This past Saturday, after a beautiful day of being in community at the collaborative wellness fair hosted at the Center, I had the privilege of attending a show at the Vanderelli Room with two of my closest friends (who more accurately would be described as my chosen family). Not to sound too much like Stefon Meyers, but this show had everything: standup comedy, drag, burlesque, a fundraiser for TransOhio’s name change fund (which totaled $2,000), and a performance done entirely in a chicken suite that ended with an egg being laid on stage (thank you Riley Poppyseed).
For an evening filled with so much gut-busting laughter, there were also moments that grounded the event in the reality of Trans/GNC folks, with particular emphasis and reverence given to the experiences of BIPOC members of our community. One performance in particular, the standup set by AS Green, began with a reminder that will never stop feeling like a gut punch – the average life expectancy of Trans folks is roughly 31 years old. They went on to take the first bit of their set to hold space for Elise Malary, a 31-year-old, Black, Trans woman and Trans rights activist whose death has been drastically underreported in many spaces – an all-too-familiar second act of violence that often occurs when Trans folks’ lives are taken.
Being that I turned 30 barely a month ago, I would be lying if that statistic doesn’t linger in the back of my brain when I leave the house, especially on days where I’m presenting in a way that purposefully signals “Hey there! I’m not cis!” Even yesterday, I saw a post from a friend who, even in 2022, even in Columbus, was accosted for using “the wrong restroom.” Even as I’m writing this, the internalized transphobia (with a dash of misogyny) in me whispers, “Well, if you don’t want the unwanted attention, then perhaps you shouldn’t dress so loudly” (which is rich, because if you know me, my version of ‘high-femme’ is usually an all-black, flowy something or other; hardly something to be considered ‘loud’).
I have often heard the sentiment that visibility hasn’t served us to the extent we give it credit, and I am not discrediting this school of thought – if anything, it’s often easier to hit a target when you know what you’re looking for. We are seeing in real time the continued demonization and trivialization of our identities by those who are incredibly pressed we simply exist, but we trudge forward, hoping for a future that is more kind and accepting of our truths.
In these moments I’m grateful that I’ve surrounded myself with other Queers and Trans folks, who in my moments of doubt or when that irritating whisper grows louder, I’m reminded by my community: I am allowed to take up space. It’s my right. It’s my privilege. My ability to navigate my relationship with visibility has been paid for by the bravery and persistence of the butches, the sissies, the tomboys, the femmes, the pansies, and all the other magnificent Trans, Non-Binary, Gender Queer, and GNC ancestors who fought (and continue to fight) for all of us to be visible. My ability to be visible is possible because of BIPOC trans folks who had everything to lose but chose to fight for their rights and the rights of so many they will never know.
I am not claiming to represent all Trans identities, nor do I speak for anyone but myself. It is a privilege to serve in the role I hold at the Center and I am grateful for moments when I can share my thoughts in hopes it resonates with others – I am, in this moment, taking up space and being visible. It is my hope and the hope of the Stonewall Center as a whole, to pass the mic so other voices also have access and a platform to impact our community – I hope as you reading this, if no one else has said it to you directly, I hope we can work together to make things better for future generation of Queers. Happy Trans Day of Visibility – our visibility is a small way of showing others it’s okay, because it takes guts to be visible but it is so worthwhile.
Zac Boyer -They/Them/Their
Director, Programs & Marketing