The International Transgender Day of Visibility gives us all an opportunity to show our support for transgender/gender non-conforming (GNC) people while celebrating the incredible tenacity, brilliance and beauty of the transgender/GNC community.

The ACLU of Ohio is deeply committed to supporting transgender visibility and advocacy every day. The Transgender Spotlight video miniseries, a recent public education project led by the TransAction Committee of the ACLU of Ohio, is one example of this commitment. Led by the all-transgender/GNC committee, members of the transgender and gender non-conforming communities throughout Northeast Ohio share their personal insights and experiences with audiences, creating visibility for these often-misunderstood communities.

Why Visibility Matters

“Being visible is some of the best advocacy that transgender people can do,” Lana Moore, a member of the TransAction Committee and retired Ohio fire captain told us. “It’s important for society to see that we exist and that we are human beings. We laugh, we cry, we love and we are loved. There are people in our lives who depend on us.”

Being a transgender person in a society that does not understand or accept you is incredibly difficult and contributes to significant challenges and barriers. This marginalization contributes to disproportionate levels of poverty, violence, and discrimination. “As a firefighter, I took an oath to serve and protect,” said Lana, “and for over three decades I was willing to put my life on the line for absolutely any human being who was in danger. I never once considered a person’s demographics—the color of their skin, their religion, who they love or how they identify—none of that matters when life hangs in the balance. For transgender people, our lives are on the line.”

Shockingly, in 2017, there are still no federal protections from discrimination based on gender identity/expression, leaving 1.4 million transgender adults in the United States without federally supported legal recourse. “Being transgender is a part of the human condition,” said Lana, “We’ve always existed throughout history and all around the world. Yet there are lawmakers trying to legislate us out of public life. This is something that no human being should have to face, certainly not in The United States of America.”  

When a person knows someone who is transgender it is a strong indicator that they believe transgender people should be protected under the law. Unfortunately, only 22% of Americans say they know someone who is transgender. Visibility humanizes transgender people and creates an understanding that fosters fairness, acceptance, and inclusion.

For transgender and GNC persons, visibility supports our journeys of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and building a vibrant, interconnected community. Transgender and GNC people are not born with an innate sense of knowing other transgender and GNC individuals, but our livelihoods depend on an ability to know and connect with each other through support networks. Without visibility, this connection and self-understanding is almost impossible. Visibility saves lives.

Dangers of Visibility Without Support

Visibility must be matched with systems of support or else it opens marginalized people to even further danger, leaving them vulnerable to targeted attacks and hatred. The ACLU of Ohio believes that supporting the transgender community is essential. One way we are supporting this dynamic community is through our brand new webpage, which offers resources on gender change and identification and transgender rights and the law, along with our storytelling campaign and more.  These resources are available for transgender/GNC persons, allies, service providers and media.

How You Can Show Up For Transgender People

Check out the work of the Trans Action Committee of the ACLU by visiting our webpage and share Stories of Transgender Ohioans with your friends, family and co-workers, and consider hosting a film screening in your community. Additionally, be on the lookout for events in your area celebrating the Transgender Day of Visibility.