Left to right: Caster Semenya, Sara and Tegan Quin, Lori Lightfoot and Angelica Ross Credit: Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, Arthur Mola/The Associated Press, Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP, MM/ABACA; Francesca Roh/Xtra
Women
5 min

Eight badass LGBTQ2 women to celebrate on International Women’s Day

These activists, actors, athletes and authors make every day Women’s Day

It’s almost International Women’s Day! While we celebrate LGBTQ2 women all year round, we’ll always take an excuse to prop up badass women from across the globe.

Here are eight (of many!) amazing queer and trans women you should know.

King Princess

If this genderqueer singer-songwriter hasn’t popped up on your social media feeds yet, consider yourself unlucky. The 19-year-old, born Mikaela Straus, released her debut EP, Make My Bed, last June to great acclaim. Since then, she’s blown up to become the antithesis to the hetero pop stars we’ve become familiar with: she’s an avid consumer of queer art (including — yes — The L Word), she’s been tied to Amandla Stenberg, she communicates online in hysterical memes and her music is unabashedly gay (see: her hit “Pussy is God”). When asked what her ideal queer world would look like, she told Broadly: “In this future, the Oscars would have very few old white people, and we would just honor incredible female, queer, Black, trans art . . . Also, every club would be a drag bar.” We’re here for it (and you), King.

Tegan and Sara

Pop stars Tegan and Sara are trading in song lyrics for prose: their upcoming memoir, titled High School, will delve into the twins’ lives growing up in Calgary in the 1990s, and how they navigated love, queer identity and family life, including their parents’ divorce. High School will be released into our eager hands in September. Take our money!

It will also feature alternating chapters by the sisters, so we’ll get both points of view into the lives of Tegan and Sara and how they became the duo they are today. And it will answer all our burning questions: “How did you start your band? When did you know that you were gay? What were you like before Tegan and Sara?” “We have spent 20 years answering those complicated questions with simple answers.” they said in a press statement. “Writing High School gives us the opportunity to tell the intricate stories that shaped our relationship as sisters, musicians, and queer girls.”

In 2016, they started the Tegan and Sara Foundation to help fund and address the inequalities facing LGBTQ2 women and girls. They’ve been working with gay-straight alliances in high schools across Canada, which remain contentious in many provinces, and met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2018 to talk about LGBTQ2 discrimination. Over the years, they’ve also supported a variety of organizations that support the community, including the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, The Audre Lorde Project and Egale Canada. And in 2018, they received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. What can’t they do?

Cynthia Nixon

She may be best known for her role as Miranda in Sex and the City, but Nixon has more recently made massive waves on the American political scene. After a hard-fought race in New York’s Democratic 2018 primary for governor, she lost against incumbent Andrew Cuomo — but did successfully push his platform further to the left. Then this week, taking a page out of Ellen Page’s book, Nixon penned an op-ed for the Washington Post calling out US Vice-President Mike Pence’s anti-LGBTQ2 advocacy. After former VP Joe Biden called Pence decent, Nixon wrote, “a man who has built his career on homophobia and misogyny cannot possibly be considered ‘decent.’” Amen.

Lori Lightfoot

History is being made in Chicago right now: two Black women are running for mayor, and one of them is queer! Lightfoot has a hefty resume: she was a federal prosecutor working on large-scale criminal cases; the chair of the police accountability task force, helping to fund a report of police practices and recommendations; and president of the Chicago Police Board, where she tackled police misconduct.

And in this mayoral race against the establishment, Lightfoot has also become a beloved leader for the outsiders: She told the New Yorker, “I stand out because I am not part of the broken political machine. I’m not beholden to it and obviously haven’t benefited from it,” referencing her intersectional, marginalized identities.

According to her campaign, she was the first mayoral candidate to release a policy platform on LGBTQ2 issues, which includes working with police to provide safety for queer and trans Chicagoans, properly investigating hate crimes, providing better housing and shelter options for queer people and appointing mayoral LGBTQ2 liaisons to work with communities across the city.

Other issues on her platform are investing in neighbourhood schools, ending gun violence in the city, expanding affordable housing, legalizing cannabis and reforming the police department.

If elected this April, Lightfoot will be the first openly gay mayor of Chicago, the third-largest city in the United States — and after years of straight men running politics of all levels, it’s about time.

Aria Sa’id

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district has a rich, if largely overlooked, LGBTQ2 history: it’s the site of one of the first documented riots of queer and trans people in US history in 1966, a predecessor to the Stonewall Riots in New York. It’s why Sa’id, a political strategist, is helping protect the area’s history by creating the world’s first-ever legally recognized transgender cultural district alongside other queer activists. Its goal: to stop the displacement of trans folks in the area while providing education about their communities to cisgender residents. In Compton’s Transgender Cultural District, Sa’id told Forbes, “we want to lend access to economic opportunities, employment, income enhancement, housing, arts, culture and more.” But most of all, it will offer a much-needed space to honour trans communities so often ignored and displaced.

Caster Semenya

The powerhouse South African runner has dominated middle-distance for a decade, having won two Olympic gold medals and three world championships. And for nearly just as long, she’s been the target of track officials over concerns that her natural physiology gives her an unfair advantage. Semenya has hyperandrogenism, a medical condition that elevates her levels of testosterone. Her current challenge against the International Association for Athletics Federation’s eligibility rules is a landmark case for trans and interex female athletes, who are subjected to invasive sex testing and have been, in some cases, forced to take hormone suppressants in order to compete. For her brilliance and bravery, Semenya was featured in a recent, all-women, stereotype-busting viral ad from Nike titled “Dream Crazier” (and narrated by none other than GOAT Serena Williams), with the accompanying line “when we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us.” For what it’s worth, we think everything is right with our golden girl Semenya.

Angelica Ross

You probably know her as Candy Abundance in the FX series Pose. But Angelica Ross is also a fierce business woman, a skilled coder and trans-rights advocate.

When she was 17, she enrolled in the navy, but after a homophobic attack by a fellow marine at a party, she told her captain she wanted to leave. She signed a document that said she was an “an admitted homosexual” and got an uncharacterized discharge — leaving her without benefits. At 19, Ross started her transition, and to support herself, she modeled and did sex work for an adult website.

The webmaster noticed her computer skills and asked her to crop and resize photos, as well as work on the backend of the site. She continued to build her skills on her own throughLynda.com, a site that provides online video courses in business, software and design.

Ross is now making room for other trans people in  tech, an industry where women and LGBT2Q folks are discriminated against, harassed and disproportionately underemployed. The founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises, an incubator that offers training to trans people looking for jobs in the industry, Ross is ensuring that queer and trans folks can get the skills they need to work in tech.

“The trans community is bigger and more valuable than companies usually acknowledge,” Ross said in an interview with Nation Swell. “If you look, and especially if you look to TransTech, you will find a plethora of talent.”