An Urbanist Transgender Day of Visibility

Land use, public spaces, and transportation issues have concrete ramifications for transgender residents.

On Transgender Day of Visibility, I ask Philadelphia: what is the point of visibility if there is no space afforded for transgender people? It is a setup for failure, making transgender individuals an easy mark for predatory behavior and physical violence. The city has seen several high-profile injuries (Kendall Stephens) and deaths (Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, Mia Green) in public spaces last year, while more go unreported. On a smaller scale, 31% of transgender Americans have experienced mistreatment in the public sphere. This is not the kind of visibility that I want for my brethren. We are more than statistics or tombstones or accessories.

Being transgender is the manifestation of self-determination. It is the ability to know oneself and explore possibilities outside of what has been predetermined by society and physicality. As people change and grow based on imagination and new information, a city also has the ability to change to accommodate residents and make itself anew. Cities are created solely by human hands and imagination, a site of flux. Transgender individuals move to cities to create community with each other. Taking up physical space is what allows communities to exist in urban environments.

I cannot claim that policy change will result in the liberation of transgender people from oppressive forces. However, thoughtful modification of land usage and changing attitudes, coupled with policy work, will afford transgender Philadelphians the ability to safely take up space. In my vision, one can take the bus to work without losing time or pay. One can take the trolley to the doctor's office without crowding or dealing with steps. One can stroll the neighborhood and meet with friends without harassment. One can lay their head down in the comfort of their bed instead of the alleyway. The streets to march in will be ready for feet and canes and wheels.

Survival is not good enough—we aim to flourish.