Pride month may be long over, but that doesn’t mean that we should ever stop learning about the LGBTQ+ community members who have paved the way or are currently leading a new revolution in equality for all. Meet some of the transgender activists throughout history who began and continued the fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community:
Marsha P. Johnson
We can’t talk about Black, transgender activists and not talk about Marsha P. Johnson. Johnson was an outspoken civil rights advocate, especially for the trans community, during the 1960s and into the 1990s. Though she did not attend the Stonewall riots herself, she became a pivotal icon to the event as the co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front, one of the first popularized organizations to advocate for LGBTQ+ people in the United States, and the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) program, which specifically catered to the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Through these programs, Johnson worked tirelessly fighting for the rights of LGBTQ+ people of all races, advocating specifically on transgender issues, spreading awareness and caring for those with HIV and AIDS, and helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth. Even 30 years after her death, Johnson’s legacy continues to inspire others to stand up for themselves and take care of others in their community.
Sources: Wikipedia, Women’s History
Coined as the “Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement,” Sylvia Rivera was an American gay liberation and transgender rights activist who advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in New York during the 1970s until her death in 2002. Working with her friend, mentor and prominent figure in the Stonewall riots, Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) group, an organization dedicated to helping homeless trans women and LGBTQ+ youth. As someone who suffered from systematic poverty and racism herself, Rivera used her voice for unity, sharing her stories of pain and struggle to show her community they are not alone. She amplified the voices of the most vulnerable members of the gay community: drag queens, homeless youth, gay inmates in prison and transgender people. Though she is best known for her dedication in furthering trans-inclusive legislation in New York and beyond, Rivera also used her identity to advocate for issues surrounding race and poverty and their intersectionality among transgender identities.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, often referred to as Miss Major, is an activist, veteran of the Stonewall riots and a community leader for transgender rights, with a particular focus on women of color. She served as the original executive director for the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project that aims to assist transgender persons who are disproportionately incarcerated, and has participated in activism for a wide range of causes throughout her lifetime. Having experienced homelessness and severe transphobia in the past, Griffin-Gracy made it her goal to make sure other trans women of color have the resources and safety they need. She has provided direct services for trans women who were incarcerated, suffering from addiction, homeless and/or had additional health care needs due to HIV/AIDS. Through her work, she has become one of the biggest voices for trans women of color today and continues to do everything she can for the community through the Griffin-Gracy Education Retreat and Historical Center, an organization she founded that tells the stories of Black trans women that may otherwise not be told.
Sources: Wikipedia, The Trevor Project
Jennicet Gutiérrez is an activist for transgender and immigrant rights. A transgender woman and an immigrant herself, Gutiérrez first garnered national attention in 2015 when she interrupted President Obama at a White House event to speak on behalf of LGBTQ+ immigrants in detention centers. She went on to become a founding member of the La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, an organization that works at national and local levels to achieve the collective liberation of LGBT Latinas though community organizing, advocacy and education. Gutiérrez is also known for attending rallies and informative talks to educate others on the importance of safety and equity for transgender immigrants of color in detention centers.
Sources: Wikipedia, Astraea Foundation, NBC