(CNN)Today, transgender and nonbinary people around the world will recognize International Transgender Day of Visibility. With transgender visibility in the US at an all-time high in politics, media and sports, today is a day for allies and advocates to show up and show support.
Here’s what you should know. How did it start?Transgender Day of Visibility (or TDOV) was founded in 2009 by Rachel Crandall, a Michigan-based transgender activist and the Executive Director of Transgender Michigan. It was started as a day of awareness to celebrate the successes of transgender and gender-nonconforming people and is an important day for the LGBTQ community. While the Transgender Day of Remembrance (or TDOR) is held every year on November 20 to memorialize the transgender people who have lost their lives as a result of anti-transgender violence, TDOV is a day dedicated to honor and empower the lives of transgender and nonbinary people. Read MoreThe day is honored annually on March 31. The importance of transgender representationToday illustrates the importance of transgender representation worldwide, especially as transgender and gender-nonconforming people face risks every day. According to a recent Gallup poll, 11.3 percent of LGBT adults identify as transgender, yet when it comes to representation in the media, there are only 29 transgender characters across prime-time broadcast, cable, and streaming originals, according to media advocacy organization GLAAD. For the third year in a row, GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index also reported no transgender characters in a major movie.Elliot Page becomes first trans man to appear on Time magazine cover Here’s why it matters: Recent polls show that one-quarter of people in the US say they personally know someone who is transgender, meaning that the majority of Americans learn about the transgender community from what they see in entertainment media. Because of this, GLAAD says, it is imperative that entertainment media gets it right when talking about transgender stories. How to be a good allyHere are a few ways to support the transgender community today:Seek out stories by transgender creators. Seek out authentic stories and media that have been created by the transgender community, such as the Transgender Film Center, a non-profit organization that supports transgender filmmakers and their projects. Call your local LGBTQ center. See what kind of help they need, whether it be volunteering or offering a service that you’re good at. Educate yourself. Allies can start by learning the basic terminology surrounding the transgender community. For example, people often confuse sexual orientation and gender identity. There are many places online that share tips on how to be a good ally. Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adults Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsGloria, 70, Chicago – The image used on the cover of Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre’s forthcoming book, “To Survive on This Shore: Photographs and Interviews with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Older Adults.” Scroll through the gallery to see more images from the book, with quotes from the accompanying interviews.Hide Caption 1 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsBobbi, 83, Detroit – “I think people talk in either/or terms, right? Before transition and after. But to me, it’s really development. I’m proud of both lives. I’m proud of both ‘me’s, if you see what I’m saying. And I feel it has been a remarkable thing to have happened to a person. I’m grateful.”Hide Caption 2 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsD'Santi, 54, Santa Fe – “People need to know they’re not alone. Because that was my battle. For 50 years. I was in it by myself.”Hide Caption 3 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsDee Dee Ngozi, 55, Atlanta – “I’d go the clinic for my HIV, I would do stuff. I’d push patients, walk them to the car, sing church songs. I was just having a ball while I was waiting for my appointment. And a guy saw me one day who ran an agency, and he said, ‘Miss Dee Dee, you work down here?’ I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘I got a job for you.’ And that was God just setting me in right there in that clinic with my own desk and I was my own boss. I could go to work as myself.”Hide Caption 4 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsDuchess Milan, 69, Los Angeles – “I just know I’m me. I don’t think in terms of names and forms and all that. It doesn’t matter. I’m just myself and that’s who I am. I am at peace with myself. It is the most wonderful feeling in the world, because you’re never in a hurry to get somewhere, you know, to prove to anyone that you’re who you know you are.”Hide Caption 5 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsGrace, 56, Boston – “I still see myself as on a journey. When I received an award a few years ago at a conference I said, ‘In the ’60s they called me a sissy. In the ’70s they called me a f****t. In the ’80s I was a queen. In the ’90s I was transgender. In the 2000s I was a woman, and now I’m just Grace’.”Hide Caption 6 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsHank, 76, and Samm, 67, North Little Rock – Samm: “Hank and I have been together 44 years. We met after her time in the military, through some Chicago lesbians I had met … She was different from anybody I have ever met in my whole life and I knew that she would be in my life for the rest of my life. There was this immediate connection that would always be there. The way we are today, we started out that way.”Hide Caption 7 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsJay, 59, New York – “I got cancer and I was facing discrimination where doctors wouldn’t even give me my biopsy results. The man who was supposed to be my breast surgeon wanted to send me out to psychiatry. Wanted to send me to psychiatry before giving me any breast cancer care! And he didn’t even call me to give me my biopsy results. I didn’t even know that I was sick for a long time.”Hide Caption 8 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsLee Anne, 64, McClellanville – “You have to have a thick skin to survive in the South being transgender. Unfortunately, I know too many who don’t. And most of them are young. I think that over the years, I’ve developed this thick skin because it’s either that or die.”Hide Caption 9 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsJude, 75, Yuba City – “In school, we were forced to wear dresses. Even if the snow was two feet deep, you couldn’t come to school in pants. I was mortified on a daily basis that I had to dress the way I did. In high school, other adults began to pick at me and be cruel. When I was a junior, the teacher gave me an F in gym. I was a straight-A student and an excellent athlete. She gave me an F in gym because I wouldn’t take showers, but I wouldn’t take showers because I didn’t want to expose myself publicly with the body I had.”Hide Caption 10 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsPreston, 52, East Haven – “When I was younger and I looked in the mirror, I saw a boy. And I remember when I came out to my parents, my mother was like, ‘I always knew that there was something a little different,’ but she didn’t know what. I was born in 1964, so my parents, being born and raised down south, they had no idea whether it was transgender or gay or lesbian or anything. And so now we know what it is.”Hide Caption 11 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsSky, 64, Palm Springs – “I failed miserably as a lesbian. I had sex with too many men. So it just wasn’t right. I moved to San Francisco in 1986 and became very involved in the women’s SM community. I am one of the founders of International Ms. Leather. I had to hide being a trans man for a while because I thought they would take my ‘card’ away. Well, I finally committed and said, ‘This is not right.’ So that’s when I began to transition and never looked back.”Hide Caption 12 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsSueZie, 51, and Cheryl, 55, Valrico – SueZie: “Years of self-administering hormones caused a complication that threatened my chances for surgery. I said to Cheryl, ‘I’ll die as female. Nothing is stopping that surgery.” If there was a 95% chance of failure, of dying on the operating table, that was a risk I was willing to take. I could not go on how I was. My greatest challenge, it came from within. It was having the confidence to face the world out there.”Hide Caption 13 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsCassandra, 50, San Diego – “I’m a trans woman. I’ve always identified as female, but it took a while to get to that point, because I am originally from the Caribbean and the church is very strong there. I always knew that I was different. I remember going through puberty and asking my mom, ‘How come I don’t have breasts?’ and she said, ‘Well, it’s because you’re a boy.’ That didn’t seem right to me. It just didn’t match.”Hide Caption 14 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsStephanie, 64, St. Louis – “Even though I’ve transitioned, I can’t deny or completely separate myself from the past because it did happen and those memories are with me. It wasn’t until I got into my 50s that, through internet research, I discovered there was a name for all this. It was a great relief. “Hide Caption 15 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsSukie, 59, New York – “In the Hispanic community, you know, a lot of cisgender men, they don’t take trans very easy. So that’s why I just make sure I’m careful. It’s really a safety issue. I don’t trust too much. Being Hispanic, I have to be more masculine.”Hide Caption 16 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsVanessa, 51, Atlanta – ” I joined the military when I was 19 and did six years. I was a woman on the weekends. I looked forward to getting my hotel room and being Vanessa. And six years of weekends, you know, it just got old. The reason I didn’t stay in the military was because I had to be Vanessa full-time.”Hide Caption 17 of 18 Photos: Portraits depict 'struggles and joys' of older transgender adultsCaprice, 55, Chicago – “Before trans was even labeled as trans, it was sissy. I was a sissy. But my mother knew enough to be supportive … I was like, ‘Well, you know, I’m living as a girl now.’ And my mother said, ‘We are not going to say living ‘as’ a girl. We are going to say you are living in your womanhood, your sisterhood. It gives you power, it gives you authenticity’.”Hide Caption 18 of 18Many transgender people are happy to discuss their experience, but allies shouldn’t always assume that’s the case. There are so many resources out there to help you if you want to learn more about the community and how to be supportive.
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