March! It’s March! March is, without question, my favorite month out of the year, and I revel in each and every glorious moment.
For starters, March is my birthday month, which, in case you didn’t know, basically means I get my way for an entire thirty-one days. Second, I’m a little bit (a lotta bit) woo, and really appreciate the push of Mars into Aries. Third, I get to start planting my garden! Playing in the dirt is pretty much all I want to do all the time anyway, so this makes me giddy beyond belief. Fourth, MARCH MADNESSSSS! Even though my Lobos got knocked out in the first round, I’m still a basketball fanatic and this is my time to binge. Fifth, Pesach! I’m not really a big holiday celebrator, but Passover is one jam this Jew can get down with: ceremonial eating, drinking four glasses of wine as a mitzvah, and stories about liberation!
And, to go along with that orange on the seder plate, March is also Women’s History Month! That’s right, an entire month (with the maximum 31 days!) dedicated to celebrating contributions made by women throughout history.
Now, I’m going to be honest with you: I didn’t know that Women’s History Month was a thing until fairly recently. I think that the first time I ever encountered any sort of actual programming was when I went to an Albuquerque screening of the ACLU Freedom Files on women’s rights about five years ago. Since then, I’ve made it a point to seek out different events that commemorate the struggles and accomplishments endured by women every March, and this year hasn’t been any different.
That being said, in my search for WHM-affiliated events/exhibits/readings/anything, I’ve noticed the gross trend of cis-centrism (from cisgender, or, someone who does not identify as transgender) in all of the events. I guess this isn’t really surprising, given the transphobic nature of US culture-at-large, but that doesn’t mean it’s not disappointing. In light of the shitty news of Smith College rejecting a trans* woman’s application for admission, and the fact that I still have to tell people that yes, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival IS, indeed, transphobic, I think that it’s safe to say that we still have a long way to go when it comes to not only celebrating the contributions that trans* women make in the larger conversation of women’s history, but even in acknowledging that they exist.
SO! That’s what this post is about: Celebrating contemporary trans* women’s place within contemporary women’s history. This is not a complete list—not even close. Rather, it is a short list of some of the trans* women whom I really admire, whose work makes me want to do my part to work harder, respond smarter, and generally be better for the people in my community.
Janet Mock, image via GLAAD
First on my list of badass trans* women doin’ it for themselves is Janet Mock. Janet is a writer for People.com, co-host of The Missing Piece podcast, and tireless advocate for trans* rights. She is the woman behind the Twitter hashtag #GirlsLikeUs, a visibility campaign bringing trans* women’s stories to a larger audience. She gave a truly moving speech at USC’s Lavender Graduation last year, reminding us that our silence will not protect us. She also recently received the Sylvia Rivera Activist Award, which really just proves what we already know: Janet Mock is a big fucking deal.
Second on my list of trans* women we should all know about are the folks at Project LifeSkills. LifeSkills is a study based out of Boston and Chicago, focusing on empowering young trans* women, by helping them learn more about HIV alongside building life skills that will ultimately help reduce HIV transmission rates. This is an especially important intervention, given the fact that trans* women, especially trans* women of color, are among the most vulnerable populations for HIV infection. LifeSkills is especially awesome because it is run by and for trans* women, emphasizing community driven processes and community building in general. I have the great fortune of calling Emilia Dunham a friend, and have met very few people with the dedication, drive, and desire to make things better that this woman holds. She and her team are truly creating women’s history every single day.
The third amazing trans* woman that I want to recognize is another person that I have the privilege of calling friend. Some people know her as Panda, but I know her as Mattee Jim, HIV Prevention and Support Services Coordinator at First Nations Community Healthsource, here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mattee is a woman whose presence in my home community is indispensable. She freely shares her story of being a transgender Navajo woman struggling with discrimination both on the rez and beyond. She sits on the board of the Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico, is the community co-chair of the Transgender Taskforce for the New Mexico Community Planning and Action Group, and sits on the national advisory board of the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. It’s hard to sum up the importance of Mattee’s work in this tiny paragraph, but her efforts to help stop the spread of HIV within Native communities and trans* communities is something that cannot be overstated. She is, hands down, one of my heroes.
Honestly, I could go on listing badass trans* women all fucking day long (Ryka Aoki, Kate Bornstein, Victoria Ortega, Imogen Binnie, Red Durkin…), but I won’t. What I will do is ask that we really continue thinking about whose history we’re talking about when we talk about women’s history, and intentionally foreground the voices of women most marginalized in the movement.
I mean, isn’t that what this month is all about?
Ricky is pretty sure that trans* women should be running the world, and tweets about it a lot under the name @prettyrickyroo.