International Women’s Day 2024: Interview with Astrid

Today, Friday, 8 March 2024, is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

IWD has been marked for over a century, with the first gathering in its name in 1911 supported by more than a million people. Today, IWD belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. It is not country, group or organisation-specific.

To celebrate IWD 2024, we’ve interviewed two of amazing women: Astrid (she/her), our LGBTQ+ Specialist IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advocate), and Jane (she/her), our Inclusion and Engagement Project Manager.

We’ll begin with Astrid’s interview, which you can enjoy here:

Please could you tell me a little about yourself?
I came to Brighton for university in 2016 to study Psychology and never left. I was lucky enough to land a job straight out of university which allowed me to keep living here. I couldn’t imagine moving back home, having fallen deep in love with Brighton. I came out as a trans woman openly in 2018 and feel that I’ve really found my tribe here in Brighton. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you – and why is it so important?
I struggled with this question initially. I wanted to say something uplifting and inspiring about IWD, but I don’t think that sits right with me given all that is happening in the world at the moment. Looking at some of the events of the past year surrounding women, it’s not exactly been a great year. In 2023, we lost Brianna Ghey. This year, the Angiolini report into Sarah Everard’s death was published, showing how numerous police forces failed to appropriately screen Wayne Couzens when he applied to become a police officer. The report cites that he ‘should never have been an officer’- well, he was. These two examples are just SOME of the awful events that have affected women in recent times. It barely scratches the surface when we think about what is happening in Palestine, how Kemi Badenoch continues to openly bash trans women, and how JK Rowling still has a Twitter account.

For me, I think this IWD means a time to stop and think. Despite how far things seem to have come, it does simultaneously feel that not much has changed? Whilst there has been progress, it also feels as though we can’t disregard how much work still needs to be done. I’m having to limit the time I spend reading the news now, purely because there is so much anti-trans hate being published, particularly towards trans women. I do think it’s really important we celebrate the successes we’ve had surrounding women’s equality, but we also need to acknowledge the pain and suffering that is going on in the world at the moment, particularly at the hands of those in positions of power.

The campaign theme for this year’s IWD is Inspire Inclusion. What does this mean to you?
I had a nosey on the IWD website and, on the face of it, I love this theme. Inclusion is something I’m passionate about and do a lot of talking about within my work. It was difficult for me to feel fully assured, however, that the messaging was inclusive of trans women. Perhaps this is more of a ‘me’ problem, but unless trans inclusion is overtly stated, I often assume that the messaging doesn’t include me. It feels ironic that the theme of ‘inspire inclusion’ on the IWD website doesn’t inspire me to feel included, purely because it doesn’t remotely indicate that I actually am included.

For me, we can only inspire inclusion when we genuinely mean it. I think phrases like EDI (equality, diversity and inclusion) or Inclusion get thrown around a lot, especially in the charity sector, as they’re neat little buzz words that make people look like they’re doing the work. In reality, what does that actually mean? What are organisations, people, politicians, etc. ACTUALLY doing to inspire inclusion? Inspiring inclusion, to me, means that we don’t just ‘talk the talk’ but we ‘walk the walk’. It requires us to be self-aware, reflective, accountable, and have difficult conversations with each other.

How will you celebrate the day? Will you think about or do anything in particular?
I’ll be holding the women in my life, past and present, a little closer than usual. There are so many women out there, like Brianna and Sarah, who aren’t here with us, so I’ll be keeping them in my thoughts as well. I think I’ll also be using it as a time to think and reflect on my own role in all of this. What more can I be doing to inspire inclusion? How can I meaningfully create change in the positions of power and privilege I occupy?

How would you encourage readers to celebrate or mark this year’s IWD?
I would say find a way to get involved, whether that is in a big way or small. Send a text, write a tweet, attend a protest, write to your MP; there’s so many ways to get involved. The hashtag this year is #InspireInclusion, so you could even get some friends or colleagues together to pose for a social media post. I don’t think it matters how big or small the action you take is, it just matters that you’re taking part.

Which women are your heroes?
My gorgeous friend, Liv. She sadly passed away in 2023 from a sudden and unexpected illness. She was such a beacon of light and joy. She ran her own yarn company and was so talented! I think about her all the time. She was such an inspiration for me as she was so young but doing such amazing things.

How does Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard celebrate and support women?
We often talk about how we get to bring our whole selves to work at Switchboard, which I think really means a lot to all of us. All of us get to be unapologetically ourselves, sharing our talents and expertise with each other. Our new strategy, Joy and Justice, also speaks to this as it acknowledges both the highs and lows of queer life. I don’t think I’ve ever worked somewhere where I feel so comfortable and seen by each and every one of my colleagues. It really is a special place to work.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about IWD?
Trans women are women – support your sisters and not just your cisters.