If we knew trans history, we would thank Black women for whatever liberation trans people enjoy today. Black trans women have long faced brutal transmisogynistic violence. They have often fought the hardest to resist it. Here are some of the women who deserve our gratitude:
Marsha P. Johnson
Marsha P. Johnson may have been the first person to fight back against the police during the Stonewall Rebellion. According to her friends in the New York gay right movement, Marsha P. Johnson threw a shot glass at a police officer who hassled her for ID. Many New York activist give Johnson’s actions credit for sparking the riot that is remembered as the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement.
Johnson also co-founded the organization Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, known as STAR. STAR centered the needs to transgender women of color and worked closely with anti-racist organizations, including the Black Panthers and the Young Lords.
Quote: “I think if transvestites don’t stand up for themselves, nobody else is going to stand up for transvestites.”
Miss Major Griffin-Gracey
Miss Major was also present during the Stonewall Rebellion, but that was hardly her first brush with history. Locked away in a men’s prison, Griffin-Gracey was also present at during the Attica Prison Uprising. Today, she works for the liberation of trans women through her organization Transgender GenderVariant Intersex Justice Project.
Quote: On the transgender women who participated in the Stonewall riots: “These were wonderful, marvelous, smart, intelligent girls. Yeah, we couldn’t get jobs making sixty thousand dollars a year, oh well. But we lived our true selves. We enjoyed our lives. We did what we had to do to survive. And we did!”
On June 5th, 2011, CeCe McDonald was walking down the street with her friends when she was attacked by white men hurling racist, transmisogynistic slurs. A fight ensued. CeCe defended herself. A man named Dean Schmitz was fatally stabbed. CeCe was the only arrested that night. She denied the right to claim self-defense and sentenced to prison. She served 41 months in a men’s prison. She came out ready to fight. Today, CeCe organizes against racism and mass incarceration.
Quote: “Prisons don’t keep us safe. We keep each other safe.”
When Black trans women get free, we all get free. Black trans women deserve support, love, and profound gratitude.