AUSTIN (KXAN) — This year’s Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), an event that celebrates the international transgender community, comes during a time of heightened legislative attacks against the transgender community. Despite the political rhetoric, local leaders in the transgender community still see this year’s TDOV as a time for joy.
TDOV occurs annually on March 31. It was created by Michigan transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 to balance out the somber Transgender Day of Remembrance. It is a celebratory day for transgender people around the world to show joy, progress and resilience.
For Jessica Parker, visibility is a benefit to transgender people who aren’t out yet. Seeing “out” transgender people helped her start her gender transition while living in a small Texas town.
“I try to be visible in a small town for other people, for other queer, gender nonconforming or trans people to know that they can be who they are and live authentically,” Parker said. “I do feel like a lot of it is how living authentically yourself, and being public with it should feel safe — it should be safe — and you should be accepted and welcomed.”
Transgender Education Network of Texas’ (TENT) Communications and Outreach Manager Gin Pham said that what TDOV means for them is about the accomplishments and beauty of transgender life.
“Today’s about celebrating the accomplishments, the lives and just the inherent beauty in our communities,” Pham said. “I think we have, and many trans folks have, that decision to make in terms of how visible do they want to be, how involved do they want to be in their community. We celebrate that decision, we celebrate how we can come together and find community, the ability to rest with one another; take care of one another.”
Adri Perez, organizing director of the Texas Freedom Network echoed Parker’s and Pham’s sentiments about the holiday.
“I get to scroll through my Instagram, my Facebook and my Twitter, and I get to just see trans people posting their photos of them as kids, photos of them now and photos of when they were first starting their transition,” Perez said. “I think it’s just a beautiful reminder of the journeys that we’ve all been on to discover who we truly are and to get to a place where we’re willing to use our power to build the lives that we know that we deserve and that we want to live in.”
Alongside the photos mentioned by Perez were posts by transgender people worried for their safety and legislation that targets their lives.
“Transgender people are being used as political pawns,” Perez said. “There is a historic amount of misinformation about transgender people right now that has spread and quite frankly, feels like a conspiracy theory against transgender people. And it feels more dangerous to be visible now than it has at any point in my lifetime, but it doesn’t mean that I’m gonna go back to hiding who I am.”
“I do feel it is a rather old antiquated way, like the previous generation…who didn’t accept trans people are very much trying to push that on everyone else, on the generations who are more accepting of trans people,” Parker said. “You have people who probably don’t have trans people in their community or as friends making laws about us.”
Pham is optimistic about Americans’ support for transgender people, pointing to the “record-breaking” number of cards filed in opposition to anti-transgender bills before the Texas Legislature.
“We all define safety on our own. I think it’s understandable,” Pham said. “Just Monday, we had 1000s of people come out to [the Capitol] and then the rest of the week, hundreds of people have been able to speak truth to their life, their narrative — to prove their dignity to their state leaders. I think within that show of resilience is knowing that we can take care of each other as well.”
For those not ‘Out’
Parker, Perez and Pham all gave advice for those not yet ‘out’ as transgender:
“You should live authentically. You can be who you are, there are pathways. I wish I had come out [earlier], I didn’t come out until I was 34, because I feared rejection or violence. I was bullied growing up and was in a very conservative community most of my life. I did have to realize that I could be who I was.”Jessica Parker
I came out when I was 17 years old. I constantly think about what my life could have been had I waited just a little bit — to not have put myself in such a precarious situation at such a young age. But simultaneously, I got to live a trans young adulthood that a lot of people did not because they did not come out at 17. It is a careful balance of things, but I think that we need to trust in the potential of our community to take care of each other, and in the power of having and building authentic relationships around us. Because that will become the support system, ultimately, that we need to get through life, and also to get through this current political moment where attacks are being waged against trans people.Adri Perez
I love you, I care about you. Like 67-70% of Texas loves and cares and is fighting for you as well. There are so many other trans Texans and Texans fighting for you as well. And so you’re just as valid and you’re just as important as well.Gin Pham