‘We have to be visible’: Transgender Day of Visibility celebrates lives and contributions of trans people

Marisol Treviño’s journey from growing up a little boy in rural Mexico to being Miss Trans USA in 2022 was fraught with challenges that led her to be an advocate for her community.

“When I grew up, no one talked about it (gender identity), and that’s why there’s so much transphobia, so much hate and so much violence and discrimination because nobody understands,” she said.

Transgender Day of Visibility, observed around the world on March 31 each year, was created in 2010 to do just that — to raise awareness about transgender people and to celebrate their lives and contributions, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination and violence the community faces.

Growing up in a traditional Mexican family, Treviño hid feelings she was having about her gender identity until she was 18.

“I told my parents, that person that you know you’re never going to see again,” she said.

She started hormone therapy in Mexico, where she frequently was harassed for being a trans person. Once, while she was working as a waitress in a nightclub, somebody threw acid on her in the bathroom, burning her skin.

“That was when I realized that I was not going to be able to live safely as a trans woman in my country,” she said.

She moved to the Chicago area, and now works as a producer and showgirl. Her fame as a performer and pageant contestant has allowed her to go back and perform in Mexico.

She said she’ll be there in April and May and has been asked to participate in an anti-bullying campaign.

“I had to (leave) my country because I didn’t feel wanted there, and now I can go back and make a good, positive impact,” she said. “It’s really beautiful.”

Poetry was one of the original safe spaces for me to explore’

  Aron Ryan of Elgin is the city’s Poet Laureate. Rick West/

For Aron Ryan of Elgin, poetry let him explore his gender identity.

Ryan said he came to understand and feel joy that he was a trans man in his 20s. That’s when he became comfortable with his gender and what pronouns and name felt right.

“Before I started socially transitioning and medically transitioning, it was like I was walking around with this dark cloud kind of following me all the time,” he said. “A lot of my mental space was being taken up by just feeling very uncomfortable and not at home in my own skin.”

He said as he learned more about gender identity and heard about other people’s experiences, “it really started to click for me.”

“It took many years,” he said. “But once I gave myself permission to ask those sorts of questions, that’s when I really started to have more of that experience of gender euphoria, rather than gender dysphoria.”

Ryan’s private poetry, which served as a kind of diary, became more and more public as he saw others share their journeys.

“It was just so empowering to hear other people talk about those experiences, and once I felt more confident and happy with where I was, I felt like I wanted to share too,” he said. “I realized I wanted to be the person that other people had been for me, someone who’s more visible, so they can know they’re not alone in what they’re experiencing.”

Ryan, who works at Gail Borden Public Library’s Kidspace, now is Elgin’s Poet Laureate. While he relishes the role, he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as “the trans poet.”

“I would encourage people to remember the intersectionality and fullness of a person and that being trans is one part of a person,” he said.

We have to be visible in a world that’s trying to shut us out’

  Keri Davis of Aurora serves on the city’s LGBT advisory board. Rick West/

Keri Davis always knew she was different.

Growing up in Aurora, she “felt like something was off.”

“When I got out of high school I learned more about my community, that’s when I knew this was the road I was going to go down,” she said.

Now 33, Davis said there weren’t many resources to help guide her when she was a kid. Some of the only transgender people she saw were on daytime television shows hosted by Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.

“They put this narrative about trans people that wasn’t right and almost made us look like clowns — like we don’t have anything to offer this world,” she said. “I kind of wanted to be an advocate and a pioneer for my community and teach somebody like me when I was younger how to do it the right way.”

In addition to being a performer, Davis is a member of the Aurora LGBT advisory board.

“We come together to make the community better and try to help the younger generation who may not feel like they have a safe space,” Davis said.

Davis, who stands about 6 feet tall in heels, says she embraces standing out in a room and being an advocate.

“I think we have to be visible in a world that’s trying to shut us out, that’s trying to erase us,” she said. “Drag is not a crime and trans women and trans men are here to stay. We’re not going anywhere.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.