“When I was 12 we went to visit my Dad’s family in Senegal. It was a gender thing from the beginning. My Dad and my brother Charlie arrived in Senegal a week earlier and Charlie had visited many times before. And still, everyone in the house was freaking out over my little brother Charlie. It felt to me like I was irrelevant. I was shy and their was a language barrier but still I felt so negated and small because I was not the male next of kin. I thought to myself “ Did I do something wrong? Why don’t they love me?” I witnessed so much sexism there. The girls cooking and the boys playing. My uncles in Senegal send Charlie gifts but no one is itching to give me anything. My brother loves Senegal while I feel my relationship with Senegal is fractured.” Jasmine Niang is a college Freshman.
“Since I started doing drag I was noticed by a media company who spotlight women and non-comforming gender people who are in non-conforming gender roles. They did a short feature documentary on me and it went totally viral. 4.5 million views. They asked me to appear at their festival. If I were a male doing drag it would not have had as much impact.” - Vicky DeVille
“I feel there have been challenges as a woman for work, equal pay and getting an exhibition of my work. I took a workshop in the early 90’s with Diane Torr advertised as “Be A Man For A Day” - Tired of not getting that work, that show. Learn to how to walk, talk, think like a man. I’ve learned your identity is really a construct. You can be who you want to be.” - Shari Diamond is an NYC based artist. ShariDiamond.net
“I went to NYU and studied gender and sexuality and photography. After school I went on to direct porn for ten years. I wouldn’t have been able to produce the content, the higher art concept if I wasn’t a woman.” - Princess Donna @princessdonnadolore
“I’ve had a very tense relationship with my body. I was assaulted and I had a breast reduction operation when I was young. Those experiences are directly tied to being a woman. In the last few years I’ve really taken ownership of my body. I’m not just a floating head, there is a body attached and it’s a gift. Because there are so many societal forces against that, it feels like a triumph being part of this parade and getting an IUD. I don’t regret getting the breast reduction surgery but I wouldn’t do it now. “ - Samantha Johnson participated in the mermaid parade in Coney Island dressed in honor of the Santeria Orisha Yemaya.
“I gave birth three times and that is the most powerful thing a creature can do. I’m a computer programmer so I think of myself and my body as the development environment and I gave birth voluntarily and with love. Voluntary means we are expressing our love not because we are forced but because we choose to. If the state forces your to have a child than it takes away that powerful expression of love.” - Peggy Dolgenos is a mother of three and a computer programmer.
“I went to D.C. to protest during Kavanaugh’s hearing. I took a knee. I’m protesting the patriarchy that’s impacted my life and women’s contribution to that patriarchy. I will be contributing to the campaign of whoever runs agains Susan Collins.” - Valerie Ross is a activist and is involved with Black Women’s Blueprint.
“When I became pregnant I was a lead singer in a rock band. I wanted to keep the baby and the band decided to break up. But then, the band got back together only without me. I would still be singing if I had been given the chance. I always wonder what would have been but I don’t regret devoting my life to my son.” - Janna Bastone.
“In 2009 I was attacked at a gas station. I was left with a broken nose, a black eye, a chipped tooth and five months of facial paralysis. While I was getting beaten a man witness took a photo and I begged him to help me but he walked away. But a woman working at the gas station came and saved my life - the attackers had a car and they were going to through me in the back of it. When the police came to the scene the man who took the photo came back and I yelled at him asking “ Why didn’t you help me?”. He said, “I thought he was your boyfriend.” And I said, “ So what if he was? You just walk away?”. So I asked the woman who saved me what was her reason for saving me. She said, “I didn’t need a reason. I just knew you needed help.” I think that’s when I realized that men don’t really have any idea what women go through. I had evidence stacked a mile high, video footage, witnesses and photos but the cops never took them to court.”
“When I was young - my very best friend was a gay Puerto Rican man 16 years my senior. He used to bring me to gay clubs. If I had not been a woman I would not have had so much fun. I could dance and groove and grind and wear the shortest dresses and the guys weren’t into me - they didn’t give me a hard time we just had fun. My friend and I had to be soulmates of some sort because when we first met I was five and he was 22. He watched out for me and we became best friends. He is gone now. He died of aids.” - Tobi Wright is in an interior designer. insightwright.com
“When I was 15, I said I want to be a young mother. Then I did have my kids very young, I was 19 when I had my first child. They are 10 and 8 years old now and they are my blessing.” - Katherine Medrano works in the healthcare industry.
“I went in to have a tubal and to my surprise I was pregnant. I think that was God telling me “You’re done when I say you’re done.” It was my 6th and last child and it was a complicated. I had diabetes and I was in and out of the hospital.” - Milagro Oquerido has six children and works in a medical clinic.
“You don’t think there will be as much adversity in the business world for women , but there is. I’m a woman and I’m young and people assume you don’t know what you’re doing. People walk into my restaurant and ask to talk to the owner and they don’t expect me to be the owner. You have to build a strong character especially in NYC. People can say whatever, but you have to know what you’re doing and know what you are doing for your future.” Zubaida Elhage is the co-owner of Cocoa Grinder on Nostrand Ave.
“It’s so tiring being constantly concerned with being perceived as pretty or not. It’s really boring to have to think about weight and looks. The bar is set so high and this all because of media and culture. From a business perspective it’s not feasible to pay to keep up the beauty perception - the waxing, laser hair removal, make-up and whatever else. Men don’t have to do this. Why do I have to spend a 1/4 of my paycheck on this? People are not in search of the content, they are just concerned with the surface.” - Hande Öney is an architect and is studying for her MBA at Columbia University.
“Right now I’m in a shelter because of domestic violence. And I lost my home. If I were a man I’d stand up for women who were getting abused.” - Gregorina Sanchez.
“When I was a little girl I sang in the Met Opera Children’s Chorus and got my first taste of what it felt like to be in the theater - to be around the costumes, the sets, the smells and communal aspect of of it all. When I was about 7 or 8 years old I was part of a co-production with the Kirov company. And one day after a performance two Russian men came up to me and one of them asked me, “Do you love?”. I said I didn’t understand what he was asking me. So he asked again, “Do you love?” And I apologized again and said I didn’t understand. Then he asked a third time, “Do you love?” and aggressively reached out pointing to and then touched my clothed vagina. It wasn’t traumatizing, it didn’t feel sexual, but it shocked me. I didn’t want to tell my Dad because I was afraid he would come and cause a scene. But I felt weird about it and weird about holding it inside. Back then I was concerned about not causing a stir in the theater. Now I’m comfortable dealing with conflict and speaking up.” - Rebecca Naomi Jones is a Broadway actor and is playing Laurey in Oklahoma.
“If you were a man no one would ever ask you why don’t have children or why you didn’t change your last name when you got married. I’m the daughter of a single mother who has passed away. The universe I grew up in was all connected to my maternal family. She raised us, she did everything, but she gave us our father’s name because all cultural references told her to, and assumed I would take a man’s name, upon marriage. But this is how women have been disappeared throughout history. Women go from the house of one man’s name and when they get married they go into the house of another man’s name, as property. But the names I was born into tell a story, the only one I know, and then those stories disappear. Why is that the default? Why is that the only option? “ - Melissa Garcia works in the field of international women’s health and rights (Women Deliver)
“I don’t have children but I am sure that when women are pregnant they can feel things that men cannot. There’s something about our body giving life that makes us more aware of well being.” - Marielle is French and is currently a student at Pratt.
“When I was in High School my family life was pretty chaotic. My High School English teacher assigned me to write an essay and she submitted it to a contest and I won. She sent me a cactus as a congratulations to my home. But I had just procured a 1986 Ford Mustang and I was living in the car in the parking lot of the Little Caesars where I worked. The cactus plant was returned to her as undeliverable without an explanation. So the teacher asked my step-sister why it looked like I didn’t live there. My step-sister said, “Ask Melea.” The next Friday the teacher, Mrs, Schaeffer who was 28 years old, invited me to dinner at her house. She said, “I don’t know why you are living in a car but at this rate you aren’t going to graduate or go to college.” So she and her husband Eddy invited me to live their basement and in return I had to go to school, apply to college, mow their lawn and wash their sailboat. I lived there for one and half years. After I graduated I attended Rockhurst University.” - Melea Seward is a strategy and communications consultant. #damnrightiatetheapple