As a young trans woman, Rebecca Zalkin feels like an outsider looking in during Women’s History Month.
“For most of my life, I’ve been seeing it from the outside through school and media,” said Zalkin, a freshman mathematics major.
Historically, trans women, in particular, have been excluded from women’s and feminist spaces and movements, HuffPost reported.
The United States designated March as Women’s History Month in 1987. The annual celebration brings awareness to the important work that women have contributed to the world, according to the National Women’s History Alliance.
Exactly which women are recognized and commemorated during Women’s History Month is a topic of constant debate, HuffPost reported.
There is a lack of intersectionality and representation within the celebration and teachings of Women’s History Month, according to a study from the National Women’s History Museum. It found women’s experiences and stories are not well integrated into history standards in schools.
Jordan, a senior computer science major and a trans woman, said trans women don’t receive enough representation in these spaces. Jordan requested to be referred by her first name for this article.
“I feel like it’s a hit or miss if said space is going to be trans-friendly or not,” she said. “I think trans women have been excluded because there’s still a lot of people who don’t accept trans people.”
Seeking visibility within women’s spaces proves to be a persistent challenge for many trans women. In the beginnings of the second-wave feminist movement in the early ‘70s, feminist groups threatened trans women with violence for daring to enter women and lesbian spaces, the Advocate reported.
Trans women struggle to be accepted and Zalkin said she felt fortunate enough to find acceptance in Temple’s Feminist Alliance organization.
“There are trans women who don’t go into women’s spaces because they feel insecure about attending,” she added. “But this should be fixed because no one should feel insecure in a place where they should feel welcomed.”
Zalkin said transfeminine people struggle to fit in and be welcomed anywhere.
“Society pushes out trans women until we are proven to be ‘female enough’ to be invited into these spaces,” Zalkin said. “There’s a difference between being invited and welcomed in gendered spaces.”
There is still a need for more inclusion of trans women and their history during Women’s History Month, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“Something that needs to be done is people stop assuming being cis is the default,” Jordan said.
Zalkin wants inclusivity to go beyond language and put in work to actively include trans women, she said. To address the issue, activists and allies should ask trans people what support they need and actively promote inclusivity, she said.
For both Zalkin and Jordan, Women’s History Month is a time to give thanks to those who have been at the forefront of the fight for equality.
“To me, it’s a month to commemorate those who’ve fought for gender equality and to appreciate the progress that’s been made,” Jordan said.
Zalkin feels proud to say, “Yes, I am a woman,” and finds pride in women who are fighting against the patriarchy, she said.
“I feel pride for being a part of this intergenerational struggle for rights, for the amazing things we can do and what women have done, for the fact that I am a woman and get to be seen as such,” Zalkin added.