Include Trans & Non-Binary People––If Not, International Women's Day Is Trash
International Women’s Day (IWD) has been recognized since the early 1900s when women finally had experienced enough oppression to organize and demand change. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City because they wanted better pay, shorter working hours, and voting rights. Women needed and wanted to have their voices heard, to be treated with respect, and given more credit than what they received for the work they did. Sounds familiar.
As time marched on in our patriarchal society, women began to demand body autonomy and reproductive rights. The conversation has shifted to not just having rights, but for those rights to be equal in opportunity to the rights men have. Terms like feminism, gender parity, and gender equality are used to combat sexism and misogyny. But even within the most well-intentioned, self-identified liberal and independent circles of women, there is a noticeable weakness in their efforts.
Gender parity is a measurable ratio between men and women when looking at certain indicators between men and women like income, higher education rates, and workforce participation. This is often called gender equality, but all outcomes of equality can’t always be measured; the ability for a person to see men and women as equal is not simply dependent on the fact that a woman can earn the same amount of money for a job as a man but also in how one judges and treats a woman.
Biases, sexism, and stereotypes also play into equality. The glaring issue with both, though, is that they work under the assumption that gender is binary. There is also the misconception that gender is unmovable and an undeniable fact based on a person’s biological sex at birth. This is one of the flaws of radical feminism if not all types of feminism: people fighting for women’s rights are referring only to cisgender women.
International Women’s Day would be so much more empowering and effective in the fight against patriarchal systems and institutions, i.e., positions and power held by cisgender men, if transgender and nonbinary folks were included with intention. We need to treat the gender of all folks who identify as female equally and we need to provide equity to those who don’t identify as any gender but lose opportunities in society because they aren’t cisgender men—or women.
Transgender women are women and should always be included in any conversation about women without needing to justify their presence or fulfill a set of requirements. TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) like to take on the role of gender police and don’t consider transgender women “real” women if they weren’t born with female typical sexual anatomy. Their own identity feels under attack when a transgender woman also identifies as female. Those thoughts are transphobic and fail to see females as equal even within the same gender identity. TERFs are bad for feminism and bad for women.
Transgender men are men. I can’t speak for how a transgender man feels about being included in IWD, but I know women need to fight for transgender men and keep the doors open for their stories and presence. Some transgender men don’t feel safe in spaces that are reserved for men because of the overwhelming number of toxic and transphobic cisgender men—so basically for similar reasons why women don’t want to be around cisgender men. Also, many trans men have lived experiences as being seen as women and understand the discrimination that comes along with that label. Checking the Male box doesn’t take away a transgender man’s desire to push women’s rights forward.
Transition is different for every person, but many transgender men and nonbinary folks have vaginas and/or uteruses and need and deserve access to health care and birth control. Some transgender men and nonbinary people can and do conceive and birth children. Transgender men and nonbinary people—no matter their sex—can be incredible allies to all women; women should return the respect, especially when advocating for reproductive rights. Abortion rights are not simply women’s rights. Inclusive language must be used to be sure every person with a uterus has access to affordable, affirming and safe care, including nonbinary folks like me.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #ChoosetoChallenge. I challenge all of you to choose to make the day not just about equality, but equity. I challenge you to choose inclusivity. How can women and girls be empowered if transgender girls and women are being excluded? If a woman has a right to her body, why aren’t women fighting harder to stop the policing of transgender bodies? Why doesn’t IWD focus on the violence against and death of transgender women, specifically Black transgender women? If we recognize the need to uplift women’s voices because they are considered marginalized compared to men, then we need to recognize and uplift the more marginalized voices of gender nonconforming and gender diverse minorities too.
Gender equality needs to expand beyond the heteronormative binary so that all genders have a fighting chance. Including transgender and nonbinary folks on International Women’s Day does not take away from womanhood; it takes a stronger stance against sexism and the patriarchy — and that’s the goal. Otherwise it’s just a day to celebrate cisgender women and girls. It’s just another day telling your daughters and sons they can be anything — except transgender.
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