Why Visibility and Acceptance Matter for Trans People

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility, an annual day dedicated to raising up the voices and victories of transgender and gender nonconforming people around the world. First celebrated in 2009, TDOV has always been a critical component of advancing full equality for the entire LGBT community.

In recent years, trans folks’ visibility has increased dramatically in politics, pop culture, and beyond. However, despite growing mainstream awareness of who transgender people are, trans folks, and particularly transgender women and transgender people of color, still face enormous barriers to their safety, health, and well-being.

Here are just a few troubling statistics:

  • The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that, among transgender people who had ever lost a job, 30% had lost their job because of their gender identity or expression.
  • In the past year alone, among transgender people who visited a place of public accommodation and staff knew or thought they were transgender, 31% experienced some or multiple kinds of discrimination or mistreatment, including 24% who were verbally harassed, 14% of respondents who were denied equal treatment or service, and 2% who were physically attacked because they were transgender.
  • Transgender youth are disproportionately more likely to experience homelessness, experience discrimination and bullying in schools, suffer from depression, and experience suicidal ideation, and these risks are exacerbated the more transgender young people experience rejection.
  • Bisexual and pansexual transgender respondents were more likely to live in poverty than were gay, lesbian, and heterosexual transgender people.
  • Nearly half (48%) of transgender older adults live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • 17 states require proof of surgery in order to change gender marker on their birth certificate, and three states don’t allow any amendments to the gender marker at all.

That’s why visibility matters.

Research shows that only 21% of all Americans report having a close friend

or family member who is transgender, compared to 70% who have a gay or lesbian friend or family member. Among rural residents, only 15% report having a transgender person who is close to them.

It can be hard to understand what it means to be transgender, especially if you’ve never met a transgender person. But when people have a transgender friend or family member, they are much more likely to support the policies and priorities trans folks need to be healthy and thrive: from accessing comprehensive and competent healthcare, to having safe and supportive school environments.

Most recently, MAP partnered with the Biden Foundation, and Gender Spectrum to launch “Advancing Acceptance” to raise awareness of the importance of family and community acceptance in the lives of transgender and gender diverse youth. According to the Biden Foundation, when parents and families accept and embrace their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) child, that acceptance dramatically improves their child’s self-esteem and decreases the likelihood they will experience depression or suicidal ideation, or engage in self-harming behaviors. And research shows that, when transgender youth are accepted and affirmed at home, in school, and in their communities, they experience greatly reduced anxiety and depression, and greatly improved self-esteem, academic success, and happiness.

And visibility is more than just asking transgender people to make themselves more visible (and potentially more vulnerable to discrimination as a result). Amid an increasingly hostile political environment, it’s also imperative to raise visibility of acceptance of transgender people, both to provide role models for non-transgender people to learn how best to support trans people, and to provide transgender and nonbinary people with visible reminders that they are loved and not alone.

To find out what you can do to improve visibility in your community, visit Advancing Acceptance’s Community Resources. Click here for additional resources that offer an overview into the lives of transgender people, maps and reports about the legal landscape and the impact on transgender youth and adults, and the threat of religious exemptions to the health and wellbeing of transgender people.