The advancement of medical treatments of HIV has given rise to the term undetectability, which has become synonymous with HIV survival and the promise of an otherwise normal life. This article explores the concept of undetectability as it relates to a theory of trans visibility as protection, epitomized by Time Magazine's 2014 declaration of a “trans tipping point.” Following critiques that trans visibility offers little guarantee of safety, the author traces the emergence of the term undetectability alongside calls for and against trans recognition. The author grounds arguments about undetectability's possibilities through a critique of the documentary Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017), examining its framing as a detective story that seeks answers around Johnson's mysterious death. More specifically, the author analyzes how the murder-mystery form reinforces a carceral fantasy of individual culpability running adjacent to the privatization of HIV as a matter of personal management. The article concludes by turning to Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel's Happy Birthday, Marsha!, not just to pose a divergent narrative frame for Johnson's life but to also understand how undetectability might offer a resource in navigating the violence of exposure itself, toward a space of trans opacity.

You do not currently have access to this content.