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A Guide to Trans Day of Visibility and How To Properly Celebrate

transgender crowd of people presented in a seamless pattern

Happy Trans Day of Visibility, everyone! This day is meant to create a space in which trans lives and experiences are celebrated and recognized wholeheartedly, from acknowledging the roles trans people have played in history, to celebrating trans artists and visionaries, and of course, giving some extra love to the trans folks in our own lives.

However, with these celebrations, we must also take time today to consider what needs to be done to ensure that trans communities all over the world are protected. While recognition and visibility are so, so important, they are only the first steps towards proper care.

Today, we’re going to cover all of this with a guide to Trans Day of Visibility. And to all of our trans readers: we love you, and we’re so glad you’re here.

A brief history of Trans Day of Visibility

TDOV was established in 2009 by trans activist Rachel Crandall, who was frustrated that the only nationally recognized trans-positive calendar day focused specifically on those we’ve lost. Trans Day of Remembrance is important, yet it’s draining for members of the community to solely be reminded of the violence against other trans folks.

And while the meaning behind TDOV day is powerful and tangible, it comes with a relative degree of exhaustion in its own way. In an interview with the magazine Them, Crandall explained that she founded the day because she was getting tired of waiting for someone else to do it, thus demonstrating that there was veritable interest across the board for a day like this:

I picked March because I didn’t want to step on the toes of any other events, like Transgender Day of Remembrance or Pride Month. So I settled on March 31, and then I began contacting people all over the world on Facebook, telling them about my idea and asking them to participate. For the first year, the celebrations were kind of small. Then the year after that, it got a lot larger. I kept contacting everyone, then within a few years it was huge. I remember when I came out in 1997, I was very, very lonely. I wanted to create a day so we didn’t have to be lonely anymore.

Since I made Visibility Day, many transgender people have pointed out that visibility can be a “double-edged sword.” I agree with them — and I’m sad about that. Visibility is a double-edged sword. Any kind of visibility can bring attacks. Honestly, if I had to do it again, knowing what I know now, I’m not 100% convinced I would create the International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Rachel Crandall, in conversation with Them

Unfortunately, it’s often very true that the most important things are the most difficult to do. That’s why it’s often stressed that members of the community take today to rest and protect their peace, while allies put in the work to speak up and speak out about the importance of trans lives.

To be clear, Crandall goes on to say she ultimately has no regrets, because this day has saved so many lives. TDOV symbolizes progress and the nature of progress, slow and frightening as it may be. And while it’s incredibly valid to feel stuck and like nothing much has changed, Crandall points out that things are ultimately so much better than they were in 1997, when she first came out.

Rachel ends with this, which I find very inspiring and heartening:

That said, I value all opinions about the day. There might be people who say we don’t need a day like this, and I value that opinion. I don’t think that everyone has to agree. I’m happy I created it; however, as I said, if I knew what I knew now, I’m not positive I would. But someone else would have done it. I just think it was a matter of time. I wasn’t the only one who was thinking about it. In fact, I think the reason it caught on was because thousands of other trans people were thinking about it, too.

Today, I’m inspired by all the young people out there who are coming out. It was not that way when I came out. Most trans people I knew in the ’90s were coming out in their 30s, but it’s different now. Youth are coming out in droves — and they’re the future. The youth are the ones who are going to carry on, and I really think they’re up to it. Because of them, we’re going to have a bright future.

Proper allyship

First and foremost, it should NOT fall squarely on trans folks to educate others on trans issues. As allies, we should always strive to be better and to learn. Progress is a dance, after all, and it requires both parties to make things happen.

There are so many resources out there at our disposal, especially in the age of social media. One of my new favorite artists, Koreangry, reposted a fantastic guide by user @pinkmantaray on how to properly celebrate today, which includes helpful action items:

There are all kinds of things to consider in how we engage in trans-positive dialogue, from taking individual accountability to utilizing the proper language. You might make mistakes now and then, but what’s important is to not make those moments about yourself. Yes, you know your intentions, but it’s on you to learn—not get defensive. Similarly, as the post states, “Calling In” is much more conducive to positive growth than “Calling Out.” Don’t shame people for mistakes that seem innocuous—instead, gently yet firmly guide them to where they oughta be.

One of the most important things to keep in mind, I believe, is to allow space for your trans loved ones. Don’t speak over them just to prove your allyship. Be practiced and engaged listeners, be committed to learning, and remember that human beings are not just their troubles. Although racial identity and gender identity are entirely different things, I know very well how tiresome it is to talk at length about the trials of being a woman of color in America. Exercise empathy and understanding!

Lastly, take action! When you hear about some terrible shit in the news, talk about it, don’t let it get swept under the rug, and don’t bury your head in the sand. If you’re able, call into your local governance and let them know you don’t support harmful legislation. Seek out trans artists and support them by buying their products. Follow these creators and help give them visibility—if that’s what they’re looking for; otherwise, respect their privacy, it’s a scary world out there.

Ultimately, just make good on your word, and practice what you preach whenever you can.

Concluding words

To wrap it all up, this one’s for our trans readers: today, if you’re able, take some time to rest, celebrate yourself, and know that even if things seem daunting, you are loved and the world is better for having you. Buy yourself a Blahaj Shark. Drink some hot cocoa. And enjoy your weekend.

(featured image: Red Diamond, Getty Images)

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Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).