It’s International Women’s Day, an event for celebrating women around the world. The Socialist Party of America inaugurated the global holiday in the United States 108 years ago to draw attention to the movement for women’s suffrage.
While inspired by U.S. politics, it first became an official holiday in Russia under Lenin in 1917 shortly following the October Revolution and the nation granting women the right to vote. International Women’s Day wasn’t recognized in the United States until Carter declared the week of March 8th to be Women’s History Week in 1980. In 2011, Obama proclaimed March would be Women’s History Month. The official International Women’s Day event is still unrecognized in the U.S. despite having a worldwide presence.
While it is important to recognize the historical figures of women’s history, International Women’s Day imagines something equally powerful: a movement toward a future of women’s liberation. By imagining the future, we are appreciating the radical tradition of the holiday. Too often overlooked in these conversations about women’s justice are the transgender women and femmes who may be striving to make changes in their own communities and beyond.
Simply having their genders recognized is only one small part of these outspoken individuals’ visions. Instead, they dream of a future where we all are free. Here are five incredible trans women and femmes who are powerfully transforming the world around them.
Edxie Betts is a liberation artist, writer, and educator. As a Black Blackfoot Filipina trans autonomous organizer, they use their art as a mode of cultural production to inspire “healing, political education, counter narrative, oppositional alternatives, cultivating resistance through self-organizing and direct action.”
Betts is deeply involved in the Los Angeles-based zine movement and have spoken at many different institutions on healing and art as praxis. Their brilliant work can be found in numerous publications. They are key member of the Trans Day of Resilience Art Project, one of the first widespread collective efforts to celebrate “trans people of color in their lives and leadership, not just death.”
Follow Exie Betts: @bettsurevolt
Jade Phoenix Martinez
Jade Phoenix Martinez is a performer, poet, multimedia producer, actress, and activist. Her work spans between many ways of sharing knowledge, as she is always engaging with the future of collective liberation through her multiple identities as a first generation Filipinx, trans femme parent. She has spoken and performed at institutions around the world, from small coffee shops in LA to large conference keynotes at Harvard.
Martinez has also written, produced, and starred in several short films, and is currently working on a documentary following her time as a trans parent of a 5-year-old daughter. She “believes that by creating safe spaces for specific communities to gather and witness each other in creative expression and performance, we can work together as communities to hold space for collective healing.”
Martinez’s story complicates many “traditional” transgender narratives and I have no doubt we will all be influenced by her amazing efforts in the future.
I can’t believe the first month of campaigning is coming to a close! To date, almost 150 people have donated to our grassroots campaign, and I need your support to reach our November goal of $10k! Can I count on YOU to make a donation today? ❤️www.MiaSatya.com ❤️ If 40 people donate $50 we will surpass our goal and send a clear message that San Francisco values diversity, inclusion, and equitable outcomes for all. Thanks to all my friends like Erin who have already donated❣️ #Satya4Schools
Mia Satya is a San Francisco-based transgender activist and politician. After growing up in rural Texas, she moved to California to find community. She has tirelessly worked in community clinics, programs, and nonprofits throughout the Bay Area.
Satya was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2016, one of the first transgender people to receive the honor. Recently, she announced her campaign for the San Francisco Board of Education, which would make her one of the first (and youngest) transgender elected officials in the country.
Vivek Shraya is a Canadian artist, author, and educator. She boasts an impressive resume spanning different forms of media. Her LP, Part-Time Woman, was included among CBC’s Best Canadian Albums of 2017. Her first novel, She of the Mountains, was published through Arsenal Pulp Press in 2014. More recently she released her first collection of poetry, even this page is white, in 2017, and also worked closely with fellow Canadian singers Tegan and Sara, contributing a bonus track to their 10-year anniversary album of The Con.
Shraya is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Calgary. Her latest book, I’m Afraid of Men, is coming out through Penguin Canada later this year. You can find her music on her website or Bandcamp.
Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas
Ser Brandon-Castro Serpas is an artist and poet based in New York. Her work is focused on sculpture, performance, and painting, with each piece representing concepts taken from real life and transformed into something larger. Her oeuvre is gaining more recognition as recent pieces and performances have been featured at MoMA, the Bridget Donahue gallery, and the Serpentine Gallery in London among numerous other sites.
Serpas transitioned from organizing to art after feeling marginalized within activist spaces for her gender nonconformity due to the emergent respectability politics of the queer/trans community. However, the ways in which liberation struggles come into play within her artwork are clear as she presses on against colonialism and transmisogyny.