I identify as a woman, but I move through the world not only as a woman, but also as a white woman, a woman from a middle-class family, an American woman, an able-bodied woman, and a young woman (I could go on). These identities, many of them granting me daily privileges in society, make my experience as a woman vastly different from the experiences of other women.
Happy Women’s Empowerment Month! In Lupita Nyong’o’s inspiring speech accepting the 2013 Best Supporting Actress “Oscar” for her impressive performance in 12 Years a Slave, she acknowledged the presence of the true life Patsey (whom she portrayed in the film) and asserted powerfully “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Her Academy Award show statements culminated an overwhelmingly successful international run on red carpets and award show stages in which she wowed the world with her graceful beauty, impeccable style and stunning intelligence. Joyful, cosmopolitan, and Ivy League educated, Ms. Nyong’o fulfills a durable wish we have as the descendants of Patsey and the vicious dehumanization by the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade that her character embodies.
This holiday season, I ask that rather than giving gifts we give against. Specifically, I would ask that you give against homophobia and transphobia. This year, as in years past, homophobia and transphobia are alive and well. Many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans* and Queer Americans saw the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) struck down this year and rejoiced in expanded marriage rights and growing federal protections. Important yes, but cold comfort to trans* people who live under threat of violence and murder every day. Most acts of homophobia are actually based on gender expression. Individuals who do not conform to socially accepted standards of masculinity and femininity or who intentionally subvert these norms are at increased risk of harm. Thus, homophobia is directly linked to transphobia.