Visbility: A Two Sided Sword

Queer visibility is something that that I’ve always considered to be positive. It excites me to see gay and trans folks represented in the media. After reading an article titled “For LGBTQ Regugees in the United States, ‘Visibility is a Two-Sided Sword’” by Oscar Lopez, I found a new perspective on visibility. I realized that visibility is a complex, multifaceted subject. Blinded by my privilege, I hadn’t considered the ways that visibility differs from person to person.

I grew up in New Jersey, right outside of NYC, one of the most queer friendly cities in the country. I came out as bisexual in high school and never faced much opposition from my peers. I never felt the need to hide who I was and most of my friends were gay as well. Although I faced some opposition, I had an easy coming out experience, for the most part. However, this is not the case for everyone.

So many people, even in our own country, hide who they are out of fear for their own safety. These people live double lives, afraid of what could happen to them if they did come out. Visibility has been described as a “double edged sword” by Siobhan McGuirk, a Georgetown University professor who focuses on immigration and sexuality. With visibility, comes fear of the unknown. Violence against the LGBTQ+ community is common, especially in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.

Visibility is a journey all queer people must take. Forcing visibility by outing someone could be traumatic and even dangerous. Everyone has a personal relationship with how they want to be perceived in relationship to their queerness. I went to facebook to ask what others thought about the subject. Tony Jamie Gordon (they/them), a facebook friend of mine, wrote, “Personal visibility is a very mixed bag for me. When I’m presenting the way that feels the most ‘me’ … it feels incredible and I love it. However, being highly visible often makes me nervous that I’m going to be discriminated against, harassed, or hurt. Also, if I’m dressed very androgenously (very ‘trans’) bathrooms and any gendered spaces become a terrifying ordeal because I don’t belong in the men’s room or the women’s room and I’m afraid I’ll be called out or hurt.” Visibility has the power to liberate queer people as they are finally being seen for who they are. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Being seen can be dangerous, especially for trans folks who are often forced into binary gender roles.

Considering all of this has made me realize that visibility is a tricky concept to pin down. Being seen by the world is important when striving for acceptance. Seeing openly queer people in the media builds community, reminding us that it’s okay to be gay. Em Haliotis (they/them) wrote in a message to me, “Visibility and representation go a long long way in showing lgbtqia+ folx that they are not alone, that their lives matter, and there are people who care about them and identify with them.” I think the LGBTQ+ community has earned the right to visibility. They deserve to have their voices heard without fear of violence or punishment.

Nobody said it was easy to be queer. However, I think that if we take the right steps as a community, we could live in a world where the future of gay people could live in peace with themselves. It takes a lot of bravery to come out. If our community stands up for one another, extends our arms to those in need, we will take the steps towards a better world. My message to anyone in the community is this: you are brave. You are resilient and beautiful the way you are. No matter where you are on your coming out journey, you deserve to be who you are without fear.

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