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ISU's Queer Coalition hosts first, large public event on Trans Day of Visibility

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The sky was gray, dark and giving a precipitation crossed between rain and snow, but for a brief period on Thursday afternoon, parts of Illinois State University and the Circle at Uptown Normal were dotted with vivid color and rainbows as ISU's Queer Coalition held its first public event.

The Queer Coalition at ISU has been formally in existence since 2020, but with the COVID-19 pandemic arriving in earnest that year, public gatherings were put on hold. That the first one occurred on the 10th annual Transgender Day of Visibility was not a coincidence.

"The more monumental part of it is the reason for doing it: Acknowledging the need to celebrate, especially in this current climate we're living through," Queer Coalition co-president Byron Craig said. "I would say that's the biggest reason for doing it, but certainly it's wonderful for everyone to get together. "

Transgender Day of Visibility differs from a similarly named holiday in November, called Transgender Day of Remembrance. The November holiday, which occurs on the 20th, is more about remembering people who lost their lives due to anti-trans violence.

The Day of Visibility is more about pride and celebration. In that spirit, a little more than two dozen people ended up gathered in Uptown Circle Thursday evening, after a "Sashay through Uptown Normal." Another co-president of the group, Gavin Weiser, said the act of being oneself, and taking joy in oneself, are acts of resistance — a fact pointed to after noting a rise in anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments and legislation across the country.

"It's a way of publicly being out there, showing folks that we're here, we're queer — as the old saying goes — and that there's some solidarity and community here," Weiser said. "It's important to note that while Bloomington-Normal isn't necessarily very rural, it's not a big city. We're not Chicago, New York, Miami or Atlanta — most of those spaces have a very vibrant trans and queer community. But rural trans and queer people need community as well. We're really honored and happy to help support that and facilitate community-building."

ISU graduate student Farhia Osman said when she found out the Queer Coalition was celebrating Trans Day of Visibility, she was "immediately like, 'I am keeping my Thursday afternoon open to celebrate... and to show up and be here as an ally."

Her friend, another graduate student who asked to go by the initials L.R. for safety reasons, said public support from allies is crucial.

"There are people in your life who you might not know are trans or non-binary," they said. "So being an ally or being that person that they could open up to because of public support — this is an important thing to do."

Craig added that while the holiday is a valuable marker and moment of expression, it's important that the aspect of visibility doesn't stop and the end of one holiday.

"This notion of visibility and invisibility is really important to me, because as a Black, queer man, I deal with this kind of double indemnity on my body, this invisibility that I'm constantly having to deal with," Craig said. "Anytime a group can get together and show our joy in the magic that we have, I think that's a very special moment. This day is extremely important, but I think every day we need to be acknowledging these things."

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