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Trans Visibility Won’t Save Us

Trans people in 2019 are more represented in mainstream culture than ever — but that hasn’t necessarily improved our everyday lives. So what should we be fighting for instead?

Posted on December 4, 2019, at 10:54 a.m. ET

Ben Kothe / BuzzFeed News; Instagram / jacobtobia, YouTube / ContraPoints, Time Inc., Getty Images / Via instagram.com youtu.be

YouTube isn’t only a cesspool of bad faith arguments, conspiracy theories, and right-wing propaganda. For the 760,000 people who subscribe to ContraPoints, it’s a gateway to a world of camp and critical philosophy.

ContraPoints is a channel run by Baltimore-based entertainer and self-described “ex-philosopher” Natalie Wynn, 31, who uses it to respond to the right-wing narratives that dominate the platform. Her videos — deep dives into everything from incels to aesthetics, which rack up views in the millions — are smart and irreverent, well researched, and fully realized. Her efforts to discredit everyone from the alt-right to anti-trans radical feminists by using their own rhetorical style against them has received glowing write-ups in Current Affairs, the Verge, Vice, and the New Yorker. The Los Angeles Times called her “that rare presence in our clamorous times: an internet voice resonant not with rage but with satire, humor, [and] nuance.”

Wynn is a compelling public figure, and the press surrounding her videos has made her something of an internet celebrity. But Wynn is also a trans woman — and for trans women, wider recognition often comes with more risks, both big and small.

In early September, Wynn tweeted about some of her frustrations with the phenomenon of a “pronoun circle,” when people in ostensibly trans-inclusive spaces go around the room and introduce themselves with their pronouns. Wynn suggested that this attempt at accommodation might end up drawing extra unwanted attention to the trans people in attendance.

Wynn fired off a further series of thoughts about who benefits from these introductions and from visibility in general. She tweeted (and then deleted) frustration with “the radicals” and their fixation on “new visibility”; she followed it up with another now-deleted tweet: “I’m friends with a lot of Gen Z trans people, and I’m often grouped in with them because I’m very online and transitioned not that long ago. But my experience is very different. I’m not a vanguard zoomer tran. I sometimes feel like the last of the old-school transsexuals.”

This debacle prompted Wynn to temporarily deactivate her Twitter account. (She revived it about two weeks later, joking, “if I ever tweet anything resembling an opinion, please punish me severely.”) In the days and weeks that followed, the incident’s shadow has only grown larger.

During that initial tweetstorm, Wynn argued that things like pronoun circles and the push toward more gender-neutral language in general “comes at the minor expense of semi-passable transes like me” — evidence that was later used across Reddit threads, tweetstorms, independent explainer YouTube videos, blog posts, and critical articles to indicate that either Wynn supposedly hates nonbinary people, or that her “cancellation” was a symptom of a larger problem with the messy business of trans inclusion. Some commentators on the right used the incident to defame “transgender activists” for their oversensitivity. Since her latest video featured Buck Angel, a trans man who’s caught fire for implying the visibility of “transgenders” is a political threat to legitimate transsexuals like him, the debates over Wynn and her politics have ramped up even further.

During the first week in November, Wynn stepped away from Twitter for the second time in three months, seemingly for good, leaving a final note stating her love and support for nonbinary people.

It would be easy to chalk the ContraPoints affair up to an example of “cancel culture” gone too far — a symptom of the crazed radical left’s deficit of empathy and appetite for blood. It would be just as easy to argue that Wynn got what she deserved, and to celebrate the juridical swiftness of the internet in responding to what might be construed as a kind of hate speech.

But both of those interpretations fail to capture what’s unique and compelling about this scandal, which is emblematic of larger tensions and contradictory political visions in public discussions of trans life today — from queer and trans studies in academia, to coverage of trans rights in the mainstream press, to the daily debates among queer and trans people on social media.

“On the one hand, we know intellectually that ‘trans’ doesn’t necessarily imply a politic, because a trans person is just a fucking person,” writer and critic Andrea Long Chu told me over the phone in September. “But there’s clearly a political meaning to the very speakability of transness. So there’s an inherent tension.” For Chu, 27, the ContraPoints debate and Wynn’s self-fulfilling prophecy of a generational divide in the trans community pointed to the different ways in which individuals want to feel as though they belong under the unsteady trans umbrella.

I think for a lot of people — including those whom Wynn may have imagined with the phrase “vanguard zoomer trans” — trans identity does mean something politically. On some level, it would be ridiculous to assume otherwise: To even be able to describe oneself as trans in a public way requires a kind of political consciousness. Our existence, the saying goes, is resistance. But is our existence really resistance on its own?

Trans people in 2019 are incredibly visible: Nonbinary identities and androgynous aesthetics have gained mainstream appeal; influencers and celebrities have put our ideas and shortcomings on the international stage; new arguments have opened up old wounds in the pages of celebrated newspapers and right-wing rags; and fights over identity and expression have made their way to the highest offices of government. Against a backdrop of multiple, highly publicized killings of Black and brown trans women, trans identity has been the subject of comedy specials, op-eds, public hearings, legal cases, and Supreme Court decisions — to the point that questions about what it “means” to be trans are suddenly inescapable. This has been a year of startling contradictions: one in which the divisions beneath the flimsy umbrella we call the “trans community” have grown increasingly stark, and the stakes seem impossibly high.

Visibility and representation can be deeply affirming for those marginalized from the mainstream. But a politics of identity and its recognition have come to overshadow the ways in which recognition carries unique consequences for some trans people and not for others. The ContraPoints incident is an example of how narratives of trans life often fail to account for the complicating factors of race and class. And in its wake, the whole corpus of trans discourse — particularly on the internet — requires critical reconsideration.

Our existence, the saying goes, is resistance. But is our existence really resistance on its own?

Five years have passed since Laverne Cox’s appearance on the cover of Time magazine heralded the era of the so-called “transgender tipping point.” The politics of trans identity and visibility has since led to more #genderfluid ad campaigns and individual gains for a select few now-famous trans people — efforts that have sometimes helped everyday trans people feel less alone while also encouraging everyday cis people to better understand trans identity and humanity. But even though trans representation in the media is at an all-time high, most trans people are still living under precarious and profoundly unequal conditions. Most urgently, Black and brown trans women are dying in record numbers, and many more are suffering on the streets. The year is almost over; in 2020, it’s worth asking ourselves what ought to come next. If recognition couldn’t bring us revolution, what should we be fighting for instead?

YouTube / ContraPoints / Via youtu.be

“Transsexuality,” wrote feminist scholar Viviane Namaste in 2001, “is about the banality of buying some bread, of making photocopies, of getting your shoe fixed. It is not about challenging the binary sex/gender system, it is not about making a critical intervention every waking second of the day, it is not about starting the Gender Revolution. Queer theorists, as well as transgender theorists like [Leslie] Feinberg and [Jack] Halberstam, just don’t get it.”

For Namaste, who devoted her professional life to improving the Canadian prison and health care systems for trans people, there was nothing exceptional or even terribly interesting about being trans. We didn’t want to be visible, political, radical, or revolutionary — we simply had to be those things, though only as a result of being discriminated against.

I don’t know how I feel about Namaste’s full argument; surely Leslie Feinberg, a revolutionary communist whose historical and political writing and activism demanded that readers recognize trans personhood and endorse working-class solidarity, “got it.” Still, Namaste’s point is an interesting one to consider, at the very least because her framing sounds eerily familiar to Wynn’s dichotomy between the “vanguard zoomer tran” and the “old-school transsexual.” For as long as trans identity has existed in the mainstream, there have been tensions between those who simply strive to live normal lives and those who have imagined the transsexual experience as a political project — something that will succeed or fail in the quest for queer liberation and gender revolution.

There have always been tensions between trans people who simply strive to live normal lives and those who have imagined the transsexual experience as a political project.

I began identifying as trans in 2015, the same year that the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationally — a time when increased “trans visibility” was beginning to be celebrated in the mainstream for its apparent ability to improve the everyday lives of trans people. After the “transgender tipping point” in 2014, sensational trans people and aesthetics were all the rage, earning write-ups and video spots from the likes of Mic, NowThis, Bustle, and other LGBTQ-friendly online publications and their pivot-to-video enterprises (prefiguring the 2017 launches of Into and Them). By 2016, it was not at all uncommon to hear people talk about “abolishing gender” or “breaking the binary,” even if all they really did was put on lipstick. But these were the later Obama years, when it was easy to sell the idea of representation as a cure-all for social ills. Being different was exciting; alongside my fellow privileged baby gays, I gobbled it all up.

Then, in 2016, on the same campus I had just graduated from, Jordan Peterson, a right-wing intellectual and psychology professor, declared his culture war on nonbinary identity, claiming that “gender identity ideology” was going to bring down Western civilization. That same year, Milo Yiannopoulos went on his Dangerous Faggot Tour, harassing trans women at various campuses across the US. Cultural conservatives started conflating trans identity with a Stalinist assault on “free speech” and “traditional values.” It was a strange ontological bind: We didn’t exist, yet somehow we posed an existential threat.

Many trans people and our allies responded to right-wing propaganda by doubling down on the radical potential of trans visibility, using it as the basis of a general politics of resistance. To be trans meant to stand in violation of the rules society created around men, women, sex, and embodiment. We were evidence that the system was broken, so why not smash it entirely and build something new? Others, however, were more concerned with proving our availability to be good citizens and governable subjects: Yes, trans people exist, but we mean you no harm.

A viral hashtag, #WeJustNeedToPee, suggested we’re not trying to rewrite the rules of society. We’re just trying to go to the bathroom, or school, or work, or the grocery store — what Namaste calls the “banality” of everyday life. These campaigns often featured normatively masculine or feminine trans people, viral photos of burly trans men sarcastically asking if they belonged in women’s rooms.

But in the end, anti-trans people don’t really care if the trans women they attack and criminalize can perform womanhood better than cis women do. In fact, many transmisogynists claim that trans women are anti-woman precisely for attempting to conform to the sexist expectations imposed on them. There was no way we were going to win against patriarchy and cissexism — the normative perspective that perceives trans people as abnormal and aberrant — by attempting to play by its own fucked-up rules. We were having the wrong conversation.


It’s understandable that some trans people would want to uplift the promise of visibility, all in the hopes that it will translate to greater freedom for all trans people. When yet another hateful trans-exclusionary radical feminist (or “TERF”) is spreading fearmongering nonsense about trans people daring to play sports, or when “gender-critical” opinions show up as cover stories or in the paper of record, it’s tempting to respond with photos of innocent-looking trans kids or personal pleas for recognition. The hope is that by normalizing ourselves — and by being visible in our normalcy — we can offset the barriers that keep trans people at the margins of society.

The kinds of pronoun circles that make Natalie Wynn uncomfortable, as well as subtler actions like pronouns in Twitter bios or email signatures, are all earnest attempts at making trans people more visible and thus, hopefully, more accepted. But I worry that we’ve overemphasized the importance and political value of visibility to the extent that some of us assume it’s the only tool we have to work with — or the only goal worth seeking. Among the extremely logged-on and relatively well-off — like white trans entertainers with academic credentials, online activists with rich families, and the cisgender allies celebrated at nonprofit galas — the language and platform of visibility is mistakenly invoked as a solution to the violence faced by everyone under the trans umbrella.

My friend Edgar Nuñez, 26, is a nonbinary artist based in San Diego. She told me during a recent conversation that public discussions about trans “visibility” and recognition are often a shorthand for passing — the ability to be perceived as one’s gender, which is often predicated upon one’s levels of racial and socioeconomic privilege. In her view, comments like Wynn’s about hypervisible trans Gen Z’ers take for granted the whiteness of their subjects.

By implying that nonbinary people’s desire for their genders to be recognized and affirmed is antagonistic to the goals of binary trans people who want to pass, Wynn inadvertently demonstrated the main problem with so much of “visibility” discourse. While she and other self-identified “old-school transsexuals” (Wynn is only 31) yearn to pass as the genders they are, the very possibility of that “passing” is bound up in matters of race and class. In many ways, transphobia is a by-product of societal racism: Gender is racialized and consequently policed; racial logics make certain trans people more visible — and dangerously so — than others.

Thus, for Black and brown trans people, visibility isn’t always a goal. More often, as artist Martine Syms noted, “Representation is a form of surveillance”: Visibility doesn’t translate to acceptance, but greater attention, scrutiny, and restriction. “For Black and brown people, the state is already generally out to get us,” said Nuñez. “We have a lot of attention on us already. No one is trying to be visible, at least not in the way [Wynn] imagines. Class has everything to do with it. To conflate being nonbinary with a specific, hypervisible presentation is very limited.”

Nuñez tells me that, when out in public, she’s more likely to receive unwanted attention from strangers than, for example, a white trans woman who’s able to pass as cisgender most of the time. Her visibility is thoroughly unwelcome; whether that stranger is a cop, a landlord, or a particularly aggressive white person, they are all more likely to see Nuñez as (in her words) “a dangerous, criminal, brown thing” rather than a paragon of radical transgender personhood.

“For Black and brown people, the state is already generally out to get us ... We have a lot of attention on us already. No one is trying to be visible.”

The contradictions between these two very different kinds of visibility made themselves apparent the same week that trans people online rose up in reaction to Wynn’s initial tweets. While everyone was arguing about ContraPoints, a 17-year-old Black trans girl named Bailey Reeves had just been shot and killed in Baltimore, the same city where Wynn lives. Despite the gravity of this event — its publicity, its violence, and its painful similarity to the devastatingly high number of other killings of Black trans women and girls this year — Reeves’ death seemed to make far fewer waves on the trans internet than the argument over ContraPoints. And that, itself, is telling. Whereas one event continued long-standing debates over the best ways to present trans identity online, the other marked yet another instance in a long pattern of Black deaths and the way those deaths are so often overshadowed by concerns over white people’s comfort.

All trans people suffer due to cissexism. All incidents of misgendering and harassment are scarring. Still, when we look at the conditions of poverty, precarity, and over-policing in which most transgender people live and die, different kinds of patterns begin to emerge. Reeves was a young Black girl in one of the most wealth-segregated cities in America, where the police shot and killed at least four Black people this year alone. Trans visibility and recognition has skyrocketed, but Black and brown trans women are still dying. It doesn’t seem like a politics of visibility can really save the most vulnerable among us.

Ending this epidemic might require something different than a trans-positive Instagram ad from yet another brand seeking points, a book deal from yet another overexposed trans social media microcelebrity, or a workplace inclusivity session in the wake of a misgendering incident in the office — or, for that matter, #canceling someone like Natalie Wynn for her inelegant comments about nonbinary people. It seems as though all the visibility in the world won’t change how some bodies are valued over others. So what might that something different look like?


“At the time of the ‘trans tipping point,’ there was excitement around the idea of identity itself being a rupture,” Alyson Escalante, 27, recently told me over the phone. Escalante is a Chicana trans woman and cohost of the podcast Red Menace. In 2016, her essay Gender Nihilism: An Anti-Manifesto was among the more widely read and cited online texts about the contradictions of this golden age of representation politics.

“My thinking at the time was that identity cannot be radical, and so it must be destroyed,” said Escalante. “Since then, my organizing has been more interested in addressing the issue of class — the real conditions in which proletarian trans people live.”

What’s the use of gender-neutral clothing without the money to buy it? Why worry about a landlord respecting your pronouns if you can’t afford rent?

She has a point. Statistically, most trans people work precarious jobs in shitty conditions. Many trans women are involved in sex work, which means they’re often criminalized and denied any kind of workplace protections, let alone basic health benefits. Even depressing statistics, like the fact that 78% of transgender Americans have experienced anti-trans harassment in the workplace, still assume that most trans people are working in formal workplace environments. In fact, studies in the US indicate that trans people experience unemployment at twice the national average; among those who are employed, 44% were only able to acquire temporary, part-time, or low-wage work. When a trans woman named Alloura Wells went missing in Toronto in 2017, the police told her family that because she was homeless, she wasn’t “a priority.” In a 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, only 13% of respondents had been formally employed in the past year. According to that same survey, 29% of trans people were found to be living in poverty (roughly twice the national average), with Black trans people hit the hardest. Over 40% of Black trans people in the US have been homeless at some point. (Ironically, and sadly, despite its knowledge of this racial and socioeconomic reality, the National Center of Transgender Equality itself was recently criticized for persistently busting unions and creating a culture of racial abuse for nonwhite employees.)

These numbers are bleak, but they paint an accurate picture of the lives of most trans people, especially those of color. Their most pressing concerns aren’t ones of recognition and accommodation, but the kinds of issues that impact working people across the board — the threat of rising costs, low wages, inflating debt, shitty jobs, and public servants that openly don’t care whether trans people live or die.

Sure, individualized recognition and accommodation can be useful, even transformative, for some trans people. But what’s the use of gender-neutral clothing without the money to buy it? Why worry about a landlord respecting your pronouns if you can’t afford rent? The truth is, fighting systemic injustice with individual recognition is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. If the experiment of neoliberal multiculturalism has taught us anything, it’s that institutional discrimination is incredibly resilient when faced with the politics of increased visibility. Canada passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988 — yet, by 2014, the government deported an average of 35 people per day. To Escalante, the controversy around ContraPoints “actually illustrates why organizing is important. Because the politics that Wynn espouses, and those that she criticizes, both miss the issue of class.”

While we were talking, I thought of Layleen Polanco Xtravaganza, a Black Latina trans woman who died in June in solitary confinement on Rikers Island. She was held there on $500 bail related to a prostitution-related misdemeanor and a low-level drug charge. All these circumstances — mass incarceration of Black people, the policing of sex work, solitary confinement, cash bail, and the war on drugs — are products of policies designed to constrain Black life and criminalize poverty. They’re also the subjects of ongoing, multigenerational campaigns led by Black and brown working-class activists.

According to Ngaire Philip, a Black trans woman and grant writer, the ContraPoints incident and its close proximity to the death of Bailey Reeves demonstrate how debates over visibility and identity can actually obscure the difficult realities impacting trans women — Black trans women, specifically — as a class.

Ngaire, 26, is based in Baltimore, where Wynn lives and where Reeves was killed. They work with Baltimore Safe Haven, a grassroots organization that provides necessary shelter, health supplies, and counseling to people who are in “survival mode” — sleeping on the streets, dealing with addictions, and doing survival sex work. “People walk past homeless people on the street all the time and pretend like they’re not there,” they told me over the phone. “And a lot of those people are Black and trans.”

Ngaire added: “I think that when we focus so much on the minutiae of identity, we get lost in the sauce. We end up walking past the people who actually need our help the most, and trying to fixate on our smallest desires and cravings. And it’s fine to have those desires, but we can’t just walk past those who are in dire need.”

So much of trans discourse — the discussions over trans representation and inclusion that take place in the media, cisgender academics, and online — ends up reflecting the class and race divides within this loose assemblage of “trans community.” Focusing on identity, visibility, and recognition can risk reproducing a very narrow image of what trans life means on a political level. This, in turn, gives permission to cultural and political leaders to eschew material policy changes for representational gestures. With the blessing of influencers, lobby groups, and image-conscious corporations, readers and viewers understand trans inclusion as something achieved through brand endorsements, trans television characters, and gender-neutral corporate policies, rather than through affordable housing and health care reform.

On an individual, human level, the products of visibility are valuable: Seeing more trans characters in media gives common references to trans kids and their parents, and antidiscrimination measures ensure that human relations teams are prepared to support trans employees. However, these individualized, identity-focused solutions don’t do anything to broadly address the economic, racial, and political components of trans marginalization. Trans identity is highly politicized, but it isn’t itself a kind of political vision or program. Our identities may help us recognize the necessity of revolution, but they are not a revolution in themselves.


“We as a community are familiar with a set of transsexual narratives that are now considered to be either total canards or strategic narratives created for the benefit of cis people — the ‘born this way’ or ‘wrong body’ would be one of them,” Andrea Long Chu told me. “But the fact is, nonbinary identity is also privy to similarly leaky narratives. And that’s because nonbinary people, being full and entire human beings, may, like the rest of us, believe a lot of dumb shit.”

A girl after my own heart, Chu has a penchant for punchy writing that challenges its audience and inverts their expectations, which has made her a prominent and somewhat controversial figure over the past year. At the end of 2018, she wrote about her impending vaginoplasty in the New York Times, advocating for a change in thinking about trans surgeries: Rather than framing the operations as a way to mitigate “risk,” we should recognize them as opportunities for bodily autonomy, the fulfilment of a desire that ought to stand for itself. “Surgery’s only prerequisite should be a simple demonstration of want,” Chu wrote. “Beyond this, no amount of pain, anticipated or continuing, justifies its withholding.”

There was much to enjoy about Chu’s essay. But some trans women were deeply uncomfortable with how she described her body (referring to her vagina as a “wound”), and, by extension, the bodies of other trans women. Kai Cheng Thom argued in an essay for Slate that Chu’s writing “grazes some unfortunate stereotypes of how people talk and write about trans people” and “generalizes transition in a way that’s hurtful to post-op trans people and potentially damaging to those considering transition.” Essentially, Thom argued, even as Chu aimed to subvert the narrative of transition as an emergency medical intervention, her article reinforced other, equally insidious narratives.

Rereading Chu’s piece, and Thom’s response to it, reminded me of an argument raised by trans poet and activist Gwen Benaway in her essay “Pussy”: “Being a trans girl,” she wrote, “often means that much of the world actively hates you and will try to dehumanize you at every encounter. You are forced, quite literally, to give perfect accounts of yourself to access institutions and participate in public life.” When we’re faced with such an environment, it’s no wonder that many of us rely on certain tried-and-true narratives to account for something as flimsy and unfixed as gender.

But narratives about trans people, and trans women in particular, have a power of their own. The fallout from Chu’s essay demonstrates how our ability as trans people to speak to and about our own bodies and experiences involves navigating prejudices and preexisting cultural ideas; when you think you’ve evaded one, another one sneaks up in its place. Some trans people have found a kind of power in defining themselves in opposition to these ideas. But that opposition is often one without teeth. To paraphrase journalist Harron Walker, most trans identity discourse promises a rebellion “without ever trying to pick up the first brick.” And so the troubling narratives about trans people produced by cisgender medical gatekeepers, politicians, pundits, and marketers remain undisturbed.

The ContraPoints incident can’t really provide us with some grand theory of transsexuality today. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking about Benaway’s point, and how narratives can often take on a much bigger life than the events they describe.

The actual problem of cissexism is absent both from Wynn’s complaints about her own hypervisibility and her critics’ characterization of trans women as antagonistic to nonbinary people. It is cissexism that makes us visible whether we want to be or not, punishes us for our gendered transgressions, and insists that we can never really be real enough. Yet in the ContraPoints controversy, cissexism and cisgender people remained unobserved, unchallenged, worked around — accounted for without ever having to provide an account of themselves.

The fact that the ContraPoints incident erupted into such a significant debate, arguably at the expense of further coverage and discussion of Bailey Reeves’ death and the many social, economic, and cultural factors that produced it, should tell us something about the priorities of a trans discourse concerned primarily with visibility and recognition. It also speaks to the limits of playing to a cisgender audience — a feature of ContraPoints’s videos and of visibility discourse in general — which always occurs within the defined bounds of whichever cis person has the money and goodwill to entertain it. “As in all performances,” wrote Benaway, “the audience and their expectations are the real story.” And so I’d argue that trans people are not the ultimate benefactors of this discourse; we’re simply its rhetorical tools.

It is cissexism that makes us visible whether we want to be or not, punishes us for our gendered transgressions, and insists that we can never really be real enough.

There can be something cathartic in criticizing other trans people — at shaking this already flimsy umbrella, in acting on the resentment we carry for those who are too visible or not visible enough, who pass or who don’t seem to want to pass. Maybe I’m guilty of doing exactly that here — taking my private grievances into a public space, dragging my trans siblings through the mud, weaving my own kind of narrative; maybe I’ve implicated myself in the very problem I’m attempting to analyze. The choice to live fully and publicly as a trans person has cost me jobs, relationships, and connections, among even the most enlightened cis people, all of whom recognized my changing face and body as signs of trouble ahead. Nevertheless, visibility has still worked largely in my favor. After all, I padded my portfolio on the wave of trans identity politics (at least until Canadian media pivoted too far right to take me). And I can only make this critique of visibility and individual representation because whiteness opens doors for me that would otherwise have remained firmly shut. If my diagnosis is correct, then I’m a symptom of the same problem that my prescription seeks to address. But I believe the privileged among us should be more willing to commit to a political program that strips us of our unearned privileges. If this particular vision for trans politics is going to work, it requires those of us with platforms and power to join arguments in favor of our own undoing.

Whatever our individual stakes in this conversation, when we look at the real conditions in which trans people live or die as a class, any debate over trans identity that’s limited to questions of visibility and individual experience will always feel wholly inadequate. Though ContraPoints, for her part, is a victim of this overemphasized identity–visibility matrix, she is also a perpetrator of it.

To talk about trans identity already imagines our mere existence as political, and promoting “visibility” as the key to our salvation has already failed to save so many of us. Rather than endorsing the bourgeois individualism epitomized in visibility discourse, we should be working toward a political vision and program of class and race solidarity grounded in collective action, strike, sabotage, protest, and mass mobilization.

The problem is not that trans identity isn’t political, but that the discourse of visibility limits our ability to speak aloud its true political vision and program: prison abolition, affordable housing, accessible health care, reliable work, bodily autonomy, and radical wealth redistribution — from each according to their ability, to each according to their need. A political vision not of recognition, but of revolution. ●

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