Rachel Crandall-Crocker, co-founder of Transgender Michigan, said 10 years ago she had an idea.
“Why can’t there be a day that we can be proud of what we are? Why can’t there be a day that people from all over the world can come together? Why can’t there be a day to celebrate the living?” she asked herself.
Her answer was to create the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
“And honestly, I can’t believe I’m the one who started it,” she said to members of the community who braved the rain and cold weather on Saturday, March 30, to rally outside the Capitol in Lansing for the International Transgender Day of Visibility.
But the holiday is not just celebrated in Michigan. It’s celebrated across the U.S., too, and in countries around the world.
“It’s even celebrated in Uganda now. It’s even in Kuwait. It’s even in places where it’s not legal to be trans, however it’s there all the same,” she said.
At the event, Crandall-Crocker was recognized by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who presented her with a proclamation on behalf of the Whitmer administration, which “stands in support and solidarity of the transgender community in the state of Michigan.”
Gilchrist said he and his team are committed to making life better for everyone in Michigan, and that includes the transgender community.
“I want to commend Rachel for being such an international leader. It makes me proud that in the state of Michigan one person can declare a day that everyone around the world now respects, recognizes and celebrates,” Gilchrist said.
A second proclamation was presented to Crandall-Crocker by LGBTQ Liaison Matthew Schraft on behalf of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor.
Several special guests were invited to speak during the rally including Zekiye Salman, president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights; Michelle Fox-Phillips, executive director of the Gender-Identity Network Alliance; Samantha Rogers, leader of Transgender Detroit; Grace Bacon, founder of the pioneer transgender organization Crossroads; Father Charles Blanchard of Christ the Good Shepherd in Ferndale; public educator and trans activist Char Davenport; and Cara Mitrano, student and LGBTQ activist.
Longtime trans activist Amy Hunter said she took her life into her own hands to be in public as her authentic self many years ago. Today, that is still the case for some transgender people, but Hunter said that has to change.
“We are at a new place as a community. We are at a place where how we identify as a community is changing rapidly. Those who are under the umbrella of being trans is burgeoning at a tremendous rate,” she said. “We need to think about a new vision for what visibility means. Visibility means that we are visibile to our legislators, we are visible to our community leaders, we are visible to our media, we are visible to our children, we are visible to our parents, we are visible to society in general and we are unapologetic and proud to be who we are.”
Moving supporters through the program was Emily Dievendorf, treasurer for LAHR. Before introducing Jey’nce Poindexter, a founding board member of the Trans Sistas of Color Project, Dievendorf said, “One thing we don’t recognize enough is that our entire movement, not just the trans movement, was founded by two trans women of color. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson set the stage for us to be working for decades to make important, radical, necessary change.”
Change that Poindexter said is so desperately needed by trans women of color who experience violence on a daily basis.
“We need everyone to be very intentional about connecting with us and supporting the work that we’re doing,” said Poindexter, who is also a transgender specialist and the first official transgender advocate at Equality Michigan.
While standing at the podium, she announced a clear call to action.
“What do you do to stand with a black trans woman? What do you do to support the work of a black, trans woman-led agency? What do you do to connect in times of trauma and loss that is physical, that is palpable, that someone can see and relate to instead of the sorry sentiments that are often shared? We get that there’s a sorrow and that there’s a connecting ability on that trauma, but now we need you to help us survive. Now we need you to help us step out and step up and call into action about the violence that we face.”
And while the International Transgender Day of Remembrance is held each year to memorialize those who have been murdered as a result of transphobia, Emme Zanotti, representative for Stand With Trans, wanted to make sure members of the community were celebrating on the International Day of Transgender Visibility.
“Recognize and celebrate who you are,” she said. “Look at the person next to you and celebrate who they are, and recognize and celebrate the achievements we’ve made as a community. And tomorrow we’ll wake up and we’ll get our butts back to work.”
To watch the entire rally, click here.
In addition to lending support to individuals throughout their journey, Ferndale Pride Chair Julia Music explained during the rally some of the ways members of the community can become some of the best allies possible.
– Don’t assume pronouns of anyone. Ask people what they go by and don’t just ask those of us who look queer.
– Understand that they/them is a valid pronoun and don’t hide behind the notion that your grammar is incorrect. As an english teacher, Music will tell you that they/them is grammatically correct and respectful.
– If you make a pronoun mistake, apologize and then move on.
– When a trans person comes out to you, believe them and thank them for sharing that piece of their life with you.
– Fly the trans flag, especially on the Day of Visibility and the Day of Remembrance.
– Debunk myths about trans people, not just on social media, but in real life when a face to face conversation can actually change someone’s mind.
– Say yes when a trans person asks you to take them to the doctors. We have a long way to go to get all medical professionals trained in compassionate medical care.
– Correct people when they misgender your friends, and then correct them again and again until they get it.
– Celebrate milestone days like legal name changes, new licenses and passports.
– Remind trans friends how beautiful and loved they are. We can all use that kind of energy.
– Help a person recovering from surgery.
– Be a part of creating bars and restaurants that welcome transgender and genderqueer people.
– Thank businesses that provide gender-inclusive bathrooms. If you own a business, create restrooms that are inclusive.
– Step in when you witness injustice.
– Light a candle on the Transgender Day of Remembrance.
– Teach your children about the history of trans people, the struggles of trans people in today’s world, and debunk myths that they’ve heard at school and in the media.
– Seek to understand, but understand that your trans friends are not your only source of information. There are plenty of trans websites and blogs for us to learn from from individuals who have given that information willingly.
– When asking personal questions, respect a person’s right not to answer.
– Remember that every journey is different. Support our trans friends by helping them on their journeys, but don’t try to create their journeys for them.
– Celebrate positive family reactions.
– Create a family for a person who faces rejection from their legal family.
– Be that family member who’s safe to come out to in your family.
– Provide hugs when needed and keep your heart open with loving support.