International Perpetualization of Cis- and Heteronormativity Day
|By Amanda Niven|
March 8 was International Women’s Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness for “women’s issues.” This year, organizers of the Women’s March on Washington wanted to demonstrate women’s economic and political power by calling on women to strike. This strike meant women calling in to work, not spending money, and refraining from performing unpaid labor, such as child care, laundry, dishes, and other domestic tasks traditionally performed by women. They called it “A Day Without a Woman.” The intentions were noble. But what the Women’s Movement failed to account for is what they always fail to address: the existence of LGBTQ women and non-binary folks.
We’re tired of it.
Not all women can afford to strike. Some women would be let go. Some women do not have paid time off. Some women are single mothers. And some women are partnered with other women, so those families are doubly impacted by “women’s issues.”
Take, for example, my family. I am a non-binary person whom strangers routinely read as a woman. My partner, Zoe, is a woman. We are not a lesbian couple, but our economic situation is similar to that of lesbian couples. We are both undervalued by the patriarchy and by capitalism, which means that our combined income is less than if we were a family with two dads, and less than if we were a family with a mom and a dad. It is harder for us to pay rent, buy food, and (will we ever?) save money than it is for other gender combinations. If we strike, who will pay our bills? If we don’t do laundry on March 8, it just means there’s more laundry on March 9. If we don’t do the dishes, it just means we don’t have clean dishes. There is no man in our household who will be impacted by our domestic strike, and there is no man who will pick up the economic slack if we pause our hustle.
We’re always the ones who pay.
Like many women, I work several jobs in several service professions – some paid and some unpaid, none of which offer insurance, sick days, or vacation days. Women are overrepresented in service professions, which also happen to be lower paying than professions dominated by men (coincidence???). All of my work is about leveraging my privilege to serve marginalized communities. If I were to skip work one day, it would mean that Deaf professionals couldn’t participate in their work meetings, that Deaf patients couldn’t communicate with their hearing surgeons, that new moms don’t get an hour of peace and breathing in yoga, that parents of trans kids don’t have support, or that trans adults have one less advocate. I will never abandon the communities that I serve in order to make a statement to the patriarchy. Not even for one day.
So, we went to work. Zoe wore a red shirt and I wore red socks, not because I’m a woman but because I didn’t want people to think I was an asshole. The people I work with talked to me like I was a woman and treated me like a woman, just like they do every day, but different because it was International Women’s Day and they didn’t want anyone to think they were assholes.
During a conversation about International Women’s Day, I said that I had come to work because I couldn’t afford to stay home. A coworker replied, “Isn’t that the point of feminism? It’s your choice. You can choose to work or not work.” Then I had to get in his face about what “choice” means. Who really has a choice? If the choice is to work or to be hungry, what kind of choice is that? It’s not as simple as simply “choosing” not to work, if you’re someone who is directly impacted by “women’s issues,” like I am.
I am a non-binary person, and I want access to family planning and uterus-related health care. When I exist in public spaces I am subjected to the male gaze. I am catcalled. I am afraid to walk outside alone at night. I am called bossy. I am called bitchy. I am talked over and ignored. I am expected to perform emotional labor. When these needs and experiences are talked about as “women’s issues,” it tells me that the Women’s Movement isn’t for me. It tells me that I don’t matter and that organizers are not thinking about me. It tells me that I am not welcome in the movement. It tells me that I have to choose: trans or woman? Non-binary or woman? Genderqueer or woman? It tells me that my identity is wrong. It tells me that I shouldn’t exist.
By excluding me and people like me from their analysis and their language, the Women’s Movement is asking me to stand in solidarity with my own issues. They’re asking for unpaid trans and queer labor supporting A Day Without a Cisgender Heterosexual Woman in honor of International Cisgender Heterosexual Women’s Day. They’re asking for the most marginalized to shoulder the burden for the benefit of the most privileged, and I’m not about it.
International Transgender Day of Visibility is March 31. If it’s like any other year, events in Michigan will be attended and supported almost exclusively by trans people — not because trans visibility makes trans people any safer, more employed, or less homeless, but because on every other day we are erased. Will cis women show up in support of trans women? Will binary folks show up in support of non-binary folks? Where will the Women’s Movement be on March 31?