International Transgender Day of Visibility: Celebrating the Past, Embracing the Future

Honouring the history of trans activism over the past few decades and looking ahead to the future with hope.

HomoCulture Days of Awareness Brian Webb

This article was published on March 24th, 2022

Every year, on March 31, we celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility. This unique day is all about recognizing and celebrating all the incredible accomplishments made by transgender people around the world and acknowledging the work that still needs to be done.

The day traces its roots to 2009 when it was started by Rachel Crandall, a trans woman who was an activist and director of Transgender Michigan. She felt that the focus on transgender people during other days, like the Transgender Day of Remembrance, held each November 20, was too focused on loss. Instead, she wanted March 31 to be a day where people could gather and celebrate being transgender.

The first celebration was held in Detroit, Michigan, at Affirmations Community Center and featured a candlelight vigil for those who had lost their lives to anti-transgender violence. Since then, #TDOV has spread worldwide and become an annual celebration for trans people everywhere.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Fight For Transgender Rights

It may seem like things are moving slowly or not at all. But consider that trans activists have been fighting for their rights since the 1970s at least — and often facing significant pushback from anti-trans groups. The fact that we’re even talking about these issues today is a testament to the bravery of those who fought for our visibility in the past and who continue doing so today.

It’s important to remember that not too long ago, being openly transgender was something many people were afraid to do. But in recent years, there’s been a lot of progress made in terms of the rights and protections granted to transgender individuals. Today, roughly 1.5 million Americans identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming, and while they still face challenges and discrimination, they are more visible than ever before.

The International Transgender Day of Visibility is an important time to celebrate those victories, but in order for us to continue moving forward, we have to keep having conversations about the issues trans people face. We’ve seen some high-profile victories in court rulings and legislation that set legal precedents and opened doors for trans people. In 2020, a federal appeals court ruled that the US Constitution protects the right of public-school students to use restrooms matching their gender identity which was a huge victory in the fight for trans visibility and rights.

Increased Trans Visibility

And in 2014, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity—another major move in advancing trans rights under the law.

We’ve seen more trans visibility in the media—from Caitlyn Jenner’s reality TV show I Am Cait, Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black, to Jazz Jennings’ reality show I Am Jazz. We’re also seeing more trans visibility in sports. In 2020, Chris Mosier became the first openly trans man on Team USA, while MMA fighter Fallon Fox became the first openly trans woman in her sport.

This increased visibility is both exciting and important for many reasons — one of which helps us see what we need to improve when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights around the world. It’s important not to forget that many countries still do not allow or welcome transgender individuals or have laws protecting their rights. In fact, some countries still consider being transgender a crime punishable by imprisonment or even death.

As the world looks forward to celebrating International Transgender Day of Visibility, remember that this holiday isn’t about just one day — it should inspire us all to be more open and accepting year-round.

How To Get Involved

Here are some ways you can support trans folks today and every day:

Educate yourself – there are several books, podcasts, movies, and documentaries that delve into the history of trans people and the trials they’ve faced throughout their lives.

Donate to a transgender organization or fund that supports transgender people.

Organize an event in your community or workplace to raise awareness about transphobia and the need for transgender rights.

If you know someone who identifies as transgender, remind them that you love them and support them; use their preferred pronouns.

Make a stand in your workplace by ensuring that your HR policy is trans-inclusive or that your company supports charities and organizations that benefit the trans community.

What Does The Future Hold For Transgender Rights?

It’s impossible to say. But for those who’ve taken an active interest in preserving transgender history, educating others about transgender people and issues, and spreading a message of tolerance and acceptance, there is reason to be hopeful.

In the end, there’s much that the global community can do to improve transgender rights. We must educate ourselves about transgender identity and the issues that affect transgender people, support transgender groups and individuals and advocate for policy changes to protect their rights and safety. 

In doing all this, we’ll build a world where every person can live their truth with pride.

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