Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. Created in 2009 by Transgender Michigan Executive Director Rachel Crandall-Crocker, TDoV is meant to be a celebratory counterpoint to the November's sober and reflective Transgender Day of Remembrance. In just a few years, TDoV has spread from a local Michigan event to something celebrated across the world, as trans people everywhere put a very human face on the struggle for transgender rights and acceptance. But even as more trans people are choosing to live visibly (today and every day), we're still very small in numbers. We need our friends and allies to help amplify our message and make our visibility more impactful. So, are 8 things everyone can do to make really make TDoV count.
1. Promote Trans Voices
There are so many talented trans writers, speakers, and activists working to increase awareness of the struggles of the trans community and change things for the better. Share their writing on social media. Go see them when they give talks. If you are in a place to do so, invite them to give talks! Every pair of eyes that sees our writing or ear that hears our speeches is another opportunity to spread our message.
2. Support the Trans People In Your Life
Life is hard for trans people, especially for those who are openly or visibly transgender. We suffer almost constant discrimination and harassment. Violence is a regular fear for us. We're subjected to a constant barrage of terrible things written about us that portray as perverts and deviants. The support we get from our friends and loved ones can make all the difference in the world. Let us know that you see us, that you care about us, that you understand our struggle. Give us a hug or just let us cry on you for a bit. That support helps us keep up our strength and fight on.
3. Donate to Transgender Causes
There are tons of organizations devoted to trans issues and advocacy, and they're all underfunded. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, The National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Transgender Law Center are all doing amazing national level work, and could be doing more with more dollars in their accounts. There are also dozens of state and local organizations doing everything from lobbying for legal protections to providing emergency housing to helping trans people access healthcare. These organizations often provide the last-line safety net to the most at-risk members of the trans community.
4. Educate Yourself About Trans Identities
If there are things you don't know about trans people or trans issues, today is a good day to start learning. Read the things trans people are writing today and every day about their experiences. Google things you've always wanted to know. If you can't find the answer, respectfully ask someone for help. Knowledge is power, and it's the critical step for awareness.
5. Be Mindful of The Diversity and Intersectionality of Trans Issues
Trans identities aren't limited to just trans men and trans women. There's a whole rainbow of non-binary and binary-ish trans people, and today is their day, too. It's all too easy to let these folks get lost in the shuffle, so on a day devoted to visibility, let's not erase them. As well, the trans community is incredibly diverse, and the adversity we face strong intersects with racism, economic privilege, education, and sexual orientation. The experiences of white trans folks are vastly different from those of trans people of color, who are at exponentially higher risk and are often some of the least visible. It's important we do as much as we can to center our advocacy on them.
6. Don't Force Visibility on Trans People
In other words, don't out the trans people in your life without their consent. Even on a day focused on visibility, many trans people still elect to keep their trans status private. That's a perfectly valid life choice, and it needs to respected. Outing someone can have potentially disastrous consequences, so if before you out someone, be sure to ask if they're OK with you doing so.
7. Be Extra Kind To Those Whose Visibility Isn't A Choice
Some of us don't really have an options about being out and visible. Many trans people do not have a cis-normative appearance (in more offensive parlance: "passing") that would allow them to blend in with the rest of the world. Those folks are often on the receiving end of some of the worst discrimination and harassment, even from other trans people. Having a cis-normative appearance is primarily a combination of economic privilege and genetic luck, so we cannot and should not denigrate those who are unable to "pass." So, take more time to support those people and give them some love.
8. Be A Visible Ally
Being an ally to the trans community is more than just not being terrible to trans people. True advocates make their positions known. Call out transphobia and transmisogyny when you see it. Contact lawmakers and press for transgender employment and public accommodation protections. Push your employer to provide trans inclusive health care. Let people around you know that you support trans people and will not stand for their oppression. Every person who is vocal about supporting us reduces the social stigma attached to being transgender.