100 Women We Love: Class Of 2018

Each one of these women, in her own unique way, is a role model who exemplifies the best of the LGBTQ community.

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Photo by Emily Weathers

Pushcart Prize-winning poet Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is “deeply interested in human connection,” and yet has a hard time expressing herself socially. “With poetry,” however, “I have a chance to reach out and communicate with other gay, queer, and trans people. Nothing in the entire world is more rewarding than having someone message me or come up to me after a reading to tell me that my writing has helped them feel more understood and valid. On the hardest days this is enough motivation to keep me going,” she says. Espinoza’s work has been featured in the American Poetry Review, Hyperallergic, Lambda Literary, and them. She is the author of of two collections of poetry, with another forthcoming this fall. She also recently toured with queer-feminist spoken-word collective Sister Spit. Following her own coming-out as a trans woman, Espinoza says she “lost 90 percent of my family, and that was tough, but there was relief, too.” On top of that, she hasn’t always been able to find her place in the lesbian community. “It’s complicated because as a trans woman it is not always easy to claim a lesbian identity,” she says. “There can be a lot of pushback from people, and weird assumptions are made about my body and what my experience with gender was like before I transitioned. There are lots of supportive lesbians out there doing their part to combat transphobia, but being a trans woman and a lesbian often remains an uncomfortable position to be in.” She urges people to come out “on their own terms, in their own time. This world does not make it safe for us to loudly be ourselves, so no one should be pressured to come out in a way that they are not comfortable with.” —SEJ