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What We’ve Gained And Lost Since Stonewall

Black trans people have been struggling for acceptance for 50 years. And we’re not even close to getting it.

A Roundtable Discussion


There is no because of this or that — Stonewall just happened. There was a tendency at that time for white people to think, well, she’s a junkie or she’s an alcoholic or she’s a drug addict. She’s anything but human, so why listen to her? That was the basic attitude towards us trans women in the 60s. And it just happened to be everywhere. Some of the girls back then, like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, tried to speak up for us, but just got laughed at. Everyone, especially the police, had been treating us trans girls poorly for years. They used to make trans women wear three articles of male clothing under their female attire in order to enter the bar. It was such a mental and emotional persecution building up over time — the shit just hit the fan, period.

Illustration by Charlie Poulson

I would love to say that things are so much better now because we’re more visible— but they’re not. It took 40 years to become more visible. What happened during all that time? What about all the girls whose lives were lost? What about all of those who were beaten and killed because someone was trying to put their own attitude and morals on our bodies? Strangers have no compunction. The police never did anything to catch those murderers. The way I see it, the government sanctioned those murders. Their silence was approval. They’ve been killing us girls for years. Is it anything new? No. Is the rate they’re killing any different? Since our visibility happened, there’s been even more brutality, harassment, mistreatment happening on a regular basis. People can’t get to Laverne Cox or Janet Mock, so instead, they go after a girl walking in a street in her neighborhood at night, just trying to make money to survive. And when the police come, the murderer goes home free of charge, while this trans woman nobody cares about lies dead in the street.

These days the police are shooting folks left and right, shooting all of our young black men every opportunity they get — and what happens? Everybody’s sad — they all sing prayers and rush to put the flowers down beside the deceased. But when a young 19-year-old transgender girl is murdered, who’s running to put flowers on her? Nobody. Who’s stopping to check on her blood family or her network of friends? Nobody.

What does the word ‘fair’ mean to you?

I started working with #BlackLivesMatter because people have to understand, black trans lives matter too — black means all black people. I was black before I became a transgender person. And I suffer because I’m black more than I suffer from being transgender. Which is better? There is no way to tell.


The world is not set up for black and brown people at all. So, we have to look out for each other — and for trans people of color, in general. Most black trans girls are on their own pretty early, because their families won’t accept them as trans. When your family smells perfume on you, they don’t waste time — you can’t live in their house and do that; if you don’t conform and pretend to be the black boy they raised, then you’re out of there. But then what do you do? How do you survive? How do you pay rent? How do you buy food? Where do you live? We don’t have a choice. If they won’t let you in to survive, you live on the outside.

I’m a person, so I want to make sure that the young people realize that they need to be themselves — even though it comes with a cost. This isn’t the kind of the world that lets you be who you really are for free! This isn’t a world where black trans people can be comfortable and exercise our rights as a human beings. The world doesn’t think we’re human; they don’t think we have any rights. Besides, what do the laws matter when the people enforcing them won’t acknowledge or act on them? The law has no teeth.

I want people to know that it’s rough for us. We’re a tough bunch of bitches. We’ve gone through worse. We’ll get through this. We just have to be strong. We do what we need to do to be okay and wake up tomorrow morning and start all over again. We can’t give in. We can’t go down without a fight. We’re not going to be pushed around.

**Miss Major’s pronouns are she/her**


This essay was adapted from an interview with Miss Major.

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