Seldom does there come along a truly life-changing event, but the Women’s March on Washington was just that for so many of us who attended. The excited conversation on our bus that evening and the many other people with whom I have talked since that momentous Saturday attest to the overwhelming experience the march had been. We had come together from across the country with common concerns, and experienced such profound kindness from one another as we marched through the streets of Washington (and stood trapped within the sea of pink hats). Never had I been in a crowd so large and felt so safe. As a transwoman, the event was especially transformative for me.
These past ten years as I have transitioned and evolved have been momentous. Early on, I felt like an outsider looking in, venturing to places I felt I did not belong. Slowly and gradually I have been paying my dues, working on this seemingly impossible task of becoming a woman in every aspect of my life. Whether you are born with a vagina or not, there is no easy path to womanhood – for me, it did not happen overnight.
By the time my journey took me to Washington and to the march, I had achieved a sense of confidence in who I was and who I had become. The experience in Washington that day confirmed for me that I had indeed internalized the values, vulnerabilities, and challenges of what it means to be a woman in this society. I truly felt that as I joined the march for gender equality, women’s health, and personal choice, I was one with the others – I belonged!
There has been conversation within the trans community about the march and the perceived focus upon female genitalia displayed by the hats and the messages and the chants of that day. Some heard loud and clear the message that having a vagina is essential to being a woman. Many said that, as a result, they felt excluded and even avoided going to the march because of the marginalization of transwomen. Equating a vagina with being female emphasizes the trans-misogyny felt by many. We have long resisted any attempts to define us by our genitalia.
It is important to note that the primary focus of this march was not about being a woman or having a vagina. Yet, if you or someone you love has one, whether by birth or by choice, and a prominent person claims they can violate it with impunity, you are going to respond. And respond we did. The hats, the chants, and the perceived obsession with female genitalia were a response to that claim. This transwoman was in no way offended by the symbolic show of outrage by other women participating in the march. It seems that all women would rightfully share that outrage!
The real concerns of our movement will go far beyond these perceived preoccupations with vaginas. The issues are far more serious and will demand a more mature response. Ensuing Women’s Marches will continue to focus upon violence toward all women as well as other pressing issues including healthcare for all, control of our bodies, immigration, gender and LGBTQ equality, the nurturing of refugees, caring for the environment, and the value of diversity.
From the march’s inception, the goal was not to protest the election of Trump. We went to Washington to march for equality and justice – to make our voices heard at a time in history like none other. It was absolutely amazing to be part of this “Woodstock” moment and memories of that day will last a lifetime. Among the t-shirts seen since the march, one reads: “Here’s to strong women – may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.” Today I can proudly proclaim that I do indeed know them, I have indeed raised them, and I sure as hell am one!
May each of us, wherever we find ourselves on our personal journeys across the gender spectrum, find peace and solidarity with one another. The Women’s March on January 21st in Washington and in hundreds of other cities across the country and around the world was only the beginning. This will be a long and arduous struggle and our success will depend upon the strength we find in each other. Viva la Résistance!
Laura Anderson is an educator, author, researcher, parent, and granddad. Her years teaching in public school classrooms as male provided the foundation for her more recent role educating future teachers. Living female for the past decade, she has come to appreciate the privileges she once held– both male and cisgender– privileges now replaced with the fulfillment of living as her true self.