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“True Feminism” Includes Trans Women, Zendaya Explains in an Interview to British Vogue

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Feb 17, 2022

“True Feminism” Includes Trans Women, Zendaya Explains in an Interview to British Vogue
  • The road to acceptance for the trans community has been a long one, but more recent waves of feminism have begun to recognize intersectionality and the importance of including all women, cis-gendered or not. 

    In a recent interview with British Vogue, Euphoria star and Emmy-award-winning actress Zendaya announced her support for just that. Zendaya states in the interview that true feminism has to include “women that look like you, women who don’t look like you, women whose experiences are different than you. That means black women, that means trans women, that means all women.” The 25-year-old actress gained a huge wave of support from the trans community after standing up for their inclusion in the feminist movement. 

    This isn’t the first of Zendaya’s displays of allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, however. The Euphoria star has acquired a large queer following since portraying the on-screen relationship with transgender model and co-star Hunter Shafer in one of TV’s only cis-trans, WLW romances. (And let’s be real: we NEED more examples of trans dating on mainstream television.) Zendaya also received the Gamechanger Award from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in 2017 for her activism catered toward inspiring action in youth.

    Zendaya also brought some joy to the queer community when she corrected a gendered question asked of her in a Vanity Fair interview. After being asked the question what “quality you most like in a man” she replied, “I most like in a person, how about that?”. This response was a small way to help fight against heteronormativity– let’s not assume a woman is into men and only men! Although Zendaya has never confirmed her sexual orientation, her stances have positioned her as a beloved LGBTQ+ ally.

    The world still has a long way to go in terms of achieving equality for the transgender community, but actions like Zendaya’s help us get a little closer.

    The History of Discrimination Against Trans Women in Feminist Movements

    Although the feminist movement has helped women gain more equality in society throughout the decades, it also has a long history of exclusively centering cis, straight, white women in its advocacy. 

    The feminist movement consists of four periods or ‘waves’. The first wave of feminism (late 19th century to 1920s) dealt with women’s suffrage and property rights, but it completely excluded black women who did not gain the same rights until 45 years later (and it certainly did not recognize trans women either). The second wave (the 1960s-90s) focused on anti-discrimination and equality, yet still for only white, cis women. 

    The third wave of feminism (in the late 1990s) began as a backlash to the previous white-washed version of feminism and introduced intersectionality, yet still fell short of recognizing trans women as women deserving of the same treatment. The modern fourth wave (2010-present) emphasizes intersectionality, gender norms, and queerness, and it recognizes systemic white supremacy. The fourth wave is also marked by viral movements like #MeToo and the utilization of social media.

    Even today, however, trans women are often left out of the feminist narrative. Due to transphobic ideology, many people refuse to accept trans women as women. In fact, many self-proclaimed feminists believe that trans women pose a threat to feminism, and trans and feminist groups are often pitted against each other from right-winged hate. An irrational fear exists that the blurred lines around gender trans people represent diminishes the discrimination cis-women have faced in society. In reality, we are all fighting for the same thing– to dismantle the patriarchal structure that oppresses all women.

    Trans women have given so much to the women’s and LGBTQ+ movements, yet are often forgotten and left behind. The Stonewall Riots that helped pave the way to the LGBTQ+ rights we know today were led by trans women of color, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. The feminist movement needs to better recognize its shortcomings when it comes to including the transgender community, who are some of our most vulnerable women that need our support.

    Why This Is Important: Trans Women ARE Women!

    The history of the feminist movement is one demonstration of trans women not being recognized as women. The ways people portray trans women as less than cis women has real hard toward the trans community. This can be seen in people protesting against trans women participating in women’s sports, not allowing trans women in women’s bathrooms, and feminists refusing to include trans women in their circle. 

    This social stigma is a serious issue– it perpetuates real violence against the trans community. Therefore, it’s so important for us to recognize and accept that trans women ARE women. As Zendaya points out, if your feminism doesn’t include trans women and women of color, it’s not true feminism.

    How Zendaya’s Actions Can Help Bring Awareness 

    Unfortunately, many people still don’t fully accept trans people as their true genders. This is why it’s impactful when celebrities use their large platforms to take a stance and show support for marginalized communities because it can bring more people on board with those messages. Zendaya showed she’s aware of the importance of feminism including all women when it historically has not.

    Zendaya is one of the most popular celebrities in pop culture today, and she has a huge impact on her audience of 128 million, mostly young people on Instagram and beyond. When we fight the stigma against transgender people, we are working toward a world where all women can be safe and thrive.

    What You Can Do to Support Trans Women

    As some of the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s so important that we dedicate more support to transgender women. Some ways we can better help the trans community include:

    • Donating to transgender non profits like Black Trans Women Inc.
    • Sharing organizations to donate to.
    • Spreading awareness about trans issues.
    • Becoming more educated on transgender history and marginalization.
    • Standing up against hate when we see it– online and irl.
    • Being a safe space for trans women. 
    • Actively fighting against transphobia and acknowledging that trans women ARE women.

    Learn More with HER

    HER is the app for connecting LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary folks. Many transgender and LGBTQ+ women have found their loving and accepting communities with HER, as well as their special someone. Download HER today to connect with supportive queer folks near you.

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    Katie is a writer and creative person based in Seattle who is passionate about the arts, environmental justice, and all things vintage fashion. She celebrates queerness as a natural yet radical state of being, and she strives to make the world a more inclusive place for all. You can find her taking meditative strolls in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest channeling her inner Bella Swan, or just on IG @ktmarieeee.

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