10 times trans and non-binary people showed strength, resilience and made history in the last year

10 incredible times trans people showed strength and made history

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.

Mickey Mahoney, Lilly Wachowski, Alexandra Grey, Rain Valdez, Leo Sheng, Producer Amy Scholder, Jazzmun Crayton, Director Sam Feder, Zackary Drucker, Nick Adams, Trace Lysette, Jen Richards, Yance Ford, Tre’Vell Anderson and Zeke Smith at the Sundance premiere of Disclosure. (Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Mauree Turner became the first non-binary state lawmaker in US history

Mauree Turner, a Democratic community organiser and queer Muslim, won election to district 88 in Oklahoma City in November, winning out over Republican Kelly Barlean.

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”.

Mauree Turner, a Black queer Muslim state House candidate in Oklahoma

Mauree Turner. (Mauree for House District 88)

Torrey Peters was first trans woman long-listed for Women’s Prize

Torrey Peters novel Detransition, Baby was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this month, making history as the first openly trans woman to be on the list.

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.”

Torrey Peters on Sex and the City and her novel Detransition, Baby

Torrey Peters, author of ‘Detransition, Baby’. (Profile Books)

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.

Petra De Sutter: Belgium will legally recognise non-binary people

Petra De Sutter said non-binary people have been “overlooked” by Begium’s existing gender-recognition laws. (HATIM KAGHAT/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

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.”

Stonewall hero and trans elder Miss Major welcomes 'juicy, happy baby'

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy in MAJOR!, the 2015 documentary about her life. (Floating Ophelia Productions)

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”.

Chase Strangio with Laverne Cox and Sara Ramirez outside the US Supreme Court as the Court holds oral arguments in three cases dealing with workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

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.”

Bangladesh: First trans TV news anchor part of push to 'change attitudes'

Tashnuva Anan Shishir during her first broadcast at a news studio in Dhaka on March 8, 2021. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

10 incredible times trans people showed strength and made history

Ginny Lemon and Bimini Bon Boulash. (BBC)

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.

10 incredible times trans people showed strength and made history

Two new Brazilian lawmakers: Linda Brasil (L) and Erika Hilton. (Supplied/Rafael Canoba)

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.

10 incredible times trans people showed strength and made history

Elliot Page. (Instagram)