Transgender Michigan Founder and Executive Director Rachel Crandall-Crocker was having coffee yesterday — an iced coffee with almond milk, to be exact — at her favorite spot, The Dovetail in Warren, when the news suddenly flashed across the screen of her cell phone. President Joe Biden had issued a proclamation in recognition of the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The news had quite an impact on the longtime activist. For it was Crandall-Crocker who had created the day back in 2009 and who had spent the last decade helping promote it and turning it into what is now an international event.
"I was thinking about creating it for years," Crandall-Crocker replied, when asked to explain the day's origin. "I was so sad that our only day was the Transgender Day of Remembrance. And I always got so depressed on the Day of Remembrance."
Created in 1999 by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the Day of Remembrance was originally a way to memorialize the 1998 death of Rita Hester in Allston, Massachusetts. Since that time, the Transgender Day of Remembrance has grown and is now celebrated in over 200 cities and 20 countries around the world.
"Don't get me wrong, I think the Day of Remembrance is very important," said Crandall-Crocker. "But I wanted a day where we could celebrate the living. I kept on waiting for someone to create a special day for the transgender community. Finally, I said, 'OK, enough is enough. I'm going to do it.'"
Crandall-Crocker began reaching out to trans leaders across the globe and asking them to recognize and help promote the Day of Visibility.
"It was slow at first but then it began to really get moving," she said. "I called more leaders the next year and more and more it spread. It has become an international movement and I am so happy. I really think it is becoming like Pride."
After hearing the news of the proclamation, Crandall-Crocker spent the next several hours on the phone talking to the press and giving interviews. It is not known if Biden is aware of the origins of the day he chose to celebrate or of Crandall-Crocker herself. But the President certainly seemed to be describing her when he spoke of the progress trans activists have made in recent years.
"Their trailblazing work has given countless transgender individuals the bravery to live openly and authentically," Biden wrote in the proclamation. "This hard-fought progress is also shaping an increasingly accepting world in which peers at school, teammates and coaches on the playing field, colleagues at work, and allies in every corner of society are standing in support and solidarity with the transgender community."
Even after taking media calls all day and speaking at a Zoom meeting for a group of Oregon Unitarian Universalists in the evening, Crandall-Crocker had still not come down from her high.
"I'm still in a daze," she said. "It's so surreal."
The proclamation, said Crandall-Crocker, "means everything to me.
"It tells me that the movement I created has reached everywhere and it now stands in the ranks of Pride. The whole community is on board."