This third blog, written by my new consultant Deanna Jones, examines the end of March as the intersection of the Transgender Day of Visibility and Women’s History Month. Deanna is available to speak or consult with your organization around transgender diversity and transitioning in the workplace.
As we come to the last week of Women’s History Month, I am reminded of how many contributions have been made by a very diverse population of women. However, throughout this history, there has always been a struggle for marginalized women to be recognized. Women such as Marie Louise Bottineau who was Native American. Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman (see my previous blog) who were Black women, and also key icons of history who fought for women’s rights.
There has been queer representation as well. Maud Wood Park, a queer woman served as the first President for the League of Women voters which was formed in anticipation of the passage of the 19th Amendment to help millions of women carry out their newfound right as voters. All of these women are activists who refused to be ignored and deserve to be celebrated as much as Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Recently, Transwomen have been struggling for recognition within the struggle for women’s rights. This is another uphill battle for marginalized groups that is being met with intense backlash. Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) is a group that has sprung up recently and appropriated feminist theory to state that Transwomen are not women and should be excluded. This movement is reminiscent of a past that failed to acknowledge the diversity of woman fighting for freedom. These marginalized groups have been typically denied their rightful place in history as women’s rights advocates.
We need to continue to preserve and amplify the struggles and successes of all women in our fight for rights. We cannot repeat the same errors as we did in the past and exclude the contributions from women based upon aspects of their diversity. All women, Cisgender, Transgender and women of Color should be included. Let’s not repeat the past marginalizing groups of women because they have their own individual differences. Our bodies shouldn’t define who we are. Womanhood is complex, nuanced, layered, and doesn’t require extrinsic validation from men—or other women.
Marsha Johnson, the Black trans activist who fought at the Stonewall Rebellion, wasn’t just advocating for Transgender rights; she was a woman advocating for the same basic rights as so many activists before them .. the right to be seen, heard and acknowledged. They are also part of the struggle. I think Audre Lorde, a black lesbian poet said it best when she stated, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from our own.”
On March 31, the Transgender Day of Visibility, we should understand that the rights of all women, especially in the face of the pushback against the right to autonomy of our own bodies, is paramount to all of our struggles. Instead of finding differences, let’s work together with our allies to achieve equality for everyone.