International Women’s Day, on Tuesday, March 8, is an important opportunity to raise awareness for women’s equality, gender bias and discrimination, fundraise for female-focused charities and acknowledge the cultural, political, social, and economic achievements of women.
On this day we take time to celebrate all women in our world. This includes young women, old women, poor women, rich women, women assigned female at birth, trans-women, big women, little women, women of colour, disabled women and every other woman under our sun – you are all valid, loved and appreciated, not just on this day, but every day.
In my opinion, one of the most important parts of International Women’s Day is demonstrating inclusivity and diversity and ensuring that no woman is left behind. One group of women who have often been excluded, silenced or “not considered woman enough” are our transgender sisters. Now is the time for that to change.
One of the greatest transgender icons was Marsha P. Johnson. She was a trans-rights activist and played a crucial role in the pivotal Stonewall riots in 1969. One of my favourite facts about Johnson is that the “P” in her name stood for “Pay It No Mind,” which is exactly what she would tell someone if they questioned her life choices, gender, or appearance. (Johnson loved to wear the most eccentric hats and outlandish jewelry.)
Johnson lived during a time where being part of the LGBTQ2S+ community was not accepted and was threatened and targeted by police was common for breaking the “three-article rule” which stated a person must be wearing at least three articles of clothing of the gender they were assigned at birth, or they would be arrested.
Despite all of this, Johnson did not fear the judgement or harassment, she instead focused on fighting for gay liberation and providing support and shelter for her community, performing in drag and modeling for Andy Warhol.
You can read more about Johnson’s life along with 99 other incredible women in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-life Tales of Black Girl Magic, by Lilly Workneh.
Johnson’s story is one of many riveting, heartbreaking, and even occasionally humorous tales. Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano is wonderful for anyone who is interesting in learning about the intersections of gender, race and sexuality in feminism. The essays in this collection deconstruct the socially accepted narratives on trans women in Western culture.
Paula Stone Williams wrote the memoir As a Woman: What I Learned About Power, Sex and the Patriarchy After I Transitioned, which details her experience transitioning at nearly 60 years old and discovering that the authorities and privileges she had once enjoyed while living as a straight white man were no longer available to her as a trans lesbian.
This year, in honour of International Women’s Day, I encourage you to read a memoirs or novel written by a transgender woman and shout from the rooftops that trans women are women.
Kayley Robb is a assistant community librarian at the Summerland Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.
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