The Visibility Dilemma

            Jamison Green, activist and author of Becoming a Visible Man, discusses the issue of visibility for transsexuals in his essay “Look! No, Don’t!” His claim is that as transsexuals become “more successful” in their transitions, the more invisible they become. On the flipside, if one wants to be more open about their transsexuality, one has to put themselves in potentially harmful situations. “In order to be a good- or successful – transsexual person, one is not supposed to be a transsexual person at all,” (Green 501).

            With this thinking, one is to be successful when they live in total secrecy and do not acknowledge their history. Being closeted in this sense can be a very heavy burden in that one has to constantly be on their guard against being found out as a trans-person. One will inevitably have to disclose their trans-status or will have their status disclosed for them, mainly due to things such as medical care, employment, and government agencies. But what is interesting is that most post-transition trans-men do not have to worry about being outted on a day-to-day basis. They appear “acceptably gendered” and that is when the “visibility dilemma” comes in (Green 502).

            As previously stated, the visibility dilemma is the phenomenon of wanting to “pass” as a certain gender, but still wanting to be visible as a trans-person when it is appropriate. The desire to pass is more easily understood for logistical purposes, as it is almost always safer to pass than it is to not pass. The desire to be out is equally understandable, because isolation “can lead to poor self-esteem and ill-informed choices with respect to treatment in medical, legal, and social arenas,” (Green 500).

            This YouTube video talks about the visibility dilemma. It functions as a personal video blog, but it provides some interesting insight on the visibility dilemma. The vlogger talks about the visibility dilemma in reference to Jamison Green’s book Becoming a Visible Man.

            This vlogger discusses the use of different kinds of clothing to perform as a certain gender. There was this certain pair of pants that he would wear when he wanted to be perceived as more masculine. However, due to his medical transition, those pants do not read as overtly masculine anymore. “My body is kind of now talking to me, which raises a huge amount of stress.” He goes on to discuss how he is not “constantly testing boundaries” in regard to how his gender is viewed and how he no longer has as much “control” over how he is perceived. He wants to be perceived as a trans* individual because he wants to share that common experience with other trans*folk, but since he passes he no longer feels as if he is able to do so. This is a prime example of the visibility dilemma that Green talks about in his essay.

– Kris Krumb


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