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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Transgender Day of Visibility observed locally, nationally
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2016-04-06

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The 2016 International Transgender Day of Visibility ( TDOV ) met and exceeded its March 31 goal.

The hashtag #TDOV began trending early on Twitter with supportive tweets from organizations including the Black Youth Project ( BYP ) 100, The Trevor Project, TED Talks, It Gets Better and the American Civil Liberties Union. The hashtag is estimated to have reached 6.2 million people according to the tracking website Keyhole.

Chicago trans activist Meggan Sommerville and her ally Pamela Valentine were thrilled with the response to the MoreThanVisibility campaign which resulted in multiple bloggers airing their thoughts on the event's Facebook page including a man from Ireland who posted a video of him coming out to his family. Approximately 1.8 million people internationally were reached with the hashtag MoreThanVisibility between March 30 and April 1.

"For the first time doing something like this we saw great success," Sommerville told Windy City Times. "We set out to have bloggers and social media people reach out to their audiences and we achieved that. Our allies stepped up and talked about their experiences. For a larger audience to understand who the trans community is and the issues that we face is always rewarding."

TDOV events were held across the country in cities such as Philadelphia; San Francisco; Omaha, Nebraska; Palm Springs, California; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

In Charlotte. North Carolina, despite the recent passage of dehumanizing anti-transgender legislation, the Wells Fargo building was lit up in the colors of the transgender flag.

The light of visibility was seen across Europe and reached as far as Australia.

Closer to home, The Center on Halsted celebrated the day by playing host to a performance from ResonaTe—described on their website as Chicago's first and only choir for trans singers.

Founded by vocalist and voice teacher Liz Jackson Hearns, musician and artistic director Zakary Siler and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Chicago State University Das Janssen, ResonaTe aims to "create a safe, engaging and creative environment for trans singers to develop confidence and community through vocal education."

Even though it is still in its formative stages, ResonaTe has already taken enormous steps in the accomplishment of that mission as demonstrated at the Center's March 31 event when nine of its members performed an hour-long program that included Kiki Dee's I've Got the Music in Me, Carole King's I Feel the Earth Move and the 17th Century English ballad Scarborough Fair.

Despite the evening marking the first public performance of ResonaTe, the choir betrayed no sign of nerves as they performed with an enthusiastic gusto and liberated joy that quickly radiated through the audience.

Members not only sang solos but talked candidly about their experiences as transgender individuals and members of ResonaTe.

"As you may have gathered, I am trans," Lee Hanten said. "That is a sentence that has taken me a very long time to articulate. I don't like defining myself as trans. I think this is true for every trans person I know, the fact that we're trans is the least interesting thing about us."

He added that he has been a part of ResonaTe since October of last year. Joining the group has already had a significant impact on his life.

"Whenever a big life change happens to me, I forget how to be a person," he said. "So having something to do every single week became a staple. Rain or shine, somehow choir managed to get me out of bed and feeling like a human with people who care. I'm not as afraid to sing in front of people anymore, my voice is a little more under control but, more than any of those things, I have friends."

"This is a really great opportunity for us to participate with the broader community in a beautiful way," Siler said. "We've all become friends. We are a really lovely, disparate group of people."

"Zachary and I are both very big dreamers," Jackson Hearns added. "So one of our big hopes is for ResonaTe to become a voice care center, specifically for the sake of being visible."

There is no doubt that "for the sake of being visible" has become a need of vital importance if only to counter the diabolical narratives about transgender people being utilized by the right wing in order to terrify the populace into supporting bills designed to strip transgender individuals of their rights and erode their humanity.

The TDOV is one day when such narratives are combated. But, according to Sommerville, it is not enough.

"This needs to be more than just once a year," she said. "This needs to happen on a regular basis."

For more information about ResonaTe, visit Resonatechoir.org .


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