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The Power of Transgender Visibility

On three different occasions in my life, I have been homeless and on at least five occasions, I’ve tried to kill myself. For reasons that are obvious, I’m not going to describe the method I employed and why this method allowed me to experiment in the way that I did, but I will tell you that what saved me in each of those attempts was my own mind, and not a failure of the method itself. To this day, I am terrified by the power of that knowledge.

I did find some small success as an actor. I taught improvisation and stage combat to other actors. I served as the Director of Operations for The Actors Center of Philadelphia. I had poems published and my essays were often lauded by friends. I started and ran two improv comedy troupes and I spent two years as a guest host on QVC, representing the Memorex line of consumer electronics.

While acting and writing have both served as catharses for me, I never felt confident enough in either of those skills to make them a career. So, I taught myself to code websites. It sounds so coy to say I taught myself. It took me years. It cost me relationships. I was lucky to have support from friends and family. I had access to the internet. I had access to the infinite tomes of information freely provided by generous authors and experts in technology. I am now a senior software engineer and a respected member of a unique and gifted team of experienced engineers and developers.

I’m now 40 years old. Only 18 short months ago, I finally unveiled my authentic self to the world. I have benefited from many privileges in my life. Passing is not one of them. I suppose that with enough plastic surgery, I could improve my chances as passing. Even if I did, however, I would still live my life authentically. I would still be out, bold, loud, and proud. I would still be visible. I never imagined that visibility would be so important to me. For years, I dreamt of stealth. I imagined transitioning and moving far away from anybody who knew me during those false and frivolous years.

In July of this year, I was asked to speak at Yahoo as part of a panel on visibility. It was a transformative and empowering experience. It occurred to me that it might be important for me to live visibly. It might be important that I share my story. It might be important that you know I’m not a software engineer because I went to an Ivy League college, but because I got lucky when I needed to.

Certainly some hard work played a role in every success I’ve had, but so did the privilege of appearing to be a white, cisgender male. I am still the recipient of privilege for being white. I wish it wasn’t so, but since it is, I use every opportunity I can to leverage my success for those who do not benefit from such an arbitrary thing. I volunteer my time teaching programming to others in our community because I owe so much to the technology community for all they have given me; I owe the LGBT community for accepting me and making space for me; I owe all my lovely and talented thespian friends for their support, their knowledge, and they love.

To listen to the entire panel discussion visit this link.

Group SessionI am visible because I’m authentic.
I am visible because you are not alone.
I am visible because I am not ashamed.
I am visible because I can be and because it might make it safer for you.


About Daphne Dorman

Daphne Dorman
Daphne Dorman refers to March 30th 2014 as her "authentiversary." Since that day, she has lived her authentic life as a transwoman in the Bay Area, volunteering at the SF LGBT Center as the instructor for TransCode. She is a former actress and currently works as a Senior Software Engineer when she's not busy being a proud parent to her daughter.

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  • Chrissie See

    It’s really unfortunate that you chose to feature a video that has of only three trans women discussing their “typical” trans experiences two sex workers. I don’t have any lack of respect for those individuals or others who do sex work, but to suggest even by inference that two thirds of us do sex work ignores reality.

    Trans women are doctors, lawyers, police officers, airline pilots, political leaders, judges and everything else, including sex workers. As we should be.

    Stereotyping us as sex workers is not something I would expect here.

    • Daphne Dorman

      I’m not sure what video you’re referring to. There’s no video in this article that has anybody who has done sex work.

      • Chrissie See

        There was a “featured video” linked from below your article that featured three women, two of whom are sex workers/adult entertainers, and held them out as examples of typical trans women dealing with the challenges of life.

        • TransGlobal Magazine

          Hi Chrissie – the video you are referring to is not part of the actual article that you are commenting on. The video is featured in our sidebar as we are working on an interview with Dave Naz and features the woman behind this site and founder Venus Lux. While we appreciate your feedback and are working to feature and discuss all aspects of being transgender your comments do not reflect on Daphne’s article.

      • Chrissie See

        In fact, it’s still there. Video by Dave Naz.

      • TransGlobal Magazine

        She was referring to our featured video in the side column not the one in your column. Small confusion.