App State celebrates the transgender community

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The Appalachian Online

Leah Wingenroth

The Transgender Day of Visibility is a worldwide day of recognition and celebration, aiming to educate people and bring to light the accomplishments of trans and gender nonconforming individuals around the world.

Occurring annually on March 31, the event was established in 2009 by activist Rachel Crandall, the head of Transgender Michigan, who called for a day to celebrate who she is. Crandall and other activists were dissatisfied with the lack of representation and recognition of holidays that commemorate and acknowledge trans individuals.

The only well-known day specific to acknowledging trans identities previous to TDoV’s 2009 initiative was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking place annually on Nov. 20. This is a  day of mourning to grieve the loss of trans individuals to hate and violence.

“It is a worldwide holiday that is celebrated everywhere and should be celebrated everywhere,” senior biology major Aidan McDonald said. “TDoV is about celebrating the really good things about the trans community and making sure our voices heard.”

McDonald said that this is precisely the motivation behind creating TDoV in response to TDoR: encouraging and celebrating trans visibility and identities in a more positive perspective.

Sebastien Marshall, senior psychology major and the president of TransAction, said that trans people do not want to be seen as victims that should be pitied, but rather as strong and resilient people.

“I think that the celebratory nature of TDoV can accomplish that,” Marshall said. “I take a lot of pride in being transgender, because it connects me to a long history of strength and power. I’m proud of our community and its resilience.”

TransAction is a student group at ASU created for trans and gender nonconforming individuals and their allies. TransAction discusses issues, provides support and hosts TDoV at Appalachian State. This day of celebration includes contact tables in the in Plemmons Student Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. along with open mics and musical performances in the Whitewater Cafe at 8 p.m.

Marshall said that in the past, TransAction has modeled the TDoV celebration after the TDoR event in the fall semester, but now they are trying to move away from that.

“Since TDoV is supposed to be a celebration of our community rather than a time for mourning, we are focusing the event this year on letting our transgender students and Boone residents express and empower themselves,” Marshall said. “Which is why we’re having an open mic event in Whitewater Cafe.  We want to showcase the talents of trans people in our community and allow them the chance to be visible and respected the way that we all should be.”

An aspect of this campaign featured on the website for Trans Student Educational Resources is the online presence. The hashtag #tdov has over 6,000 posts on Instagram alone. This sort of cyber interaction creates a space where people can share stories and pictures, find kinship and educate others.

The encouraged hashtag surrounding 2016’s TDoV is #MoreThanVisibility. The motivation behind creating this specification is to recognize the importance of visibility in relation to trans identities, but that measures need to be taken to go even further to combat transphobia around the world.

“The transgender community is frequently associated with violence and tragedy, because of the high rate of assaults, murders and suicides trans people experience,”  Marshall said. “However, it’s important to remember that we are people, not statistics. There are transgender people throughout history who have made major accomplishments in science, music, art and theater. It’s important to value the positive things associated with our community too.”

McDonald said that another aspect of the campaign that is important to the celebration is educating people about the trans community – the accomplishments and issues alike.

“Last year, we spent time talking about different issues in the trans community,” McDonald said. “The education is a big part.”

In previous years, TDoV has hosted a discussion of topics like trans identities, cisgender privilege, trans representation in the media and an informative slideshow playing throughout the day.

“We would set up these boards around the room and have people walk through and mingle,” senior psychology major Kate Rawson said. “During the day, we’d have a contact table with stickers or buttons to promote the event and awareness of the transgender community in general.”

Rawson said she is excited that this year, they are adding new elements to the event so it is not only informative but a true celebration of trans lives and forms of expression.

“Being here in Boone for so long and seeing the event get bigger and more important is really special to me because it shows that our community here is growing and our voices are starting to matter,” McDonald said.

Since the event’s early beginnings just a few years ago, McDonald said that many have taken pride in growth and influence the reach of TDoV has had both worldwide and in the Appalachian State Community.

Story by: Leah Wingenroth, A&E Reporter