It’s the Transgender Day of Visibility! Observed every March 31, this day aims to bring attention to the accomplishments of transgender people, spread awareness about challenges facing the community, and act as a day of listening so that cisgender (aka non-transgender) folks might learn more about the transgender experience.
Here are three simple reasons to celebrate transgender visibility:
1. Visibility can be liberating.
“Despite the tumultuous living situation and stunted employment opportunities after I came out as transgender, and no matter that it made all those things all the more difficult, I have never for a moment felt unhappy or unsure of my identity. With that core knowledge of who I am, who I was and who I want to be, I always know that no matter what I might lose I will always have that. To this day it’s still my one solid ‘truth.’”
Like 2015 True Fellow Bentley Burdick says in his new article on the Huffington Post, being out and visible can have consequences – but the joy of living authentically outweighs the bad. Overall, we don’t live in an accepting world, so visibility comes with a side of vulnerability. People can try to deny your truth or discriminate against you, but your identity is something that’s 100% yours. No one can take it from you.
2. Visibility can create real change.
Lately, we’ve seen the real positive effects that transgender visibility can have on the world. Delaware recently became the 15th state to prohibit insurance companies from denying plans to people based on gender identity. And cities like New York and Seattle have implemented policies to protect the rights of transgender folks to use restrooms and other public facilities consistent with their gender identity. The issue of restrooms has been a bit of a lightning rod recently, attracting attention from people on both sides of the issue. Opponents of such legal protections have circulated the myth that such policies result in women being more vulnerable to harassment or attacks. Consider the harassment that transgender people face every single day. Consider the epidemic of violence and murder against transgender women of color in this country. The bottom line is this: Transgender people deserve the right to simply use the bathroom in safety and privacy like everyone else.
Victories like we’ve seen in Delaware, New York, and Seattle are directly due to transgender visibility. By advocating for legal rights and protections, transgender folks create real change for themselves and their communities. The only way oppressive laws and systems, like the one recently signed into law in North Carolina, can be overturned is by fearless leadership and activism by transgender folks. We’ve seen it happen in America and across the world.
3. Visibility can be inspiring.
Transgender visibility doesn’t only influence policy change – it also can inspire change in others. By seeing transgender people stand up and share their ideas and experiences, cisgender people can develop and understanding of what life is like for transgender folks – developing them into allies. And, it goes without saying, but transgender visibility can inspire other transgender folks too! By seeing other transgender people come out, stand up, and thrive, transgender folks (especially young people) are able to see that an out and open life is not only possible, but a beautiful thing!
As visibility in the media increases, with shows like Orange Is The New Black and Transparent and icons such as Laverne Cox and Chaz Bono, transgender folks are making their lives and stories part of a wide-scale international conversation. Seeing transgender stories in the mainstream media demonstrates the successes the community has made so far, while elevating the call for more work to be done. In 2015 alone, over 21 transgender people were murdered in the United States, making it the most lethal year ever recorded for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. We live in a time of both incredible progress and violence. Stories of transgender success give people something to hold onto even during the most challenging of times.
We celebrate transgender visibility every year with our 40 of the Forty list, which provides a platform for the 40% of youth experiencing homelessness who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning. Check out this year’s list!