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North County celebrates Transgender Visibility Day

REGION — Transgender Visibility Day was celebrated locally with a potluck picnic at Heritage Park in Oceanside on March 31.

The annual worldwide celebration supports the transgender community, raises awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people and honors accomplishments of trans people whose gender identity does not match their assigned gender at birth.

The local gathering was an upbeat event with music, games, a pie eating contest, a raffle and sharing of potluck dishes. This was the first year the North County LGBTQ Resource Center and city of Oceanside held a Transgender Visibility Day event.

Max Disposti, North County LGBTQ Resource Center founder and executive director, said the day focused on family fun, not politics.

“It’s more about people being together, bringing food and empowering trans folks in North County,” Disposti said.

The event was planned a year ago. Since then, President Donald Trump has tweeted about not allowing transgender people to serve in the military. Some Pentagon officials repeated that idea, which is cause for concern for the tens of thousands of transgender individuals serving our country, Disposti said.

Disposti said there is a lot of misunderstanding around transgender identity, including that Pentagon officials are considering a diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a reason not to allow transgender to serve.

Disposti said what officials do not understand is that the mental health condition is actually distress for transgendered people caused by lack of acceptance and not being able to present oneself as the gender that an individual identifies with. Discussed banning of transgender people from military service would further the condition in individuals, he said.

“It’s a trauma that can be overcome by a support system, they’re creating more hysteria,” Disposti said.

The city of Oceanside, which neighbors Camp Pendleton, wrote a resolution in support of transgender military personnel in January, following Trump’s initial tweets.

The city resolution includes the data that an estimated 15,500 transgender individuals served in military active duty, National Guard or Reserve in 2014, and 134,300 transgender are veterans or retired National Guard or Reserve.

Also following Trump’s tweet, 56 retired generals and admirals across the country stated their support for transgender who serve our country.

Transgender Visibility Day is a means to bring community members together to talk, share food and bridge understanding.

“It normalizes them,” Disposti said. “They’re mothers, fathers, kids, cousins, brothers, sisters — real people like everyone else.”

Disposti said the day went really well, and there were close to 100 people in attendance.

Some alarming statistics shared by Trans Student Educational Resources are 80 percent of trans students feel unsafe at school, and more than 58 percent of gender nonconforming students have experienced verbal harassment compared to 29 percent of their peers. The educational resources group also shared that 41 percent of trans people have attempted suicide.

This year’s international theme for Transgender Visibility Day was surviving, thriving, #TransThriving. The day was originated in 2010 by Rachel Crandall, cofounder of Transgender Michigan, to celebrate the transgender community in a positive light.