International Transgender Day of Visibility

International Transgender Day of Visibility is an event to celebrate the lives of transgender people, their achievements and their contributions to society; all that, while also reminding us the discrimination still faced by transgender people worldwide. This milestone is held across the globe, every March 31st, with advocacy gatherings, social media campaigns, exhibitions, workshops, presentations, rallies and protests.

The International Day of Visibility

Back in 2009, trans activist Rachel Crandall realized that every time she heard about the trans community in the media, it was in relation to the lives lost to trans-phobic violence, such was the case of the usual coverage surrounding the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Rachel knew there was more to be said and done, and thus created the International Transgender Day of Visibility: a day to celebrate the lives of trans people, acknowledge their achievements and  promote their inclusion in society. 

Since then, every March 31st, the International Day of Transgender Visibility (TDOV) is celebrated across the globe. We gather to empower the transgender community worldwide, by shining a spotlight on our successes and accomplishments, and by raising awareness of all that is yet to be done.

Why It's Important

On this day, we focus on the positive while still remembering that transgender people face immense stigma and oppression in their everyday lives.

Let’s face it: there is still lack of legal protection, workplace hardships, bullying and harassment in schools, a refusal of health services and insurance coverage, and even regressive legislation. That is all more the reason to acknowledge the tremendous courage it takes to live openly and authentically despite the incessant aggression from those who act on the basis of hate and ignorance to shut down the transgender and non-binary community.

The International Day of Transgender Visibility is a day to act: one to come together, to find support and to be supportive. We know that no human being should be subject to a life in perpetual fear of violence or discrimination, all the least due to the fact of being their true and authentic self. We know that no one should ever be made or feel invisible in their own community. We know that advocating together for the decent and equal treatment of everyone, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, faith, beliefs, and social standing is essential for a successful and civilized society. There is no such thing as “remaining neutral” when it comes to  respect, promotion and protection for other human beings’ human rights.

On this day, we have the opportunity to come together, to advocate for full equality and the observance of transgender and non-binary people’s rights. Our rights are HUMAN RIGHTS.

History and Achievements of the Trans Community

Some barrier breakers we should celebrate:

Jamie Lee Hamilton

Hamilton grew up in Vancouver’s downtown east side. Of Irish, Metis and Cree heritage. She transitioned as a teenager in 1970 and was at that time the first youth in Canada to start a medical transition. She ran for Vancouver city council in 1995. At that time, Hamilton was the first trans person to run for public office anywhere in Canada. In 1998, she fiercely advocated for the life and physical integrity of sex workers and indigenous women victimized in Vancouver’s West-End. She is remembered as a fun, empathetic, opinionated, engaged and resilient trans woman, who always bounced back and fought back, despite the composite oppression she dealt with as a trans woman of indigenous heritage. She died of cancer in 2019.

Aiyyana Maracle

Two-spirit trans woman and multidisciplinary artist from the Six Nations territory in southern Ontario. She was active from the 1990’s to the 2010’s. She brought awareness to indigenous views of gender, as opposed to the binary system. Her work reflected on her journey in the process of decolonization. She received numerous awards, honours and recognition. Besides her artistic and advocacy work, she is also remember as a mentor to two-spirit, queer, trans, gay, lesbian and non-binary indigenous youth and artists. She died in 2016, surrounded by her loving family and friends.

Rupert Raj

One of the earliest trans activists in Canada. From Toronto, of polish and south Asian heritage, Raj self-identifies as a euro-Asian person of colour. He transitioned in 1971. Later, in 1978, he started the first Canadian organization to advance the rights of trans people. In 1982, he launched a bi-monthly periodical for trans men believed to be a first of its class publication in the world. 

Kimberly Nixon

Nixon fought for human rights legislation for trans people. In 1995, she was rejected as a peer counsellor at the Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter because she was transgender. She fought the case in court and a B.C. human rights tribunal found that the group had indeed discriminated against Nixon; however, the ruling was later overturned by the B.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, which held that the shelter had the right to choose its members under the B.C. Human Rights Code. It took years for legislative changes at the provincial and federal levels to include protection of gender expression and gender identity as human rights, and to prescribe the prosecution of hate crimes against transgender people.

Georgina Beyer

Georgina Beyer is a politician born in Wellington, New Zealand. After a life of struggle and great courage, in 1999, they became the first openly transgender person in history to become a Member of Parliament.

Ben Barres

The pioneer American scientist Ben Barres was a renowned neurobiologist who made major discoveries in the human brain’s functions. In 2013 he became the first transgender person to be a member of the National Academy of Science.

Julie Lemieux

This Canadian politician was elected mayor of the village of Très-Saint-Rédempteur (Quebec) in 2017, and in doing so, she became Canada’s first openly trans mayor. She won by proving that people cared more about what she could do for the community rather than her gender identity.

Dr. Renee Richards

Renee Richards is a former professional tennis player from New York that after transitioning in the 1970’s fought for her right to compete in the US Open as a woman. Her fight led to the New York Supreme Court ruling in her favour, setting a landmark for all transgender rights.

Elliot Page

We must highlight the achievements of Elliot Page. The Canadian actor came out as transgender in December 2020. He is famously known for his roles in Juno, the X-men franchise, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and the Netflix TV series The Umbrella Academy.

It should be noted that transgender visibility is an extensive field that expands outside of the community itself. Everyone in the LGBTQ+ community knows how important the support of our allies is. They fight with us for universal equality and freedom, and in their efforts, they encourage others to join.

How to be an ally?

If you are new to allyship and you don’t know how to navigate your way around being an ally to the transgender and non-binary community, don’t worry. That’s okay. Here are a few tips from GLAAD that you can use:

Tip #1: Don’t Assume Pronouns; Instead, Ask

There is no crime in not knowing a person's pronoun, but there are a few methods you can use to find out, such as:

  • Introduce yourself and the pronoun you prefer, and then ask about theirs.
  • Listen to how other people who know the person speak about them.

In the event you use the wrong pronoun, apologize and move things along.

Tip #2: Learn to Separate Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

You cannot assume that a transgender person is gay or straight or otherwise by looking at them. In other words, gender identity is not sexual orientation. While the latter speaks to who we are attracted to, the former is about one’s personal identity. There are bisexual, straight, gay, and lesbian trans people.

Tip #3: No One “Looks Transgender”

It's safe to assume there are transgender people at any gathering of people. However, it is downright offensive to go "looking around" for transgender or non-binary people. In fact, most do not appear visibly trans, and they do not come from a single background.

Tip #4: Don’t Ask Their “Real” Name

Asking a transgender person their “real” name is offensive. This is because it is likely that they changed their assigned birth name, and asking about it causes unnecessary tension and apprehension. If they willingly offer to tell you their birth name, well and good. Likewise, do not share their birth name w other people without the trans person's consent.

Tip #5: Respect The Privacy Of Gender History

A transgender person’s gender history is personal information. Gender history for transgender people is often a source of gossip and slander. If they share it with you, you cannot share it with others unless they have explicitly given their consent; otherwise, it would be a breach of privacy.

The Trans Day of Visibility is a day to show support to the trans community.
Let’s stand together. It’s our time to be seen, our time to be loved and respected. It’s time to celebrate.