March 29 2017 05:48 PM

Michigan-based Trans Day fete marked by international events

    Allies and members of the transgender community gathered together for the #StandWithTrans rally on Tuesday, March 28 at the Capitol in Lansing.
    Eve Kucharski/City Pulse
    When Rachel Crandall-Crocker sat at her computer and wrote about the International Transgender Day of Visibility, or TDOV, on FaceBook in 2009, it was merely an idea. A day where members of the Transgender community didn’t have to feel forgotten by society.

    Eight years later, it’s a holiday that is celebrated not only across the US, but across the world.

    “It’s even in Russia now, it’s even in Africa. I mean we’re talking about countries where it’s illegal,” Crandall-Crocker said.

    If the blue, pink and white colors of the transgender flag will fly high on Friday, as thousands celebrate in Michigan.

    In Grand Rapids alone, the entire week is dedicated to the day, with more than 100 locations across the city showing support by flying flags and hosting open-mic events.

    “And it has a really large social media presence also. Last year, it was a trending topic in the UK,” said Crandall-Crocker, a psychologist and former Lansing resident who is the co-founder and director of Transgender Michigan. “It’s even in Asian countries now also, it’s everywhere.”

    She attributes the day’s great success to its social media presence. For instance, in San Francisco YouTube transgender celebrity Gigi Gorgeous will be headlining 2017’s TDOV, along with other special guests.

    But according to Ellie Webster, of the Grand Rapids Pride Center, and a member of a local subcommittee planning the week-long festivities, it’s just the beginning.

    “This is laying the groundwork for something that I think we can build upon every year after,” Webster said. “Just as Rachel had inspired millions of people across the globe, maybe we could inspire a few communities to follow in our footsteps and build it into our community. Our week is only so far.”

    And the festivities are very timely. Last year was considered by many to be the most dangerous year for transgender individuals across the U.S. The Human Rights Campaign found that of the nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills filed, over 40 were targeted at transgender individuals. This year is no different, with over 100 anti-LGBT bills already introduced.

    “Well, it used to be that the only transgender event every year was called The Transgender Remembrance and it’s where we remember our brothers and sisters who were killed only for being trans,” Crandall-Crocker said. “And I really wanted a day that we could all celebrate. A day where we could all be really really visible.”

    Lansing already hosted its own show of solidarity for the transgender community Tuesday morning, through a #StandWithTrans rally at the Capitol supporting transgender students. Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Virginia, inspired the gathering after the U.S. Supreme Court sent his suit for the right to use a bathroom aligning with his gender identity to a lower court on March 6. Though not explicitly held for TDOV, Crandall-Crocker was one of the speakers and more than 20 LGBT organizations helped sponsor the event.

    The support Tuesday morning attracted a crowd despite the rain and cold.

    “I have a lot of friends who are trans and I said, ‘Hey, I’m here to support,’” Transgender Ally Riana Rowles said. “All the things that are going on in the media regarding trans kids, it’s heartbreaking that they can’t truly fit in where they’re supposed to fit in, they’re worried about being ridiculed.”

    For details on events, see transgendermichigan.org.

    Crandall-Crocker urges supporters of the holiday to look to social media as well, stating that there is no one way to celebrate the day.

    “Well there’s actually a few ways. For people who are not near an event, it’s gonna be popping all over Twitter all day long, it really is huge on Twitter,” Crandall-Crocker said. “And for other people who aren’t around other trans, they can use it as a day to educate others. I know people who wear a purple ribbon and when people ask, ‘Why are you wearing the ribbon?’ then they really have a chance to educate them.”

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