International Transgender Day of Visibility and why the GLAAD Awards are important

International Transgender Day of Visibility and why the GLAAD Awards are important

Today, 31 March, marks International Transgender Day of Visibility. The annual event celebrates trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people and their contributions to society while raising awareness of discrimination faced by their communities worldwide.

Across the globe, about two percent of people identify as transgender, gender-fluid, or non-binary, but they receive a disproportionate level of criticism and abuse, and crime against them is rife. Forbes reported that 2021 was the deadliest year on record for gender diverse people, with 375 killed - surpassing all previous records.

While the majority of murders happened in Central and South America - with Brazil leading the way as responsible for 33% of all deaths - cases were also reported for the first time in Greece, Kazakhstan and Malawi.

In a US study from the UCLA School of Law, transgender people are more than four times likely to be victims of violent crime than their cisgender counterparts. Legislation against gender diverse individuals is constantly causing outrage in the community and their allies, with various proposed and acted-upon bans worldwide on restricting access to gender-specific toilets, gender-affirming health care and prisons and calls for schools to restrict LGBTQ+ teaching materials.

Copyright 2023 The AP
A child holds transgender pride flags at pro-trans protest at the Mississippi Capitol, as lawmakers discussed Bill 1125, which bans gender-affirming care for trans children - Copyright 2023 The AP

In January this year, the Scottish government blocked implementation of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill which would have helped make the process for legally recognising trans men or trans women’s gender more straightforward and less intrusive.

Stonewall, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisation put out a statement criticising then First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, saying: “Trans people make up only 0.5% of our population, and trans men and women who can benefit from the Gender Recognition Reform Bill are only 0.2%. Trans people are at high risk of experiencing hate crime. They wait years and years to get a first appointment with healthcare specialists that can support their transition. Trans children are bullied in our schools. Trans adults are bullied in their workplaces. The UK Government should be focused on developing and implementing a strategy that improves the lives of all LGBTQ+ people, including trans people, not causing them more harm”.

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling's views on trans people have caused huge controversy, too, with many OG fans refusing to acknowledge her vast collection of works until she apologises. The writer says she considers herself a champion of women's rights, but has faced growing criticism for her stance on trans issues, including controversial standpoints on, among others, self-ID and allowing trans women into single-sex spaces . Many former fans boycotted Hogwarts Legacy, a video game based in the Harry Potter universe, when it was released in February, calling Rowling a TERF - a trans-exclusionary radical feminist.

Copyright 2018 The AP
Author J.K. Rowling has faced criticism and boycotts over her trans views - Copyright 2018 The AP

The discrimination against and discussion about the trans community is louder than ever, especially with the Women’s Football World Cup taking place this summer. Debate is swirling over whether players can wear OneLove and rainbow armbands, which act as a show of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and to raise awareness of wider social injustice. FIFA have yet to make a final decision on whether the players will be able to wear the armbands.

Glad about GLAAD

However, there is some happier news this International Transgender Day of Visibility.

Yesterday, Thursday 30 March, saw the first wave of GLAAD Media Award winners announced, with The White Lotus and A League of Their Own among those taking home gongs.

The Awards mark one of the biggest nights in queer entertainment and pay tribute to media which portrays fair, accurate and inclusive representations of LGBTQ+ people and their issues.

The 34th Los Angeles-based awards show revealed winners for 15 of 33 total categories, and the rest will be given at GLAAD’s New York City ceremony on Saturday 13 May. The ceremony was presided over by comedian Margaret Cho and other honourees included What We Do in the Shadows, Los Espookys and 9-1-1: Lone Star.

Drag Queen Story Hour got a special nod too, following on from political and public infighting over the appropriateness of drag queens reading books to children, with some extreme comments suggesting the practice is breaking down traditional society and values.

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Drag queen Champagne Monroe reads the children's book 'Rainbow Fish' to an engaged young audience in Mobile, Alabama - Copyright AP

Other top winners were Christina Aguilera, who received the Advocate for Change Award, Club Q shooting survivor Michael Anderson, and rapper Bad Bunny who was given the Vanguard Award gong by queer icon Ricky Martin.

Woman-of-the-moment and gay icon Jennifer Coolidge also made a typically fabulous appearance at the ceremony and was surprised on stage by Jane Lynch, who played her on-screen lesbian lover in the classic mockumentary Best in Show.

Getty Images for GLAAD
From left to right: Christina Aguilera, Michelle Visage, and both Jennifer Coolidge and Jane Lynch on stage - Getty Images for GLAAD

Coolidge quipped: “Here I am again, surrounded by gays! It’s the story of my life”, before paying tribute to the LGBTQ+ community and the GLAAD winners and nominees who celebrate it. Jane Lynch told the crowd: “This wonderful woman here was pro-gay before it was cool to be pro-gay. She is one of us, ladies and gentlemen. I have always said the world has to catch up to Jennifer Coolidge and the world has caught up to Jennifer Coolidge”.

There were also special performances from artists Fletcher and Orville Peck - and audiences still have much more queer excellence to celebrate when the next instalment of the GLAAD awards hit the Big Apple in May.