Keeping safe spaces safe, including at Pride!

Anonymous guest author

Mascara and Tears called moving on from transitioning ‘ascension’: the process whereby a transgender person buries their transgender status and just lives their life in their new state. Their focus was medical but that process of moving on can happen with anything. Their basic response was rooted in the time of its writing: they didn’t really see a reason why anyone wouldn’t ascend, expecting that they might want to stay in the transitional world. Their bias was clearly in favour of moving on; the fact that they used the word ‘ascension’ says it all.

Visibility doesn’t mean what it used to, but that it’s become more of a choice to stay visible and remain relatively safe (in the UK, at least) doesn’t negate the choice to fade back into the woodwork. Transitioning people are largely out because their circumstances demand it: they have to tell people about the change so they can be called by a new name, new pronouns, and generally be perceived differently. Or not, but the point is a person that does make changes needs to make the changes known or they don’t really happen.

For those that decide being visible isn’t really for them, after all, it can be difficult to maintain ties with folks that knew them while in the transitional space. The problem is you can’t really be out for a day. Thing about events like pride is they might be safe events, but the world (or at least the locals) is watching. It’s open to all — including the people you’re not out to. And once you’re out, you’re out.

When I was a support worker, I would say to clients that coming out is scary. It’s losing control of your information. Letting it spread. In the trans world that’s absolutely necessary: you can’t have half your associations using one identity and the other half another (well, you can, but often becomes impractical). But what about when the new identity has spread as far as it will? What about the people who never knew you before? What if you don’t really want to be thought of as ‘that trans person’, and the idea of a known transgender past isn’t comfortable?

Some people might be totally ok with remaining open about their status; being outed by association, but some aren’t. Those that aren’t become unsafe in public events like pride, particularly those where they know folks from that time when their boundaries were open out of necessity.

“But this is a safe space,” they might say. Except they are wrong. The same people that would absolutely respect someone’s decision to woodwork themselves in other settings would happily include them in statements and language that outs that person at pride. Out by association is still out, and you can’t be out for a day.

Do go to pride, but be mindful that the person you saw last year might not be as open as they were. Understand that establishing someone’s boundaries keeps them safe, and no setting makes it OK to out someone, even by association. Take the time to find out, the same way you take the time to find out someone’s pronouns. In that way, pride really can be safe for everyone.