Throughout this week, I have seen photos of many transgender flags being displayed out front of the office for members of Congress. As a long-time trans activist, I am flabbergasted that the flag I created 20 years ago has come to mean so much to our community. These Congress members felt so strongly about the visibility of trans people that they have placed our flag next to their welcome sign.
This is a monumental, tectonic shift from when I lobbied Congress 20 years ago, and I’m delighted I got to see it in my lifetime. Back then, we had a hard time getting to talk to people in Congress and were often laughed at on the phone and harassed in the hallways. Seeing all the flags somehow makes the fight all worth it.
Trans Visibility Day has now become Trans Visibility Week — fitting with everything that is happening all across the world for and to trans people. I have always told people that “Visibility = Credibility.” The more people see us and hear our stories, the more we are accepted as equals.
This day was started because out trans people wanted to help those still hiding feel free to show their true self. In many places in the world and in the U.S., trans people face shame and hatred from the intentional ignorance of people who do not — or will not — make an attempt to understand us. Many make the difficult choice to live in fear. Trans Visibility makes fear easier to take.
Trans Visibility Day, along with the Trans Flag, give our people a chance to be seen by an increasingly-accepting public. This is the day to show pride of your true self. Fly the colors. The words I have heard about the American Flag are also true about the Trans Flag, “These colors don’t run.”
The closet is a killer and it takes from us too many lives each year. The trans youth around the country need to know that they are not alone and those of us who came before them are here as you friends, mentors and protectors. You are strong, you are beautiful and you are loved. Members of Congress are sending a crucial message to transgender youth that they deserve a future and leaders committed to building that future. Let’s join to build that future with them.
MONICA HELMS is an activist, author, Navy veteran, and creator of the Transgender Pride Flag.