“Today is the one day a year we tell people to just ‘Deal with it!’”
On the importance of Transgender Day of Visibility
Today, March 31st, is Transgender Day of Visibility, that takes place every year to raise the voices of trans people and highlight the importance of inclusion of transgender people within and beyond the LGBTQ+ community. To celebrate and remember today, we interviewed transgender member of A.S.V.Gay Michael about his own experiences being trans.
Hi Michael! Can you introduce yourself?
Hi! My name is Michael Boggia. I’m 18 years old and I am a non-binary trans man. Currently I’m studying sociology at the UvA. Other than that, my biggest hobby is dogs.
What does it mean to be non-binary trans man?
I prefer the term ‘non-binary trans man’ over just ‘trans man’ because I feel no identification with the ‘binary’ version of being a ‘man’. For a lot of people, being trans is a very binary experience in which they identify with a binary gender, either male or female, very strongly, but for me it’s not. I am a man, but I don’t experience my gender very strongly all the time. It fluctuates. I often say I’m a trans man, though, because I don’t want to explain my label and justify my experience to everyone. If I just met you, I don’t want to have a big discussion about gender with you. I just want to be a man.
How was your coming-out?
For me, coming out was complicated. I lived in China and was going to an international school when I started coming out. I was about 16 years old. Queer friends had experienced problems coming out about their sexuality before at other schools, so I was slightly anxious about coming out. However, my friends were very supportive of me coming out. I started with telling my friends at school, then my teachers. Luckily, my teachers were also very supportive and helped a lot. One teacher was very obnoxious about it. She deliberately kept deadnaming me (using my old name) and misgendering me (using the wrong pronouns) for over a year after coming out.
And your family?
I came out to my sister first, when I was about 15. She’s super supportive about it. She’s also bisexual, so that helps. We’ve always been very open about these things to each other, but we’ve become even more close since she’s moved out of my parents’ house. She really is my biggest supporter. I came out to my mom in the spring of 2017 and to my dad about half a year later. It was very hard for me to say, especially for my dad. Neither of my parents use my pronouns and name though. With my mom I’ve had some good conversations about me being trans and my transition, because of course, that’s different for everyone. I explained to my mom what I wanted. She understands a little better now and is really trying, but it’s hard for her. I’m still closeted from the rest of my family, because I don’t see them very often and most of them live abroad. It’d just be too much of a hassle.
So you first came out in China. What have you noticed about being trans internationally?
It would make a difference to me where I’d live. It makes a difference about how much I’d pass (be read as male) to strangers. In the Netherlands, I pass almost all the time, whereas in China only about half the time. Maybe this has to do with the different standards of what it means to be masculine and feminine in the different countries. Also, I think that being trans in China is more taboo. I didn’t see trans people very much there, even though I lived in a big city. Here, it’s easier to find people who are open and affirmed in their identity.
What are you doing for Transgender Day of Visibility?
At Spui, there will be a trans meet-up. It won’t be a protest or anything, we just want to be seen. We will all wear a shirt that says ‘this is what trans looks like’, just to make a statement of how trans people are not different than anyone else. We want to show the general public what the diversity of transgender people is like.
It’s my first time doing anything for Trans Day of Visibility, because I never really had the chance to celebrate my gender before. Even when I was living in Italy for a while, I wasn’t really out yet and couldn’t really speak openly about my gender. This is really the first time I can celebrate Trans Day of Visibility and I’m very excited.
Is there anything you’d like to say to cis (not-transgender) people?
Celebrate trans people with them, but don’t forget to listen to them! Society often puts us down or treats us unequally, and we are still a marginalised group. This is especially true for trans women of color, who are a marginalised group even within the LGBTQ+ and trans community. Today is the one day a year we tell everyone to just ‘deal with it’. I think the most important thing for cisgender people is to just listen to and not speak for trans people. However, it is important to use your privilege to raise the voices of trans people, because those usually aren’t heard.