(Originally published on Gender Splendor in Fall 2013)
My body is a political weapon. I’m not talking about just the fact my body is a transgender one either. I am a walking political billboard, by my own choice. I use my body, especially how I dress my body, as a statement every time I go out into public. I am a visibly queer and transgender person. While I dress rather gender non-conforming (since I am a non-binary person who prefers feminine clothing, heels, and extreme colors), there is something much more eye catching than that.
I wear a hoodie, covered in buttons and patches ranging from simple trans pride flags to loud exclamations of gender terrorist, the gender binary is a form of hierarchy and oppression, and your silence will not save you. From the moment I walk out the door of my grandmother’s house, I am setting out on the table who and what I am. I am THAT queer person who introduces themselves as queer almost before they give you their name.
This simple article of clothing has become an important part of me. I love being visible. I find empowerment in it. I love knowing that the moment I walk into a place, I automatically get the label of queer (or some form of it). Every day is some form of social experiment depending on where I go and it seems to be a bigger success than my topless NYC Pride statement (where everyone just thought I was a hairy lesbian. More planning needed for next year). If people are not staring at me, I am probably at a friend’s house. Everywhere I go, people stare and look.
I enjoy the recognition though. I’ve had several people compliment my hoodie and strike up conversations on queer politics. I have yet to have a negative interaction aside from the dagger stares. Does this mean I do not experience discomfort or fear due to being visibly queer? Not at all. Every time I go somewhere by myself, I risk danger. This is especially true in places such as public bathrooms. Even before my hoodie, I was visibly queer. As I previously mentioned, I am a non-binary trans person, when it comes to presenting. I will waltz into a men’s room in heels and booty shorts. I am who I am, and I am bloody proud of it.
Yet, as a trans person who is seen as male, I am lucky that I get the privilege of being somewhat more safe than my trans women friends (and girlfriend) by being visibly queer. Just this morning, my girlfriend was telling me how every day she sees a new article about a trans woman being murdered. She is terrified of being in public despite having no qualms being openly trans online. She must hide herself for her own safety. It’s not an exaggeration or her over-reacting either, since 53% of anti-queer homicides are trans women. That means half of all murders of queer people are against trans women.
This means that my girlfriend, who does not want to live her life as a political figure like me, is more likely to be harassed, murdered, and assaulted for being trans than I am. My girlfriend, who wishes to just live her life as the beautiful woman she is, is more likely to face hardship than a walking queer billboard like me. This is one of the reasons I am a visibly queer person. By using my privilege to help make trans and queer people more visible. However, this does not mean we do not need trans women and other queer people, especially people of color to be visible. In fact, we need more visible trans women, especially in the face of such adversity. We need to show the world that we are here, queer, and not going anywhere, that we are stronger than they take us to be.
We need visible queer people, of all shades. However, we must remember that queer identity intersects with race, gender, and other forms of minority status. We need to remember to let these people ahead of those who, even despite sharing a queer identity, have their voices silenced even in queer discussions. We must not let our privilege affect ourselves as queer people.
Thus, if you are able, I suggest being visible in any way you can. Whether it is just online, a subtle pin, anything. We need to let people know we are everywhere, every type of person, and that we are part of every aspect of other people’s lives. Of course, personal safety comes first. If you do not feel safe being out, do not do it. We need everyone alive. Our lives are worth too much. However, we need to band together, the more there are, the louder we are. We need to not silence those who are one with us, for we are all queer people. We must be wary of our own privileges inside of our own community. We need to turn this rumble into a full out roar.