Transgender Day of Visibility is a very important day for not only the trans community, but those who would support us. Started in 2009 by transgender activist Rachel Crandall, the day was created to celebrate us as a community and our progress- as well as our distance yet to go. It was based on the idea that there was a stunning lack of LGBT holidays that celebrated our community. The only well-known day being the Transgender Day of Remembrance which pays respect and mourns the loss of trans community members who were lost to suicide and hate crimes that year.
However, this day is about celebrating the living and showing our pride. It’s a day to look back at how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished and make plans to go even further in the coming year.
Despite some setbacks, we certainly do have a lot to celebrate.
Lavern Cox Proves She Isn’t Going Anywhere
Ms. Cox made waves when she hit the scene three years back by being cast as Sophia Burset in the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black”. What you might not know is that the talented 31-year-old actress has been working steadily for several years now leading up to her star-making turn. She has had roles in 13 movies, and many TV shows including two of the Law and Order series, and the Mindy Project. Not to mention she has been cast as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the upcoming remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We are so excited for her success and we believe we can count on Lavern Cox being around for a long time. Hopefully, we will see her playing more women (period), and not just transgender women.
Our First Transgender Oscar Nominee
Anohni was the first transgender performer to ever be nominated for an Oscar. She was nominated for best original song for “Manta Ray”, which was a collaboration with J. Ralph and used in the documentary, “Racing Extinction”. A historic moment to be sure.
However, there is a loss in there too. Which you’ll see below.
Lilly Wachowski Joins Her Sister
We first reported about Lilly Wachowski, one half of the Wachowski directing duo, coming out as transgender a few weeks back. You, of course, know Lilly and Lana as the directors of the Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta, and Cloud Atlas. While her hand might have been forced in coming out, it’s a tremendous moment of visibility to have two high-profile directors like the Wachowskis both come out and further show, we aren’t on the fringe- and we will no longer settle for being put there.
Caitlyn Jenner Brings High-Profile Visibility
Despite her many…uh…flubs (we will get to them), Caitlyn Jenner made huge waves with her coming out this year. Never before had the community gotten so much mainstream media attention. While she has brought some negative attention as well, she has contributed by sparking a conversation about transgender people and forcing mainstream media to acknowledge us. And her magazine cover was pretty awesome too.
Larger Visibility in Politics
It has been a tumultuous year in politics for transgender people. However, there have been highlights. Mostly, the discourse and discord in politics over transgender people has really brought out who our allies are and who are at least willing to admit transgender people aren’t a clear and present danger. Even republicans like Stephanie Clayton (R) from Kansas, who spoke out against some egregious legislation that puts a bounty on trans students heads. She is opposing the bill, reminding congress that perhaps they should be more worried with keeping schools open and the dire financial situation they face, rather than worry about who is using what restroom.
Another show of support came in from Rep. Mike Honda, who proudly displays the transgender pride flag outside his office in Washington D.C.
— Rep. Mike Honda (@RepMikeHonda) March 31, 2016
The entire city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada is showing their support by lighting up the city in pink, white and blue. That’s a lot of visibility.
Companies Standing Against Bigotry
There is currently some legislation in Georgia that threatens to remove any protections that are offered to LGBT people, in particular transgender people. While that is certainly not a win, there is a huge win that has come from it. Several businesses have stood up and said they will boycott the entire state including several studios threatening to cripple the Georgia Film Commission. Despite the lucrative incentives provided to draw studios to film there, many studios have stated that if the bill is passed that they will no longer be producing in Georgia. Marvel and Disney in particular have come out as strong opponents, as well as the producers of the hit show “The Walking Dead” who have threatened to pull all production.
Visibility Losses[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignnone" width="3200"] Photo by Alice O’Malley[/caption]
The Oscars Cut Anohni
While her nomination was a huge achievement and a great win for our community, it was soured by the Academy subsequently cutting Anohni’s performance at the Oscars in favor of other nominees in the category like Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and the Weeknd. It was a strange move to not include this nominee when others were invited over her. Especially given the good will and visibility it would have given. Even if the Academy wanted to look at it selfishly, it would have been great publicity.
Now however, they have a different publicity as Anohni declined to attend the event due to her exclusion. She wrote about her reasoning for Pitchfork.
“I am the only transgendered performer ever to have been nominated for an Academy Award, and for that I thank the artists who nominated me,” the essay begins. Anohni adds: “I was in Asia when I found out the news. I rushed home to prepare something, in case the music nominees would be asked to perform. Everyone was calling with excited congratulations. A week later, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and the Weeknd were rolled out as the evening’s entertainment with more performers ‘soon to be announced.’ Confused, I sat and waited. Would someone be in touch? But as time bore on I heard nothing.”
Legislation Hasn’t Been Kind
Transgender people have gotten a lot of bad visibility in the form of legislation that seeks to target trans people and paint a target on their back. One such case, as we mentioned before, is in the form of legislation in Kansas that puts a $2500 bounty on the head of every trans student if they are caught in the “wrong bathroom”. And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the outrageous legislation that actually passed in North Carolina. The bill essentially undid the protections provided to transgender people in the state. However, it has been called out by the North Carolina Attorney General who called it “A national embarrassment.” The legislation is currently the focus of a lawsuit against the state and the governor that challenges their decision.
Caitlyn Jenner Won’t Shut Up
At first many were excited to see such a public figure as Caitlyn Jenner come out as transgender. After all, this is an Olympic athlete we are talking about. That’s huge! Then she talked. She has repeatedly put her foot in her mouth about other transgender people, criticizing their journey. Apparently everyone is supposed to just go schedule all of their surgery immediately and not worry about employment or homelessness. She has blasted less-fortunate transgender people for their use of public aid and lack of drive.
Not to mention that Caitlyn, a staunch Republican has publicly praised Donald Trump for president. She claims that he would be fantastic for women’s issues. A move that has baffled most multi-celled organisms. However she has stated that she hasn’t actually endorsed anyone and will instead be voting for whoever the Republican candidate winds up being. Jenner has also made comments condemning gay marriage, and stating that the Republicans would do so much more for transgender people.
She was recently quoted as saying, “I get criticized more for being a Republican than being transgender.”
Gee Caitlyn, I wonder why…
Our Visibility, and Our Future
While I and TOL honor the accomplishments of those that came before us and all the sacrifices they have made, I personally believe this is the single most important time in our history for transgender people. We stand on the precipice of something great. We have hit a “tipping point” in entertainment, we have youngerand younger people coming out and being encouraged and supported, we are part of a national conversation, and we have more public support than we’ve ever had. We are finally beginning to be taken seriously.
This is the time to seize the opportunity. We have to keep our momentum going and capitalize on how much we have going for us. No, it’s not perfect. Yes, we have so far to go. But we cannot ignore how far we’ve come. Those that came before us blazed an indelible trail. It is our time to pave that trail and take our place in society as valued and vital individuals.
We can do great things, if we work together. No more bickering and fighting. No more judging each other because their journey is different than yours. We are equals, we are brothers and sisters. We must hold each other up if we are to have any chance at winning this war.
Let’s see how great we can make the next 365. See you March 31st, 2017.