Neil Nory Kaplan-Kelly

As social scientists, it is our academic inclination to analyze situations from the extraordinary to the mundane. The delightfully clunkily named Trans Day of Visibility is no exception.

What does it mean to be visible as a trans person today?

I am an out and proud transgender man. My masculinity is nuanced and ultimately my own. The trans community is a cosmology of possibility. Every member has their own journey.

I am an out and proud transgender man. I am many more things than that. I do not research LGBTQ+ issues nor do I consider myself a gender studies scholar. However, my research has taught me that gender is an ever-present part of social life and, thus, my research.

I am an out and proud transgender man. Sometimes that can be scary. My community is under attack. There are 431 pieces of legislation under consideration in this country that explicitly seek to restrict the rights and freedoms of LGBTQ+ people, especially young people. This includes California Assembly Bill 1314 which would require schools to “out” students to their parents and opens the door to other initiatives meant to limit the freedoms of trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming youth.

I am an out and proud transgender man. Using data from 2017-18, the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law (one of our sister campuses) published a study that found that transgender people are four times more likely than cisgender people to experience violence in the United States. In 2022, the Human Rights Campaign counted 38 separate murders of transgender people in the US. Many of these victims were transgender women and people of color. This statistic may be wrong because this violence often goes unreported.

I am an out and proud transgender man. I am statistically less likely to be harmed physically due to my positionality in the world. Still, I am vigilant and constantly on edge when out in public. I am scared to use public restrooms. I never let my guard down. I am not sure how much longer I will be an out transgender man. Sometimes even being proud is hard.

I am an out and proud transgender man. Two weeks ago, I went to a drag performance brunch in Miami. Like any other frugal grad student, I inspected my check carefully. Above the gratuity was a new charge: a 2% contribution to the restaurant’s legal defense fund. In 2023, performers are being targeted by lawmakers just because they express a different possibility for life.

I am an out and proud transgender man. And it’s not all negative. There is so much trans joy in the world to experience. We are a beautiful community full of life and love. We have so much potential to impact the world in a positive way. Our existence will never be a threat, just an opportunity.

I am an out and proud transgender man. I want you to see me. Know me. Allyship is more than signing a petition, watching a drag show, or having a trans friend. Visibility is existing in our own beautiful, complex, and ever-changing world. Visibility is enacting compassion, strength, joy, and recognition. Visibility is more meaningful than ever. But so is our safety. I encourage all members of our UCI community to be visible in support of our trans colleagues both on campus and across the globe.

For more information on any of these issues, please see:

Neil Nory Kaplan-Kelly is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at UCI.

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