March is a time to celebrate two important events: Women’s History Month, honoring the powerful contributions of women around the globe; and at the end of the month, on March 31, Trans Day of Visibility. This month and every month, join Equality NC in recognizing and lifting up all women: BIPOC, lesbian, bisexual, queer, cis and trans. 

Often the narrative around Women’s History Month excludes the lived experiences and accomplishments  of LGBTQ+ women, particularly women of color. Celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender expansive individuals is especially important this year, in light of anti-trans efforts across the nation. A recent legal opinion by Texas AG Ken Paxton, defined gender-affirming care as child abuse and Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate reports of “gender-transitioning procedures.” While this statement was not legally binding, the devastating effects on trans children and their caregivers is indisputable. In a time like this, it’s important to reflect on how we are protecting and uplifting all parts of our community.

This year, the theme of Women’s History Month is “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” From the early days of our movements to the present day COVID-19 pandemic, trans and queer women have been on the front lines, providing critical care, often unrecognized and unsupported. 

From the days of Stonewall, trans and queer women have been leaders and protectors. Women like Sylvia Rivera, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Marsha P. Johnson, and Stormé DeLarverie were just some of the critical leaders and healers in our community. Their activism has served as mutual support and protection.

In the words of Miss Major:

We only have each other. We always knew this, but now we needed to take a step towards doing something about it. So I started looking out for myself and the girls who worked on the street with me. We girls decided that whenever we got into a car with someone, another girl would write down as much information as possible…Since no one was going to do it for us, we had to do it for ourselves. 

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

This legacy of care continues even to the current pandemic. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen the ways in which traditionally female-coded caregiving labor has been taken for granted and exploited. Covid-19 has dramatically changed the way in which we work, and the result has been very hard on caregiving professions. Healthcare workers in particular have been tremendously harmed with many being infected, and many more suffering the pain of impossible work hours, low pay, and the psychological toll of mass death. The harm increases at the intersection of different marginalized identities. Communities who have experienced a history of discrimination and marginalization are more likely to contract COVID-19, less likely to have access to affordable healthcare, and are less likely to have adequate resources to support their families. Queer and trans women of color who work in front line occupations face transphobia, homophobia and heterosexism at their workplaces at the institutional level as well as from the patients they serve.

The pandemic has also harmed many other “pink-collar” jobs, like domestic workers, child care providers, and teachers. Many have been heavily exposed to covid due to their positions as front-line essential workers. They’ve frequently experienced additional challenges like trying to arrange care and education for their own children, as well as navigating workplace staff shortages. Educators experience additional job stressors, like protests over mask mandates and censorship efforts in schools, increasing the likelihood of burnout in an already difficult profession. 

From the AIDS crisis, to the current COVID pandemic, to the ballroom scene, trans and queer women have played a pivotal role in our community’s history of care and advocacy. For many of us, when our own biological families cast us out, these women acted as our mothers, protectors, and stepped up to give us much needed and often life saving support.  When Arkansas passed a law banning gender-affirming healthcare for kids last year, Miss Major, a long time trans rights activist and community leader, who currently lives in the state, joined calls to boycott Arkansas to protect trans youth living in the state. 

We celebrate the trans and queer women in our communities who by fighting coronavirus on the frontlines, providing childcare, teaching our youth, and staffing the “essential services” have allowed the LGBTQ+ community to survive another pandemic. Look for our upcoming spotlights on the trans and queer women who played critical roles on our history and continue to lead us to lived equality. This month, and all year long, Equality NC celebrates our trans and queer sisters!