A conversation on Pride Month, belonging, and allyship

June 16, 2021 : H&R Block

For Rachel Crandall Crocker, LMSW, executive director and co-founder of Transgender Michigan, the idea for the organization was born out of a desire for change after being fired from her position as a psychotherapist just for being trans. For years she says she had run away from being trans, but eventually, she began to own her true self in the face of discrimination.

“I got the idea for Transgender Michigan so it wouldn’t have to happen to anyone else,” said Rachel.  

She co-founded the nonprofit nearly 25 years ago, with her wife Susan Crocker. Susan Crocker, EA, wears multiple hats—she’s the operations director at Transgender Michigan and a master tax advisor, who has been with H&R Block for 24 years. The two created Transgender Michigan with a mission to give transgender and gender non-conforming communities a place to connect, to provide advocacy and support for those communities, and education for those looking to learn.

In Susan’s telling of the history of Transgender Michigan, Rachel was very enthusiastic about wanting to do something and create an organization that solved all the problems the transgender community faced around the world.

But they ultimately knew they had to start somewhere smaller. Susan saw another movement doing a calendar of events so the organization adopted their own calendar of transgender events across Michigan.

“It took a half-page and it covered three months – it’s grown a lot since then,” said Susan.

Susan and Rachel laughed thinking about just how much the organization, and the calendar, has grown since its inception. Their nonprofit also launched a helpline, the very first trans helpline in the U.S. Rachel, who as a psychotherapist also leads the helpline team, says right away people were calling for resources, or to share stories of discrimination they faced. They also heard from professionals and companies looking for resources and help in their efforts to support associates.

Today, in addition to the helpline and the calendar, Transgender Michigan also offers a directory of trans-friendly businesses and health professionals, a speaker program, and a community of local chapters across the state that give local transgender individuals a social space to connect.

Building international support for the transgender community

“Even I was surprised by how much it was catching on, and I’m a dreamer.”

– Rachel Crandall Crocker, LMSW, executive director and co-founder of Transgender Michigan

In 2009, Rachel created the International Transgender Day of Visibility out of her desire to focus on trans rights all over the world. “There was another day, and it was called International Transgender Day of Remembrance, and that’s when we remember our trans sisters and brothers who were killed just for being trans. However, I wanted a day that we could celebrate the living and a day that we could all come together—people from all over the world. And that’s really what my idea was.”

At the time, they didn’t anticipate how much it would catch on. In fact, Susan thought that by calling it “International,” they’d only get interest from nearby Windsor, Ontario. But things took off and today, the celebration has grown from Michigan as far as Uganda and Vietnam.

“Even I was surprised by how much it was catching on, and I’m a dreamer,” said Rachel.

The day is celebrated annually on March 31 and attention is growing. Just this year, Rachel, its founder, was interviewed with CNN and USA Today. In the 25 years since the start of Transgender Michigan, Rachel and Susan say they have seen great growth in the number of available resources and new organizations for the transgender community.

Finding a sense of Belonging

At H&R Block, Susan joined COLORS (Community Organizing for LGBTQ+ Opportunity, Resources and Support), a Belonging group at H&R Block, when it first formed. Later this month, Susan and Rachel both will speak on a virtual panel, with Michele Bettencourt, an experienced technology business leader, for H&R Block associates and the KC community as one of COLORS’ Pride activities to educate, engage, and support associates.

For those looking to celebrate and support pride as an ally, Rachel recommends taking action and being a positive force in educating others.

“Some people call themselves allies, however, they really are still in the closet with it,” she said. “We’re asking a lot of allies to come out of the closet. And to really own being allies and educating other people so we can have more allies.”

For those looking for ways to celebrate Pride Month we recommend some of the following actions: read articles like “What is Gender: A Tool to Understand Gender Identity” or “12 Diversity & Inclusion Terms You Need to Know” and learn by visiting Transgender Michigan for more about their resources, helpline, and other services.

“We’re asking a lot of allies to come out of the closet. And to really own being allies and educating other people so we can have more allies.”

– Rachel Crandall Crocker

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