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“What does it mean to be seen?” – Transgender Day of Visibility

A diverse group of young people standing close to one another, laughing.

On Transgender Day of Visibility, dedicated to recognising the diversity, contributions and struggles of the transgender and non-binary community, we hear from one of our colleagues about what it means to be seen and accepted, both in and out the workplace.

When I first considered writing a blog for Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), the first question I asked myself, was “what does it mean to be visible?”. One of the definitions that is available for the word visible is: “able to be seen”. It comes across as quite an obvious definition; one that surely applies to everyone that exists in the world; surely everyone can be seen in society? Well, not quite.

I am a transgender man that has the privilege of working at Catch22; and what a privilege it is. Having started working at Catch22, I was truly in awe of the inclusivity and progressiveness of the organisation that shone through during my induction and beyond. Staff are encouraged to put their pronouns in their email signatures should they feel comfortable in doing so, and for the first time ever, I felt comfortable enough to put my pronouns in my email signature. It was actually, for me, one of the first times I felt “seen”.

As time went on, I became an LGBT+ rep for Catch22 alongside my day-to-day role. Being an LGBT+ rep has enabled me to deliver trans awareness webinars & to provide advice on topics such as trans inclusivity and allyship. It’s as a direct result of being part of a progressive and forward-thinking organisation that these conversations take place and provide an opportunity to learn and to grow, showing our service users that they are seen, they are valid, and they are welcome. It’s through this learning that we provide a foundation for others to be visible and to bring their complete selves to a table that they have a seat at.

When I was growing up, ‘identity’ was not a topic that was frequently discussed, and identities were not celebrated equally. There were no visible trans role models, allies, or advocates. Any media coverage of transgender identities seemed to be sensationalist and often inaccurate. At Catch22, we pride ourselves on continuously learning and evolving and one of the ways in which we do this is by having people with lived experience, such as myself, lead conversations on topics that are close to their heart. It’s not about paying lip-service to equality, diversity, and inclusivity conversations – it’s about really learning how we can improve, and not resting on our laurels.

Transgender people are not one homogenized group – we are as diverse as the rest of the population, with experiences as rich and nuanced. Transgender Day of Visibility is therefore such an important celebration as it shines a light on all trans people who choose to be visible; not just those commonly represented by the mainstream media.

My dream would be for transgender representation to increase across the board with true, sensitively portrayed depictions of trans identities. Cisnormativity, the notion that cisgender people are “the norm” and that transgender people are not, is not an inclusive nor progressive window through which to view the world. What would further inclusivity is to see more portrayals of trans joy in all its forms; stories told by trans people, for trans people. After all, in order to be yourself, you need to see yourself.