Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.
Philly orgs celebrate Trans Day of Visibility with in-person and virtual events
Amid ongoing transphobia, transmisogyny and the onslaught of anti-trans legislation introduced in state governments nation-wide, Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison and other trans leaders are saying that mere visibility is not enough
It is estimated that up to 1.8% of youth identify as transgender, and a further 1.6% are questioning or gender diverse. (Photo by Ted Eytan, used through a Creative Commons license by the Daily Montanan).
By Michele Zipkin
Numerous Philadelphia LGBTQ organizations and initiatives are honoring Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), which falls yearly on March 31. Although TDOV may vary in meaning for different people, it is largely a day where trans people and allies celebrate their transness, uplift their trans community members, and perpetuate trans narratives.
One event will be a flag raising and a rally hosted by Philly’s Office of LGBT Affairs at City Hall on March 31 at noon.
“Visibility of trans people alleviates some of the stress and pressure in the coming out journey of young people,” Office of LGBT Affairs Executive Director Celena Morrison said in an email. “If someone doesn’t have out and visible people like them to look to, they have no way of knowing what their feelings mean, or they may not feel safe expressing those feelings.”
Amid ongoing transphobia, transmisogyny and the onslaught of anti-trans legislation introduced in state governments nation-wide, Morrison and other trans leaders are saying that mere visibility is not enough.
“This year I would like to challenge cis allies to move beyond just being aware of, or just seeing, trans people,” Morrison said. “Especially when it comes to the most vulnerable members of the trans community, awareness is not enough. Seeing is not enough for Black and brown trans people, for whom visibility isn’t always a goal because visibility doesn’t translate to acceptance, but greater attention, scrutiny and limitations.”
Darius McLean, director of the Arcila-Adams Trans Resource Center at William Way, organized a video project with filmmaker Daisy James. It consists of roughly 13 interviews with trans people from Philly and surrounding areas, and it will be screened virtually on March 31 at 6 p.m. More information on the project can be found at William Way’s Facebook page.
“There are so many aspects of my identity where visibility shows up in different ways,” McLean said. “I think about my visibility as being Black and what that means for my life. Sometimes I honestly don’t think about what it means to have trans visibility until TDOV. I really enjoy supporting my community, and that’s where the importance of visibility comes in; that’s where it shows up for me is being that person where my visibility is to support the people that can’t be visible and use the influence that I have to do the best in uplifting as many of our community members as possible.”
One of the main goals of the video project is to pass the microphone to voices that don’t typically get amplified. Chamar Cooper, a visual artist who’s part of the video, said that for him, TDOV means “to be viewed with more than a person’s eyes.”
“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what we actually want,” Cooper continued. “Sometimes people think they know our entire stories, but they don’t have a clue. Something like this is definitely what’s needed to kind of set the record straight. They’ve seen certain representations of us, like in entertainment, and they think that that’s what everyone thinks.”
The Philly Trans March (PTM) team is hosting a virtual event on Facebook on March 29, the theme of which is “visibility in entertainment.” Icon Ebony Fierce will host and moderate the event consisting of trans and nonbinary panelists who are local entertainers and performers. Jess Kalup is co-organizing the event.
“I do want to state that I’m a cis person so TDOV is going to mean a little bit of a different thing to me than it will to trans people,” Kalup said. “For me, TDOV is about a chance to see the humanity in each other and the honesty in each other, and to really create spaces where we can uplift and validate each other.”
On March 31, Mazzoni Center is hosting a fundraiser at Tabu Lounge and Sports Bar to support the Trans Wellness Conference. Paula Dean-White and Miss Tabu 2022 Martine will host the event, featuring performances by Mia “The Body” Bombshell, Lamia, Dalyla Mizani Cristal, Little Piece, Nikita Sinn and Calliope. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Prevention Meets Fashion will host a Zoom discussion and styling event for transmasculine folks, facilitated by DeX. The organization invites community members to “celebrate Trans Day of Visibility by joining a discussion about affirming fashion for transmac, masc of center and AFAB nonbinary bodies and learn how to style clothes for your body.” The event takes place on March 31 at 7 p.m.
GALAEI is teaming up with Philly performers, local educational institutions and the bar Cockatoo to celebrate trans community members. In doing so, they will disseminate educational resources “about the injustices inflicted upon trans individuals,” and provide free ice cream courtesy of Lil Pop Shop. The event will take place in three locations in the Gayborhood on March 31 at 6 p.m., including at Cockatoo on South 13th Street.
“International Trans Day Of Visibility (TDOV) is a day to celebrate the lives of Trans individuals and bring awareness to the ways that injustices disproportionately affect Trans individuals,” the GALAEI team collectively said in an email. “TDOV is valuable to us due to the lack of awareness that surrounds Trans identities and more currently surrounding Trans identities of youth and their basic human rights.”
Trans Art Mart, which features the arts and crafts of trans, nonbinary and gender-expansive artists, will hold its first market at Love City Brewing on April 2 from 12-7 p.m. Meg Potoma and Gabrielle Grimes run Trans Art Mart, but Mel Andrel created it in 2020. At the market, patrons will find jewelry, clothing, paintings, prints, soaps, tapestries and more, all by trans and nonbinary artists. Masks and vaccine cards are required for entry.
“TDOV is important to me because of my transness and the deep love I have for my community,” Potoma said in an email. “Every day should be a day where the greatness within the trans community is celebrated.”
“Trans folks are conditioned to shrink and hide themselves as much as possible for much or all of their lives,” Grimes said about what TDOV means to them. “The trans community deserves to be seen, heard and retaught that we hold value in the world simply for existing.”
Kendall Stephens and Elizabeth Coffey Williams, who co-facilitate the trans and nonbinary support group TransWay, are planning a picnic in Love Park at 7:30 p.m. on March 31, in addition to their regularly scheduled Zoom meeting.
“I really want to connect with the TransWay membership in the way we haven’t before,” Stephens said. “We’ve seen an exponential increase in membership at TransWay. A lot of people are very new in their gender journey, which I think is important that we always champion those individuals who are looking for community, looking to see what visibility looks like in their lives.”
Stephens said she’s helping to kick off TDOV at Temple University where she’s a student, though she’ll take a backseat role. Jackson Burke, a member of Temple’s group Students for Trans Awareness and Rights (STAR), is planning an art show featuring the work of trans artists, to be displayed in Green Hallway at Tyler. The show will feature works from about a dozen artists, including Burke, such as fiber works, paintings, digital and screen prints and even a song.
“The Trans Day of Visibility really means recognizing our voices,” Burke said. “So often we become hashtags after we die, but no one ever recognizes our accomplishments in real life, especially because it’s so much of a struggle for trans people. We struggle with housing, with unemployment, so we have to fight so much harder for everything that we earn. So getting a day just to recognize all of that struggle to get where we are.”
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