International Transgender Day of Visibility

The 31st March is the International Transgender Day of Visibility – a day for recognising the accomplishments and contribution of trans people and for fighting against transphobia. It is a day of empowerment!

This year the theme is trans resistance (#TransResistance) which reflects a need – a call – to speak out, to take direct action and to raise awareness through education. This is an incredibly important call to action for us at York St John University in our role as educators but also in our role as active citizens. Marije Davidson has been working with others internally and externally to ensure we have a trans policy that reflects and respects the experiences of all so that York St John University remains an employer and university of choice for trans people to come here for work or study and know that their right to self-determine their own identity is protected and valued. At a mundane but necessary level this has also involved number of colleagues doing an audit of toilet facilities so that we can ensure all can access the loo without having to tramp around campus for a comfort break!

But it’s not just about toilets – although recent changes in Trump’s America do remind us in the cis-world of the importance of every detail – it’s about creating a world in which we can celebrate our shared humanity, the dignity of life, without having to focus on our differences and the negotiations required because of a heteronormative, cis-normative culture.

Visibility is key – it can be in your face, it can be subtle – both are fine. On Friday we will be doing subtle – some flags around Holgate which we hope will spark interest and cause people to ask the question “What do the flags mean?” (and answers will be provided). Why a subtle approach (and why no cakes – we always have cakes!)? As Stonewall says, “Some people are trans – get over it”. However, look around you – is that person over there trans or cis? How about that one – or that one? You can’t tell by looking – that’s why we are taking the subtle approach, to engage in dialogue and raise awareness that anyone may be trans.

What else can cis-people do? They can be trans-allies, they can take the #nobystander pledge and ensure they will call out hatred and abuse wherever they see it.

I am a cis-woman and, as such, I have to recognise my role, within a cis-normative society, as one of denying visibility to trans people and it is incumbent upon me to listen to and respect the needs, wishes and desires of trans people and seek to make the world a place where all can have life, life in abundance as the York St John motto states.

As a lesbian, I also value the contribution of others to the fight for visibility of LGBT people and yearn for the day when visibility is no longer necessary as all this collective rainbow diversity of humanity becomes normative. When I first became active in gay (as it was then called!) politics in the late 70s, I could never have dreamed of a day when same gender people could be married or that my sexuality would be protected in law. The changes show that everything is possible – if you are just prepared to have the dream and make it happen!

And the unanswered question – why no cake?! Well, if you have cake all the time it ceases to be a treat! Come to our stall at York Pride on the 10th June – there will be cake…in abundance!

Fiona Thompson

At York St John University I am Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Chair of the University’s LGBT Staff Network. I have been actively involved with LGBT politics since the late 70s and, whilst much has changed for the better, there is still much to be done. I have also participated in the social and cultural world of my community from ballroom dancing to singing! I am a founder member of the Leeds based choir ‘Gay Abandon’ and I set up and conduct the splinter choir ‘Sacred Wing’ which sings sacred music at All Hallows Church (an inclusive Church of England church in Leeds) at Christmas.

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