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Transgender Visibility Day

Transgender Day of Visibility is an international day of highlighting the existence and celebrating the achievements of people in the transgender community in terms of social justice, acceptance of the community and to acknowledge the of importance the transgender people in our families, social communities, employment and civic service at all levels of local, state and federal governments.

This international day of recognition occurs annually on March 31 and serves to celebrate people who have the courage to acknowledge and live their authentic lives, promote the importance of the transgender community in modern society and to draw attention to the continued discrimination transgender people face in terms of living their daily lives, employment, education, health care services and general acceptance.

We often confuse a person’s sex with their gender. A person’s sex is determined by their physical anatomy at birth. Gender is in our minds: how we see and think of ourselves, who we know ourselves to be, how we express who we are to other people around us.

In our culture, we quantify sex and gender as a binary of possibilities — male/masculine or female/feminine, with little room for variation in between. Transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary individuals transcend or cross over these traditional gender lines.

Transgender, the “T” component of LGBTQI, refers to how we as a community identify, express ourselves and desire to be accepted on a daily basis. Many people in society today view transgender as a “choice.” I can assure you this is not a “choice” to be forced to hide ourselves from those we love, live or work with for fear of rejection by family and friends, harassment, loss of employment, loss of access to medical or behavioral health care services, denial of social services, denial of public accommodations, housing, physical or verbal assaults or the very real possibility of being murdered. These are not “choices” we make. We are not looking to be changed, fixed or forced into a lifestyle deemed socially acceptable. Being transgender is not some new social phenomena to be debated or discriminated against. We have existed throughout time, history, cultures and globally.

Millions of people worldwide have had the courage to “come out,” to announce their authentic selves to those around them. Coming out in the LGBTQI community affects not only the individual person but also those around them. This is especially true of transgender people. It is said, not only does the transgender person transition, but everyone around them does as well as they bid good-bye to the former person they thought they knew and hopefully accept a new much happier person to come.

Often times, we use the symbol of the butterfly, which starts life as a caterpillar, grows and slowly develops, finally transforming into a beautiful butterfly which spreads its wings to enter the world as a completely new entity ready to lead a new life from that in which they previously existed.

I am heartened to see the recent surge of transgender people running to serve in elected office at all levels of government but most especially in higher-profile positions, such as Sara McBride, the first openly transgender person serving as congresswoman in the great state of Delaware. I am also so very proud of Dr. Rachel Levine, who was recently confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as assistant secretary of health, making her first openly transgender high-ranking U.S. government official.

I am heartened by our allies and supporters such as Congresswoman Marie Newman displaying the transgender flag in the halls of her U.S. congressional office! Thank you, Congresswoman Newman!

We’ve seen several high-profile people in the entertainment, sports and fashion worlds come out as transgender in recent years, including Andreja Peji, Caitlyn Jenner, Candis Cayne, Jazz Jennings, Nicole Maines, Chris Mosier, Chaz Bono, Hari Nef, Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera and Elliot Page, just to name a very few. This list is continuous and could easily fill this page.

Still, the transgender community faces harsh backlash against our very existence. Several states and the former U.S. administration actively work to deny our very existence and survival, rolling back many hard-fought-for rights and protections.

Most recently, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Montana and Tennessee are voting to criminalize or flat-out ban health care for transgender youth. The governor of Arkansas recently signed legislation making it legal for health care professionals to deny medical care for transgender people based on religious beliefs of the health care provider.

I am thankful to live in New York state, which passed a series of progressive reforms since 2019 to protect our community, including the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), ban on reparative therapy, “walking while trans” and most recently legislation allowing transgender people to access public accommodations as needed.

On the federal level, I am most hopeful for the support already shown by the current administration on LGBTQI rights and protections. This is a great step forward to restoring the rights and protections recently lost over the previous four years.

I also want to pay special thanks to the many organizations supporting our community, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance serving Franklin, Essex and Clinton counties, Gender Equality New York, Equality New York, New York Division of Human Rights and the New York state governor’s office.

If you are an ally, supporter, accomplice or member of the transgender, gender non-binary/non-conforming, Two Spirit Community (First Nation and Native peoples), I wish you all a very wonderful Transgender Day of Visibility!

Kelly Metzgar lives in Saranac Lake and is the executive director of Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance.

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