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Founder of International Transgender Day of Visibility shares her story, insights on the day

March 31, 2024
Photo by Aryanna Dorsey | The State News

International Transgender Day of Visibility is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary on March 31. Its creation is attributed to founder of Michigan's first transgender organization and MSU alumna Rachel Crandall-Crocker. 

International Transgender Day of Visibility serves to educate and illuminate the struggles and triumphs of transgender individuals, fostering connections among trans-identifying people and allies for a brighter future, Crandall-Crocker said. It aims to dispel misconceptions and provide hope and truth, particularly for transgender youth.

“I really believe that this day helps people connect with one another,” Crandall-Crocker said. “That’s one reason I created this day, so we don’t have to feel lonely anymore.”

From a young age, Crandall-Crocker said she struggled with her transgender identity. Living in a small, rural town in Michigan made it seem impossible to live the life she desired.

After years of cross-dressing in the privacy of her home and seeking community in transgender support groups, she said she finally came out to her family and her wife at the time.

The backlash Crandall-Crocker experienced following her transition was both profound and devastating. Forced out of her job and marriage and ostracized by her community, she found herself grappling with isolation and despair. It was during this tumultuous period that Crandall-Crocker said she discovered the power of advocacy and community organizing.

Since coming out, Crandall-Crocker has been actively involved in protests against anti-transgender legislation at both state and federal levels.

Fourteen years ago, she embarked on initiating an international day dedicated to transgender visibility.

“I came up with the idea, I picked the date, I held the first events and I contacted trans-leaders all over the world,” Crandall-Crocker said. “It was really wonderful.”

Initially met with slow recognition, the day gradually gained momentum. Crandall-Crocker was working day in and day out to ensure the day was being recognized and celebrated. She was constantly getting in contact with transgender leaders across the world, connecting with local bodies of government and figuring out the minute details to make it work.

Crandall-Crocker wanted to make sure that the day was far enough away from Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is recognized on November 20, to ensure there was minimal confusion and gave ample time for individuals to process both days. 

As the years went on, Crandall-Crocker says more and more nations and people have begun to celebrate the Transgender Day of Visibility.

“Transgender Day of Visibility is like my baby,” Crandall-Crocker said. “I’m so immensely proud of the work I’ve done.”

Before Transgender Day of Visibility, Crandall-Crocker created Transgender Michigan: the first transgender organization in Michigan.

Transgender Michigan, founded by Crandall-Crocker and her spouse Susan Crocker in 1997, fills a crucial gap by providing support, education and resources statewide. The married couple saw a desperate need for an organization that unites transgender individuals statewide. 

Transgender Michigan acts as a gathering place for people to educate themselves on transgender history, find upcoming community events and get in contact with support and help anywhere across the state.

The non-profit offers many different services within itself. Its helpline serves as the most popular service, but they also offer a Speaker Program where they will provide customized presentation panels and workshops to classes, workplaces and groups about transgender issues, history and general education. Another popular service is their annual transgender health fair that helps educate and provide for the underserved community.

Through her work with Transgender Michigan, Crandall-Crocker has created a safe and inclusive space for transgender individuals to find support and community. Whether through the organization's helpline, support groups or educational programs, she said Transgender Michigan has played a crucial role in improving the lives of transgender people across the state.

“Susan and I created the organization together,” Crandall-Crocker said. “We met in a crossdressers support group and it was love.”

Susan Crocker acts as the operations manager for Transgender Michigan and supports Crandall-Crocker in all her endeavors. Together, the couple has spoken at rallies, organized protests and has connected thousands of Michigan transgender residents with support and access to gender-affirming care.

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Crandall-Crocker remains committed to advancing transgender rights despite challenges posed by anti-trans legislation and upcoming elections. Her dedication extends to expanding International Transgender Day of Visibility to foster greater collaboration and support worldwide.

In recognition of her contributions, Crandall-Crocker has received numerous awards and accolades for her work in transgender advocacy. This upcoming November, she will be awarded by the MSU Alumni Association with the Grand Alumni Award. However, she remains humble, stating that her greatest reward is knowing that she has made a positive difference in the lives of others.

Despite the progress that has been made, Crandall-Crocker acknowledges that the fight for transgender rights is far from over. In recent years, the transgender community has faced unprecedented challenges—from discriminatory legislation to targeted violence. Now more than ever, she believes it is essential to stand up and speak out against injustice.

By amplifying the voices of transgender individuals and allies, she hopes to create a world where all people are accepted and celebrated for who they are.

As International Transgender Day of Visibility approaches its fifteenth anniversary, Crandall-Crocker remains committed to the cause that she holds dear. Through her continued advocacy and activism, she hopes to inspire future generations of transgender leaders and allies. By amplifying marginalized voices and demanding change, she said that a more just and equitable world is within reach.

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