Hidden Identities: Concealed Dangers, Visual Art and Making Trans Health and Wellbeing Issues Visible

rose paper, imageHidden Identities: Concealed Dangers is a conference paper presented at The Image Conference 29th 30th October 2014 at Freie Universitat Berlin. The paper will be submitted to the International Journal of the Image for peer review following the conference.

The paper proposes that trans people’s experience of discrimination and their engagement with the process of transition creates an alliance that operates to conceal health risks for this group. It suggests that visual art can have a vital role in enabling trans issues to acquire greater prominence within the public domain and contribute to articulating hidden dangers that impact negatively on the health and wellbeing of trans people.

The issue of visibility and invisibility is critical for the trans person and for this discussion. For the individual there is often a tension experienced between desire for self-visibility; an authentic expression of gender identity within the public domain, and very significant dangers arising from this action that are both apparent and hidden but are embedded in key sectors and spheres of life. In part this is because the journey of making visible a ‘felt’ self-identity is in equal measure marked by degrees of success in becoming invisible; the term ‘passing’ is used to describe projecting and being accepted in a gender that is at odds with the person’s assigned birth sex. Incremental or full passing involves stages of invisibility critical to social acceptance, but has adverse implications for accomplishing political influence or mainstream awareness (or empathy) of trans issues.