Today I want to talk about flags. No, not the Union Jack and the stealthy creep of it in the corner every Conservative MPs “zoom rooms” – I want to talk about the special flag for today, the International Transgender Day of Visibility. That is, this one:
In my previous role as Dean at the University of Reading, we flew special flags on a number of days or months each year. The Transgender Flag was usually flown on two days each year, one day being about celebration, and one day being about remembrance.
Today, 31st March, is the more celebratory day – the flag is flown to mark the International Transgender Day of Visibility. The aim of this day is to celebrate and recognise transgender people’s many contributions to society everywhere, whilst also of course raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people. The day is a relatively recent addition to the awareness days calendar having been founded in the US in 2009 by Rachel Crandell (a US-based transgender activist). Rachel was determined to add a transgender awareness day that focussed on acknowledging and celebrating living members of the transgender community – thus forming a partner to the Transgender Day of Remembrance (20 November) which mourns the transgender victims of hate crimes and violence.
Whilst a flag is definitely visible, that’s not an option for all of us as individuals, or indeed in the pandemic world necessarily for institutions this year. Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) who organise the event “encourage you to have discussions, create direct actions, and spread knowledge about the trans community no matter where you are!“
One of the ways I am taking direct action is to focus on using gender neutral language – it has become a bit of a household activity actually! My children are also getting REALLY good at challenging each other and us adults when we make assumptions about an unknown person’s gender or pronouns in general conversation. If like me, this isn’t something that ever was discussed during your own childhood, it’s refreshing to see their acceptance of all possibilities. Last year CBBC featured an Australian drama about a young transgender girl going through high school which we watched together and which led to some great conversations.