Why Trans Visibility Day matters

T at home with his dog, Murphy. Photo: Oxfam America

For trans people like T, not hiding is the next step forward. “I feel like I’m living as the real me.”

Every year March 31 marks Trans Visibility Day. It’s a day to celebrate the everyday experiences and aspirations of transgender and non-binary people around the world.

For T, a senior accountant at Oxfam who is trans, the day is about embracing a truer sense of self that has brought him closer to the person he really is. “Once I began coming out to those closest to me, I felt a new level of freedom that I had never felt before,” he says.

At Oxfam, we advocate for gender equality so that every person has the same chance at success. So, we’re going to share some facts about Trans Day of Visibility and why it matters; describe what the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights looks like where Oxfam operates around the world; and share resources to help you better understand the joys and challenges of the trans community.

What is the meaning of Trans Visibility Day?

Trans Visibility Day celebrates the resilience and success of people who do not identify with the gender that is typically associated with their sex assigned at birth, including trans men, trans women, and non-binary people. The day also raises awareness of the pervasive discrimination still facing too many within the LGBTQIA+ community.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organization in the US:

  • There are more than 2 million transgender people in the US.

  • One in five adults knows someone who uses non-binary pronouns other than he or she.

  • There have been more than 340 anti-LGBTQ+ legislative bills introduced this year across the country—including 90 bills that would restrict gender-affirming medical care for young trans people.

In the US, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to live in poverty. Black trans women face high rates of fatal violence, and about one-third of Black trans people living in extreme poverty reported less than $10,000 of annual household income—more than twice the rate for transgender people of all races and eight times the general US population rate.

Why does Trans Visibility Day matter?

When T first mentioned to his parents that he was transgender, he didn’t have the words to describe what he was going through. “I only could communicate that I was a boy,” T recalls.

Growing up in a conservative part of the US in the ‘80s and ‘90s, his admission carried enormous risk.

  • Coming out as trans was considered an unacceptable thing to share with parents, teachers, and coaches. It was almost a death sentence—for either yourself, or your family’s social and community support.

  • For years he was called a “tomboy.” In T’s child mind—that was a win. But as he grew older, he knew he would neither be safe nor free to be himself if he continued to focus on his gender.

  • As a result, he pushed those thoughts deep down. “Even upon gaining a career, relationships, and an active life, I still felt this dread and angst that I was living a lie,” T says.

When he came out as trans decades later, the world around him had changed.

  • More people were using and sharing pronouns to be more inclusive of people like him.

  • Gender neutral terms were being used for restrooms, making it less scary to go to the bathroom.

  • Though still nervous and frightened, T embraced a newfound freedom to be himself. “I felt more like a whole human rather than a soul walking in a broken shell,” he says.

Now, T has even more hope despite the long road ahead. He is inspired by the stories of trans activist Kai Shappley and wrestler Mack Beggs. He walks into a store and is addressed as “Sir.” He has a loving partner and an amazing dog, Murphy.

He can hold his head a little bit higher—and not fear being seen.

“I feel like I’m living as the real me,” T said. “I’m excited to help share stories of trans resilience, success, and joy. I wouldn’t be experiencing this without having the basic rights we have begun to achieve and for which we continue to fight.”

How is Oxfam fighting for the rights of transgender and non-binary people?

Although Oxfam does not specialize in LGBTQIA+ rights, we believe that trans people—including minors—have a human right to freedom of gender identity and expression and deserve equal treatment under the law. We also recognize that reproductive justice is inextricably linked to social justice, and that gender justice cannot be achieved without bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health rights for all.

We work with courageous local partners on a small number of programs to support LGBTQIA+ communities, including:

  • In Poland, LGBTQIA+ refugees from the war in Ukraine face barriers to employment, housing, and other services given their gender identity and language obstacles. Oxfam local partner LAMBDA WARSZAWA —an organization with 26 years of experience working with LGBTQIA+ communities—has created a work center in Warsaw where these refugees can safely apply their skills as hairdressers, nail stylists, and tattoo artists. On weekends, the center transforms into a meeting place where queer individuals from Poland and Ukraine can share stories and experiences—a vital connection to community and mental health support.

The team at the Oxfam/LAMBDA WARSZAWA Work Center for Queer Refugees. Photo: LAMBDA WARSZAWA
  • In Guatemala, trans people struggle to access housing, employment, education, and healthcare. Oxfam is partnering with trans women’s organizations OTRANS and REDMMUTRANS to defend and promote the human rights of trans people. Collaborating within a consortium of women’s rights organizations fighting for sexual and reproductive health and rights, we work together to strengthen the leadership skills of brave activists and to sharpen their strategies for advocacy, communications, and campaigning. OTRANS also provides health services and gender-affirming care to trans women.

  • In Lebanon, inflation and a governance crisis have disproportionately affected members of the LGBTQ community. Oxfam data from 2021 show an exponential increase in demand for basic assistance, including food, cash, and medicine. Oxfam has designed an LGBTQ-focused cash program that targets the most vulnerable, providing temporary cash assistance and case management referrals for three months to help LGBTQ households and individuals in Beirut access basic goods and services, including food, while simultaneously strengthening their resilience to future shocks and crises.

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