On March 31st 2009, the first International Transgender Day of Visibility (ITDOV) was started by a transgender woman who felt a need to bring together transgender people from across the globe for a day of positivity, a day to celebrate and to raise awareness of the transgender community. And…in contrast, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a solemn day in November, to reflect on the death and violence experienced by transgender people across the world.
Why is visibility needed and what does it mean?
A day of visibility means transgender people can have a day to pause, take a breath, be proud to be their true selves, to acknowledge their accomplishments, victories and even their struggles, along with those of others, to come together, to recognize the transgender community and all of the positives it has to offer.
Transgender people are just that, People. Transgender people are parents, children, families, coworkers, neighbors, doctors, teachers and friends, from all sexual orientations, religions, spiritualities, ethnicities and races. Coworkers like me, one aspect of who I am is being an open transgender woman, just like my blue eyes. I love who I am, but this here, right now…this isn’t about me.
Visible means wanting and needing to be seen, heard and accepted, being recognized as equal, and not being othered or separate. Unfortunately this is far from equaling acceptance. For far too many people around the world, being visible is difficult, painful, criminal, violent and worse, but visibility can and will be a force for positive change.
I’m hoping to use this day and this post to help you understand a little more about the everyday life or a kilometer (or mile) in the shoes of a transgender person, why they deserve this day of visibility and a portion of your day to read this.
Why are we discussing this at Valiantys?
We are discussing this at Valiantys because we care. Transgender issues are seen as complex and controversial at the moment and not for the right reasons. Talking about ITDOV and bringing visibility inside Valiantys opens the topic for conversation and exploration and helps our people understand more about the life, joy and happiness, along with the struggles and fears transgender people experience. It is important to identify what being transgender means.
The terms transgender or trans are interchangeable and mean the same thing. Being trans is simply a person whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Whereas most people are cisgender, which means their gender identity aligns with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Daily life . . .
When you wake in the morning, do you think about your gender? Probably not, if you’re a man, then of course you are a man, there really isn’t anything to think about. It’s no different for women. What else could you be? So odd, right? Just a normal morning. For the most part, life for a transgender person is much the same as anyone else – we get up and get ready, go to work or school, eat meals, spend time with friends and loved ones and have hobbies and do normal things.* Just life. We experience joy and happiness, sadness and disappointment, we achieve greatness. So far, nothing I’ve said needed to have the word transgender in it. Sadly it isn’t always quite the same.
If we look at a couple of weeks we see much more, exposing this need to celebrate the positives, our struggle and survival so much more. You’ll see heads turn to you with disgusted looks, hear loud “hushed” voices making rude comments within earshot, have someone look you in the eyes and intentionally misgender you with “Excuse me SIR!!” while laughing. Add to this being spat upon, having garbage thrown from passing cars, getting knocked down and much worse. Not so normal anymore. These may seem like “minor” offenses, no big deal? But why? For the crime of being yourself? Every single thing like this just adds up and up and it happens ALL THE TIME!!
Each experience is different based on where a person may be in their gender transition (see this definition) their location, socio-economic standing, race and ethnicity and other factors, but normal life and normal days?
This has to be said about this life: Transgender people experience extraordinary violence – physical, sexual, social, emotional, psychological and death – on a daily basis, in every place around the world. This is real, but it doesn’t have to be, you can help, you can make a difference, small efforts make large impacts.
Become an Ally
Being an ally means supporting, encouraging and advocating for someone. Yes, it is just that simple. An ally in the transgender community is a person who is not trans, but deeply cares and wants to be supportive. Allies are often friends and family, but anyone can be an ally. If you are interested, take some time and educate yourself a little. Reach out to LGBTQIA+ organizations in your area or nationally, they can help you get involved. If you feel like you aren’t ready to be directly involved just yet, financial support is also needed.
If you already know, or know of someone, who is trans and want to work on it, learn some terminology, and what to say, and especially what not to say to a transgender person. Don’t start by asking what are deeply personal questions for a trans person, don’t ask about their transition, medical history, physical attributes etc., get to know them and learn about them just the same as anyone else.
Take a look at the resources below for more information:
- Transgender Ally resources
This blog post is not meant to be biographical, however some portions were based on my personal experiences. I am open and I do not shy away from discussing my life experiences, but before you ask, educate yourself.