International Transgender Day of Visibility 2023

Each year on 31st March, International Transgender Day of Visibility is recognised across the world. Started by activist Rachel Crandall in 2009, TDOV is a day of significance to acknowledge and celebrate the living members of the transgender & gender diverse community.

To celebrate TDOV this year, DEFGLIS asked five of our amazing transgender & gender diverse members to share what visibility means to them, and what allies can do to support the community. Here’s what they said, in their own words.

What does “visibility” and TDOV mean to you? 

Our members all shared the positive impact that visibility has on the community, both for other transgender & gender diverse people and for the cisgender people in our workplaces or social lives.

Current-serving RAAF member Amethyst Armstrong (she/her) reflected on the impact of trans visibility in the workplace, “visibility shows people we are everywhere. Particularly as a trans person in uniform, the general perception is we don’t exist and I like changing that perception”

Several people reflected on their experience growing up without positive representation of trans people in the media, or trans role models to look up to.

Navy member Hugh Hutchison (he/him) has been involved with DEFGLIS for five years. He says, “Growing up, the only LGBTQIA+ people I knew were Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John, and the only trans people were characters being made fun of in shows like Friends… I often wonder how different my life would be if I’d grown up with these stories and role models, showing me all the things I could do and be as an adult.”

Jesse (they/he/she), a current-serving Army member, shared similar thoughts, “Visibility to me is about acceptance and integration. I spent 30 years growing up in social settings where trans and gender diverse people were not present, were ridiculed or regarded as a perversion, or were kept secret in order to not bring shame on the group. Visibility to me is about acceptance that we are trans, across the full gender diversity spectrum, and that it is acceptable and celebrated to be who we are as trans people wherever we fall along that spectrum”

Ex-Navy member Hayley Davie (she/they) also said, “I had almost no visible trans adults in my sphere growing up. As I’ve gotten older, it was those trans people who’d made the choice to be visible, especially online on social media and were thriving that helped me to understand that maybe I could do this too. I wasn’t alone. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Current-serving RAAF member Lucy (she/her) shared the two meanings of visibility she sees as a trans person in Defence. “Firstly, visibility is paramount in empowering others to be able to truly embrace their full selves both at work and in personal life… Secondly, visibility is crucial for the cultural and systematic reform that will bring equality to TGD members not just in Defence, but in wider society too. By being visible, we remind people that are not TGD themselves that we exist, and our struggles are relevant”

Do you have an example of when you felt visible as a trans/gender diverse person?

Amethyst felt visible from early after she began transitioning. “The overwhelmingly positive and supportive response from my workplace and wider airforce when I came out. The training provided to HQJOC by DEFGLIS was amazing and really seemed to dispel a lot of angst amongst staff.”

Sometimes visibility can be challenging for the TGD community. But the members we talked to largely focused on the strong and positive impact that their own visibility can have on other trans people.

Hugh said, “While some days I struggle with being visible, being a role model, I know what a positive impact seeing someone who is openly trans can have on people. I know the impact of someone just talking to a trans person for the first time and understanding we are the same as everyone else, and not something to fear.

Jesse reflected on some of the challenges visibility brings, and how he chooses to respond to them, “Some people are ignorant or just don’t respond very well. I’ve had colleagues who just don’t know how to react or clearly don’t agree with who I am and how I present. My approach is simply to love people and take an educational view with them.”

Hayley was able to identify a specific time that her own visibility helped another community member in their career, “While I worked at recruiting, before I was public [about my identity], I mentored a visibly trans candidate. By becoming visible, I was able to share my experience and answer questions they probably would not have asked just anybody.”

Jesse has also experienced the difference her visibility has made in the life of others, sharing this story, “The most meaningful to me was earlier this year when a female colleague said in front of my partner, ‘I am so thankful for you showing up to work everyday and being who you authentically are as a person, because it allows me to come to work everyday and be who I authentically am as a woman and a leader’.”

Lucy found that coming out at her unit provided the opportunity for other people to do the same. “I had come out to the wider unit I was approached by two other TGD members who were looking for advice on how to do the same! While it was an incredibly stressful experience, the fact that I had potentially paved the way and made it easier for other members to come after me was such an amazing feeling.” Now, that she recognises the significance of visibility, she focuses on using that to help others. “Since I have come out, I have been attending every event that I can and am constantly networking. I am also starting to do my best to give back to the community, through which DEFGLIS has been an amazing conduit.”

What do you want allies of the TGD community to think about or do this TDOV? 

To allies, Amethyst says “Loudly love the transgender & gender diverse people in your life”

Hugh encourages allies to get educated and involved with the community, “join an ally or LGBTI support network in your community or workplace, and ask questions”.

Jesse provided a call for allies to be conscious of their actions and behaviour to ensure everybody can feel included, “the best thing we can do is make a space for everyone in all of our social circles and communities”.

Another theme was allies acknowledging the privilege and influence that they carry, and how important it is to use this to lighten the burden on TGD members. From Lucy, “[a] draining experience of being visible is suddenly becoming the Subject Matter Expert (SME) for all things TGD. While people have been quite respectful with their questions in regards to my own journey, command and co-workers have leaned quite heavily on me for advice in dealing with other TGD people that they may encounter. While I don’t mind – mostly because there’s not really anyone else to do it at the moment – it does get tiring and it is not necessarily sustainable”.

Hayley also recognised the stress experienced by many TGD people with increased media scrutiny and public pressure in recent months. She asks allies to “check in with us, support us, and help spread the word to those outside the community that we’re normal people who just want to exist and live our lives”.

For more information on events being held today across the country, see the LGBTQI+ Health Australia website: