and I have travelled the world to work with many trans, nonbinary and gender-diverse people. I have heard so many compelling life stories. We laughed a lot and enjoyed our time together. I have learned a lot about survival, experienced unusual amounts of happiness and joy and felt incredible togetherness often.
No matter where we came from, we were connected. We could clearly see each other. I often had to reflect on my privileges and listen carefully to see hope in hopelessness. My journey brought me to Ireland to serve and be humbled. I am amazed by the power of my community, my staff’s commitment, my board’s support, and the ever-growing membership of TENI.
The trans community is vibrant and comes from all walks of life with many identities. If I am talking to a young person, their parents, a group of migrants or a sex worker, I see the person in all their complexity. Our lives are always worth being seen and celebrated with joy and hope. I always have a responsibility to use my privileges and visibility to create space and opportunity to show each of our lives is to be celebrated.
I am here to be visible, in the spotlight, be seen and heard, bring the Irish trans community together and invite our allies to join us and see us as we are. Fragile, diverse, strong and real.
We may face rejection and ignorance not of our own making. Still, resilience is possible, learnable, and within reach for our beautiful community. Come out and show your support. Share positive stories and celebrate the lives of trans people around you. Whether that celebration is supporting with a smile, a friendly word or standing up in solidarity, your support can change trans lives for the better.