Hey Guys, International Women’s Day Is About You, Too
This story about International Women’s Day was contributed by Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International.
Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, though perhaps it should be called International Gender Equality Day, because it’s a day to take stock of the global struggle for gender equality and draw the world’s attention to the fact that gender inequality is still the order of the day.
Why am I writing about this on Hornet, a platform predominantly used by men? Because gender inequality affects absolutely everyone, in particular LGBTIQ people, and you, too.
Even in countries that have progressive laws and policies protecting the human rights of LGBTIQ people, we continue to face hate, violence, discrimination and exclusion. Perceptions of gender roles and appearances, how things “should be,” the prevalence of “toxic masculinity” and “play dumb” femininity are key in perpetuating a lack of acceptance and hate towards our community.
As LGBTIQ people we challenge traditional gender roles and norms in every way possible. Our gender expressions frequently shift across widely accepted norms, as do our mannerisms. Our gender identities, who we love, and the relationships and family models we form do not fit within the confines of the norms and expectations assigned by society, leading to fear, exclusion and efforts to change or divert us.
Think about it. The same norms that dictate women should be skinny, or focus on the home instead of on careers, also dictate that men need to be strong, “masculine,” bring home the big bucks and be uninterested fathers. These norms do not look kindly on gender identities that diverge from the sex assigned at birth, and certainly not on ones which go beyond the binary. They also don’t accept feminine men, or masculine women, same-sex love, or non-conventional gender expression.
The statistics you will hear today are shocking. They will tell you that women continue to earn only 80% of that earned by men. They will tell you that only 6% of CEOs of the world’s biggest companies are women, that only 19 countries have a female head of state or government. It may seem like this doesn’t directly concern you, but think about the same statistics for LGBTIQ people. We don’t really have them, because people still keep their sexual orientation and gender identity concealed, but I can only think of three openly LGBTIQ — specifically gay or lesbian — CEOs among the Fortune 500 companies, and only five openly LGBTIQ (also specifically gay and lesbian) heads of state.
Beyond that, think about the number of LGBTIQ people who become homeless due to family ostracization, the number of LGBTIQ youth who drop out of school due to bullying, the disproportionately large number of trans women who have to turn to sex work because they can’t get a job in any other sector. Think about the number of LGBTIQ people forced to undergo “conversion therapy” to make us fit the arbitrary gender roles society prescribes for us.
Gender inequality is very much an issue for all of us in the LGBTIQ community. The same barriers which keep women from excelling in the workplace, or in political leadership, lead to policing of bathrooms or restricting access to gender affirming care for trans people, and stand in the way of broader acceptance of LGBTIQ people. Those same barriers restrict cis heterosexual men too, whether they realize it or not — think, for example, about the fathers in different-sex relationships unable to, or sneered at and penalized for wanting to take parental leave, or to care for an elderly relative.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day — Each for Equal — is spot on. It captures that gender inequality goes beyond discrimination and lack of access or representation of women, into every realm of life, for everyone. So take a moment today to think about how gender inequality has affected you, and those around you. And take a stand, for women, for LGBTIQ people, for everyone, so that together we can take a step towards #EachforEqual, for genuine gender equality for all of us.