For Women’s History Month, Max Richardson ‘20, who attends Reed College in Oregon, shares their thoughts on the month’s inclusion of nonbinary and other gender minority people. Max challenges us to expand our views of who should be recognized and uplifted during Women’s History Month.
As someone who grew up socialized as and treated as a woman but no longer identifies as such, I have thought a lot about gender and the conception of “womanhood,” especially during Women’s History Month. I was assigned female at birth, but as I grew up, to make a very long story short, I realized that I am nonbinary. I don’t identify as male or female, and I don’t think that gender is (or should be) limited to just those two options.
To me, Women’s History Month is a great opportunity to learn about and recognize the contributions of women that often go unrecognized or unnoticed. A valuable way to expand Women’s History Month is to look not just at the contributions of cisgender women but to also include the ways gender minority people- transgender women, nonbinary people, and others who don’t identify with their gender assigned at birth—have contributed to history and society, too!
Take some time to learn about Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, transgender/gender-nonconforming women who were at the forefront of the United States queer liberation movement. Learn about Alok Vaid-Menon and Jamie Windust, transfeminine nonbinary artists, writers, speakers, and creators. This is by no means anywhere near a comprehensive list, only the smallest of jumping off points.
Learn about the states that are currently trying to ban transgender women and girls from women’s sports teams, a frankly pointless and dangerous effort to eliminate the completely fictitous threat that transgender women pose to cisgender women. These bills, if passed, will further entrench and legalize discrimination under the thin veil of “protecting women,” except the only women they are choosing to “protect” are cis women, paying no heed to the harm done to trans people.
I also view Women’s History Month as a chance to stop, take stock, think critically about how gender—my own and others—influences what I do, how I do, and what my presence in some situations and places means. As I’m now in college and starting to think seriously about what I want to do professionally in the future, gender is definitely a relevant factor. I already know that anywhere I work will likely not have many or any nonbinary or trans people in it; it is a definite possibility I’ll be one of the first. It might also be likely, unfortunately, that the companies I work for won’t have very many women either. I’m still not sure how I feel about that; is it something I can work on fixing from the inside out? Will I be tokenized and ignored? These are not questions that are original or unique to me but they’ll definitely come up and the answers will shape what I do. These are also questions that I encourage everyone to consider, especially in education: “Are the voices of gender minorities present in the materials you teach or are learning?” “If they're not,why?” and “What are you doing to change that?”