To commemorate Transgender Day of Visibility on Wednesday, local organization Equality Loudoun hosted a virtual event in which panelists discussed matters of importance to the transgender community as well as their own experiences as transgender people.
“Despite the national narrative, we are normal people just looking to live a normal life with the hand we have been dealt,” Equality Loudoun Vice President Chris Candice Tuck told the Times-Mirror.
In the first-ever presidential proclamation of Transgender Day of Visibility, President Joe Biden wrote that the day “recognizes the generations of struggle, activism, and courage that have brought our country closer to full equality for transgender and gender non-binary people in the United States and around the world.”
Equality Loudoun was one of many LGBTQ organizations in the commonwealth to hold virtual events celebrating those who do not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, or who identify as neither strictly male nor female.
Wednesday’s four-person panel was selected to holistically represent a range of transgender identities and experiences, according to Tuck.
Tuck, who on Wednesday used masculine pronouns and identifies as gender fluid — meaning his gender identity varies — was joined by Samuel Hamblin, a transgender man; Willow Woycke, a transgender woman; and Ainsley Hendershot, who does not strictly identify as one gender.
“I think so often the conversation around trans individuals is focused on trans women, and what we had tonight … is a great representation of real trans people and their stories,” Tuck said.
Just as diverse as the panelists’ gender identities were their experiences of recognizing and comprehending their identities.
“For some people it is like a lightbulb that goes off, and others, I’ve heard them say it’s like a cheese grater against the brain because it starts to feel more and more uncomfortable,” Tuck said.
While Woycke said she knew she was transgender by age 6, she did not begin to identify as a woman until much later in life, after she was married with three children.
“[I remember] watching my wife struggle with my transition and knowing that she was going through a whole bunch of feelings,” she said.
What all four panelists agreed was most significant in easing their transition was their peers’ and families’ support and willingness to be educated on what it means to be transgender, as well as joining communities of other LGBTQ people.
“That was really healthy for me, to find people that supported me, and even though most of my peers still misgendered me, I had a lot of friends that supported me and called me whatever I wanted to be called,” Hamblin said.
“Once I realized that I was genderqueer, finally I found my people,” Hendershot said.
For people who have loved ones or peers who are transgender but do not know how to approach the issue, Tuck said the best thing to do is to “be visible in your support.”
“It does not hurt anyone to be supportive of trans and nonbinary individuals,” Tuck said.