OPINION | Women’s History Month should not exclude trans women

     When I was a freshman in high school, I was obsessed with this idea of feminism as a platform for female empowerment and support. I watched “Suffragette” once and decided I was a feminist. I started carrying a Rosie the Riveter lunch box around school and thought I was an absolute badass (spoiler alert: I was not). 

     Later on I realized that feminism is not just about female empowerment, and it is definitely not about promoting only one type of “woman” either. Feminism is about dismantling oppressive ideologies that are systemically rooted in our society. 

     When we fail to bring up issues of race, sexuality and gender in feminist spaces, we are overlooking those marginalized communities that are being targeted by the “straight, cis, white male” majority — this includes the trans community. 

     To me in high school, feminism was just about uplifting women — though I will be the first to admit that every single one of the women I was “uplifting” were white, cis, straight and always, always wealthy.  

     I wrote letters to feminist “icons” like J.K. Rowling and Hillary Clinton, praising them for making such “huge” and “important” strides for gender equality in their work. What I failed to realize at the time, however, was that the shallow, trans-exclusionary feminist propaganda they were spreading was nowhere close to being as progressive as I thought it was. 

     When it comes to celebrating Women’s History Month, I believe that this trend of plastering performative, one-sided feminist propaganda across the internet is no longer going to cut it. I am beyond sick of opening Instagram every year to see Women’s History Month posts with cheap, overused taglines like “The Future is Female” and “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.”  

     Yes, I know that “We Can Do It,” but did you know that the Human Rights Campaign recorded at least 57 transgender and gender non-conforming murders in 2021, making it the deadliest year for trans people ever recorded in the United States?  

     Trans-exclusionary radical feminism, or TERF ideology, is a pervasive issue that people refuse to address or even acknowledge during Women’s History Month. Trans women are rarely ever considered to be “real” women, and are often excluded from feminist movements altogether.  

     When trans rights are being threatened like they are in Texas right now, the majority of people who speak out about it are also trans. This makes the issue less accessible to those who are not a part of the queer community or lack awareness of the community due to personal beliefs or a biased upbringing. 

     When trans individuals are finally given the chance to speak out and make their voices heard, people are quick to reject them rather than listen. This can be detrimental to the safety and wellbeing of trans people across the nation. 

     Women’s History Month has always been about “female empowerment” and women supporting women — excluding trans women from this equation is not “radical feminism,” it is a blatantly toxic and a harmful display of transphobia.  

     J.K. Rowling’s anti-trans Twitter rant is one example of how wealthy white women uphold TERF rhetoric and beliefs that encourage the exclusion of trans women from feminist spaces (especially during Women’s History Month, when women are supposed to be celebrated, not condemned). 

     It can take years of listening and “unlearning” to come to terms with the fact that our social perspective of trans women is incredibly skewed, and that the only way to fix this is to open our hearts and listen. Instead of asking “Does this person pass as a woman?” we need to start questioning why we believe our criteria for what makes a woman a “woman” is valid in the first place. 

     Women’s History Month is for all women, and the sooner we realize that the #girlboss feminist icon represents a very trans-exclusionary, single-issue field of early feminist thought and theory, the sooner we can finally be rid of the pictures upon pictures of Kamala Harris and Ruth Bader Ginsburg that flood our social media pages every March (sorry, not sorry).