Happy Trans Day of Visibility: Hope and Progress for a Better World

by Guest Contributors

Article written by Mila Hellfyre and Nick Alicea, fellows of HRC's leadership development cohort GENERAR and alumni of HRC's ACTIVATE and ELEVATE programs.

Hello, friends.

Happy Trans Day of Visibility (TDOV), which we celebrate internationally tomorrow. We are Mila Genesis Hellfyre Hernandez and Nick Alicea Ortiz, Puerto Rican trans activists whose work and lives have been enriched by our involvement with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the HRC Foundation.

Last year, we were both fellows in HRC’s inaugural Spanish language leadership development cohort, GENERAR, created to help LGBTQ+ young people who reside in Puerto Rico learn about how HIV and health inequities impact our communities. It was such a transformative experience. We have also been involved in the ACTIVATE and ELEVATE programs at HRC Foundation which provide in-depth, trans-centered, comprehensive training, addressing the core skills needed to achieve and thrive as leaders holistically.

We are also a trans couple — in fact, we just celebrated our one-year anniversary. We met last year at a political activation in which we draped a giant trans flag down an overpass that covers the main highway leading to the Puerto Rican capitol building in San Juan. That flag read, “We Exist.” And now we are building our lives together, not just existing but also thriving and fighting the good fight for our trans community.

For us, TDOV is like a religious day, and visibility in our community and around the globe is like a religious experience. We love seeing our trans siblings showing everything that they love about themselves and, more than anything, just normalizing transness in this world. Every year, it seems, it’s getting harder to be trans, everywhere, so seeing our trans siblings thrive, enjoying their lives, going out to eat and just being visible represents hope and progress.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, we didn’t see anybody who looked like us, so it’s been incredible seeing trans folks, especially Black and Latine trans folks, just being themselves. Hearing their stories gives us hope for a better world.

And we need that hope desperately. Right now, LGBTQ+ people in the United States are still living in a state of emergency.

This year is expected to bring the largest number of legislative attacks against our community — from bans against mentioning LGBTQ+ people in books or schools to the denial of health care access for trans adults and youth. These attacks are linked to efforts to ban abortion services and same-sex marriage, and they carry life or death consequences for us — certainly, they create a climate of fear and hate which can lead to stigma, harassment, discrimination and violence — all against a trans community that is only 1.2 percent of the U.S. population.

Accessing healthcare for our gender transition saves our lives. For us, medical care, in addition to social transition, has been vital to ensuring our safety and wellbeing. For all trans people, these decisions are based on medically necessary, age-appropriate best practices.

Finding yourself and fitting into your body and the world are integral parts of the human experience, manifestations of the most epic love. They affect not only oneself but also the people around them. Efforts to ban health care for gender transitions, therefore, impact individuals, families and broader communities.

We want people to get to know us better, normalizing our experiences, seeing us as fully human instead of an “other” — and recognizing that our love is genuine. We hold hands and are affectionate in public. Every day we’re standing up for ourselves. But we need strong allies in our communities, too, allies who can show up and defend us as transgender.

It might not be easy for some to understand what it means to be transgender, but we can still be accepting and respectful of people’s differences and treat people with kindness, dignity and respect. We need to give people the space and grace to know us better. In doing so, they, too, can experience, broaden and deepen love in their own lives and have hope for the possibility of change, growth and flourishing.

It’s not easy in this current political climate, when love seems to be conditioned on ignorance, prejudice and spite. But we insist on our right to live authentically, unapologetically ourselves and with joy. Like everyone else, we just want to grow, change, live and love deeply and evolve to live our best lives.

We’re grateful to HRC and the HRC Foundation for honoring TDOV and especially for bringing visibility to the trans community in Puerto Rico. And we’re grateful for every HRC member and supporter who is helping to advance the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. We’ve got to stick together, communicate more and open the channels of allyship.

As we build our own family and a safe, stable, happy home, we want our own children to be proud of everything that we’re fighting for, of how we are building community and of their trans aunties and uncles. We’re doing this work for the future — for our own children, for the children of our friends, and for the children of future generations.

Learn more about how HRC is honoring Trans Day of Visibility and join HRC’s Count Me In campaign. Happy TDOV, everyone, today and everyday!

In solidarity,
Mila Hellfyre (she/her)
and Nick Alicea (he/him)