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Trans Day of Visibility began 15 years ago. The founder is still moved by its success

Rachel Crandall-Crocker is a psychotherapist and the executive director of the advocacy group Transgender Michigan. She also runs the Transgender Michigan help line.
Transgender Michigan
Rachel Crandall-Crocker is a psychotherapist and the executive director of the advocacy group Transgender Michigan. She also runs the Transgender Michigan help line.

This Sunday, people from Kosovo to the Netherlands to the U.S. are organizing events to celebrate the transgender and nonbinary community — marking the 15th year of International Transgender Visibility Day.

Its founder, Rachel Crandall-Crocker, a psychotherapist and the executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Transgender Michigan, still can't believe it.

"It really is amazing how far it has come," she told NPR. "I wasn't expecting to start an international movement."

More than 1.6 million people in the U.S. identify as transgender, according to a 2022 study from the Williams Institute, a research center at UCLA's law school.

This weekend's celebrations come as trans people's rights have become increasingly restricted across the U.S. in recent years. Several states have passed bills restricting or banning gender-affirming care for trans youth, and there's also been a wave of legislation against trans athletes and drag queen performers.

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In 2009, Crandall-Crocker wanted a reason to come together and feel joy with other members of the trans community.

At the time, the only holiday she knew of geared toward trans people was Transgender Day of Remembrance, on Nov. 20, dedicated to honoring the lives lost to anti-transgender violence.

"I wanted a day that we could focus on the living," Crandall-Crocker said. "And where we could have rallies all as one community all the way around the world."

That idea turned into International Transgender Day of Visibility, which falls on March 31 every year. Crandall-Crocker said she chose the springtime date because she wanted some distance from Transgender Day of Remembrance as well as Pride Month, which is in June.

In the first year, groups in only a handful of cities in the U.S. celebrated. But Crandall-Crocker, with the help of Susan Crocker, her wife and Transgender Michigan's operations director, continued to raise awareness about the day and its purpose.

Trans advocates from around the world caught on, launching rallies, block parties and festivals rooted in trans joy. In recent years, the U.S. government has recognizedInternational Transgender Day of Visibility, and skyscrapersacross the country have lit up with the colors of the transgender flag — light pink, light blue and white.

Crandall-Crocker, who has Tourette syndrome, said organizing International Transgender Day of Visibility taught her an invaluable lesson: "You do not have to perfect to change the world."

"I have a disability," she added. "However, I changed the world. You don't have to be perfect. Come and change it along with me."

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Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.