International Transgender Day of Visibility Celebrates 10 Years March 31

Rachel Crandall-Crocker

Now celebrated across the U.S. and in countries all around the world, the International Transgender Day of Visibility got its start 10 years ago when Michigan-based activist Rachel Crandall-Crocker felt the need to not only mourn the loss of members of the transgender community via the Day of Remembrance but to honor the living members of the community. Now, as she gears up for the 10th consecutive March 31 of celebrating the transgender community, Crandall-Crocker said she has two primary feelings: pride and disbelief.
"So much pride it's almost surreal. It's hard to believe it's actually happening," she said with a laugh. "It's given me a lot of perspective. I'm realizing in a lot of countries, Transgender Visibility Day is really precious. It isn't something they take for granted."
As the celebration has grown and gained traction, Crandall-Crocker said that it's still not ceased amazing her that countries where being LGBTQ is illegal still hold events on days like this one.
"I'm helping different countries plan for Visibility Day and one of the main countries I'm helping is Uganda. I'm helping them decide what they want to do and what is safe for them to do. They like my idea of an open mic. and they wanted to have a rally, however, we all decided that in Uganda it just isn't safe," Crandall-Crocker said. "In Uganda, as is a lot of places around the world, it really is illegal. And people are arrested or killed."
Based on 2018 statistics provided by the World Economic Forum, there are still 73 countries around the world where openly existing as a member of the LGBTQ community is illegal and, in some cases, punishable by death. Conversely, regarding LGBTQ acceptance, same-sex marriage is only legal in fewer than 30 countries of the world's 195. Despite those statistics, Crandall-Crocker said she's glad that her reach has been able to extend far enough to provide an outlet for people who aren't able to live as their true selves. She added that planning with transgender leaders around the world has given her a chance to take stock in the successes gained at home in the U.S.
"I'm realizing in a lot of countries like Uganda, Transgender Visibility Day is really precious. It isn't something they take for granted," she said, adding that she's hopeful every celebration of the International Day of Visibility will allow for unique interpretations. "I'm not trying to get everyone to do exactly the same thing like they do with Remembrance Day. I don't believe that one size fits all."
Crandall-Crocker also wants those acknowledging the day to remember that though it's an annual holiday, the message should live on year-round.
"I created it for not just one day a year. My idea was for people to gain contacts and connections that they can use every day of the year," she said. "And that is exactly what has happened. Contacts and connections have allowed people all over the world to make changes on a political level later on in the year."
Locally, the holiday will be celebrated across the state's Lower Peninsula in Grand Rapids, Royal Oak, Ferndale, Lansing and Detroit in advance of the actual holiday and beyond it from March 22 through April 2. The flagship event will, as is tradition, be hosted at Royal Oak's Five15 bar and bookstore featuring an open mic. that will feature music, poetry, refreshments and more. However, Crandall-Crocker hopes that if Michiganders can only spare time to make it to one event, they try for Lansing on March 30.
"We hope to get people in Lansing from everywhere in the state," she said. "I want everyone to know it's their day. It's their day to be proud of who they are. It's their day that they can actually celebrate what they are and that's exactly the reason I started it. I wanted a day that we could actually celebrate who we are and that's exactly what it has become all over the world."
When asked if Crandall-Crocker has advice for first-time attendees or those who don't feel confident in attending, she had a clear message of support.
"I would like to emphasize that anyone can be an activist," she said. "You don't have to be completely fluent like I'm not completely fluent. However, that doesn't stop me from being a powerful speaker and a powerful activist. And I want everyone to know that they could be a powerful activist also."
To find more information on the various events held across the state and beyond, visit