Trans visibility is about more than just one day

Without true acceptance and support, there can be no true visibility for trans people.

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The International Day of Transgender Visibility Tuesday brought to light to a community of people who have been historically invisible.

Rachel Crandall, a trans activist from Michigan, started the annual holiday to solve a lack of LGBTQ-centered holidays for transgendered people.

“I went on Facebook,” Crandall told Pride Source in 2009, “and I was thinking…whenever I hear about our community, it seems to be from Remembrance Day [intended to remember the trans victims of hate crimes], 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 beauty of the international recognition of the day is the magnitude of its visibility around the world.

Various related hashtags appeared all over social media platforms throughout the day with selfies of trans people. Their smiling or serving faces, some of which included transformation photos, filled timelines and newsfeeds with proud proclamations of not just existence but of living fulfilled lives.

But the reality of trans visibility is its invisibility.

According to Trans Student Educational Resources, 80 percent of trans students have felt unsafe at school because of gender expression, 49 percent of trans people reported physical abuse in a 2007 survey and 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide.

Trans people do not feel safe in schools, they have a large chance of being murdered (one in 12 trans women or one in eight trans women of color are murdered) and they are at a higher risk of suicide.

Society can recognize its trans communities on social media, praising its collective braveness through comments, likes and favorites, but it cannot manage to recognize its value within our institutions.

Such an exclusive society should feel an obligation to these people to recognize not only their rights, but also the ways in which we can support them most effectively.

To effectively align with the trans community, the rest of society will have to ask about a person’s pronouns, have patience with people who are questioning or exploring their identities, understand that the transitioning process is different for all people, never ask the silly questions—such as what a person’s “real” name is, how he or she has sex or his or her surgical status—and support little steps toward equality like gender-neutral bathrooms.

Without true acceptance and support, there can be no true visibility for trans people.