It was wonderful to be selected by Representative Salud Carbajal as a 2019 Congressional Woman of the Year for the California 24th District for the work I do on LGBT issues. Here’s what I said when I received the award. If you read or watch to the end, you’ll know what to ask me to give you when you see me in person!
Thank you so much, Representative Carbajal. I am humbled by your recognition for the work I’ve done with and in support of LGBTQ communities, and I appreciate your unwaivering allyship. I am so honored to be one of the Women of the Year you’ve selected for our district in 2019.
Because of the genders we are, the genders we love, the genders we desire, LGBTQ people experience barriers to reaching their full potential. I have made it my life’s work to tear down those barriers and equip people with tools that will help them participate fully in their lives, in their interpersonal relationships, and in the world.
In this same patriarchal society that oppresses LGBTQ people, “woman” is a defining category. Because of the gender we are, women are marginalized, victimized, patronized. And, like LGBTQ people, the resilience we develop to survive and thrive gives us strength. Not everyone identifies as a woman, and those of us who do may not experience our womanness similarly. But perhaps, no matter what our gender, we can all get in touch with what I think of as our inner Woman of the Year.
What is your inner Woman of the Year? It is a superpower that exists within you. It is the confidence to speak up, the wisdom that guides tough choices, the strength that emboldens you to take action, the compassion to help others, and the integrity to use your powers for good. I am not THE Woman of the Year. I am someone whose inner Woman of the Year is being honored. If your inner Woman of the Year has not yet gained external recognition, I want to take this opportunity to shine a light on it, I want to honor YOUR inner Woman of the Year.
If you know me at all, you are likely aware that an important source of my inspiration is Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. The most important thing I learned from Buffy is that only together can we save the world. I want to encourage all of you to embrace your inner Woman of the Year because it’s going to take our collective superpowers to create a world where everyone can realize their full potential.
In Buffy’s words, slightly adapted…
So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Woman of the Year is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power…From now on, every girl in the world who might be Woman of the Year, will be Woman of the Year. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Women of the Year, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?
I have a little something to remind you of your strength. Buffy carried a wooden stake as her weapon. I offer each of you a pointy piece of wood – a sustainable bamboo pen, that is. Every time you use it, you will remember that you are Woman of the Year, and you will feel powerful enough to accomplish whatever challenge you are facing. And you will know that we are all with you.
So thank you for being here, for supporting me in my journey to realize my inner Woman of the Year potential. My hope is that I can do the same for you.
With Representative Salud Carbajal, friends, family, and colleagues
Photo credit Timothy Teague