10 times trans and non-binary people showed strength, resilience and made history in the last year
Every year on Trans Day of Visibility, we celebrate transness and uplift trans and non-binary people around the world.
Visibility has played an important part in some big steps forward for trans and non-binary communities in the past year: record numbers of trans politicians were elected in the US elections; Elliot Page came out, becoming one of the most famous trans people in the world, and immediately began advocating for young trans people; Belgium and Spain were among the countries that began working to strengthen trans civil rights; Bangladesh’s first openly trans TV news anchor set out to change attitudes; and Pakistan opened its first Islamic school for trans students.
At the same time, right-wing governments, trans-hostile media and transphobes ramped up their attacks on trans and non-binary people. Male violence meant more trans women were murdered in the US than ever before, with trans women of colour particularly affected. Trans kids became a focal point for conservatives, seeing their access to healthcare, bathrooms and sports teams threatened.
Living through these times as a trans person can be tough. But alongside this, trans and non-binary people have shown strength, resilience and love for each other. Here are 10 truly incredible moments for trans people in the last year.
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
Sam Feder’s documentary about Hollywood’s depiction of trans people was released by Netflix in June 2020, weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that it’s illegal to fire workers for being gay or trans and as Black Lives Matter protests spread across the US in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Going back over 100 years of movies, Disclosure shows how badly trans people have been represented: as grotesque, freakish, frightening. The stories told about trans people – exclusively by cis directors – have generated mistrust and misunderstanding about what it means to be trans.
The documentary was a hard watch, but ultimately helped spark change, as Feder and producer Amy Scholder told PinkNews in December.
Mauree Turner became the first non-binary state lawmaker in US history
Turner’s campaign was centred on criminal justice reform, and the candidate is fighting to repair “an industrial prison complex that’s built on revenge and punishment rather than rehabilitation”.
Torrey Peters was first trans woman long-listed for Women’s Prize
Peters’ nomination comes after organisers clarified in 2020 that the Women’s Prize for Fiction was open to any “cis woman, a transgender woman or anyone who is legally defined as a woman or of the female sex”. This clarification was prompted by non-binary author Akwaeke Emezi – who was nominated in 2019 for their novel Freshwater – saying they would not submit future works after they were told information on their “sex as defined by law” would be required to enter their new book, The Death of Vivek Oji.
Peters said she was “indebted” to Emezi. “I was eligible this year due to work by those before me – especially Akwaeke Emezi,” Peters said. “Once again, I am indebted to a sacrifice made by a Black trans person. Congratulations to my fellow long-listers.”
Petra De Sutter, newly the most senior trans politician in Europe, vowed to introduce legal recognition for non-binary people
Belgian deputy prime minister Petra De Sutter, now the most senior trans politician in Europe and Belgian’s first trans minister, vowed to reform gender recognition laws in Belgium to include non-binary people.
Elected in October, De Sutter is a Green politician and a gynaecologist and fertility expert at the University of Ghent. She was elected to the European Parliament last year where she was chair of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection.
De Sutter known for her activism around sexual and reproductive health and on trans issues.
Miss Major reminded us of the power of intergenerational wisdom – and had a baby
The Stonewall riots veteran and long-time trans activist spoke out in the wake of the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement about the importance of including trans people.
“It has to include everybody, or nobody is going to get saved,” she said of the Black Lives Matter movement. “There’s always that nagging suspicion that it doesn’t include my community and that I’ve got to make sure that it does.”
In January, Miss Major and her partner Beck welcomed a new baby into their lives. “We had a baby! Asiah Wittenstein Major was born on sat, 1/9/21 (rhymes with messiah),” Miss Major said. “A 9lb 8oz 21 inches juicy happy baby… Beck and I are just beaming over this little guy.”
Supreme Court rules it’s illegal to fire workers for being trans
This landmark case, brought by trans woman Aimee Stephens who tragically died before hearing the outcome, saw gay and trans workers protected for the very first time.
Chase Strangio, the ACLU lawyer who defended trans rights in the historic case, described his experience of being in the courtroom as a trans person defending trans rights as “a combination of dread, gratitude, determination and sadness”.
Bangladesh’s first openly trans TV news anchor wants to ‘change attitudes’
Tashnuva Anan Shishir made history with her first three-minute broadcast for Boishakhi TV on International Women’s Day (8 March).
The 29-year-old previously worked as an activist and actress, and will continue to study public health at a Dhaka university alongside her new job at Boishakhi TV.
After reading her first broadcast, Shishir cried as colleagues clapped and cheered. Tipu Alam Milon, the station’s deputy managing director, said: “Our prime minister has taken many steps for the transgender people. Encouraged by such steps, we have appointed two transgender people. We want the attitude of society to change through these appointments.”
Drag Race UK‘s Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon on being non-binary
After opening up about their feelings around being non-binary, Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon were praised by fans for bringing the conversation onto a national platform.
Drag Race UK fans were moved by the exchange and thrilled to see the non-binary experience being given such a powerful platform.
After the episode aired, Bimini revealed that a number of fans had been in touch to say they’d come out as non-binary to their families after watching.
Trans politicians broke new ground in Brazil
Brazil held its local elections 15 November, 2020, and in the midst of a pandemic and with an openly anti-LGBT+ far-right federal government, the results indicated a growing presence of LGBT+ activists from the most diverse political parties and spectres.
In the country that kills the most trans people in the world, 25 trans people were elected, an increase of 212 per cent compared to previous local elections in 2016. The number is undoubtedly small if we consider that more than 56,000 councillors were elected, but it cannot be simply dismissed.
Trans candidates managed to increase their presence nationally and still rank among the most voted in some state capitals.
Elliot Page came out as trans
In December, Elliot Page came out as trans and became (probably) the most famous trans person in the world. He immediately began using his platform to advocate for trans young people.
In his first interview since coming out, he told Time magazine that he feels “true excitement and deep gratitude” to have made it to “this point in my life”.
He shared how there were “no examples” of trans men for Page to look up to while growing up in Halifax, Canada in the 1990s. But there is hope that Page will now be able to change that for future generations.