International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDoV) is once again upon us! TDoV is an annual day (March 31) to celebrate and show support for our transgender and gender-expansive communities. It’s a day of empowerment, celebrating the lives and accomplishments of these communities while raising awareness of the work that is still needed to combat discrimination.
So let’s start with the good news, rare as it might seem sometimes: the last couple of years have shown us that the needle is moving in the right direction. According to Pew Research Center, more than 42% of US adults in 2021 said they know or are friends with a transgender and/or gender-expansive person, an increase from 37% in 2017. Authentic portrayals of transgender and gender-expansive people are increasing in popular culture, and we’re finally starting to see more transgender and gender-expansive politicians elected. There are so many reasons to celebrate our community’s growth and acceptance.
But this newfound visibility has brought ever greater and more serious costs. Being transgender or gender-expansive in 2022 also comes with fear, anger, and uncertainty, as the validity of our existence is under an unprecedented assault. 2022 has already seen over 240 anti-LGBTQI+ bills filed with 34 states, with the overwhelming majority specifically targeting transgender people; this is roughly the same number of anti-LGBTQI+ bills filed over the entirety of 2021. Over the past few years, these bills have mostly focused on limiting discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools, limiting or preventing transgender athletes’ participation in sports, limiting bathroom access, and preventing the changing or elimination of gender markers on licenses and birth certificates.
Though the sheer number of these bills is already cause for concern, they’re also getting more aggressive. The authors of these bills now seek to completely cut off access to life-saving gender affirming care and criminalize the parents of transgender and gender-expansive youth and the providers of their medical care. Two of the most egregious recent examples of this have been in Texas and Idaho. In February, Texas Governor Greg Abbott directed the Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents who provide gender-affirming medical care to their transgender children for potential child abuse. Not to be outdone, a bill passed by the Idaho House of Representatives (HB 675) would make it a felony, punishable by life in prison, not only to provide gender-affirming treatment, but to provide permission for a minor to receive it, or to permit a minor to travel out of state to receive it.
Clearly, the transgender and gender-expansive community is quite visible right now—to the extent that one might ask why we need a specific day for visibility. The answer is simple: people who are questioning their identity or working towards coming out publicly need to see transgender and gender-expansive people who are happy, thriving, and living their best lives. The more we are seen and accepted, the louder our voices can become.
I’m proud to be a visible and publicly transgender person. This month will mark 9 years since I came out as transgender. I was lucky to have a caring family that helped me at each stage of my transition, but even with their unwavering support, I would very likely not have been able to come out and find acceptance with myself if it wasn’t for the courage of other transgender and gender-expansive people showing me that it was OK to be me. I’m alive today because of those people being very loud and very proud about who they are.
So how do we keep transgender and gender-expansive people visible, and how do we counter this recent wave of hate directed at people who only want to live a fulfilling life? To my transgender and gender-expansive friends and colleagues: continue to have the courage to make yourselves as visible as possible. Continue to live your best lives and serve as inspiration for others who are about to embark on that journey, who are struggling in their transitions, or who just need to see someone rocking it to help them find inspiration to get through a tough day. Keep your heads up, be loud and proud of who you are, and keep fighting like hell.
To our allies: don’t get complacent. For those of you who don’t know, aside from TDoV, the other main date the transgender and gender-expansive community observes is November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance, memorializing those we’ve lost. Before the recent wave of legislation targeting transgender and gender-expansive people, the attempted suicide rate among people who identified as such was around 50%. Unfortunately, with the current attempts to deny gender-affirming care, this number will likely only go up.
So I say this: to hell with keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. Don’t wait until you lose a friend or colleague forever before deciding to act. Transgender and gender-expansive people alone can’t win this fight. We need your help in amplifying our voices, educating yourself and others, donating to supportive groups, volunteering, voting out politicians driven by hate and ignorance, and listening and providing love and support to the transgender and gender-expansive people in your lives.
Each of the amazing gains our community has made has been opposed by people who would rather we stay hidden and excluded from society, or increasingly, would simply prefer us dead. These are, and have always been, the stakes. We celebrate (and fight for) Transgender Day of Visibility so there are fewer lives to mourn on Transgender Day of Remembrance.
Director of People and Culture
International Transgender Day of Visibility
Thursday, March 31, 2022