Why Trans and Queer Visibility Matters

A banner wallpaper image of a person wearing a rainbow binder and shorts with text that says, "Why visibility matters."

We all want a world where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued for who they truly are. That's the world we strive for—one where trans and queer folks aren't just accepted but are celebrated for our unique identities and contributions. Unfortunately, the onus is mostly on us, the LGTBQIA+ community, to be constantly striving for rights that other more privileged communities take for granted. 

Is it exhausting? Yes. But the fact is, striving for our rights is making a difference, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. And one of the places where change is happening is through the practice of visibility.

Queer woman wearing a purple lycra binder and matching lycra shorts

What is Visibility?

Visibility, in the context of the LGBTQIA+ community, refers to the degree to which the general population is aware of our existence, identities, and experiences. It's about being seen and recognized in society—whether that's through representation in media and entertainment, visibility in public spaces, or simply having one's identity acknowledged and respected. 

Visibility is the practice of actively putting out multi-dimensional representations of our community into the world. Whether that’s through art, television, social media, advertising, the news, or any other platform, the goal is to represent all the beautiful ways LGBTQIA+ people exist and contribute to the world. 

It goes beyond mere recognition; it's about validation, empowerment, and the opportunity to live authentically without fear of discrimination or erasure. For trans and queer people, visibility means having access to essential rights and resources, feeling a sense of belonging in our communities, and being able to express ourselves openly and proudly. 

However, in the current political climate, visibility can come with dangerous consequences. That’s why we need to weigh the risks of being visible and only do so when we know we are safe and seen for who we are. For companies like ours, we do our best to normalize queer and transness on a larger scale to help make it safer and more supportive for others. It’s a long process, but one we've been working towards for the better part of 15 years. 

Queer person in a matching bamboo bra and underwear set against a pink background

Why Does Queer and Trans Visibility Matter?

1: Empowerment Through Visibility

I remember when I was just a young queer, I so rarely saw anyone who looked or felt like me in the media. When there was a representation of a queer person, it was generally a one-dimensional movie caricature of some “palatable” form of being queer, like a gay wedding decorator or a handy lesbian aunt who lived alone on a farm with her dogs. The message to me as a kid was that my identity would never be wholly accepted by the world around me. It made me feel alone and reinforced that I should be silent about my identity. 

It seems ancient now, but I remember when The L Word came out, and it was the first time I ever saw lesbian and trans relationships represented in all their complexities. It was the first time I saw queer women on TV being portrayed as cool and interesting, living vibrant and beautiful lives. It filled me with something I hadn’t felt before: hope. The realization that I wasn’t alone, that I could still live a fantastic life, and that there was a community out there for me.

This is really the number one reason why visibility matters. It matters because we want to remind queer and trans people that you are not alone. Seeing positive representations of our identities and experiences can foster a sense of belonging, pride, and hope. By embracing our identities, being visible, and sharing our stories, we can inspire others and continue to build community.

Queer person in red mesh crop top against a orange background

2: The Power of Representation

Representation matters. Our community faces significant challenges, like stigma, discrimination, and misinformation, even from many people who know us personally. Negative stereotypes and misconceptions about trans and queer identities persist, leading to discrimination and difficulty that can affect all areas of our lives.

Cis people seeing positive portrayals of trans and queer individuals in media, film, and television can have a profound impact on societal perceptions and attitudes. For example, a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that transgender individuals who had supportive media representation were more likely to report feeling accepted by their families and communities.

Positive representation challenges stereotypes and promotes empathy and acceptance. When trans and queer individuals are portrayed as fully realized characters with hopes, dreams, and struggles, it humanizes our experience and helps break down barriers with those around us.

The documentary Disclosure, made by trans activist an d actress Laverne Cox, was a perfect example of how media made for and by trans people can improve our overall visibility and understanding in mainstream spaces. 

Masc queer person wearing fem green mesh lingerie against a yellow background

3: Visibility Leads to Rights

It may not feel like it at the moment, but increased visibility has been instrumental in driving advancements in queer and trans rights. The way that we’re represented directly changes people’s opinions of what rights we deserve. 

A study by the HRC Foundation shows that 76% of people who do not consume media from right-leaning media believe that, “any transgender person deserves support and healthcare that helps them to live as their authentic gender.” But that belief drops to 31% of people polled if the individuals only consume right-wing media. 

It may seem obvious, but when we’re portrayed by the media the way that we actually are, as caring, kind people who just want the same rights as everyone else, things change. Putting our own honest imagery out into the world is one way that we can combat the groups that are villainizing us. And as more trans people share their stories and demand equal rights and recognition, policymakers and lawmakers are forced to listen and respond.

Queer person wearing a rainbow binder and rainbow shorts

But What About When Visibility Backfires?

While visibility is essential for progress, it also comes with challenges. Increased visibility can make trans individuals more vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and violence. According to a report from Vox, trans people who receive public attention, even for non-trans-related news items, are likely to face online abuse and harassment.

The mental health impact of being visible as a trans person can be significant. Many individuals struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues as a result of discrimination and stigma. The issues have become considerably more real in the last few years. Public perception is actively being destroyed by right-wing groups that believe that we don’t have the right to exist, let alone exist publicly. 

As a mostly trans brand, we’ve seen the backlash very intimately. Our publications in general web articles in support of our products have gone from 6-8 articles a month to silence. We’ve had to turn off our YouTube comments, we’ve gotten shadow-banned by Google and Meta, and we’ve almost canceled events out of fear. We’ve had models back out on photoshoots because being in the public eye is so vulnerable. 

The fact is, that constantly being visible is exhausting. It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there again and again, knowing that someone will continually try to silence you. And we want to be clear that it’s no one’s job to put themselves out there to make the world a better place. 

If it’s not safe for you, or you’re just too tired, or you just don’t want to, that’s okay. We must care for ourselves first, and only then can we provide support systems and resources to address these challenges and ensure the well-being of the trans community.

Masc queer person wearing fem lingerie set against a blue background

Why We Keep Fighting for Visibility at Origami Customs

We’re not going to lie, being a highly visible trans brand can be challenging at times. We sometimes get tired of fighting the good fight when all we want to do is be our joyful selves in our little corner of the world. But for us, the benefits of publicly fighting for LGTBQIA+ people absolutely outweigh the negative energy we have to field from time to time. 

Firstly, there’s all of you folks. Every single letter or review we get from someone who feels better in their body because of what we make gives us the fire to keep going. You all are why we do what we do. We will never stop fighting to help you feel good in your body because we just want more euphoric queer and trans people in the world. If that’s all we got to do, it would be enough. 

But we’re also now getting found and recognized by partners and organizations that encourage us that we do matters. We’ve already told you about our MMODE fashion award, a couple of big publications like Love Inc and Medium, and our new partnerships with FAMM, FOLX Health, and TransCare+. But there are a couple more things that we’re thrilled about! 

CEO of Origami Customs Rae Hill seeing their products in the "Unique en Son Genre” exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation

“Love Me Gender,” at the Musée de la Civilisation

We still can’t believe this, but our products were included in the “Love Me Gender,” (or “Unique en Son Genre”) exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City! The exhibit was a look at how gender identity has changed and evolved over time. The goal of the exhibit was to celebrate the beauty of all gender identities in an effort to support trans a queer rights.

This exhibit highlighted the work of queer and trans activists around the world but explicitly focussed on the people and organizations leading the way in Quebec. We saw many of our partner organizations represented as well; highlighting all the important work they are doing in the community.

CEO of Origami Customs Rae Hill seeing their products in the "Love Me Genre” exhibit at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City

Organizers at the Musée de la Civilisation had reached out to us and asked if we would represent local gender-affirming products, and of course, we were delighted to be showcased on such a large scale!

The exhibit showcased, alongside our boyshort gaff, a handful of other local gender-affirming brands like Banana Prosthetics (another awesome trans-owned and made-in-Montreal brand!)

Seeing our product behind the glass in this massive space was such a humbling experience. To be featured among so many pioneers in the gender-affirming world really made me feel honored and appreciated for all the work I’ve been endeavoring to do for my community over the years. 

Banner for Origami Customs at Equality Fashion Week in LA

Equality Fashion Week

Another thing that we’re so excited about is our inclusion in Equality Fashion Week in Los Angeles next week! The whole goal of Equality Fashion Week is to give a platform for voices often overlooked within the fashion world. It's more than just a fashion event—it's a movement advocating for equity, equality, and diversity in all aspects of life.

As the first LGBTQ+ focused Fashion Week in Los Angeles, EFW goes beyond showcasing talent; it's aimed at breaking down barriers and fostering unity, especially among the most under-represented QTBIPOC members. They reached out to us and we’re so excited to attend! We’re one of only two international brands being represented. 

If you’re around LA, please come and say hi. We absolutely love meeting our community in person. Our fashion show will be held on May 18 from 6-9 pm at The West Hollywood EDITION or you can see us at the vendor's market (and there’s a pool party at the same time!) from 12-8 at Hotel Ziggy. We’re so excited to participate in the event that’s aimed at supporting the visibility of our community! You can see more events and purchase tickets here. 

As Always, Thanks For Being Here

In a world where seeing yourself reflected in the media matters more than ever, visibility plays a crucial role in challenging stereotypes and promoting acceptance, understanding, and empowerment. But remember, if you decide to put yourself out there, make sure that you have the safety and emotional support to do so. We don’t want anyone to put themselves in harm's way, even if it’s for the larger good. 

Here at Origami Customs, we have the backing of an incredible community. So we promise to keep showing up for you by sharing queer and trans stories and experiences online, doing our best to represent community diversity, educating others, and creating products that support you.

If you ever want to give us feedback on something we can do better, please feel free. Or if you want to join us in our fight for visibility by modeling, working with us on social media, or becoming one of our community partners, please don’t hesitate to reach out

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