Choosing to be Visible

It’s Transgender Day of Visibility. If you don’t know me, or you’re new here, hello! My name is Charlie, and I’m transgender. My pronouns are he/him.

This will also be a shorter post than usual, because this takes a lot of energy to talk about. There will likely be a companion post to this on Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Disclaimer: I am not going to talk about my medical transition here. If you’re not me and you’re not living in my body or seeing me naked, you don’t need to know.

Writing is my favourite thing in the world. You may have noticed from the fact that I am a poet, and a scholar of poetry, and an editor of the wonderful Ink Drinkers Magazine (shameless plug because issue #2 came out last week).

I don’t write very much about being transgender, either in my poetry or in my scholarship. In all my published poetry, there’s maybe one line about my being trans. Truthfully, I’m scared of writing about it! I’m scared of being visibly trans because it invites attack, it invites questions: am I aware I’m an affront to God? Do I know I’m forsaking feminism by joining the patriarchy? Do I know I’m an abomination, do I know I’m going to force children to join a cult of transgenders, do I know that nobody will ever love me with a mutilated body? Do I know…?

Well, I know a great many things – mostly, I know that announcing myself does two things. It invites these questions and it sets me up as the apparent spokesperson for all trans people should I answer. This is a position all members of any minority invite, I am aware of this. I’m privileged. I can simply choose not to actively talk about it, thus sparing myself of the pain and energy wasted engaging with these people. I can choose to be invisible, to log out when my existence becomes political debate (again), when one of my community gets murdered (again). It’s self-defence, but it also invites guilt that I could speak out but choose not to.

I worry, and wonder, does it make me complicit in the transphobia my friends face if I ignore it? Do I become complicit because I choose not to write poetry about my being trans?

Enough with the self-flagellation. Let me talk about writing.

Say, hypothetically, that I did choose to write about my transness publicly, without it inviting the vitriol. I still don’t know if I could. A lot of my writing comes as release, at the end of the triggering event or just past it. As Miller Oberman so beautifully puts it: “the process of through is ongoing.” My transition will be happening for the rest of my life. I will still have to make the choice to be visible every time I meet someone new; I will still have relationships to navigate around it.

How on earth could I ever get closure on a relationship with my body that is ever changing? It’s not a breakup, is it, where one of us texts the other and it’s done, or we meet on a park bench, or in the schoolyard, or we ghost each other on tinder.

Even more than that, I’m a surprisingly private person. I don’t want to tell strangers how it feels to recognise the face in the mirror for the first time or how it feels to become. Not now, certainly, perhaps not ever. Poetry is an intimate form of writing, but that does not mean I have to become entirely naked for you, reading. I can keep my shirt on.

I want to use my final bit of space here to recommend some writers who do what I can’t:
Lee Mokobe: here.
Danez Smith: here.

Thank you for reading.


P.S. If you want to support my writing, you can buy me a coffee.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s