By Melissa Griffiths

Online visibility as a transgender woman is a quite often a delicate balance and challenging at the best of times. Where do you draw the line?  How much of yourself do you share and at what cost?

So as Transgender Day of Visibility 2021 is now upon us I find myself reflecting upon how far we have come and celebrate this. However, I also think about how much further we have yet to go to feel visible in a safe manner both offline and online. Taking up new roles such as being Ambassador of Flutterbys UK and being a Board Director of JustSociale means that I will have to be even more visible online.  

Having a visible presence to educate society around concepts of gender identity and on the importance of including transgender people means that some people will make interesting comments and references about me.

One of the weirdest ones was someone referring to me as a “Pinezard” – which for those who haven’t heard of this concept means I am cross between a Pineapple and Lizard. Go figure that one….I still haven’t as it makes no sense to me.

So I feel it is important that we have some sort of standards and Online Code of Conduct – such as the one JustSociale has forged  – when we interact online in any capacity without having to limit people’s freedom of speech to such a point where we can’t say anything at all.  If this formal Code is widely adopted then my belief is that people will follow it and begin to respect each other’s opinions. Even if you disagree with someone you can reply in a respectful and thoughtful manner.

Years ago when I first embarked online, raising awareness, I was like other transgender people I remember being reluctant to share my story online because of the backlash, nasty or unwanted comments. Yet I have since found the courage and strength – as have so many others in my community – to be brave enough to share our stories in the hope it will make society more compassionate and understanding if not tolerant of us as well.  Using platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and others are fraught with what the reaction will be, and whether it will be positive or negative.

If we consider that we as transgender people want to be seen in society and visible then we must also create spaces online that are safe to do so. If we can have platforms to do this, which are inclusive and have a regulated online code of conduct as well as guidelines, then this would make us feel more confident in sharing our journey and story online. Creating a safe space for all of us online is a challenge that will take some time to create. However, it is worth the effort to create such a space where ideas and opinions matter and are listened to. 

So let us pause today and celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility remembering those who have gone before us and those today including ourselves who are brave enough to share our story online to be seen and making visibility count. 

Melissa Griffiths is a transgender authority and advocate based in Melbourne and a recipient of an Australia Day Achievement Award. 

 

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