Trans Day of Visibility: Trans joy is an act of defiance and power – the world needs more of it

A photo illustration of author and advocate Rowan Jetté Knox holding up their book and smiling in joy

On Trans Day of Visibility, advocate and author Rowan Jetté Knox explains why visibility must include trans joy.

I bought a navy-blue pinstripe suit last week. When I tried it on in the changing room, my entire face lit up. 

It’s a feeling I’ve been getting accustomed to lately – a moment of pure joy – and I knew I needed to share it with others. When I got home, I posted a photo of me wearing the suit on my social media feeds. 

As a non-binary person, I share as many happy moments as possible. When our then-11-year-old child came out as trans in 2014, and my spouse of nearly two decades told me the following year that she was a trans woman, I wrote a book about their largely positive and accepting experiences. 

Earlier this year, when my wife and I, now polyamorous, moved to Toronto to start a life with our new partners (who are also trans), we excitedly shared this news online.

Trans joy is infectious. And right now, the world needs more of it.

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There’s no denying that this is a frightening time for our community. Some countries are turning the erosion of trans rights into something resembling a blood sport. 

This year alone, politicians in the United States have introduced hundreds of anti-trans bills in the hopes of curtailing everything from medically affirming trans children to trans women in sport. Some of the bills even take aim at drag performers, which is a direct attack on everyone who is gender non-conforming, trans or not. 

A quick look on social media will show how frightened and angry trans people are about the increasing attacks on their rights and safety. As an activist, I know it’s important to speak about these issues. The world needs to see what’s going on, so that we can try to put a stop to it.

But all this negativity also has an impact on the wellbeing of trans people, who, when faced with nothing but distressing news, can lose hope very quickly. This is why those of us who are able to, should express as much trans joy as possible. When we have it, we should share it. 

Trans people and allies joyfully protest against anti-trans hate in Scotland by holding up signs in support of the trans community
Republican lawmakers in the US have introduced hundreds of anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2023. Many attack gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth or limit how trans people can participate in school sports. (Getty)

Other trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people need to see a life beyond the headlines.

Furthermore, without positive stories, would-be allies are not provided with a blueprint of how to best show up. While politicians continue to other us, we must demonstrate to society that we are just like everyone else in the most important ways, and that we are not a danger.

Everyone needs to see examples of parents accepting their trans children, trans youth graduating from college, non-binary people working in their chosen fields, and workplaces providing supportive environments. 

They need to see trans people falling in love, going on vacation, having children and owning dogs. They need to witness trans people hiking, going to the gym and playing on sports teams. 

Make no mistake: in today’s world, trans joy is an act of defiance and power. Experiencing this joy is the light we need in our own lives, and sharing it when we can allows the world to see a narrative about ourselves that we control, rather than controlled by those who wish us harm. 

We get to reclaim our power when we experience moments of contentment in the face of adversity. It gives us, and our community, strength to keep going. We need to hold one another up today more than ever. 

Deep breath. Stand tall. Love hard. Live big. Try the suit on.

We will make our way through this darkness together.

Rowan came out publicly as a trans man following the publication of this article, which has since been edited to reflect his new name.