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Trans Visibility: It's (sometimes) complicated

Published: Saturday, 31st March 2018 by Freyja Domville

For 2018's Transgender Day of Visibility, Freyja, one of our committee members for MyUmbrella, summarises her journey coming out publicly as trans in the context of having a relative with dementia.

It's not often I discuss things like my personal life on this page, but this time I think it's appropriate for the topic at hand. Particularly something as sensitive as family, but it's relevant to today's post, so, here goes!

I came out to my parents about 18 months ago, shortly before Reading Pride in 2016. They didn't take it rosily at first, but they've come round in the intervening time and are supportive because they've seen the difference it's made to my overall mood. If you've been following the page for a while, you've probably read the story of how MyUmbrella helped me find my identity, it's in a post from last year about me joining the organisation. I haven't told you some of the other aspects of the story, relating to extended family.

My "coming out" to different members of family took a year of careful planning and disclosure. Timing everything via my parents (because they were seeing people more frequently than I was) proved interesting, but was likely the right approach for me personally. The reason for this was my grandfather's vascular dementia; the ins and outs of which are still ongoing, but it's been a long few years. Everyone in my family now knows aside from my grandfather, but that wasn't resolved completely until just before the New Year just gone, because we wanted to make sure that my grandfather wasn't confused by me appearing 'en femme'.

I bring this up because I ended up snapping over the conflict of my identity, as a result of hiding my new identity from my grandparents for the first time. It felt horribly disabling, and, I recognise now, caused me to have a serious episode of depersonalisation. I still think I could have handled things better when I did take the impulsive decision to go completely public,as I should have listened to my parents' concerns a bit more readily.

Even after my grandmother was told, dealing with the dementia conflict can still be difficult to process if I'm off-guard. One particular example, my grandfather asked "who are you?" first thing on the Saturday we were there. It hit particularly hard because of my own conflicts around that question of who I was. Particularly as I was still half asleep. I will never be able to speak the whole truth to my grandfather, and I have (just about) come to terms with that because of the positivity that my grandmother expressed when I showed her a photo of me at my work Christmas do. But the resulting context switches mean that presenting in a masculine manner can make it seem like I am in a very vivid dream.

The lesson I want you, the reader, to take from this, is that visibility as a trans person is not always something that is possible or desired. The perspectives of those we love can sometimes mean that being in the state where you are out and proud is problematic. Another instance where it can be an issue is when transphobiais directed towards us online or in real life, because societal perceptions from a vocal minority end up shaping the perspectives of a silent majority.

All we really ask is that you listen to and respect our experiences if we decide to be out in public, instead of listening to the aggressive vitriol of those that would perceive us as something more sinister. Before asking the question, check to see if there's a better way to phrase it by researching resources and the like, and make sure the things you want to discuss are consented to by the person you are asking. The reason why Transgender Day of Visibility became a thing is to recognise that we're people as well, and not some object of someone's desire or someone that can be laughed at because we don't conform to societal expectations of gender.

And, finally, to those dealing with this conundrum of whether or not the be out, my advice is to do what you consider to be safest for you. Only you can make that call and use the labels that you want to use, be that trans or non-binary or whatever else you want to use. There are safe spaces up and down the country, and we're here to help if you don't know where your nearest group is and want to get in touch. Our email is [email protected], or you can get in touch with us over Facebook Messenger or on Twitter.

Stay safe this weekend, hope that Easter's a good one for you all, and happy #TDoV.