Trans of Thought: Radically Visible

By : Maia Monet
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In Oct. 2007 I decided to shave my beard. This was a big deal considering I’d had my beard for 13 years.

However, Halloween was coming up and I’d had a brainwave for a costume that required me to be clean-shaven. You see, my wife at the time and I had been invited to an adult party thrown by married straight friends, and the husband was famous for dressing in drag at their events. My intention was to beat them at their own game by showing up in our own gender-bending outfits.

We went through a few options, including my wife as a football player and me as cheerleader, but all seemed too cliché or safe. We ultimately settled on my suggested “edgy” spin, which was to go as a matched set of lesbian cheerleaders. That I was in fact a lesbian trans woman deep in the closet, and had never gone out in “drag,” probably played a large role in my inspiration. Looking back now, I can see heaping helpings of projection in my idea, and it is more than a little embarrassing.Having decided on our theme, we threw ourselves into finding all the necessary pieces. Soon I was getting dressed in an honest-to-goodness cheerleader uniform, complete with pom-poms, ordered from an online cheer supply shop. I shaved everywhere, used Amazon packing to fill out my bra, applied my wife’s horribly mismatched-for-my-skin-tone makeup, and affixed a cheap wig atop my head. We took some pictures of the final result—you can dig into my Instagram if you feel the need to see it for yourself—and then headed out into a night, which would change my life forever.

When we got to the party, we were a big hit. We came in second in the costume contest, missing the top spot by only a vote or two, and I was feeling good. Maybe too good because as the night wound down, I found myself getting very sad at the prospect of returning to my confinement of masculine gender expression. However, I also distinctly remember being secretly very pleased when, after I took out my suffocating plastic “breasts” by the snack table, a startled partygoer stared at me slack-jawed because he had apparently believed me to be a woman to that point. This was followed by my own revelation that he might not have been alone in his case of mistaken (sort of) identity, which had probably cost my wife and I victory in the costume contest. My invisibility had been a negative.

After that night, I never grew my beard back. Three years later, after the death of my father, I found the inner strength to admit to myself I was transgender. By the time I was ready to live my life as my true gender identity, there would be no need for cheap wigs, my makeup skills had vastly improved and my feminine clothes were no longer thought of as a costume. Yet the one thing I brought with me from that Halloween night three years previous was my invisibility, and just as it was then, it was not ultimately to my benefit.

The funny thing is that we have been traditionally taught to highly value invisibility in the trans community for the sake of our safety and comfort of those around us. We still live in a world where the highest compliment I can be given as a transgender woman is that I don’t look like a transgender woman. The tragedy within the comedy is that the cost of comfort has been ignorance of our concerns and sometimes our existence. After all, a person who is invisible is in fact not a person at all. However, now that we have burst onto the scene occupying space in the public consciousness, as if from thin air, and demanding recognition of our civil liberties we can no longer be ignored. There have been consequences.

Thanks to the recent Health and Human Services memo that has leaked, I’ve had to think deeply in the last few days on one of those consequences. HHS is said to soon be releasing a set of rules that will enforce genitals at birth as a person’s true sex forever and back it with genetic tests in disputed cases. It will make changing the gender markers on our federal documentation a thing of the past for trans people. It would also make suing for discrimination under Title IX impossible and potentially pave the way for laws barring us from sex-segregated spaces. It is nothing short of the statutory genocide of trans people.

HHS seems to be betting that nobody will care enough about the trans community to stop them from embarking on their anti-science religious crusade. We don’t have a pithy catchphrase like “love is love” to make a relatable emotional appeal for greater understanding. Our previous invisibility has meant we have not made nearly as much progress towards acceptance as the LGB community even as we’ve marched to help secure it. The hope has always been that one day the greater queer community would have the political strength and capital to be there for us when we needed them. This is that time and I have faith that the call will be answered. I have no choice but to believe because I can’t go back to living life as a man even if only on paper. I’ve made sure that the beard I shaved off over a decade ago is never coming back. I am, and will remain, radically visible.

Melody Maia Monet is the co-founder of MadrigalSoftware.com and owns a YouTube channel on lesbian and transgender topics. You can view her videos at YouTube.com/MelodyMaia.

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