March 31 marks the Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), a day to celebrate transgender people and raise awareness about transgender rights. TDOV was started by trans activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 to uplift trans people, in contrast to the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) which takes place every November 20th and honors those who lost their lives to anti-trans violence in the previous year. Since 2009, TDOV has become an international phenomenon, with celebrations around the world, a week of action, recognition from President Biden, and more.
But what does the Trans Day of Visibility mean in 2022?
On the one hand, visibility is absolutely important. The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that LGBTQ youth found joy and strength from seeing people like themselves in the media, learning more about LGBTQ history, seeing others’ pride in being LGBTQ, and watching LGBTQ people on platforms like TikTok and YouTube. Transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox has described herself as a “possibility model” rather than a “role model,” because increased visibility of all types of trans people provide more and more possible futures for trans youth (and trans adults!) to imagine for themselves. That idea–of opening up new and hopeful ideas for what tomorrow can bring–is certainly something I’ve seen over more than a decade of working with trans youth at Camp Aranu’tiq.
On the other hand, visibility alone is not enough to guarantee legal protections for trans people, let alone actually living with dignity and respect. In 2022, we’ve already seen almost 240 anti-LGBTQ bills filed across the United States, many of them specifically targeting the trans community. Legislative trackers show that anti-trans bills have been introduced in dozens of states, the State of Texas is attempting to block medical care for trans youth by redefining the term ‘child abuse,’ Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill means trans youth might be forbidden from talking about their own identities, and much, much, more. Maybe that’s why some trans folks have taken to Twitter to joke about the possibility of a trans day of invisibility, or maybe just a trans day of staying in and having a nice snack.
On the one hand, visibility is incredibly important. On the other hand, visibility alone isn’t enough. So what’s missing from this conversation about visibility?
What’s missing from talks about 'visibility' are the outspoken, active, passionate allies working with and for trans people in the fight for trans rights. We need to reflect on what we’re doing to support trans rights year-round, not just on TDOV or TDOR. The trans rights movement has made huge progress in the past decade, but increased visibility has also resulted in a huge upswing of attacks on trans rights in statehouses across the country.
Are you calling or writing to your elected officials to demand support for trans rights? Are you speaking out against anti-trans jokes made by friends and coworkers, or that you see on TV? Are you bringing in outside consultants (like, say, Better World Collaborative) to build on and improve your organization’s support for trans employees, customers, and the community at large?
So please, this March 31, take the opportunity to celebrate trans visibility and uplift trans voices. Then let’s continue the fight for trans rights. We can’t do it without you.