It’s Trans Day of Visibility! Here’s 15 Ways To Let Trans People Know You See Them and Care

International Trans Day of Visibility is here! This event, which happens each year on March 31st, was started by Rachel Crandall, the leader of Transgender Michigan. It exists so that we can focus on the trans people around us and the good that they do. She wanted a day that celebrated and recognized trans people who are still with us to go alongside Trans Day of Remembrance, which remembers those we lost.

I was thinking… whenever I hear about our community, it seems to be from Remembrance Day which is always so negative because it’s about people who were killed. So one night I couldn’t sleep and I decided why don’t I try to do something about that… The Day of Remembrance is exactly what it is. It remembers people who died. This focuses on the living. People have told me they love Remembrance Day but it really focuses on the negative aspect of it. Isn’t there anything that could focus on the positive aspect of being trans?

There are many ways you can celebrate Trans Day of Visibility. Some places hold live events, such as readings or appearances by trans speakers, others host parties celebrating trans people. Although the event started in Michigan, it has spread all across the USA and into Canada and the UK. On a more individual level, you can celebrate Trans Day of Visibility by paying attention to and caring about trans people and trans issues. Here are some ways that you can do just that.


 

Pat Cordova-Goff via Aljazeera America

Pat Cordova-Goff via Aljazeera America

1. Cheer On Trans Athletes

The playing feild is a place where people seem to fight extremely hard to defend their right to discriminate agaisnt trans people. Although the Olympics and NCAA both have trans inclusive policies, other organizations, such as Crossfit and many state high school sports leagues aren’t as progressive. A couple examples of trans athletes you can support are MMA fighter Fallon Fox and Pat Cordova-Goff, a high school softball player, who is playing the right sport thanks to California’s new trans student rights bill.


 

2. Read Trans People’s Blogs

It’s extremely important to listen to trans people’s voices. We know what rights we want and we know the best ways to help us. One of the easiest ways to do this from your home is to read our blogs. Some blogs that you can check out include Transgriot, run by Monica Roberts, Janet Mock’s blog, and Biyuti Binaohan’s blog.


 

3. Support Trans People’s Projects

Trans people are constantly putting ourselves out there and accomplishing great things. However, due to discrimination in the workplace, schools and the government, trans people often could use all the help that we can get. You can support projects like the International Trans Women of Color Gathering, the Free CeCe documentary about CeCe McDonald and produced by Laverne Cox, Biyuti Publishing, which looks to publish works by marginalized people, the documenary Major! about trans pioneer Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Trans-Genre, which supports trans artists and publishes books by trans writers or the Trans Justice Funding Project, where your money will go to a variety of trans projects.


 

4. Watch Movies and TV Where Trans Characters are Played by Trans Actors

In case you missed the news, cis people playing trans characters not only takes jobs away from trans actors, but it usually relies on stereotypes and when it’s a cis man playing a trans woman, it also reinforces the idea that trans women are just men in dresses. So instead of watching Dallas Buyers’ Club or Hit and Miss, watch things like Orange is the New Black, The Fosters, Gun Hill Road, and other projects featuring trans actors and actresses like Laverne Cox, Harmony Santana, Angelica Ross, Tom Phelan, Jamie Clayton and Candis Cayne. It’s important that we have accurate portrayals of trans people, and the only way to do that is to let trans people play trans characters.

Imogen Binnie via youtube

Imogen Binnie via youtube


5. Read Books and Listen to Music by Trans People

Speaking of accurate portrayals of trans people, another way to make sure that happens is to let trans people write their own stories. You can read memoirs like Janet Mock‘s Redefining Realness, Toni Newman‘s I Rise, and Ryka Aoki‘s Seasonal Velocities. Or you can check out fiction like Imogen Binnie‘s Nevada and Choir Boy and Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders. You can also buy and listen to music by trans artists including Angelica Ross, Kokumo, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Namoli Brennet and Rae Spoon.


 

6. Donate to or Volunteer with Trans Organizations

Not only are there nationwide organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, The TransLatin@ Coalition and the Transgender Law Center, but many cities also have local organizations that support and provide safe spaces for trans people or trans youth.


7. Make Sure to Involve Trans Women in Women’s Spaces

This one should be a no-brainer. Trans women are women. End of sentence. Since we are women, women-only spaces, whether it’s colleges or music festivals, should clearly be open and welcoming to us.


 

8. Write a Letter to Your Congressperson Asking Them to Support Non-Discrimination Ordinances

Many states don’t have statewide protections for trans people in the workplace, housing and other areas. However, many cities and states are starting to pass non-discrimination ordinances that protect LGBTQ people from being fired or denied housing just because of who they are. If you want to support and protect trans people, this is a great first step that will only cost you fifteen minutes and the price of a stamp.

Reina Gosset and Janet Mock via Tumblr

Reina Gosset and Janet Mock via Tumblr


9. Support the Trans People in Your Life

Trans people are often kicked out of our houses and lose friends when we come out. It can be very lonely being trans, and knowing that you have a community around you who will invite you into their lives really does help. Trans people are fun, smart, adventurous, nerdy, funny, athletic, talented and creative. If you befriend us, more than likely, we’ll have a great time together. Although we are generally Flawless, trans people are still people. We shouldn’t be treated as if we are mythical beasts who you can only talk about and support online. Get to know trans people in real life — in authentic, non-tokenizing ways — and you’ll probably find that you have a lot in common with us.


 

10. Stop Saying “LGBT” When You Really Mean “Gay”

Although people are getting better at this, I still see it all the time. If you’re making a list of the “Top 10 LGBT” anything, you better have at least one trans person on there. I’m also looking at you, Netflix, with your “Gay and Lesbian” section. Boys Don’t Cry and Gun Hill Road tell neither gay nor lesbian stories. On the other side of the coin, please stop saying “gay” when you mean “LGBT.” When Janet Mock was named one of the “15 Most Powerful Gay Celebrities” in 2012, I rolled my eyes so hard I went blind for a week. Many people will talk about Gay Rights or Gay History when they are talking about things that affect and involve trans people as well. This erases the hard work they have put in and ignores the fact that without trans women of color, we wouldn’t have the LGBT rights movement as we know it today.

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (far left) via Transgriot

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (far left) via Transgriot


11. Learn About Trans History

Like I was saying, it was trans women of color who threw the first bricks of the “Gay Rights” movement. The first step is to learn about trans (and LGBT rights) pioneers like Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major. It was them and other trans women of color like them who started the Stonewall Riots. Once you know about our modern history, you can move on to learn about gender variant people throughout history. Although the terminology might be new and it’s probably inaccurate to call anyone who crossed gender in ancient times “transgender” as they would have no concept of that as an identity, trans people are far from a modern phenomenon.


 

12. Stop Stressing “Sex vs. Gender”

This is often a way for cis people to try to bring some simplicity and rationality to that confusing thing that is Trans People. They say that “Gender is in your mind, and Sex is in between your legs” and think that since that makes sense to them, that is a good way to describe trans people. However, if you really listen to what you’re saying, you’re claiming that although you are okay saying that a trans woman’s gender is “woman,” her sex is still “male.” When you say that a trans woman’s sex is male, even though you call her a trans woman, you’re still misgendering her. This is a not a good way to be an ally and it makes it seem like you don’t see trans men as fully being men and trans women as fully being women. Repeatedly pointing out that sex and gender aren’t the same thing just ends up othering trans people and actually pushes them away while you’re acting like you’re including them. Saying that sex=genitals reinforces the idea that pre or non-op trans people aren’t as “real” as trans people who have had surgery. I know you’re trying to help, but this isn’t the best way to do it.

fto3paw

It’s funny because all trans women are liars.


13. Listen When Trans People Tell You That Something is Transphobic or Transmisogynistic

When a trans woman complains about RuPaul’s Drag Race having an entire game named after a transmisogynistic slur, don’t try to defend it by saying that they’re drag queens, so it’s okay. Similarly, when Stephen Colbert uses transmisogynistic slurs on his show, don’t defend him by saying that it’s “just satire.” Trans people (or at least most of us) actually do have senses of humor. We love to laugh. But we don’t like to constantly be the punchline of jokes that make light of violence against us or portray us as liars who want to trick you into sleeping with us. So please, believe us, we know when we’re being insulted.


 

14. Check Out This List of 52 Things You Can Do for Transgender Equality

If this list isn’t enough for you, here are dozens of more ways you can show your support.


15. Love and Defend the Trans People in Your Life

Trans people are oh so valuable, and our lives are far too often cut short. Since trans women (and especially trans women of color) face so much violence and murder, and so often those crimes go unpunished, the lives of trans women are precious things. All trans people face discrimination and oppression in so many areas of society, so make sure you tell the trans people in your life that you love them. Make sure you use your actions to show them that you love them. Make sure you tell those around you that you won’t put up with oppression of or violence against trans people. Don’t laugh at transmisogynistic jokes, don’t call trans people who don’t immediately disclose their trans status liars and don’t let your friends use transmisogynist slurs. When it comes down to it, the best way to let trans people know that they are visible and important in your life is to make sure that we are safe, comfortable and able to live the lives that we want.

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Mey is a lesbian, Latina trans woman living in Idaho. Her areas of expertise include comic books, trans* issues and pop culture. She has an English Degree, a cat named Sawyer, a tumblr that she uses a lot and a twitter that she only uses occasionally. She's a selfie princess and Nerdy Bruja Femme.

Mey has written 143 articles for us.

38 Comments

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      I agree, I appreciate this information, but I do wonder how to talk to people about trans issues who are…um…stuck in biological definitions of sex and gender. The whole “sex/legs and gender/ears” argument came about as a way to get people thinking about the psychological component of gender, no? I recognize that there’s a contingency that has moved beyond that, but where I live, it’s still an uphill battle trying to raise awareness that trans women aren’t just gay men in drag. If I can’t use the sex/legs, gender/ears argument, how do I get this idea through to people?

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      It isn’t offensive. Not to me, anyway. It might not be entirely *accurate* to completely separate out sex and gender, but it does serve as an effective compromise tool when you’re trying to illustrate how being transgender ‘works’.

      The simple fact is that people who aren’t trans simply don’t have a point of reference that would enable them to fully understand what trans people experience. I always think of it a little like the Tao: you know you can’t describe it directly, so the best you can do is try to use illustrations and analogies to give a sense of what it is. As it were, to feel around the edges to get a rough idea of the shape of the thing.

      That being the case, it’s not fair to expect anyone to understand us right from the off, when they don’t have the experience, and they probably aren’t as familiar with (for want of a better term) ‘trans culture’. I’ve seen people demanding that non-trans people ‘use their common sense’ when working out how to treat us – but what does common sense really tell you about something that may be completely unfamiliar?

      People do struggle to understand why genitalia and other physical indicators of sex aren’t the be-all and end-all of gender. How many times do we hear people denying the reality of the trans state by saying “you’re XX or XY, and that’s the end of it”? Yes, that riles us, because we know it’s not that simple – but these are subjects of enormous social and scientific complexity.

      In reality, it’s probable that more or less everything about humans has a biological basis, either born-in or imprinted later – so in the end ‘gender’, even our understanding of social gender roles, becomes as much a physical part of us as any other memory or learned behaviour. Perhaps the divide between sex and gender is artificial. Like ‘lies-to-children’ in the classroom: it’s a half-truth that doesn’t completely describe the facts, but works to give people a starting point. It brings ‘us’ and ‘them’ a little closer together, and in my view, everything we do should serve – or at least not oppose – that end.

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    This is an awesome list:)
    Number 4 always makes me end up in tears.
    I kind of avoid watching films and episodes that deal with trans issues because a lot of the time there’s that scene of character that has to deal with or portray the transphobic theme and it’s gets me so upset and angry I end up crying my eyes out.
    I have this thing about watching anything that I KNOW is gonna make me cry or angry (I don’t care what you say I’m not ready for 12 years a slave).
    Like “let’s go watch this movie they’ve told it’s really sad”. No. Can’t.
    Coincidentally I’m rewatching OITNB (preparing for the new season) and I watched Sophia’s episode yesterday (the one about her background) and I STILL want to slap the life out of her son and coworker.
    I’ve been saying for years that I’ll watch Boys Don’t Cry but I watched the documentary about Brandon Teena in preparation for the film and I still cry when I think about it.
    Anyone know any trans films that won’t leave me in a puddle on the floor?

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      -One film I recommend is “Paulista” a sexy, award-winning Brazilian film.
      -A good documentary is Gwen Haworth’s “She’s a Boy I Knew” (some sad moments but ultimately very uplifting).
      -The indy US film “Gun Hill Road” is no comedy, *spoiler* but no one trans gets murdered or dies either and it features a very moving performance by a young trans Latina.
      -Still Black by Coutney Ryan Ziegler is an enjoyable documentary about trans men of color talking about their lives.

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      “Friend” me or my film, SECRET IDENTITIES, on Facebook if you are on there, Ruric, so that you’ll know (in a year or two) when my narrative film comes out.
      There is one sad thing that happens in the plot but in general it will be a feel good film where nearly everyone comes out great. [I'm NOT getting on this site today to promote myself or my films. I'm trying to connect with folks so we can all support one another.]

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    This was really great, thanks you, Mey. Those directions and suggestions are going to help me so much, since I often feel like I might hurt someone just because I’m not totally sure how to behave, when I really, deeply absolutely don’t want to, au contraire. Thank you again. :-)

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    At risk of sounding ignorant, is it appropriate to say that sex is determined by chromosomes? I know sex is a complicated, more complicated then most of us are taught. What does sex equal?

    Regardless, I don’t feel like you need to know someone’s chromosomes to get to know them or to accept their gender identity. You ought to just do that no matter what.

    Stressing it is definitely useless…

    Please feel free to tell me I’m ignorant/educate me/be upset.

    This list is definitely helpful to me and taught me something, especially 10, 11, 12, and 14. Especially, especially 10. It makes a lot of sense.

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      Hi Virginia!! :-)

      You bring up a really *interesting* question with some amazing answers:

      There is a LOT to what defines sex. Chromosomes are part of this, but really only one of about five parts (of which we are aware).

      Did you know that people are not limited to just XX or XY? There are a sizable number of people with various combinations of Xs and Ys. Amazingly there are some XY women and XX men – no, I’m not talking about transsexuals – Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome can make an XY woman who won’t even realize it until she learns she is sterile. Similarly, Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasi can make men who actually have an XX karotype…

      …Another interesting thing about chromosomes is that they act as the initial “switch” that is supposed to help a human develop along a male path (or remain on the default female path). The “switch” only starts the hormones going. It’s really the sex hormones that cause our brains and bodies to develop as we go through life. In some people, like me, this process can be disrupted by medications or environmental chemicals that enter our bodies as we are developing in other mother’s wombs. (In my case, I was exposed to diethylstilbestrol {DES}, and this caused my brain and other parts of my body to remain on the female developmental path instead of taking the male one that my chromosomes dictated…sooo it’s almost certain that someday I will be classified as an “intersex” person instead of transsexual.)

      Much to my surprise, I learned that there are over 200 ways that we know of so far that people can be “intersex” (AIS and CAH are two such ways; people born with ambiguous genitalia are others.) It’s far more common than people are aware, and a great many people don’t know they are intersex until they need to see the doctor about something “odd” about them. Part of the reason we don’t know about this is because intersexuality has been every bit as taboo as transsexuality, but we are coming to light as the “door opens” to allow fresh air and light into dark and painful places.

      Oh! Here is a great documentary if you want to learn a little more about how complicated it is to determine one’s sex (apart from one’s gender):

      Me, My Sex, and I
      http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/me-my-sex-and-i/

      Blessings Virginia!!! :-)

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      From birth, yes you could probably say that sex is determined by chromosomes. But for people who have changed their sex to align to their gender that definition doesn’t work, because a trans woman who is post op would still have the Y chromosome. That’s just the way I see it :)

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    Thanks so much for this article and all it’s suggestions.
    I re-posted and I hope plenty of my friends read it.
    I’m a cis gay guy who has NEVER had issues with people being transgendered. I guess I’d have to credit knowing from early childhood that I was gay and therefore “different” than the messages I being given in that I just realized most folks didn’t fit the mold they were trying to sell us.

    I am working on my first film, a documentary called SECRET IDENTITIES (you can check out on Facebook) about LGBT people and how comic books and heroes have affected their lives and I am dedicated to having every aspect of LGBT involved as well as people of color. It makes no sense to me not to do that. I’m for as total inclusion as I can get in all my projects.

    One of the first narrative films I plan to do after my first film is completed includes at least 5 transgendered characters in the cast (three primary roles) and I plan to seek out transgendered actors to play the roles before anyone else would be looked at for the parts and I’ve already asked two transgendered folks to be my advisors on the script.

    We all have to stick together and we have to educate others as this article did!

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    **Thank You All So Much**

    These mean a lot to us, and from what I have seen here at AutoStraddle, it’s not lip-service, but genuine inclusion. I cannot express how much that is nourishing and meaningful to me, and other people of transgender experience.

    http://transthemovie.com/

    Here are two great trans films I would add:

    “Trans” is one of THE best documentaries on us that I have ever seen. It says so much, so eloquently and with such graceful force.

    “TransAmerica” is a fictional story that is not really about trans as much as it is transformation on a deep level that we can all relate to. BUT one trans woman’s transition is a big part of the plot, and while the actress is cis female, she does *so well*, AND there are quite a number of actual transgender women acting in the movie as well, some quite famous.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0407265/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

    Here is another blog. I’m just another trans woman, but I am trying to help with Trans Visibility by communicating and demonstrating the concept of “Gracefully Transgender”

    http://gracefullytrans.wordpress.com/

    I am “simply open” where in casual encounters, I am just a tall, boyish woman; but when you get to know me better, the fact that I am transgender becomes apparent in natural, relaxed, unassuming ways. I am a woman who has *become* through her transsexuality: a female person who has had to live most of her life as a special sort of man, but now lives as a special sort of woman.

    Blessings & Joy!!

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    And for the love of god, don’t list transphobic cis lesbian, gay, and bi authors and artists as “LGBT” authors and artists. When I see queer archives list Mary Daly, Jill Johnston, Elana Dykewomon, and Marge Piercy as “LGBT” artists and fighters for “LGBT rights,” there’s a big fuckin problem.

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      Biological sex is a constructed category as much as anything else is. There’s nothing inherently male about penises or testicles, and nothing inherently female about vaginas, vulvas, uteruses, or any of the rest of it. And even if that WASN’T the case, what do you think SRS is for? The fact that vaginas, vulvas, and penises can be surgically constructed, refutes your assertion.

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    David Ellis Dickerson did a last minute ‘Greeting Card Emergency’ ep for Transgender Day of Visibility! His ‘Greeting Card Emergency’ series is where people write in with a situation that you can’t really find a greeting card in the stores for, and he makes one for them. He’s done cards for trans* related things before (I seem to remember one for a trans* parent for either Father’s or Mother’s Day being really lovely). But the whole series is really amusing.

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    I spent the day coming out to my boss and some coworkers as genderqueer and then trying to educate them about trans* issues – though I didn’t realise the significance of the day at the time.
    Thank you for this post and the chance to learn more

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    Can I just add that Stephen Colbert’s transmisogyny wouldn’t qualify as satire in any universe? The thing that pisses me off is that his satire is often incredibly good (ex. 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner)
    His scandal last week about the Asian caricature was at least a poor attempt at satire; his intended punchline was the racist Redskins’ owner. In the case of the trans jokes, trans women are indeed the punchline, not transphobes. I really hope he’ll get his act together and take a long look in the mirror after meeting Janet Mock.

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