Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 4th November 2021

In the lead-up to Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday 20th of November – which memorializes victims of transphobic violence – the world marks Transgender Awareness Week. The celebration helps to raise the visibility of transgender people and addresses issues members of the community face on a daily basis. 

2021: A year in focus

Transgender Awareness Week is a good time to stop and take a look back at the year that’s been and the progress (if any) that’s been made. After the inactivity of 2020 forced on us by the pandemic, 2021 saw transgender rights come back into focus. Here are a few reasons to celebrate from around the world. 

  • In the UK there was a voluntary question added to the 2021 census which read “is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth?”. Surely a step in the right direction and a move toward official transgender recognition and NHS funding.

  • After the s*** show that was the Trump years, the Biden administration restored rights for transgender patients meaning that the Department of Health and Human Services will now prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.  Hallelujah. Under Trump, a policy put in place meant that anti-discrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 didn’t apply to transgender people. 

  • Spain backed a bill to allow teenagers to officially change their gender without the need for hormone treatment or a medical report. 

A reason to fight

The last year might have been very positive for transgender recognition and celebration, but progress isn’t linear and it’s an understatement to say that regressive attitudes still remain.  In fact, believe it or not, 2021 has been a record year in terms of anti-transgender legislation. By April this year, the U.S had already introduced over 100 bills that restricted the rights of transgender people. From the sports teams they can play on, to gender-affirming medical care, it seems that some people are hell-bent on stopping transgender people from living the lives they deserve and were born to live. 

Icons of the cause

There are generations of people before us who have been fighting for equal rights. Transgender Awareness Week is the perfect time to look back at all the people who have paved the way for LGBTQ+ individuals today.

  • Christine Jorgensen, a former WW2 veteran, became the first publicly recognized individual to undergo gender reassignment surgery in 1952.

  • Ian McKellen, Michael Cashman, and Lisa Power are the founders of Stonewall, a UK organization dedicated to campaigning for LQBTQ+ rights. They’ve campaigned for everything from same-sex marriage to LGBTQ+ people being accepted into the armed forces. 

  • Audre Lorde was an American poet and activist that dedicated her life to fighting against sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia. The Audre Lorde Project was set up in her memory and works to achieve mobilization, education, and capacity-building as well as community wellness and progressive social and economic justice.

  • Marsha P. Johnson was an American gay liberation activist and self-identified drag queen who went on to become an AIDS campaigner and carer during the ‘80s. 

Be the change that you want to see 

The more united we become in the pursuit of transgender recognition, the more likely we are to provoke change. So join that group, speak up against the discrimination that you see, consider the language you use, and in general, be a force for change in whatever community you’re part of. 

Some further resources on the transgender issue