Each year on March 31, the world observes Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) to raise awareness about transgender people. It is a day to celebrate the lives and contributions of trans people, while also drawing attention to the poverty, discrimination, and violence the community faces.
International TDOV was created in 2010 by trans advocate Rachel Crandall. Crandall, the head of Transgender Michigan, created TDOV in response to the overwhelming majority of media stories about transgender people being focused on violence. She hoped to create a day where people could re-focus on celebrating the lives of transgender people, empowering them to live authentically, while still acknowledging that due to discrimination, not every trans person can or wants to be visible.
Given that a minority of Americans say they personally know someone who’s transgender, the vast majority of the public learns about trans people from the media. This is a problem because, as shown in the Netflix documentary Disclosure, the media has misrepresented, mischaracterized, and stereotyped trans people since the invention of film. These false depictions have indisputably shaped the cultural understanding of who trans people are and have taught the public how to react to and treat trans people in their lives. It’s going to take a lot of work to undo the harm caused by these depictions.
However, society is becoming more accepting as trans people feel increasingly comfortable and confident being publicly and fully themselves, and media representations of their lives begin to improve. This is especially apparent in the generational familiarity of trans people.
According to Gallup, while only about 30% of the general American public says they personally know a trans person, that percentage drastically varies when segmented by age. For example, 19% of Americans over 65 claim to know someone trans, while half (50%) of Americans under the age of 30 have a transgender friend or family member. This isn’t surprising when taken into account that about 1 in 5 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, according to Gallup’s 2022 poll.
But there has also been a growing backlash from anti-LGBTQ activists who are targeting trans people, especially children, since marriage equality for same-sex couples was achieved in 2015.
In 2023, over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed so far, with over half specifically targeting trans people, particularly youth. Both 2021 and 2022 saw a massive increase in anti-trans legislation. This anti-trans hypervisibility harms all trans people who are being demonized and scapegoated by politicians and in many media outlets.
That’s why it’s still necessary for trans people to be seen through authentic, diverse, and accurate stories which reflect the actual lived experiences of trans people; both for themselves and for those people who believe they’ve never met a trans person.
This includes in news media, where too often trans people’s voices are missing from coverage of anti-trans laws and policies affecting their lives. Without trans people and experts weighing in, and without trans representation in newsrooms to help guide coverage, anti-trans discrimination is often misrepresented in the news as a “culture clash” and “just asking questions” rather than as willful misinformation and targeted hate.
We are starting to see progress in film and TV, but we still have a long way to go. While representation of TV characters has significantly improved over the years, as of TDOV 2022, there are 42 regular and recurring characters appearing on broadcast, streaming, and cable. However, these 42 characters cannot possibly represent the full diversity of the trans community nor undo one hundred years of misinformed, inaccurate, and harmful representation.
That’s why this year for TDOV, GLAAD has partnered with and is supporting a number of advocates and organizations on initiatives to counteract the disinformation campaign targeting the trans community.
- Fact Sheet: Reporter Guide to Covering Transgender People, Topics, and Legislation
- Lawmaker Contact Action Page: GLAAD’s new one-stop page for LGBTQ people and allies to contact their governor, senators and state representatives and use their voices to protect LGBTQ Americans.
- #TransWeek of Visibility and Action (#TWOVA) is in its third year, led by Chase Strangio and Raquel Willis, focused on helping all trans people define and understand the anti-trans political landscape and the violence facing the community, while offering resources to take concrete action.
- CHANGEMAKERS, a 4-part series presented by #NEONxGLAAD and Ally, spotlights the powerful work of bold founders and CEOs of Black trans and nonbinary-owned businesses reshaping their communities and disrupting their industries. Season 2 highlights: House of Tulip Executive Director, Mariah Moore, Stealth Bros & Co Founder/CEO, Braxton Fleming, “ValiDate” Lead Developer, Dani LaLonders , and Layshia Clarendon, the first active out trans nonbinary WNBA player. Clarendon is also the founder of the Layshia Clarendon Foundation.
- GILEAD x GLAAD shares Southern Storybank, a series of video portraits featuring transgender people as well as people living with HIV across the U.S. South, describing their daily lives and lifelong journeys in their own words.
- GLAAD and Getty Images continue to drive awareness for transgender people through visual representation, encouraging brands and marketers to help increase intentional imagery with resources to guide visual storytelling. Read more about the partnership here and ways to take action.
Below are some resources from GLAAD and other organizations that can be used to create accurate coverage of transgender people in media:
Resources on Transgender Healthcare:
- Fact Sheet: Evidence Based Healthcare for Transgender People and Youth
- John Oliver explains why gender-affirming care is so important, exposes extremist attacks on trans youth
- Jon Stewart sets the record straight on gender-affirming care
- Fact Sheet: Medical Association Statements Supporting Trans Youth Healthcare and Against Discriminatory Bills
Resources on Transgender Youth:
- 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health (The Trevor Project)
- 2022 National Survey on Youth Mental Health (The Trevor Project)
- 2021 National School Climate Survey (GLSEN)
- Support for Trans Youth and Families (Athlete Ally, Trevor Project, Gender Spectrum, PFLAG, GLSEN, TransAthlete.com, National Center for Transgender Equality)
- Going public: is public advocacy right for you and your family? A Guide for Parents of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Youth
Resources on the Political Climate for Transgender People:
- Legislative Tracker: Anti-Transgender Legislation (Freedom for All Americans)
- Legislation Affecting LGBTQ Rights Across the Country with Focus on Anti-Trans Bills (ACLU)
- Snapshot: LGBTQ Equality by State with Focus on Gender Identity (Movement Advancement Project)
- Unprecedented Onslaught of State Legislation Targeting Transgender Americans (HRC)
Resources for Familiarizing with the Transgender Community and Advancing Allyship:
- GLAAD’s Tips for Allies of Transgender People
- GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide: Transgender Terms
- GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide: Transgender People and Issues
- GLAAD’s Guía Para La Cobertura Mediática De Personas Transgénero
- GLAAD blog posts about transgender issues
To learn about some of the TV shows, films, and creators GLAAD celebrates for trans representation, read:
- 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards nominees include outstanding stories about trans people #GLAADAwards
- 33rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards nominees include outstanding stories about trans people #GLAADAwards
- 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards nominees include outstanding stories about trans people #GLAADAwards
- 2022 Logo Youth Town Hall Discussion
- 2022 More than a Name: A Shifting Recognition of Transgender People Across the Globe
- From ‘Disclosure’ to ‘Pose’: What movies, shows to watch during Transgender Awareness Week
- #TransWeek: Trans Stories and Creators watch in 2019
- Check out GLAAD’s 2020 #translovestories TDOV campaign here.
To learn more about what it means to be transgender visit: /transgender
For answers to frequently asked questions visit: /transgender/transfaq