March marks the beginning of spring, and many other things. St. Patrick’s Day. National Nutrition Month. National Frozen Foods Month. National Reading Day. World Water Day. Save a Spider Day.
But here at Between The Lines, we are celebrating March as Women’s History Month (and maybe the beginning of spring, just a little).
There has been much debate over the years about the connections between women’s rights and LGBT rights, just as with the comparisons between the struggle for black civil rights and gay rights. But to us, there is no doubt that empowering women and empowering the gay community are inextricably linked.
The histories of both are tied together in terms of the rights both groups have sought over time: The fight to be recognized as equal in our homes, communities, political arenas and workplaces. Our battles against discrimination and being discredited simply because of who we are. Being forced into positions and lives that go against what we truly want because we know that if we step out of line and demand more, we would be dismissed or lose our security or worse.
Both groups, throughout history, lacked a voice in politics or social life. Both have fought against gender norms and have redefined what it means to be a “man” or a “woman.”
Those supposed norms still haunt both the women’s community and LGBT community at every turn. World-renowned ice skater Johnny Weir was made fun of for being too feminine in his performances. Other men are called names for being uninterested in sports. Women are harassed and even raped for “looking like lesbians.” Others are chastised by their families for focusing too much on their careers and not enough on becoming a wife and a mother.
Who is to say what it means to be a man or a woman? We make those definitions for ourselves, and that is why women’s rights and LGBT rights share so many commonalities and thus, should share in our battles.
As Academy Award-winning screenplay writer Dustin Lance Black pointed out in his interview with BTL last week, battles for rights are often won when minorities band together and make it clear that for legislators to please one, they must please all.
So celebrate Women’s History Month and attend events in its honor, whether you are LGBT or straight, female or male, or somewhere in between. We need to show support for the communities that share our struggle, and honor not just rights for women or for gays, but the right to act how you like, wear what you want and be true to yourself without regard for the norms we have battled for so long.
Start with a HerStories event in Lansing, happening March 13, 20 and 27, and featuring gay and straight women writers, as well as some men who all feel compelled to honor women in their lives. Visit the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame, or just write your mom, sister, friend or grandmother a note telling them why they are an important woman.
Celebrate Women’s History Month, because it’s part of gay history, too.