At 8 years old, her parents told her to hide who she was. Here's why she didn't listen.

If you met Rachel Crandall-Crocker today, it would be hard to believe there was a time when this outspoken transgender activist was afraid to raise her voice.

But in 1966, eight-year-old Rachel was terrified to speak her truth. That’s because, even at a young age, Rachel understood that coming out as transgender could be dangerous.

Back then, society was even more hostile towards trans people, and there were very few (if any) resources for the transgender community — especially in Michigan, where Rachel grew up.


At first, Rachel was hopeful that her parents might accept her. But their response was devastating.

“Their reaction was, ‘I never want you to say that out loud ever again,’” Rachel told a crowd in Grand Rapids last April. They told her that being transgender was one of the worst and “dirtiest” things a person could be, shattering her self-esteem for decades to come.

Photo via YouTube.

Faced with this stark reality, Rachel made a devastating choice: to keep herself safe, she stayed in the closet. And all the while, she held onto that first reaction from her parents and struggled with shame and self-hatred.

“A lot of [trans people] were so lonely, isolated,” she explained last April. “A lot of us were killing ourselves, honestly.”

But Rachel couldn’t hide from herself forever. As she got older, she started dressing like a woman in secret, testing the waters. And when she began leaving the house dressed this way, she finally realized she could no longer live a lie.

Rachel came out again in 1994, and she emerged not only as the woman she had been all along, but as an unstoppable advocate for her community.

She wanted to make the world better for others like her, who’d struggled in silence for too long.

That’s why, in 1997, she founded Transgender Michigan. She wanted to create an organization that empowered transgender people, and let them know they weren’t alone.

Photo via Rachel Crandall-Crocker.

The organization has grown immensely since its founding. It offers trainings around gender diversity and education for cisgender and transgender people alike, with local chapters across the state bringing communities together. It also has a helpline for trans people — the very first in the United States — offering support for those in crisis.

In 2009, her organization even gained international recognition when Rachel founded Transgender Day of Visibility.

Up until that point, “Transgender Day of Remembrance” was one of the only days that trans people recognized, but it only honored trans people who had died. Rachel saw a need to create an event that also celebrated those who were living, bringing trans people together and inspiring hope.

Transgender Day of Visibility began with a simple Facebook post, but Rachel’s idea spread like wildfire, far beyond what she could have imagined. And now, the annual event is now celebrated worldwide, in countries as far away as Vietnam and Scotland. It marks a critical moment for trans people everywhere to honor the resilience of leaders like Rachel, while affirming for the next generation of trans youth that they aren’t alone.

At a time when transgender people had little support, Rachel stepped forward and blazed a trail.

Her accomplishments have felt even more meaningful to Rachel because, as someone with Tourette syndrome, she was often told she wouldn't achieve much in life.

So Rachel’s story is an important reminder that every one of us can make an impact.

“I hear a lot of people tell me that one person cannot make a difference,” she said. “You are wrong… one person CAN make a difference.”

More

Brace yourselves, folks, because this is almost too friggin' adorable to handle.

A 911 call can be a scary thing, and an emergency call from a dad having chest pains and trouble breathing is no exception. But thankfully, an exchange between that dad's 5-year-old daughter and 911 dispatcher Jason Bonham turned out to be more humor than horror. If you missed hearing the recording that has repeatedly gone viral since 2010, you have to hear it now. It's perfectly timeless.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Image by Brent Connelly from Pixabay and sixthformpoet / Twitter

Twitter user Matt, who goes by the name @SixthFormPoet, shared a dark love story on Twitter that's been read by nearly 600,000 people. It starts in a graveyard and feels like it could be the premise for a Tim Burton film.

While it's hard to verify whether the story is true, Matt insists that it's real, so we'll believe him.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Can the teens do literally anything without being blasted? Apparently not...

Katie Cornetti and Marissa Bordas, two Pittsburgh teens, were involved in a car crash. After taking a sharp turn on a winding road, the car flipped twice, then landed on its side. The girls said later on that they weren't on their phones at the time. The cause of the crash was because the tires on Bordas' car were mounted improperly.

The girls were wearing their seatbelts and were fine, aside from a few bruises. However, they were trapped in the car for about 20 minutes, so to pass the time while they waited for help, they decided to make a TikTok video. They made sure they were totally fine before they started recording.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Approximately 10% of the population is left-handed, and the balance between lefties and righties has been the same for almost 5,000 years. People used to believe that left-handed people were evil or unlucky. The word "sinister" is even derived from the Latin word for "left."

In modern times, the bias against lefties for being different is more benign – spiral notebooks are a torture device, and ink gets on their hands like a scarlet letter. Now, a new study conducted at the University of Oxford and published in Brain is giving left-handers some good news. While left-handers have been struggling with tools meant for right-handers all these years, it turns out, they actually possess superior verbal skills.

Researchers looked at the DNA of 400,000 people in the U.K. from a volunteer bank. Of those 400,000 people, 38,332 were southpaws. Scientists were able to find the differences in genes between lefties and righties, and that these genetic variants resulted in a difference in brain structure, too. "It tells us for the first time that handedness has a genetic component," Gwenaëlle Douaud, joint senior author of the study and a fellow at Oxford's Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging, told the BBC.

Keep Reading Show less
popular