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Each year, on March 31, LGBTQ advocates recognize the International Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness about discrimination and other issues affecting them.
Begun in 2009 by a Michigan-based activist who wanted to see more recognition of the transgender community beyond the Transgender Day of Remembrance — which memorializes trans people who have lost their lives to violence — Transgender Day of Visibility is intended to serve as a call to action to support the members of the transgender community and acknowledge their accomplishments.
This year, several national and local organizations are holding events to mark the day. For instance, the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the National LGBTQ Task Force are co-hosting a virtual live-streamed panel discussion at 6 p.m. on March 31 about the attacks being lodged against transgender youth in various state legislatures.
The panel, titled “Fierce, Fabulous and Fighting for Our Lives,” will feature producer and actor Josie Totah, journalist Kate Sosin, and transgender and nonbinary youth sharing stories about their experiences and how they’re reacting to proposed bills targeting the transgender community, such as measures seeking to bar trans youth from accessing gender-affirming care or ban transgender athletes from competing in sports based on their gender identity.
Other panelists include: Schuyler Bailar, an author, activist, life coach and the first trans athlete on an NCAA Division 1 men’s sports team; HRC Youth Ambassador and DJ Nico Craig; HRC Youth Ambassador and TikTok influencer Ve’ondre Mitchell; and web developer and artist Lala Shanks.
The National Center for Transgender Equality will host its annual Trans Equality Awards at 8 p.m., with a pre-show gathering starting at 7 p.m. The organization will honor U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-Ill.), D.C. area transgender activist and the founder of Casa Ruby, Ruby Corado, and Layshia Clarendon, a professional basketball player for the New York Liberty and advocate for trans and nonbinary inclusion in sports.
Newman, the parent of a transgender daughter and one of the most vocal proponents of the Equality Act, issued a statement calling it an “absolute honor” to be recognized for her advocacy by an organization that has “fought tirelessly” for transgender rights.
“This award is my daughter’s, and my daughter’s alone, because without her, I would not know the hate and discrimination our transgender Americans are facing every day,” Newman said. “We must and will continue to speak out loudly against hate and injustices against our LGBTQ+ community, especially when it comes to violence against transgender persons and particularly against Black and Brown transgender women. Today and every day, I will continue working in Congress to build on the ongoing efforts of millions of LGBTQ Americans, advocacy organizations, and community leaders who have been fighting for freedom and equality for decades.”
Also speaking at the event will be Mara Keisling, NCTE’s founder and executive director, who recently announced plans to step down this summer; and Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, who will be Keisling’s successor. President Joe Biden, a longtime ally of the transgender community, will also appear in a pre-recorded message during the awards ceremony. Pre-registration is required for the event. For more information, visit transequality.org/awards2021.
The Trevor Project, the largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth, will be hosting an Instagram Live event with RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 13 contestant Gottmik, the first trans man to compete on the show, at 3 p.m.
Gottmik will share stories on his personal journey and the importance of fostering affirming and supportive spaces for trans and nonbinary youth.
“As trans people, we still very much live in a world where our existence is an act of resistance and our visibility is an act of bravery,” Carrie Davis, the chief community officer at The Trevor Project, said in a statement. “So while it’s wonderful to celebrate Trans Day of Visibility each year, our community deserves, and needs, recognition and allyship beyond just one day.”
Davis noted that the barrage of anti-transgender bills being introduced in various states is making it harder for trans and nonbinary youth, who may feel a sense of despondent when they are being sent negative messages by those around them or pushed to the fringes of society.
“It also must be acknowledged that not all trans people can be visible in their identity for a wide variety of reasons, including safety,” said Davis. “The Trevor Project knows this to be true based on what we hear across our crisis services every day. May those who can continue to be more visible and build on the progress we’ve made until a day like today is no longer necessary celebrating.”
Also at 3 p.m., the National Black Justice Coalition will be holding its own Instagram Live broadcast, featuring actress and performer Jassmun Clayton and artist and activist Grace Dolan-Sandrino. The discussion will focus on uplifting the stories of trans women, particularly Black trans women, and the importance of supporting transgender individuals.
In Fredericksburg, the Rappahannock Region Transgender Group will host an in-person social event from 6-9 p.m. at the Sedona Taphouse, to show local eateries and businesses that the transgender community exists in the Fredericksburg area, and has the potential to be a loyal customer base if its members are treated with decency and respect. Those wishing to attend the event are asked to RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, from 7-8 p.m., Equality Loudoun will host a virtual event, with a moderated panel discussion featuring a gender-diverse panel of individuals to talk about their experiences, concerns, and perspectives on local issues. To ensure the safety of the panelists, questions must be submitted to the moderator in advance.
Whitman-Walker Health, the local federally-qualified health center that specializes in HIV and LGBTQ-competent health care, will feature an Instagram Live session at 6 p.m. with SolLikeSol, a community health influencer at Whitman-Walker Health, and SaVanna Wanzer, the founder of Trans Pride and “May Is? All About Trans,” a series of events taking place annually highlighting issues of importance to the transgender community.
“This is not a day of celebration, it’s a day of advocacy and voicing our opinion, about how we could be a better community as one,” Wanzer told Metro Weekly. “Every time we speak, it’s a call to action. We would like people to be more inclusive of the community the people say they support by using the ‘T’ and trans moniker, but don’t actually reinvest in. That is our main call of action: to reinvest in the transgender community and to give us true inclusion.”
She noted that transgender individuals still face inequality when it comes to employment, funding, support resources or access to critical services, and are at higher risk of physical or sexual violence because of their gender identity — all problems that need to be resolved to achieve true lived equality.
“This event is about trans folk and activists voicing their opinions on ways to better serve the transgender community,” added Wanzer. “That’s the main focus: for you to understand that we do exist, and that this is a community that also wants to receive your services proudly and respectfully.”
President Joe Biden has nominated the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
On Friday, Biden announced plans to nominate Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the head of the New York City-based Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, to the commission.
Kleinbaum was installed as the LGBTQ-welcoming and progressive synagogue's first rabbi in 1992, leading it through the turbulent period during the early decades of the AIDS crisis, working on social justice issues, and advocating for then human rights of all people.
According to a biography provided by the White House, under Kleinbaum's leadership, "CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions."
A transgender teenager's mother has sued the Transportation Security Administration for strip-searching her daughter at an airport back in 2019.
Jamii Erway, who was 15 years old at the time the incident occurred, was ordered to submit to a strip-search at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after she registered a "false positive" on the body scanner at the security checkpoint, triggering an alert.
Erway explained to a scanner operator that she is transgender, but the scanner operator would not repeat the scan. The TSA official, referred to in the lawsuit as "Jane Doe," told Erway she would have to have her genitals inspected in a private room.
Colonial Williamsburg is bringing a small part of gay history to life in a special reenactment this fall, with the hope of adding additional LGBTQ programming in the future.
Starting in October, the immersive living-history museum where visitors can experience at what it would have been like to be alive in 18th century Virginia will feature a new musical called Ladies of Llangollen, based on diary entries, letters, and poetry of two women who ran away from Ireland and eloped in Wales during the 18th century -- whose story attracted the attention of Queen Charlotte.
The introduction of LGBTQ content comes after two years during which researchers and historians have been looking through historical records to better understand the history of LGBTQ people living during the colonial period.
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