In the heart of Somerville’s lively Davis Square last Friday, the intimate setting of The Rockwell transformed from a black box theater into a home for trans joy as artists and fans gathered to commemorate Trans Day of Visibility, which happens annually on Mar. 31.

The event, “Visibility is Not Enough,” was put together by local musician, activist, and writer Evan Greer in collaboration with ONCE Somerville. Greer currently serves as the director of Fight for the Future, a nonprofit focused on digital rights, and “in the before time” prior to the pandemic, she organized Break the Chains, a “monthly queer dance party.”

In conversation with GBH News, Greer said that the name — "Visibility is Not Enough” — stemmed from the feeling that "in this particular political moment ... more visibility is almost the last thing that trans people need. Like, we are hyper-visible [...] our existence is being politicized and kicked around like a political football, a talking point for Fox News and CNN.”

Already this year, state legislatures have introduced 150 bills targeting the rights of transgender people, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Among these bills is one in Montana, which is aiming to so narrowly define a person's sex that it will exclude transgender people. In Kentucky the Republican-dominated legislature voted to override the governor’s veto of a bill that will impose regulations and restrictions on transgender youth, including access to gender-affirming health care. West Virginia just passed a similar bill, and Idaho and Missouri could be next.

Greer says that the evening was meant as a chance to recognize the fact that “our community continues to create amidst this, like, horrific hellscape outside.”

One local college student, Iris Martinez, echoed the sentiment. They shared that “for me, especially when I was younger and especially when I lived in a rural area, visibility [was] dangerous, but it’s also inspiring. So in some ways, if you’re that trans teenager in southern Texas, having a[n openly] trans person or a visibly queer person is enough at that moment. But in this environment [...] it needs to be more than that. It needs to be the act of uplifting and empower[ing] trans people, especially BIPOC, because those are the most historically marginalized voices.”

Martinez emphasized the importance of recognizing the contributions of queer and trans people of color to this event and to trans rights movements. “It’s so common for a white trans person to focus mostly on just the trans experience and not the intersectionality of everything,” they said. “I am oftentimes the only person of color in a room [...] so it’s nice to see intentional curation of spaces that are not just performative, but they’re really authentically meant to uplift.”

Local artist TBT performs onstage at the Rockwell
artist TBT was among the performers at the Rockwell's Trans Day of Visibility event on March 31
Arden Bastia ONCE Somerville

Featured artists that evening were predominantly trans people of color. Following an introduction by Greer, poet Levi Cain read a series of their poems about their experiences with interpersonal relationships as a trans person. Formerly based in Boston and now working out of New York, TBT offered a live music performance, followed by drag by local queen Candace Perusasian. Persuasian wore a bodysuit that read “TRANS IS BEAUTIFUL” during a set that Somerville resident Arden Bastia reflected on, saying “she held up the [trans pride] flag at the end and I got goosebumps.” Greer performed some of her own music between sets, before Providence-based musician La Neve closed out the evening.

Bastia works with ONCE Somerville, and said that the event was important because “fundamentally, everyone just wants to be seen and heard. And so, when you don’t usually see yourself represented in media or art, it’s really exciting to hear your feelings captured in a song by another trans artist.”

local drag performer Candace Persuasian stands onstage at the Rockwell wearing a bodysuit, where the word "BEAUTIFUL" is visible. The front, which is not visible, reads "TRANS IS." Persuasian stands with her back to the camera, and holds a trans pride flag in her right hand
Candace Persuasian closed her set with a rendition of Beyonce's "Halo" while holding a trans pride flag
Arden Bastia ONCE Somerville

Proceeds from the event will benefit Harbor Camps, a program in New Hampshire that provides summer camp programming for transgender and nonbinary youth.

“Harbor Camps has this incredible mission of just providing a wonderful summer camp experience for trans and gender non-conforming kids," Greer said. "I wanted to raise money to help them purchase a new sound system to kind of literally hand the microphone to the trans young people who are actively under attack across the country so that we can literally make their voices louder.”

Greer and the participating artists at this event all agree that support for trans and queer artists should extend beyond one day and beyond imminent threat. Bastia explained that “continued support for the trans community and uplifting trans voices and elevating trans artists and activists is all really important [...] not just in June with pride month, but truly year round.”

Martinez encouraged allies to continue to materially support trans communities: “There are ways you can be supportive without being performative, even if it’s just like giving a $15 donation so that some trans kids can have like, you know, an amplifier.”

Greer elaborated on what support for trans individuals can look like beyond Trans Day of Visibility. She said that while media attention has largely been on the over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills in state legislatures, “lack of affordable housing is also killing trans people, lack of accessible health care is also killing trans people, police are killing trans people. [...] We need justice, and that means carving out space for our community to have care and people’s needs met.”