Dear Beloved Community,
Trans Day of Visibility, observed on March 31st, was founded in 2009 by trans activist Rachel Crandall Crocker, who was frustrated that the only day centered around her community was Trans Day of Remembrance, which mourns trans lives lost to violence. Since then, Trans Day of Visibility has become a way to celebrate the vibrant lives and remarkable achievements of transgender, intersex, two-spirit, genderqueer and non-binary people.
When trans people live visible lives, they become crucial and life-saving examples of the possibilities of trans life. Just as the strong practice of others is an incredibly helpful aspect of practicing in community, seeing how other trans people have found their way to authentic embodiment is a profound gift. At the same time, visibility is a risk. Trans women of color in particular face incredibly high levels of violence, and something as simple as using a public restroom or applying to a job can provoke harassment and discrimination. As right-wing politicians fan the flames of anti-trans animus and bills limiting our right to health care, supportive education, privacy, and participation in public life are being proposed and passing at alarming rates, visibility is more complicated than ever.
That’s why we wanted to reach out to you all, our dharma siblings, on this Trans Day of Visibility, to share the joy and resilience of our community as well as the threats we face. Although trans people have never been more numerous, visible, and powerful, the increasing acceptance of our identities has provoked a terrifying backlash. At the time of writing, the ACLU was tracking 426 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the United States, the vast majority of which specifically targets trans people, particularly trans youth. Republican politicians, who increasingly use fear-mongering rhetoric about trans people to galvanize support, have promised to ramp up these attacks on our basic rights to health care, education, employment and participation in public life if they gain power in 2024. Perhaps even more troublingly, even liberal publications like the New York Times increasingly question whether children should be allowed to transition or trans people should compete with their gender in school sports.
Our sangha has the potential to become a refuge for trans practitioners seeking a space to turn inward where we do not have to defend our fundamental right to authenticity and autonomy. We want to celebrate the new all-gender restrooms and changing spaces at the Monastery, which have made day-to-day practice at the Monastery much easier for many of us. Perhaps partially because of these accessibility improvements, the number of trans practitioners in the MRO is steadily growing, and our weekly TGNC sitting group has been going strong for two and a half years! That said, we also want to acknowledge that there is still much work to be done. Many of us are still misgendered or asked inappropriate questions at the Monastery and Temple, and have other uncomfortable interactions with sangha members around our gender identity or expression.
We write to you in the hope that you, our sangha, will individually and collectively affirm and stand by us as we brace against the onslaught of legislative attacks. We often feel alone in our outrage and fear, our anxiety over where we might go and how we might survive if our identities were criminalized in the place we call home. Even in a loving and well-meaning sangha, the reality that we are under attack lives in our bodies, and that is isolating when unacknowledged. We hope that you will join us both in joyful celebration of our ongoing resilience and in a shared commitment to protect our vulnerable right to be ourselves.
Below this letter, you’ll find resources where you can learn more about gender and trans identity, get the specifics on anti-trans legislation, or support trans-led organizations (we’ve bolded a few things we think are particularly key). We hope that you will find them useful, and that we can work together towards making our community a loving home for all. For more information about the TGNC sangha, please contact email@example.com.
Yours in the dharma,
The Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) Affinity Group
Gender: A Graphic Guide by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele
Beyond the Gender Binary by Alok Vaid-Menon
Gender Reveal podcast
Buddhism and Trans Identity:
Transcending: Trans Buddhist Voices edited by Kevin Manders and Elizabeth Marston
Out of the Ordinary: A Life of Spiritual and Gender Transitions, autobiography of Michael Dillon, one of the first trans men to medically transition, later ordained as a Tibetan monk.
“Coming Out Whole: a Buddhist teacher explains why she came out as transgender” by Caitrona Reed, Tricycle
“We’re All Different: musician Glenn Copeland on his journey as a Black, Buddhist, transgender artist,” interview by John Harvey Negru in Lion’s Roar
“Does my transgender identity conflict with Buddhism’s teaching on no-self?”, various teachers respond to this question in Lion’s Roar
“Where I Make Sense” by Finn Enke in Lion’s Roar
“The Time to Panic About Anti-Trans Legislation Is Now” by Emily St. James, Vox
“Anti-Trans Legislative Digest,” a very helpful overview by Erin Reed
New Yorker Radio Hour features Micaela Cavanaugh, a Democratic senator from Nebraska who has kept up a multi-week filibuster to prevent the passage of a trans health care ban.
Trans-Led Organizations (a few of many!):
Transgender Law Center – the largest national trans-led organization fighting for legal recognition and protection.
Sylvia Rivera Law Project: collective organization working for the visibility and political voice of low-income and racially marginalized trans people.
Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society: NYC LGBTQ organization focusing on health and housing crises of trans people of color.
Trans Closet of the Hudson Valley: a source for free gender-affirming clothing and accessories.
Trans Women of Color Survival Fund assists trans women of color with a range of financial needs, restorative justice and building socioeconomic growth and development for its members.
Books by Trans Authors (a few of countless!):
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
Histories of the Transgender Child by Jules Gill-Peterson
Redefining Realness, a memoir about race and trans identity by Janet Mock.
We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel.