A perspective on trans visibility

My name is Krystian. I want to live in a world where I am comfortable being open about my trans experience.

My name is Krystian, my pronouns are he/him/his, and I’m a trans man. I’m also a research assistant in the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering, and some of the things I love are maths, programming, and singing in choirs. This is my first year celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility as an out trans person - something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Passively being visible is not the one solution to trans equality, but it’s important to be visibly transgender in a cisgender normative society. Sometimes being visible is an act in itself.

Perhaps ironically, this Transgender Day of Visibility comes at a time when I feel like I can be invisible again. I’ve come out to most of the important people in my life, I’ve got paperwork and ID that matches my social identity, and strangers unquestioningly see me as male. I don’t (usually) stress about using the men’s toilets. And this is what I want; that people will see me and treat me as male, without my trans history being immediately obvious to them.

However, this is not necessarily a goal or even an option for all trans people. I know the ways that my body shows markers of being trans, and some of these can’t be changed. For some people, being gendered correctly is impossible in a society where the only two visible genders are male or female. Trans people, across the entire spectrum of gender identity, shouldn’t have to be indistinguishable from cisgender people in order to be afforded the same respect.

Being visibly trans needs to be a safe option for all trans people.

I’ve learned on my journey that I can’t be completely comfortable in an environment where I can’t be open about my trans experience. My main motivation for being open about being trans is to create the kind of welcoming environment I wish I’d had when I was younger. Through most of my life, I’ve been in environments where sexuality and gender identity weren’t discussed. I confided in a few close friends, but I mostly tried to present outwardly as heterosexual and cisgender. When I thought I was bisexual, I could and did hide my sexuality. When I realised that I was trans but wasn’t sure what I needed to do to be comfortable, I hid that too. It took a mostly private struggle to realise I needed to transition and make outward changes.

It was so liberating to march in Brisbane's pride festival, and unreal to walk with thousands of people who are different in ways like I am.

It was so liberating to march in Brisbane's pride festival, and unreal to walk with thousands of people who are different in ways like I am.

Suddenly by necessity I had to be visible and come out to people.

I was fortunate to find that behind outward silence was a lot of support and acceptance. I had read a lot of articles that gave me a broad sense of societal support for trans people. Thanks to the Queer Collective on campus, I’d met a few trans people around UQ – maybe not in my school, but at least I had peers somewhere.

Still, I wasn’t sure how individuals or groups of people would react. I am inordinately privileged to have received the support that I have – especially my family, who were on board from the first minute. This is not the universal experience, and not all trans people feel safe being visible. I had internalised a lot of negative messages, so it took a lot of coming out to people to start to feel that silence did not mean tacit disapproval. I hope that being openly trans starts conversations that break the silence and make trans inclusion more universal.

When your immediate environment is silent, the messages in mainstream media are very important.

Even though I have great support and acceptance, transphobic messages in the media hurt me and drain my mental energy. Transphobia is evident when laws and regulations designed to make trans people’s lives easier are derided on the front pages of newspapers as political correctness gone mad. It’s evident in repeated attempts in the US to ban transgender people to serve in the military, as if we are burdens. It was evident when opponents of marriage equality in Australia claimed that it would pave the way to a genderfluid or gender-neutral society – as if this is terrible on its own – and it was evident when the proponents of marriage equality were silent in response.

Instead of these, I want trans voices to be more prominent. I want to see sensitive treatment of trans issues like healthcare, legal documentation and discrimination. I want trans people to visible, and trans allies to be vocal, until it seems absurd that having the liberty to explore your gender identity is a danger to society.

I’ve had a largely positive experience being trans, but I’m not immune to society’s influences.

I have needed to learn that it is okay to be who I am, even if that’s different from expectations (mostly my own). I might always think twice before talking about my trans experience, but being visible is worth it.