Celebrating International Women’s Day

Celebrating International Women’s Day

“Women, if the soul of the nation is to be saved,

I believe you must become its soul.”

-Coretta Scott King

by Gavin Hannegan, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo undergraduate intern, supervised by Dr. Hannah Roberts

March 8th is International Women’s Day, an opportunity to both celebrate the contributions of women and promote efforts towards gender equity. “Inspire Inclusion” is this year’s theme, encouraging us to think about how women are represented and, also, what kinds of women receive representation. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, women are often the silent heroes. Without that representation, it can feel difficult for queer women to easily access role models who can relate to what they’re experiencing. We cannot let their voices go unheard. To inspire inclusion, I want to recognize the achievements of 4 queer women. 

Sylvia Rivera

“We have to do it because we can no longer stay invisible. We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are. We have to show the world that we are numerous. There are many of us out there.”

Alongside Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera was a founder of the Gay Liberation Front, which began following the Stonewall uprising in 1969. While some say that Rivera threw the first brick at Stonewall, others say that she may have thrown the first cocktail instead. And others still say that she may not have even been at Stonewall. Rivera and Johnson also co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), which provided resources such as clothing to homeless queer and trans youth. Although she advocated for the rights of all LGBT people, Rivera fought specifically to ensure that the gay liberation movement would not ignore the rights of trans women and drag queens of color, like herself. 

Stormé DeLarverie

“It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience – it wasn’t no damn riot.”

Stormé DeLarverie was another key player at Stonewall. Similar to the rumors that Johnson or Rivera threw the first brick, some witnesses recalled that DeLarverie threw the first punch. DeLarverie is also believed to be the person who prompted all of the bystanders to fight back against the police after she was violently thrown in the back of a police wagon. This initial confrontation ignited the gay liberation movement. DeLarverie identified as a biracial butch lesbian who presented herself androgynously. Outside of her efforts with the gay liberation movement, she performed as a drag king for the Jewel Box Revue, which was the first racially integrated drag revue, and also worked as a bouncer for lesbian bars.

Rachel Levine 

“I hope that by being a public figure and being secretary of health during this public health crisis, that that educates people about LGBTQ individuals and transgender individuals — and if they are educated, then they fear less. Thus, they get less angry, and thus, they hate less.”

As the current assistant secretary of health for the U.S., Rachel Levine holds a historic position. She is the highest ranking public official who openly identifies as transgender, the first transgender woman to ever hold a position requiring Senate confirmation, and is among the few transgender people currently holding an official government position. One of Levine’s main goals while in office is to make healthcare more approachable for LGBTQ+ youth, especially within the context of anti-LGBTQ+ laws that target gender-affirming care. Before being confirmed to the assistant secretary of health position, Levine served in the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In this role, some of her key contributions include increasing accessibility to naloxone in response to the opioid crisis and guiding Pennsylvania through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ella Briggs

“A lot of kids don’t feel comfortable with who they are and that makes me really sad, because I just want everyone to be happy and be themselves. I like being myself.”

At just 11 years old, Ella Briggs was elected as Connecticut’s “Kid Governor,” and was the first openly LGBTQ+ individual to serve in this position. This program gives elementary school students an opportunity to practice and learn about the state government system, but their work can have lifelong impacts. Briggs’s Pride-Hope-Love campaign consisted of three components related to LGBTQ+ care: spread awareness of the LGBTQ+ homeless population, offer schools resources on how to start LGBTQ+ clubs, and foster affirming LGBTQ+ education and treatment in schools. In just one year, Briggs hosted webinars and conferences, developed a step-by-step guide to starting a Pride-Hope-Love club, and interviewed U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. Briggs aspires to become the first lesbian president of the United States.

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CTKG Ella’s accomplishments and term highlights (n.d.). Connecticut’s Kid Governor. https://ct.kidgovernor.org/ctkgella/ctkgellahighlights

Fitzsimons, T. (2020, June 4). Pennsylvania’s top doc is ‘calm in the eye of the COVID-19 storm’. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/pennsylvania-s-top-doc-calm-eye-covid-19-storm-n1217171

LGBTQ+ women who made history (2021, June 3). Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum. https://womenshistory.si.edu/blog/lgbtq-women-who-made-history

McShane, J. (2021, June 1). Transgender federal official Rachel Levine tells LGBTQ youths: ‘I have your back’. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/transgender-federal-official-rachel-levine-tells-lgbtq-youths-i-have-n1268795

Rothberg, E. (2021, March). Sylvia Rivera. National Women’s History Museum. https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/sylvia-rivera

Wong, C. M. (2019, March 22). Meet the 11-year-old who wants to be America’s first lesbian president. HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/connecticut-ella-briggs-kid-governor-lesbian-president_n_5c950965e4b0a6329e15f504

Yardley, W. (2014, May 24). Storme DeLarverie, early leader in the gay rights movement, dies at 93. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/nyregion/storme-delarverie-early-leader-in-the-gay-rights-movement-dies-at-93.html?_r=0

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