Why do we celebrate being “visible”? A reflection on the challenges and joys of trans visibility in Defence

DEFGLIS recognises International Transgender Day of Visibility for 2022

Since it was first celebrated in 2009, Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) has been held each year on 31stMarch. TDOV is an opportunity to celebrate the incredible resilience, strength and courage of the transgender and gender diverse community. It is a day to be proud of the hard-won joys that come with our identities, such as the fiercely close friendships formed with our peers and the unique perspective we have on life. Equally, it is a day to recognise the significant challenges and frustrations that come with transitioning in a world that is not always safe or affirming. Most of all, TDOV is a chance to recognise the contributions made by transgender & gender diverse people across society, and to commit to breaking down barriers that prevent many from being visible in their everyday lives.

Transgender & gender diverse personnel serve with pride across all aspects of Defence. Trans members of DEFGLIS can be found serving openly in combat, engineering, technical trades, personnel capability, communications, aviation, intelligence, health, logistics and training roles. We have both enlisted members and officers among our ranks, both uniformed ADF personnel and civilians within the Australian Public Service that work hard to contribute to Defence capability.

Sometimes, visibility can be a double-edged sword. With the increased visibility of transgender & gender diverse members in Defence over the last decade, comes new challenges of navigating our identity in the workplace. Those in our community who are most visible are often also those most vulnerable. Members who are just beginning the journey of affirming their gender identity may not have practice or confidence at advocating for themselves in social or professional settings. Similarly, having an identity outside the gender binary can mean additional challenges in navigating a strongly gendered environment such as Defence.

In support, cisgender allies can wonder about how to speak and act in ways that are respectful and empowering towards their trans peers. With that in mind, today DEFGLIS is suggesting three ways to be VISIBLE in your support for transgender & gender diverse people:

#1 Stand up for respect and inclusion. As a core Defence value, respect is essential when engaging with any transgender or gender diverse person. If you witness disrespectful or exclusive behaviour in the workplace as a bystander, have the courage to stand up and point out why that’s the case. If it’s in a situation where an individual has been personally affected, check in with them for support. Model respectful and inclusive behaviour in your own interactions as an ally, to show others how to support and empower transgender and gender diverse people.

#2 Work hard at using gender-affirming language. When it comes to pronouns, the best thing to do is practice, practice, practice. Whilst changes in our everyday language can seem hard at first, conscious practice at using the correct pronouns and gendered terms for the transgender & gender diverse people in your life will very quickly become second nature. If you don’t know somebody’s pronouns, it is always best to ask rather than assuming. When speaking to groups of people, or in circumstances where you’re not familiar with your audience, adopting gender-neutral language is a great way to ensure you are respectful and inclusive of everyone. When you make a mistake, quickly apologising and correcting yourself is the best way forward. If you’re lost getting started, pronoun guides are a great resource.

#3 Celebrate the resilience and accomplishments of trans people. As transgender and gender diverse people become more visible, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that are faced on a daily basis. Reach out to the trans people you know to see how you can better support them. Learn to recognise barriers to visibility and inclusion, empower transgender and gender diverse people to overcome them, and celebrate together when they do.

This TDOV, DEFGLIS celebrates all our transgender & gender diverse members, the incredible lives that they lead, and the amazing work that they do.

Author: Riley Bradford.
Riley is a Lieutenant in the Australian Regular Army, and the DEFGLIS Transgender and Gender Diverse Board Representative.