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Transgender Visibility Day brings mixed feelings after a tough year for the LGBTQ community

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Thursday is International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day commemorated on March 31 each year.

It was recognized by the White House through a 2021 proclamation as a time to “recognize the generations of struggle, activism and courage that are taking our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and elsewhere.” brought world.”

But after a year in which at least 37 states introduced some sort of anti-LGBTQ legislation, advocates in the greater Houston area say this year’s International Transgender Day of Visibility gives them mixed feelings. These bills include restricting gender-affirming care for transgender youth, allowing transgender people to participate in girls’ sports, and allowing transgender people to use bathrooms. The Republican legislature has also introduced bills to restrict books and curriculum in schools.

“There were many people who viewed Transgender Visibility Day as a good day to come out as trans. Many of them then lost their jobs, homes or access to health care,” said Alexis Melvin. “There is a great danger because there really aren’t any laws protecting the transgender community at the local and state level.”

“I told myself that if I came out as trans, I had to be willing to lose everything. When we are visible, we become targets. The second we step out, we’re a target. I get death threats,” said Eden Rose Torres, a transgender activist. “Some people want us dead just because we exist. Nothing about my experience as a trans woman is depressing. It’s how other people direct my existence, that’s what hurts. That’s what pains me, that I’m being devalued just for identifying as a trans woman.”

According to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, transgender people are four times more likely to be victims of violence than cisgender people. In February, Paloma Vazquez was found dead in her apartment near Gulfton. Iris Santos was shot dead while sitting outside a Chick-fil-A restaurant on Westheimer in April 2021.

“I’ve stood in front of the bodies of trans women, in front of their open coffin and looked at their bodies. There’s nothing more terrifying than seeing yourself there and imagining at any moment that it could be me,” Torres said. “If I walk out my front door, I have to worry about being murdered. Trans women are being murdered at such an alarming rate.”

SEE ALSO: A transgender woman killed in a Houston apartment fled violence in Latin America, friends say

Each year on November 20th, Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) collectively remembers, honors and commemorates the lost transgender lives. Melvin calls it a “very sad day” and says that’s why the International Transgender Day of Visibility was created in 2009 to provide a positive day for the celebration and recognition of trans people.

“It was someone’s idea because they were tired of only having TDOR to talk about transgender people. So they said, ‘Look, I want something that talks about the good things that living people are doing,'” she said. “Visibility has all sorts of benefits. You become part of the general community and they get to know trans people. Usually, once they know us, they are no longer afraid of us.”

Melvin is President of the Transgender Foundation of American (TFA) Houston, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for transgender people. It has existed since 1965 and has undergone several name changes. Some of their services include providing homeless services, removing barriers to mental health support, and meeting with elected officials to advocate for transgender equality.

“We’re under attack here in Texas. Anyone who decides this is the time to come out should think a lot because they’re going to get a lot of pressure from groups based on nothing but fear,” she said. “Families are scared to death following Governor Greg Abbott’s latest directive. Telling someone you can take their kids away from them is the worst thing you can say to someone.”

ALSO SEE: Texas Parents of Trans Youth Concerned About Gov. Abbott’s Policy on Gender-Assert Procedures

Torres says transgender youth are at higher risk of mental health problems than their cisgender peers. According to a 2021 national survey conducted by the Trevor Project, 42% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and 94% said recent politics had a negative impact on their mental health.

“These parents keep their children alive. When we are not validated in our body and identity, we are not comfortable with it. It’s something so devastating that it can make us take our lives,” she said. “Trans people face an astronomical setback in our existence in the form of discrimination and transphobia. Every day is a struggle to be seen and cherished. As we are dehumanized, it takes a toll on our mental health.”

Torres acknowledges that significant progress has been made for the transgender community, but notes that much remains to be done.

“When I was young, I didn’t have the language to say I was a trans woman. I wish I had all of the amazing things trans kids have today, like gender-affirming health care. Being able to change at school and socially is the real you. Using puberty blockers so you don’t have to feel so dysphoric, gross and awful in your own body,” Torres said.

Despite the dangers she faces, Torres says she’s as happy as she’s ever lived as her authentic self. She is a photographer who has introduced more than 7,000 people and told their stories through a campaign called Pride Portraits. She started the project in 2016 after the Pulse nightclub shootings.

“I had a studio a few years ago and it got bomb threats. I had a public art installation that got two faces that was labeled a hate crime in Harris County,” she said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned in the last year and a half as an out-trans woman is to make sure you create a safe space around yourself. I’ve created such a loving, vibrant, and diverse community of friends that I don’t have to worry about my safety.”

SEE ALSO: Finding Your True Self: The Pride Portraits Founder Shares Her Transition Journey

According to Torres, trans visibility is more important now than ever. With 2022 being an election year, she believes more transphobic rhetoric will come from a number of political candidates.

“I’m concerned that we’re not just going to see these anti-trans children bills in the next legislature. We will see bills against transgender people of all ages. Our entire community is under attack. She didn’t just win in Texas. It will be across the country. So we’re in a very big fight to be allowed to exist in the public space,” she said. “I want people to know that when we talk about trans equality, we’re not talking about additional rights. We talk about equal rights.”

She says being visible also means being seen, appreciated and recognized for the other parts of her identity.

“There are so many things about me that are fascinating, special and wonderful. None of this has to do with the fact that I’m trans. But that seems like the only thing people want to see about you when you’re trans. I just hope that somehow people can start seeing trans people as an everyday part of society, because that’s who we are,” she said.

Melvin said TFA Houston’s next priority was to find a physical location again, as their biggest limitation was providing a gathering space for their volunteers. She said funding hasn’t been an issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted some of her operations during its peak.

The Montrose Center is hosting an International Transgender Day of Visibility event on Friday, April 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m

For more on this story, follow Rosie Nguyen on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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https://abc13.com/international-transgender-day-of-visibility-transphobia-non-binary-alexis-melvin/11697479/ Transgender Visibility Day brings mixed feelings after a tough year for the LGBTQ community

Dais Johnston

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