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When I was asked to write a piece about this, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start, but after some thought it seemed that the best place was what it means to me, what I’m sure it means to many like me and why I think it’s important.
So a very quick bit of history, I’ve identified as trans for as long as I can remember, kept it hidden for most of the first 49 years of my life and then, in one of my more spectacular bridge burning exercises, came out properly in the summer of 2017, since then I’m Jo pretty much all the time that I can be, bearing in mind I care for an 83-year-old mum with dementia, plenty of prejudices and an unwillingness to discuss anything that doesn’t fit her very narrow view of the world.
Being transgendered is not a fad, it’s something that comes from deep inside. When I was growing up I knew I was different, but there was no one to talk to, no support, just the fear of discovery and the “joy” of bullying as I did my best to fit in, carried my secret with me and as a result was always living something of a lie.
That all began to change in 2015 when I plucked up the courage to visit someone who has now become a fabulous friend. She is someone who not only accepted and encouraged me, but gave me the confidence to be the person I felt I was inside. After years of hiding I found a safe place to be me. That was the snowball that started the avalanche.
The more comfortable and confident I grew the less I wanted to live a lie and a combination of circumstances meant that in the summer of 2017 I split from my partner of 17 years, quit the job which had quite frankly passed its sell by date, got out of Eastbourne and started the wonderful journey that has led me to where I am today.
I’m lucky, I’m surrounded by amazing friends who have helped, encouraged and supported me. I work in a business where acceptance and tolerance for less conventional lifestyles is second nature, however not everyone is as fortunate and that is why this day is important.
The discrimination is real. The constant attacks in the mainstream media, the demonisation of trans people because of the actions of a small minority is palpable. The fear propagated by certain well known commentators combined with the misinformation spread on some mainstream forums is contributing to erode the tolerance and acceptance that has been growing over the last decade or so.
There is certainly more support for transgender children than there was when I was their age, there’s more information available to help them make informed decisions, but these very improvements have given rise to some of the more unpleasant opposition that we are seeing today. Let’s be honest, if you deny something exists, or exists in such small numbers, then it’s easy to ignore, once the existence of trans people started to become mainstream and accepted it was inevitable that the voices of opposition would be raised.
I can only speak for myself and several transgendered friends, but the truth is all we want is pretty much the same as anyone wants; to be able to live our lives in peace, free from discrimination and fear and simply to be accepted as the people we feel we are. That is the true purpose of this day and hopefully the time will soon come when it is purely a celebration of diversity and acceptance rather than a day tinged with the knowledge that there is still a way to go before society completely accepts us as the people we are.
Jo Armstrong is a transgendered photographer and occasional performer working in the adult business. You can find their portfolio here
You can read Jo’s article Shedding The Guilt
A huge thank you to Jo for sharing their experience as a transgender person and why it is so important we have a Transgender Day of Visibility to celebrate diversity, raise awareness and educate everyone. As Jo says, “hopefully the time will soon come when it is purely a celebration of diversity and acceptance rather than a day tinged with the knowledge that there is still a way to go before society completely accepts us as the people we are.”