a message from Out & Equal CEO, Erin Uritus

International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV) is a day to recognize and celebrate transgender and gender expansive peoples’ stories from around the world, while also drawing attention to the unique challenges—like violence, discrimination, and workplace inequality—the community members face.  

Every year that we celebrate TDOV, I think of its origins. TDOV emerged out of frustration when trans advocate Rachel Crandall recognized that the only formal day of acknowledgement held specifically for the transgender and gender expansive community was Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR)—a day to come together to mourn lives lost to hate and transphobia.  

For those readers who are not transgender or gender expansive, I would like for you to reflect on that reality for a moment. Imagine that the only day of the year dedicated to you and your community was one of sadness and not of celebration. No Coming Out day, no Pride parade, but a mournful day of loss. Additionally problematic is that, at least historically, the vast majority of the public obtained their knowledge about transgender people from the media—a ecosystem that disproportionality covered “trans” news in a negative, biased, and/or ill-informed light.

I’m thankful for Rachel and others who knew that balance was needed. For where was the joy? Where was the recognition of the brilliance and uniqueness of the transgender and gender expansive community? Where were the stories of breakthroughs and successes… the stories behind the movement? For certainly, sadness alone never made a movement. And a movement was needed then. And it’s needed now.  

Today, transgender and gender expansive people are facing attacks by lawmakers in the US—and across the world—that are curbing their ability to get necessary medical care, use the right restroom, and more. This spring session alone, there have already been over 400 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced. It’s a deluge.

The transgender and gender expansive community faces rates of unemployment and underemployment 3 and 4 times higher than the general population, enormous mental health strain, higher suicide rates, and other challenges. In the countries where Out & Equal does a lot of our global work, including India and Brazil, transgender people face some of the highest rates of violence in the world. So how can we find the joy and the celebration to offset the anxiety, the fear, the loss? TDOV is one answer.

So how can we find the joy and the celebration to offset the anxiety, the fear, the loss? TDOV is one answer.  

TDOV is a spark of joy. TDOV is the lighting of a flame of visibility that is almost non-existent. TDOV is the embodiment of strength standing up from—and standing up to—the most intense adversity imaginable. TDOV is the fullness of life, while also recognizing the depths of loss— disproportionate loss faced by transgender and gender expansive communities everywhere. TDOV is the optimism and joy that refuels each of us… that refuels a movement. And that refuel is exactly what is needed to navigate a highly divisive and seemingly unrelenting landscape of exclusion, erasure, and attack.

As a CEO of a global LGBTQ+ organization, and as the parent of a gender expansive child, and a Queer person myself, I want to tell you about the landscape of hope that I see…

Today, as Out & Equal celebrates its 25th anniversary, global workplaces are decidedly more inclusive than they were before we made the then, radical proposition, that no one should have to choose between being out and being equal in their place of work.

When we began, there were no Fortune 500 companies with full gender identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies—policies now broadly recognized as essential to workplace equality. Today, 9 in 10 Fortune 500 companies1 have these protections solidly in place.

Two-thirds of the Fortune 500 ensure transgender and gender expansive employees and dependents can get equitable medical care, including gender-affirming care under their healthcare plans2.

Hundreds of global businesses have adopted gender transition guidelines, pronoun guides, and work with Out & Equal on multi-lingual Learning and Development courses around the world to ensure that a transgender people leader in the US is treated with the same dignity as in Brazil or India or the UK.

Businesses have also risen to become some of the most vocal champions of transgender equality in the public square. In the US over 500 businesses support the Federal Equality Act3 and over 350 have spoken out as these anti-LGBTQ+ bills have snaked through the states. In Brazil, Out & Equal led a historic effort to counter virulently transphobic and homophobic political rhetoric with a business statement that more than 100 leading businesses signed and affirmed their support for our community, for fundamental decency and fairness. Behind these numbers are transgender and gender expansive people who told their stories. Who led by example, Who inspired others.

Behind these numbers are transgender and gender expansive people who told their stories. Who led by example. Who inspired others.

Just a few weeks ago, I got to welcome three of the most prominent transgender women in government to our Out & Equal Executive Forum stage in DC, including four-star general Admiral Rachel Levine and Minneapolis City Council President, Andrea Jenkins. This representation wasn’t so visible before—if visible at all. But now it is. And this is change. This is progress.

But of course, we have more work to do.

And we all—members of the Queer community and allies alike—can commit and follow through as upstanders with intentionally inclusive actions to pave the paths for more firsts, more celebrations, and much, much more joy. So that generations can hear about transgender and gender expansive people—not from headlines of horror—but as out and proud leaders in workplaces of all types and from news stories that celebrate the achievements of all people—including members of the transgender and gender expansive communities.

So, this TDOV let’s show up and let’s celebrate. Let’s honor transgender and gender expansive lives with inclusive action. Let’s—either for the first time, or once again—set our intentions to make meaningful and lasting change, in our workplaces and beyond. Change that values, includes, centers, and celebrates our transgender and gender expansive colleagues. Lastly, I sincerely hope that this year’s TDOV-inspired intentions and commitments are made easier and more impactful by the resources laid out below.

Yours in solidarity,
Erin Uritus and the Out & Equal Team

References 1-3: Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index