October 24, 2011. A day I’ll never forget. I left my first appointment with Callen Lorde Community Health Center in New York City and knew that exactly three weeks later, I would begin to medically transition. Visibility means something completely different to me today than it did then. As a freshly out-of-the-closet trans masculine person, I was visibly queer and loved it. Rocking an androgynous swag in NYC meant one thing – you would be stared at. These stares came on the subway, in the street, at the coffee shop – EVERYWHERE. People often gave me one of three looks: 1) confusion, 2) admiration, 3) flirtation. Can you guess which was my least favorite?
I never really needed to “come out” daily. People knew that I was queer. I mostly needed to remind people that I was NOT a lesbian, but identified as a trans masculine person. For whatever reason, that conversation didn’t need to be repeated often – people just got it.
Fast forward to 2013. I’m experiencing this thing that folks who choose to medically transition refer to as “passing.” I’ve been on testosterone for nearly 2 years and everyone, everywhere refers to me as “he.” People who I have never met before have NO idea that I’m transgender. Although it’s not intentional, I find myself living a portion of my life in “stealth.”
THIS is when I feel invisible. As someone who honors my Cherokee roots and identifies as two-spirit, I feel washed away by a world that expects me to check a box and act a certain way. So, I HAVE to shout that I am trans and consistently remind people about my preferred gender pronouns. I’ve reached a point in my transition where I “blend in” so well, that my silence would allow me to continue to be read as a cis man. My silence would allow heteronormative culture to deny the existence of trans masculine people. My silence would allow binary queer and trans people to deny the existence of nonbinary folks. My silence would allow people to read my femininity as simply “gay” instead of acknowledging it as a fundamental part of my gender identity and expression. (This, of course, is separate from my sexual orientation – which is pansexual, in case you were curious).
I don’t expect everyone to be as “out” as I am. Not everyone is meant to be an activist, and not everyone is meant to be an open book. I know that I was blessed with a love for people and a love for attention. That combination makes me an ideal candidate for visibility – and I feel that this passion for connecting with others makes being visible a responsibility, not a choice. “Responsibility” is rarely a word that I say with affection, but in this case, it is something that I embrace with pride.