Celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility on Campus

On March 31, people around the world will recognize Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) to celebrate the accomplishments and lives of transgender people.

While November’s Trans Day of Remembrance remembers transgender people who have lost their lives due to violence, TDOV celebrates the community and the strides it has made for those who live at the margins of oppression.

Transgender (adj.): Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth.

 

The goal of the day is to focus attention on the accomplishments of the transgender community while uplifting the voices of those in the trans community who are often victimized by transphobia and cissexism. TDOV is centered on ways that the trans community works to transform society. It also provides an educational framework for how cisgender people can work to support trans liberation.

Cisgender (adj): Denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their sex assigned at birth

So how can you celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility on your campus?

Consider these acts as ways to uplift the voices of trans people in your community:

Celebrate trans history

Celebrating TDOV is the perfect opportunity to recognize the lives of those who were at the forefront of the queer liberation movement. On this day, it is important to center individuals like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera who are often overlooked, although they started a movement.

By giving to attention to the work that Rivera did around the New Age Movement or by centering the day around the Stonewall movement that Johnson helped begin, we are acknowledging the fact the trans women are important pillars of our community. We are also recognizing the important roles they play in social justice movements we see currently and how including them is not only necessary, but in fact, vital to the progression of the liberation movement.

Team up with your library staff to provide passive programs that give information on the timelines of their work and how it connects to today.

Recognize difference

TDOV provides a space that allows for cisgender people to be educated about the difference between gender identity, gender expression and sex assigned at birth.

Trans Student Educational Resources gender unicorn graphic

 

When recognizing difference on TDOV, we are acknowledging how complicated people are and why we must be committed to providing space for trans people to share knowledge about their journeys unapologetically.

Host a workshop or teach-in to talk about the gender binary and have a conversation about ways you can help others navigate it when providing services to trans students. If your institution hosts LGBTQ awareness trainings for staff, consider hosting a training exclusively focused on supporting transgender students.

Practice intersectionality

Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality creates space to better understand the ways that oppressions overlap and engage with each other, which in turn helps us better understand each person’s experiences.

When we create the space to discuss the different aspects of our identities, we begin to understand the needs that other trans people have, especially when considering things like race, sexuality, class, disability, and citizenship.

During this month, it might be a perfect time to bring in a speaker or activist, like Ashlee Marie Preston or Jenecit Gutiérrez, who might be able to break the struggle down and provide us with better ways to be accomplices.

Provide the stage, but don’t make anyone get on it

No one likes being talked over or being forced to speak. Trans people must be able to tell their stories the way they want to be told and we must give them to the space to do so. Part of creating that space means that we must take action in making sure that trans people feel safe in sharing their truth.

Not all trans people are comfortable with being visible on this day, so we must be mindful of the types of programs that we create. If you want to be proactive in building events that your students will be interested in, you can survey them for feedback and see what types of events students would attend and why.

Knowing and understanding this, there are are a multitude of things you can do to celebrate the person without the work being put on a trans person to be visible on this day.

Some things that you can personally do to support the livelihood of trans folks include:

  • Supporting the projects that they might be working on. If you find content, share it to expand its readership. Many trans artists also have direct links to their Paypal or Venmo accounts and need the extra funds to survive. Sending them a little cash to help them remain visible in their work is always appreciated and definitely needed.
  • Donating to or volunteering for trans organizations is always a great way to support someone no matter what day of the year it is. Organizations like TransLatin@Coalition and the Transgender Law Center thrive off of the donations and volunteers.
  • Listen when a trans person says that you are doing or something transphobic or transmisogynistic. Recognize that trans people have feelings (obviously) and should not be made out to be a joke, like, ever. People know when they are being insulted and calling this out on this day (and every day) shows that you recognize them and their existence.
  • Get busy. There are many states that still have anti-trans laws in place. Write your congressperson and let them know that you will organize to fight these laws for as long as they are in place.
  • Support the trans people in your life. By offering community on this day or simply sending a message to someone that you know and see them (in a non-tokenizing way), you can show that you love and support them.

Remember, as we celebrate the resilience of all transgender people on this day that it’s not just a time to educate others, but to provide support and visibility to trans folks.

As Laverne Cox says, we must remember that is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells them that they should not exist.

Jonathan Higgins

About the author: Dr. Jonathan P. Higgins is a speaker, writer, and activist with over 10 years of student affairs experience. His work focuses on race & identity and ways to better support marginalized students while eradicating oppression. Follow him on Twitter: @DoctorJonPaul. Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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