An International Women’s Day for All Women
TW: Mentions of violence, abuse, sexual assault, suicide, etc.
Today we celebrate women.
But I don’t want to talk about all women today. I want to tell you there are women who are profoundly more in need than some other women. I want to tell you about a friend of mine.
V was a lesbian who loved the rainbow flag. V was white, but she embraced the black and brown stripes that Philly added to the flag in 2017 and defended them against her fellow white queer friends who didn’t understand why they were necessary.
V wore rainbow flowers in her hair, played softball, and was a librarian.
V wore tie dye, a lot. She especially loved rainbow tie dye.
V liked to wear short dresses to show off her pretty legs. And she bravely wore swimsuits, even bikinis, to the beach.
V was a University of Michigan sports fan.
V was a Socialist.
V had an amazing smile, a kind word for everyone, and a generous spirit.
V was autistic and found that meant she wasn’t welcome in a lot of social spaces — even the queer ones, even some disability spaces. V also spoke openly about being abused and about low self-esteem and trauma that came from that abuse.
V was a trans woman. She was abused specifically because she needed to transition. Being trans and being autistic were used against her, and she suffered not for those identities being part of her but for the way others related to her.
When V went off Facebook for a while, I didn’t think much of it. I noticed she was gone, but I didn’t worry. People take Facebook breaks and often come back feeling refreshed, feeling more connected to the world, doing ok for the time away. Even though V only lived about 2 hours away from me, I do not drive, we had never met in person, and I did not have a way other than Facebook to contact her.
I didn’t check in on her. We have mutual friends closer to her who I could have asked. I want to tell you that I respect people’s privacy, I don’t feel compelled to hound people when they place a boundary like disappearing from Facebook. But that feels like a cop out now.
V completed suicide in February.
I was shocked, but not, to see the news. It’s always shocking. And yet it also always feels inevitable. It should NOT be inevitable.
V was a good friend. I wasn’t really as good of a friend as I thought I was. I wasn’t there giving her encouraging words or offering to find her help if she wanted.
There are a lot of women who are suffering right now. Even in the U.S. where we are relatively privileged in many ways, women are struggling to pay the rent, feed their kids, get healthcare, and on top of it they are still dealing with sexism everywhere they go.
Some women have it worse than others — the poor women, Black and Brown women, Muslim and Sikh women, Indigenous women, trans women, disabled women, chronically sick women, single mamas, immigrant women, sex workers, sexual assault survivors. I want to send up an incantation, a lamentation, a flare, a candle for every single one of them.
But today I am mostly thinking of my one friend who is no longer here.
On March 31st we celebrate International Transgender Day of Visibility, an event originated by another trans woman, Rachel Crandall-Crocker, who was a close friend to V also. March is now Transgender Visibility month. Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women all over the world and acknowledge their ongoing struggles. Let’s not forget the most vulnerable, most marginalized women, and let’s give them space to speak for themselves and support to survive and thrive in this world.