The artwork on this note card was created by 5768 WRJ Art Calendar artist Césan d’Ornellas Levine.
Far too often, conversations about transgender and gender non-conforming people focus squarely on prevailing discrimination and hateful speech, with not very much acknowledgment of the unwavering pride and perseverance this community so often displays. In 2009, a transgender activist named Rachel Crandall decided that was the wrong approach, and founded International Transgender Day of Visibility to celebrate the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming people around the world while continuing to fight transphobia through education and activism. Since then, March 31 has been a day to lift up the voices and accomplishments of transgender and gender non-conforming folks, increasing visibility and raising awareness about this community’s vibrancy and resiliency.
Today, we are called to celebrate the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people that have broken down barriers and stepped proudly into the public eye. Their bravery helps lead the way for others to live unapologetically and without fear, but it also fuels our efforts to continue fighting against the hate and intolerance that continue to plague our society. Below are a few examples of transgender people breaking down barriers; today is a day to celebrate their accomplishments, and continue pushing for legislation and policies that promote equality and inclusion.
The Reform Movement is deeply committed to full inclusion and equality for the transgender community. In 2003, Reuben Zellman became the first openly transgender student accepted to Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. HUC has continued to ordain openly transgender rabbis, and in 2015 the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed resolutions affirming their commitment to the rights of transgender and gender-non confirming people both in our congregations and society at large.
In 2014, Laverne Cox became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy Award for her role as Sophia Burset in the popular Netflix series, Orange Is the New Black. Laverne was also the first openly transgender person to appear on the cover of TIME Magazine in 2014.
In 2015, Raffi Freedman-Gurspan was hired as a Senior Associate Director for Public Engagement and an Outreach and Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel. She was the first openly transgender staff member at the White House. Before leaving office, President Obama named Raffi as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Board of Trustees of the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.
On July 28, 2016, Sarah McBride became the first openly transgender person to address a major party convention when she spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Sarah works for the Human Rights Campaign to promote the inclusion and equality of LGBTQ people on the federal, state and local level.
While there is still so much further to go to achieve full equality for this community, we celebrate the increased visibility and inclusion of the transgender and gender non-conforming people in the public sphere. As much as there have also been some setbacks, even happening simultaneously, if we keep advocating, we can achieve a fully equal and inclusive society, one where every human being is treated with respect and dignity.
It is more important than ever to reaffirm our support for the full equality of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans and the LGBTQ community as a whole. Take action today by urging your school board to adopt policies that ensure protections for trans students, and urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor the Equality Act (H.R. 3185/S. 1858 in the 114th Congress) when it is re-introduced in the 115th Congress. This bill would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in employment, public accommodations, education and numerous other areas of law, making it illegal to discriminate against transgender and gender non-conforming students in schools.