On November 20th 1999, Rita Hester was murdered as a hate crime purely for being transgender. The murder was soon forgotten by the media and as a response, the Transgender Day of Remembrance was created. Taking place on the same calendar day as Rita’s death, the movement aims to remember all transgender people (whilst mass media turns a blind eye) who died just for being themselves.

A decade later and Rachel Crandall, a transgender activist decided change was in order. The sole international holiday for transgender people should not base itself around hate crimes. Recognising yourself as transgender is a celebration of being. For some, simply defining their gender can lift the confusion clouding their mind. Society tends to enforce a black and white stance of purely male and female when in fact gender, like sexuality, is a spectrum and nowhere near as clear-cut as they would have us believe.

In 2009, Rachel created the International Transgender Day of Visibility, aimed at celebrating the lives of individual transgenders. Instead of the Day of Remembrance showing how transgenders have been unjustifiably killed, the Day of Visibility campaign invites transgender people to show themselves and celebrate life and their experience with gender. No person should have to live in fear of persecution for something they have no control over.

Now, six years along, the Day of Visibility is bigger than ever. The 31st of March saw social media flooded with selfies of ‘trans’ people who shared their own gender discovery story. Tumblr saw the biggest influx of posts, with Twitter and Instagram not far behind. These posts not only free the author, but also offer comfort to those who don’t yet feel confident enough to display their own gender. The Day of Visibility is there to celebrate those who wish to share, and those who wish to keep quiet.

For any doubters, it’s a fact that transgender people have always existed, they just haven’t always been recognised. Some are intersex, displaying an outward gender split of mixed genitalia. Other are simply trans, displaying an inward gender split. Some choose to be recognised as non-binary, not wishing to conform to either side. Others choose gender fluidity, leaning to and fro. More than anything it’s important to recognise that it’s an entirely subjective choice – one that we should all respect. If you feel comfortable, ask which pronouns they would prefer. If you show you’re a polite and understanding individual then you shouldn’t cause offence. If they do take offence try and show them you meant no harm. Failing all else just use their name as this will never make the person feel uncomfortable. Having shown a readiness of acceptance, most will open up with their stories.

Of course the question must be asked, why do we need a Day of Visibility? The question is partly answered in the title of the holiday. To raise visibility and awareness. A small proportion of transgender people feel comfortable enough in society as it is. However a large proportion don’t and the statistics show a big attitude problem in society. As many as 50 per cent had been raped or sexually assaulted by a romantic partner, while 58.7 per cent of transgender students say they had been verbally abused because of their gender at school and 49 per cent report physical abuse. And the endangerment isn’t confined to the schoolyard with 1 in 12 trans women being murdered. This number rises to 1 in 8 for trans women of colour.[1]

Physical steps are being taken towards a change in attitudes, particularly in universities. For example my university (University of Hull) has non-gender-specific bathrooms in one building and plans to put in more. LGBTQ groups are nationwide, regularly holding celebrations and supporting members. However we’re a far cry away from full gender acceptance yet. And finally as a concluding note, I would like to state that I in no way pretend to know the struggle of being transgender. Being a white heterosexual male I am in no place to speak on behalf of the LGBTQ community, but I do wish to raise awareness and fight inequality. Big love to all from this silly little blogger.

 

Sources:

[1] Trans student educational resources.