Demoria Elise, also known as the drag queen Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté from the fourteenth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, joined The Trevor Project’s Director of Public Training Chris Bright on Instagram Live to speak on the significance of Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31) and the complexities of trans visibility and joy. As I watched their conversation, reflecting upon on the day’s celebrations of trans and non-binary individuals, and the recent passing of trans community members in my home city of Chicago, I found myself feeling bittersweet, mixed emotions.
Though mainstream conversation around Trans Day of Visibility has centered on joy and celebration, visibility brings its own challenges regarding self-image, passing, and safety for many. For Kornbread, this much is true: “Being trans is a very complicated thing,” she confessed while reflecting upon the threats to safety that many trans individuals experience simply leaving their homes. “I think every day walking outside of my door is a celebration; going out as myself is a celebration; walking through the grocery store on a regular day [is a celebration]. Those are ways of me celebrating who I am as being trans.” Kornbread concludes, “I am here to exist.”
I am here to exist.
Listening to Kornbread speak so powerfully on the subject of visibility reminded me of my dreams for the trans and non-binary community. I dream of a future where every trans person can take joy from their transness, and celebrate themselves just for existing. I dream of a world safe enough for every trans person to be visible, a world that universally celebrates trans people for their existence, beauty, and value. I also hope that the world can do more for trans people than just see them. Visibility can be empowering, and is necessary, but trans people need more. Trans people need and deserve comprehensive support and care, and I dream of a future where every trans person is fed, housed, safe, and loved; where every single young trans and non-binary individual grows into a happy adult.
There is still a way to go until my dream becomes a reality. The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half of transgender and nonbinary young people seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. It seems that every day, new efforts to marginalize and erase trans and non-binary individuals arise in the highest levels of our government. And trans people, particularly Black trans women, are under a mounting threat of violence. I want to celebrate visibility, but I want to be realistic: visibility can still be a risk, and is a risk many take every day.
There is the bitter, but there is also the sweet. Kornbread, near the end of the conversation, described a recent visit to family in South Carolina in which her brothers (“my best friends on the planet”) and mom made sure she was gendered and named correctly by the family members still getting to know her as Demoria. “That made my day,” she explained. “The best thing the cis[gender] community can do is stand up and make those simple moments heard… not just when it’s convenient to you, but at all times.” Chris agreed, sharing her advice for parents whose children are coming out as trans: “The very first words out of your mouth should be, ‘I love you.’ And the next words out of your mouth should be, ‘I’m proud of you for being who you are.’”
Kornbread concluded the conversation by sending a message to all trans and non-binary young people listening: “Thank you for everything [you do] other than existing.” She continues: “Your life matters, you matter. Thank you for existing, because without us in this world, there’d be a lack of greatness.”
Hearing conversations like this one between Chris and Kornbread reminds me that change is possible and it is happening in real time. Research shows that when trans young people can access safe, validating spaces, adequate gender-affirming medical care, and full legislative rights, risk for suicide lowers and mental health outcomes improve. Under these conditions, visibility will allow all trans people to live authentically as themselves and experience the joy and euphoria they deserve. I am proud to work for The Trevor Project, an organization that is an integral part of the movement to achieve all of that and more for trans and non-binary young people: through advocacy, education, resources, litigation, crisis services, unwavering support and love.
Catch up on the conversation and watch the entire Instagram Live with Chris and Kornbread.
Sue Cardenas-Soto is a Copywriter at The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, our trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 via chat www.TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678-678.