In this three part blog post I will be covering the history of trans activism, where its at currently, and the many times through out its history and today the voices of trans folk have been silenced or pushed a side.
So to start lets begin with the very beginning of the modern LGBTQIA+ movement because it wouldn’t exist without the action of trans women, namely trans women of color. Marsha P. Johnson was an activist, performer, model, sex worker, and mother figure to many young trans women in New York during her lifetime. A figurehead of the transgender community in Greenwich Village, Johnson was one of the first Stonewall instigators and was deeply influenced by her experiences being homeless and hustling for survival. The way in which rioter during the riots organized against police and use pamphlets and flyers to distribute is considered by most to be the start of the Gay Liberation Movement.
Another Figure head in the riots was Miss Major. Miss Major is one of the most prominent pioneers of today’s trans rights movement. She has fought for trans rights for over forty years. After participating in the original Stonewall Riots, she worked to organise fellow sex workers in the 1970s and to became a leader in fighting for trans rights. Currently, Miss Major is the Executive Director of the Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, an organisation working “against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures” for transgender women of colour and their families.
moving on a little bit forward in time, Like many cities in the 70’s Los Angeles had an anti-crossdressing regulation on the books they called Rule Number 9. It made it illegal for performers to ‘impersonate by means of costume or dress a member of the opposite sex’ unless you had a special permit issued by the LA Board of Police Commissioners. The woman who help strike down the regulation Lady Java was a performer and female impersonator based in Los Angeles, California, during the 1960s. At the time, Los Angeles law made it illegal to “impersonate by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex” and was often used by police to break up shows and punish trans people. When Sir Lady Java became more popular, authorities began targeting her directly. Recognizing this violation on her civil rights and affect this had on the LGBT+ community, she fought back. Joining forces with the ACLU, Sir Lady Java took Rule No. 9 to court and brought the LGBT community together through public rallies and protests. While it was determined she didn’t have legal standing to file the initial lawsuit, Sir Lady Java made it possible for Rule No. 9 to be stuck down two years later.
The History of trans activism has its roots in media id developing a codified political identity at the actions of Virginia Prince. In 1960, the first issue of Prince’s magazine “Transvestia” was published. Prince acquired the means to fund the publication after assembling a list of 25 acquaintances, each of whom were willing to donate four dollars to her start-up. Working with one hundred dollars, Prince then launched her first issue, published by her own Chevalier Publications, and sold it by subscription and through adult bookstores. Princes writings while originally focused on helping to shed ignorance of drag queens and crossdressers become more about shedding ignorance all all things related to not binary gender conformation. And although the magazine wasnt much of a commercial success it helped to bring together people from all over the country into a singular movement.