by Jessica Carreras
ROYAL OAK – The first ever international Transgender Day of Visibility was held March 31, and at the epicenter was metro Detroit – where the idea for the day began.
Local events for the day included a panel at Five15 Media, Mojo and More in Royal Oak, where over 30 people gathered to have a dialogue about transgender issues. The panel consisted of activist and public speaker John Corvino, Michael Layne of public relations firm Marx Layne and Company, Triangle Foundation Director Alicia Skillman and Transgender Michigan Co-founder Rachel Crandall.
Crandall, who was the primary organizer for the day, called the panel – and the outpouring of events throughout the nation and world – a success.
“It was kind of like, rather than a panel it was more like an event,” she said. “So we, the transgender community worldwide are taking this day, March 31 of every year, for our day.
“It’s taken off like nothing I’ve ever seen.”
Though the panel and audience for the event consisted of people from all sides of the LGBT and allied community, Crandall said that the day was exactly what Transgender Day of Visibility was supposed to be: the coming together of differing points of view. And surprisingly, she said, their opinions weren’t so far apart.
“That’s one reason that I wanted Visibility Day, to show that we aren’t as different as we tend to think sometimes,” Crandall said. “Everybody was talking about why it was difficult for their community to be involved, however, they all really wanted to get involved and all the reasons were very similar for why they were having a hard time. It was more like we were all agreeing with each other.”
Indeed, Corvino expressed in a column that appeared in Between The Lines and on Gay365.com that, as a gay man, he felt apprehension about commenting on transgender issues. However, after participating in the panel, his opinion had changed. “This is not an issue that I’m any kind of expert on or an issue I have spoken or written about, but it is an issue that we as a community need to talk about and so I thought it was a wonderful opportunity,” Corvino said. “I’d like to discuss this more and write about it more and this, I think, is a step in that direction.”
Corvino added that he hoped that the panel discussion, along with other events for Transgender Day of Visibility, had broken the ice for more open discussions about trans issues.
“Sometimes breaking the ice is the hardest step and once we do that, we can get a dialogue going that can be extremely productive,” he said. “I think (the Day of Visibility) broke the ice for a number of people, and the next step is to spread the word even further about this and make it even bigger so that more people can participate in that.”
Crandall agreed, and hoped that the day inspired others to start planning their own events for next year’s Day of Visibility. “I want people to start planning for next year,” she urged. “I wanted them to know that just because I’m facilitating it internationally and I created it, I don’t have to be the one running all of the local events. They can, too. I wanted to give them back empowerment, which is what visibility day is all about.”
And, she added, it’s all about transgender people having a sense of pride in who they are, similar to LGBT pride festivals held throughout the summer months. “There really are similarities between (Pride) and Visibility Day,” Crandall remarked. “I kind of see this as our personal Stonewall, as our personal day where we’re saying ‘This is what we deserve and this is how it’s going to be.'”