Transgender Day of Visibility and the Need for Data Collection Practices

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Some of you may be confused by the holiday in question: Don’t you mean Transgender Day of Remembrance, and isn’t it in November? No and yes.

Transgender Day of Visibility is its own day. The difference in emphasis is in its operative terms. With Remembrance, the public is called to mourn transgender women and men slain by transphobic individuals and groups, and to reflect upon the fact that violence characterizes the lives of transgender and gender nonconforming people here and abroad.

 

International Transgender Day of Visibility raises awareness about the issues of discrimination that face transgender people worldwide. Transgender activist Rachel Crandall launched the holiday in 2009 because she was frustrated with International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Crandall runs the nonprofit organization Transgender Michigan, which runs a support hotline and coordinates community-building events. The first International Transgender Day of Visibility was organized on March 31, 2009, and is celebrated on that day annually. In the spirit of the day, let us acknowledge some of the gains transgender activists have made over the year.

 

If you change the channel to any mainstream media channel, you will likely read “BREAKING NEWS” in a bright red banner alerting you to the President’s latest national embarrassment, but transgender leader made important gains. Nine transgender men and women were elected to public office in cities and states throughout the country. (Danica Roem’s victory over Republican incumbent Bob Marshall was particularly vindicating, since he supported North Carolina’s intensely transphobic and controversial bathroom bill).

 

Trans Student Educational Resources is the only national nonprofit organization to be led by transgender youth, and is a big advocate of International Transgender Day of Visibility. 80% of trans students report feeling unsafe in schools. 50% of trans people have been raped or assaulted by a romantic partner. 1 in 5 will experience homelessness, and 1 in 8 will experience eviction. Many of the issues of homelessness and eviction, employment discrimination, access to public services, and violence, among others, persist in plaguing transgender and gender nonconforming people.

 

Last year the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD Media raised awareness of the day through social media campaigns with–appropriately enough–the hashtag #transvisibilityday. However, much of the media attention to the day itself was overshadowed by the repeal of North Carolina’s controversial bathroom bill, which forced transgender individuals to use the bathrooms of the gender assigned to the them at birth. Although the bill was repealed, but it was more of a compromise than a victory for the LGBTQ community. One of the conditions of the repeal was that no anti-discrimination ordinances could be introduced until 2020.

 

Today’s national political climate is terrible for introducing transgender-supportive legislation, but attitudes toward transgender communities continues to improve. One practice that could help passing good legislation is sound data collection. For the purposes of public policy, data collection can provide accurate and official documentation about the needs of transgender community. According to a report by the Williams Institute, an LGBT think tank associated with the University of California, Los Angeles, no international standards for data collection around transgender issues yet exists.

 

Some data collection practices have been implemented through county and municipal agencies, like in New York and San Francisco, and the state of California implemented its own transgender data collecting protocol in 2015. Throughout the Americas, the governments of Uruguay and Brazil are the only two countries that include transgender people in their data collection practices. One caveat is that many governments are more transphobic than our own, and it is a legitimate fear for many transgender activists and researchers that the collected data can be used to persecute transgender people.

 

Remember, undergoing sex reassignment surgery is a personal decision, and is one of many option for people that self-identify as transgender. Compare these laws to those of California, where no provider attestation is required, and applicants can choose “nonbinary” for their gender.

 

Transgender and gender nonconforming are not synonymous terms. Remember, a gender nonconforming person is someone whose gender expression defies norms. You can be transgender and express yourself with conventional masculine and feminine forms. Rule of thumb: If you ponder over someone’s gender identity, stop right there. Do not interpret and do not prod. Keep it simple, and follow their lead.

 

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