As time goes on, trans, non-binary, and intersex experiences are becoming more and more accepted*, albeit slow. It’s always being a self-feeding cycle where as more people come out they lay the foundation for society to accept them. As trans acceptance increases it’s a little easier for more people to come out. This only accelerates the cycle for a brighter future.
Not Fast Enough
This self-feeding cycle is not happening as fast as we would like. In a perfect world people would not need to come out, or coming out should be no news. It should be as common as people earning a degree. You never hear about someone coming out as a lawyer (LOL). It should just happen without fear of rejection.
Another aspect that comes to mind is that the speed at which acceptance becomes more widespread varies dramatically from country to country. Not only that, but the levels of trans acceptance is actualy more granular. There is still a wide disparity within regions, cities, areas, communities and even within families. The good news is that trans, non-binary, and intersex issues are being embraced even when there is such a long way to go before they stop being controversial.
The Reach of Public Figures
On December 1st. 2020, Elliot Page came out as trans in a tweet. I felt a bunch of emotions when I learnt about it. I think the first thought I had was something along “welcome to the club”. But that’s really dumb because he has been in the club since day one; since he was born. It’s not something you become, it’s something you are. Not only he’s been a member of the club but also a powerhouse of advocacy for the LGBTQI+, and specifically for the trans community. Other feelings I had for his coming-out were happiness “to have arrived at this place in [his] life”, as he puts it. I can certainly relate. 🙂
By the time I publish this, Elliot’s tweet had been retweeted more than 236,000 times. By being an Academy nominated actor he has a large platform, and though he may not be super well known, he’s known by a large number of people.
Josie Totah, a 17 year old actor in 2018 publishes an op-ed on Time coming out as trans. Josie is different from Elliot because of her age when she came out. Elliot was 33 and was already an activist while Josie was only 17 and had been an actor for Disney. Josie’s fan base and platform is so much younger.
In September 2019, Sam Smith tweets that they’re changing their pronouns to ‘they/them’, a few months after coming out as non-binary. Just like Elliot Page, and Josie Totha, Sam Smith is known and followed by thousands and thousands of people.
Feeding The Cycle
As well-known people come out, it gets the message across that being trans, non-binary, or intersex is more common that what most may think. When these public figures come out they show others that may be in the closet that they are not alone. They see representation, not only by seeing other people come out, but by seeing that even the famous have the same struggles as everyone else. If you read these individuals I’ve mentioned here, you will notice they all were nervous about coming out, but that they had to do it. Again, I can relate.
For people that may be in the closet, by seeing well-known figures come out, they can see themselves represented. Page writes “I am also scared”. In a subsequent tweet Smith says “I’ve been very nervous about announcing this…” Totah mentions “I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted…” These are the concerns that I felt in one way or another before and after coming out and that is the reality for most if not all trans individuals.
The Real Power
It’s amazing to see when well-known people come out. I empathize with a shared experience and I’m aware and grateful for their reach. Still, it feels distant. These are public figures are in a world different from mine. I’ll never get to meet them for a drink and a chat about shared experiences. To me it feels they’re a bit detached from my reality. I’m not minimizing their struggle and I certainly would not like to be in such a bright spotlight as they are in the media.
A Brighter Future for Trans Acceptance Indeed
From the 3 people I mentioned above, I’m most excited for Josie’s reach and long term impact. I’m thrilled because of her background as a Disney actor and her age. This means her audience is much younger than Sam Smith’s or Elliot Page’s. But I’m even more excited because of a short interaction I had recently.
A few weeks ago I was wearing a t-shirt that reads “This is what trans looks like”. I happened to come across the daughter of a family friend. She’s somewhere between 16 and 18 years old; I’m not sure. She said “I like your shirt”. Then, out of the blue she continued “I’m not trans, but I’m bi. Most my friends are gay. The person that I’m seeing now is non-binary…” I felt that she was almost apologizing for not being trans. Though I can’t say I was surprised about her comment, I was certainly not expecting it.
The more I thought about that brief interaction, the more excited I got. All her peers are exposed to these experiences. Their classmates are subject to seeing, being, and learning with them. Though this girl and her friends do not have the platform that a public figure may have, they have an arm’s length connection to a lot of people. And that’s what excited me so much. By day to day exposure, all these students, their teachers, parents, and families in general, get to see acceptance first hand. This feels much closer to my reality as I’m in the same community.
The future is bright indeed because the younger generations are growing up amongst our experiences. They’re seeing that we’re just average people with the same problems and successes as anyone else. That little conversation showed me that there is awareness and it’s spreading in an organic manner.
I want to end with a tribute to all that came before my time. Thanks to their exposure and experiences it has made it “easier” for me. I also recognize my responsibility to share my experiences and, to a point, to expose myself. By doing so I help feed the ever-growing cycle of exposure and trans acceptance.
*Note: First I used the word “normalized” but then decided against it. By using it assumes that my experiences are abnormal, which is not true. My trans experiences may be uncommon amongst the general population, but not abnormal. I settled on the word “accepted” after all.
P.S. Here I talk about “trans, non-binary, and intersex” or TNBI issues and not about the more generalized LGBTQI+ umbrella. The reason is that TNBI refers to individuals outside of the gender binary, while LGBTQI+ also implies sexual orientation. If this distinction is confusing to you, please ask and inform yourself. To start here’s an interesting article on what is intersex and the issues they face.