for the longest time it struck me as odd, the way that the LGBT community at large upholds “visibility” as some kind of goal or ideal to be fought for. it wasn’t until recent years that i actually stopped and thought about it enough to realize why reference to and usage of “visibility” in this way bothers me so much.
as someone who has always been and will always be hypervisible because of their race, it baffles me when people advocate for visibility as if visibility is what we all want; as if visibility is even a means to getting what we all want.
this upholding of visibility as something important for all of us to fight for seems grossly negligent of the fact that some of us are already more visible than others and that that very visibility is part of what has gotten some of us bullied, turned away from certain circles or spaces, refused jobs, pulled over unjustly by cops, assumed to be something we’re not, assaulted for using a bathroom, asked how many articles of clothing ‘of a particular gender’ we’re wearing, cornered in alleyways and worse. “visibility” is not just an LGBT issue and it is not just a matter of needing more of it– some of us are already visible as something the second we step out of our home and that visibility, be it in regards to sexuality, gender or something else entirely, is still wholly relevant to matters of LGBT advocacy.
on one hand, i understand the importance of days like Trans Day of Visibility, Bi Visibility Day; of organizations and people dedicated to visibility and for the fight for LGBT visibility in general. to an extent. but i often find that what people use “visibility” to mean would be better said if they replaced that “visibility” with “awareness” or “representation”…? then again, i’m sure that there are also people who really are fighting to “visibly” be their orientation and / or gender– whatever that may mean to them personally– because the flipside of being hypervisible is not being visible at all, ie. invisible, and i know that both can be equally horrible because, believe it or not, the very thing that makes me hypervisible to the world outside of my apartment also renders me invisible in many LGBTQIA spaces. it’s possible to be both hypervisible and invisible at the same time.
however, even acknowledging the fact that advocacy for visibility is often aimed at combating what many feel to be invisibility, it still irritates me that we have entire days and weeks devoted to visibility with seemingly little-to-no acknowledgement of how much of a double-edged sword visibility actually is and how that visibility plays out in different ways for different people.
i mean, every year the irony that is the Trans Day of Visibility’s celebratory focus on trans people through increased visibility contrasted against the Trans Day of Remembrance’s mourning of the loss of those who were often the most [hyper]visible and subsequently most vulnerable among us… yeah, that irony isn’t lost on me at all.
so yeah, uncritical advocacy for increased visibility will always make me weary. indiscriminate usage of “visibility” as being synonymous with “awareness” and / or “representation” will always be cause for pause.