Artist: Ethan X Parker

To My Siblings, on Trans Day of Visibility

March 29, 2018

We have always existed. We have always used all our creativity, beauty and power to survive. So we hold Trans Day of Visibility with complexity.

We are thirsty to see ourselves reflected as whole beings—this is crucial to loving and actualizing ourselves. Seeing each other is necessary to create a world that treasures trans and nonbinary people of color. We need more windows into this world, because before we can build something we must first imagine it.

But too often, “visibility” has been sold to us as a replacement for freedom. Trans people of color, especially folks who aren’t passed as cis or don’t fit into the gender binary, experience a hypervisibility that includes more harassment, violence and criminalization. Being “visible” or “coming out” is not a choice or desire for many of us. And even when we choose it, individual visibility is not enough to radically transform the epic systems of anti-trans oppression and white supremacy that batter our lives.

Visibility must be grounded in consent and self-determination. It must benefit our communities and serve the systemic redistribution of resources and power.

This consensual and transformative visibility is possible, and it’s why we created and distributed nearly 300 Trans Justice Art Kits: images and poems sent to siblings across the country as a radical act of love and a firebrand of trans liberation.

2017 TDOR artwork by Amir Khadar

The art was created through relationships of support and solidarity, between trans and nonbinary artists and organizers on the frontline of our movement. We made these images as we grieved the murders of our sisters, fought to free our siblings from incarceration, and created cultural interventions in events like Pride and Trans Day of Remembrance. They emerged from our need to honor trans and nonbinary people of color in life, not only in memoriam.

Or as the group BreakOUT! says, “Give us our roses while we’re still here!”

This art is part of national campaigns that Forward Together has nurtured over the past four years, like the Trans Day of Resilience art project and the Trans Life + Liberation series. We aimed to not just create images we don’t see enough, but to create in radically different ways, through collaborative processes that center trans people of color and value the labor of artists at every step.

Trans liberation is woven into the colors and syllables of this art. As complicated as Trans Day of Visibility may be, know this: our liberation is beautiful.