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Conn. organizations recognize Transgender Day of Visibility

A CCSU student holding a handmade sign that says "Protect Trans Lives" right before the protest against the screening of the documentary "What is a Woman?" Created by Matt Walsh.
Ayannah Brown
Connecticut Public
A student holds a handmade sign that says "Protect Trans Lives" during a protest on the campus of Central Connecticut State University in November 2022.

Friday is International Transgender Day of Visibility, and organizations in Connecticut will spend it celebrating the state’s trans community.

For Mel Cordner, the founder of Q Plus, an organization that provides programming for queer youth across Connecticut, it was a simple statement of acceptance that drove them to tears.

At a weekly activity group for queer teens in West Hartford, one member said the space was the first time they felt accepted for who they are, and almost everyone else agreed.

“I was like, ‘I have to go cry in the bathroom, I’ll be right back,’” Cordner said.

It’s an affirming space that Q Plus and other organizations across Connecticut hope to provide to the state’s LGBTQ community, especially on International Transgender Day of Visibility, held annually on March 31.

The day celebrates “the joy and resilience of trans and non-binary people everywhere by elevating voices and experiences from these communities,” the Human Rights Campaign said in a statement last year.

The celebration comes as anti-trans legislation is introduced and passed in states around the country, including five bills proposed in Connecticut this year targeting gender expression.

According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, “LGBTQ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support,” yet “fewer than 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth found their home to be gender-affirming.”

Cordner said that even for kids who grew up in supportive and affirming households, coming out can feel like revealing a secret, and spaces like Q Plus offer queer youth a place to be themselves.

“You can see people relax into it; you can see people start to open up,” they said. “We’ve had kids come who are like, ‘I’m only here ’cause my mom made me, and I’m never coming back,’ and they come every single week because, oh, it turns out this is actually a pretty cool place.”

Cordner made the distinction between Transgender Day of Visibility and Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed on Nov. 20. Trans Day of Remembrance is a “community funeral service” to honor those who died due to anti-trans violence. Transgender Day of Visibility, on the other hand, “gives us a happy day too, which sounds really sad, but that’s really what it is,” Cordner said.

Michael DeWolfe, the head of communications and events at Anchor Health, said that today, it’s more important than ever for trans people to be visible and have access to safe, affirming health care.

With offices in Hamden and Stamford, Anchor Health provides a variety of services focused on queer people, including gender-affirming care. According to DeWolfe, Anchor Health uses the term gender “affirmation,” rather than “transition.”

“We view the process as accepting who you’ve always been, rather than a transition from one sex to another,” he said.

Founded in 2016, more than half of the center’s 3,000 patients are transgender or gender diverse.

DeWolfe also started Anchor Health’s TikTok account, which today has nearly 35,000 followers. One post introducing the center went viral in February 2021, receiving over 1.3 million views. Supportive comments flooded in, saying, “This looks like heaven” and “I actually feel safe here.”

“It was exciting that it went viral, and it was really just powerful to see all the comments,” DeWolfe said, adding that since then they’ve tried to find a balance between sharing content on social media and safeguarding the staff members from anti-trans violence.

Organizers at the New Haven Pride Center are celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility with a streamed conversation between local trans community members and an event at Blue Orchid restaurant.

“We’re creating a really big community of network and support and visible programming that is representative of our community,” said Erycka Ortiz, New Haven Pride Center’s youth services coordinator.

The center offers programming and events as well as services like a food pantry and clothing closet. Ortiz said her goal is to “create space where people are seen in their identities and reflected in the conversations.”

Anchor Health and New Haven Pride Center will hold a joint trans ID clinic on April 26, an opportunity to review the process for changing name and gender markers on identifying documents.

Catherine Hurley is the Spring 2023 Gwen Ifill Integrity in News Intern.