What do Laverne Cox, Chaz Bono, Caitlyn Jenner, and Elliot Page have in common? Given the title of this article, they are obviously visible, famous Transgender persons publicly living their authentic lives. In recent political elections several Transgender politicians won election. Sarah McBride won a Delaware Senate seat. Twenty-six-year-old Taylor Small was elected to the Vermont legislature. Stephanie Byers was the first transgender elected official in the State of Kansas as she also won a legislature seat. So, they too are visible. But what about those who aren’t famous or public? On March 31, they, and their allies, can celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Transgender Day of Visibility is relatively new. Rachel Crandall of Michigan, a transgender activist, was the founder of the event in 2009. She was frustrated that there was lack of recognition for transgender people, even within the LGBTQ+ community. The only existing event was Transgender Day of Remembrance which is held annually in November to mourn the murders of transgender men and women from the previous year. But there wasn’t anything to acknowledge and celebrate living members of the community. This day is also about raising the awareness of the discrimination faced by this community in housing, employment, sports and public accommodations among other activities of daily life.
Transgender is an umbrella term. In its simplest form, it describes people that have a gender identity or expression that differs from their assigned at birth sex. Being transgender is not just about transitioning from male to female or female to male. It is a continuum between the binary of male or female. It includes folks who identify as non-binary, third gender, and two spirit, among others. It is not about sexual orientation either. Although increasingly folks are presenting themselves as who they are in public, far more do not. Many folks say they don’t know anyone who is Transgender. They may be wrong. They may have family, neighbors and co-workers who are Transgender but who are not visible and public yet. Thus, Visibility is important. Celebration is important. Awareness is important. Education is important. Let’s hear a few voices from our community on why that is so.
C.L. Muir said this day “offered me a day where I know I’m seen, I’m heard.” That the “day is kind of a call to let the community know we’re here and we’re just like everybody else.” Muir and his partner live in Santa Rosa. His pronouns are he and they. Assigned female at birth, he identifies as a Transman and is non-binary. Age 38, they work as a supervisor at Noble Folks Ice Cream and Pie Bar in Healdsburg, CA. He came out publicly in the summer of 2019 and was looking forward to celebrating this day in 2020. Because of the pandemic, that celebration was limited to online events as it will be again this year.
Shelby Kira Marvell talked about how this “was so not part of my life when growing up.” Marvell, age 31 was assigned male at birth. Her pronouns are she and they and she identifies as Trans feminine. A resident of Rohnert Park, they graduated Analy High School in Sebastopol in 2007. After a car accident, she “got to look at who I am and who I wanted to be.” Her supportive parents still live in Sebastopol. She is a volunteer at the California Homemakers Association in Santa Rosa. For her this day represents an opportunity for Transgender people to increase “understanding, visibility of Transgender folks in society, who are gender variant in some way.” It’s a way to ensure we are “not erased.” And it makes it easier for others, especially transgender youth, to express themselves and know they are not alone. They started their journey in 2016 and became more public in 2019 when they came out as non-binary.
Rowen grew up in the 60s and 70s. She identifies as a non-binary Transwoman. Her pronouns are she and they. They are a sixty-year-old disabled Navy veteran. Growing up, and in the military, she said you had to “keep everything to yourself.” They came out on social media six years ago. She, her spouse of 25 years, and their family reside in Rohnert Park. She said about this day, “to be seen is huge,” to “live as yourself” in an authentic way. For her, this day “helped create that ability.” She too said it communicated “you were not alone.”
As Rowen said there are “so many different ways of being Transgender.” Transgender folks are so much more than their gender identity. They are sons and daughters. Parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, uncles and aunts. They are artists, engineers, writers, volunteers and so much more. They contribute to society in numerous ways. Being visible, on this day and throughout the year, helps other folks understand they are people with hopes and dreams, a desire to be seen and heard for who they are, a part of the diversity of our shared American experience. Transgender Day of Visibility helps that become a reality.