By Aspen Ruhlin (they,them), Client and Community Advocate at Mabel Wadsworth Center
While more people are familiar with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day to honor and remember those members of the trans community who have been killed in acts of transphobic violence, fewer people are familiar with Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV). Where TDOR serves to mourn those who have been taken from us, TDOV is a day to both celebrate transgender people and bring awareness to the discrimination our community faces. Too often, we are only talked about in the context of tragedy and loss, and while these are important realities that need attention, to be trans is far more than to be mourned. As I have heard Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet, say many times before, “give us roses while we’re living.”
There is much stigma and discrimination weaponized against the trans community. We can see this in the Stonewall Riots of 1969, where police violence against queer and trans patrons of the Stonewall Inn boiled over and the community fought back. We can still see this today, with almost 50 (at the time of writing this, with the number likely to increase) anti-trans bills proposed in state legislatures across the country. Even here in Maine, though we have a variety of legal protections for transgender people as a part of the Maine Human Rights Act, we still face not only proposed anti-trans legislation, but transphobic discrimination as well. In the face of this adversity, we need those who claim to love and support us to not just sit quietly and allow us to be harmed. Those who consider themselves to be allies to the trans community need to follow the leadership of trans people and fight against transphobia and for trans rights, health, and well-being. Rather than just being mourned, trans people deserve to be celebrated and included.
It is common for trans people to be left out of the conversation, unless the topic is specifically about us, and even then, our voices are often not the ones prioritized. How many times have you heard generalizations about men and women that are really a generalization of the cis experience that simplifies people to their genitals? One place we often see this is in discussions around abortion access. Though there is a growing and powerful movement to use inclusive language, it is still far too common to see the need to access safe abortion care and birth care described as “women’s health.” Along with providing an incomplete picture of who needs to access this care, it also does a disservice to cisgender women by obfuscating these vital elements of healthcare. Dancing around the word “abortion” serves to fuel anti-abortion stigma by treating it as a shameful thing that shouldn’t be discussed. By more accurately talking about abortion care, prenatal care, postpartum care, etc., as essential healthcare for pregnant people/people who can become pregnant, we paint a more accurate picture that uplifts everyone. Abortion access and trans healthcare are not only connected because of trans people who access abortion care, but because both are deeply rooted in autonomy.
This Transgender Day of Visibility, what are you doing to support the trans people in your life? Are you speaking out against hate and fighting for us to be valued? Are you opposing anti-trans legislation? Are you seeking education for yourself, your friends, your family? It is not enough to support us in silence, or to only speak up when it is too late. You have to give us our roses while we’re living.
- Check out this webinar series from Innovating Education from our very own Aspen Ruhlin on creating trans inclusive care! https://www.innovating-education.org/course/gender-inclusive-care/
- Stop by your local bookstore and pick up books like “It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity” by Theresa Thorn, and “From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea” by Kai Cheng Thom for the child in your life.
- Keep an eye out for Trans Ally trainings from MaineTransNet!
- Speak out against transphobic hate when you hear it from friends and family.
- Fight against proposed transphobic legislation, such as the proposed bill in Maine that targets trans girls in sports. You can sign the petition from EqualityMaine to stand in support of trans youth at the following link: https://www.equalitymaine.org/LD926
- Share articles that highlight the resilience, beauty, and successes of the trans community–not only the tragedy. A great example is the recent TIME interview of Elliot Page.
- Attend a local (masked and distanced) or virtual TDOV event.
- One of the most powerful ways that you can support organizations that are already doing work to support the trans community is by helping fund them. Organizations like Mabel Wadsworth Center and MaineTransNet are vital in supporting and fighting for trans Mainers.
- Can’t donate money? Donate your time by volunteering! Mabel Wadsworth Center has a variety of volunteer opportunities, especially for Abortion Defenders for trans-inclusive abortion access.