Tag Archives: transgender rights

Stonewall: Then and Now

Laurie says:

I wrote this a week ago, and I said that 9 transgender women (that we know of), mostly black and brown, had been murdered this year.  Two more have been murdered since then. I initially wrote this in anger and I am writing in anger now.

On Tuesday, the body of Brooklyn Lindsey—a transgender black woman—was discovered on the porch of an abandoned house in Kansas City, Mo. She was 32. CNN reports her death has been ruled a homicide due to multiple gunshot wounds. This makes her the 11th black transwoman to be murdered in America this year. From The Root
My grandmother’s jewelry store,The Waverly Shop, was up the block from the Stonewall riots in 1969. I grew up in that neighborhood and later worked in her shop. But by then, I was no longer in NYC but living on the houseboats at Gate 5 in the Bay Area. I heard about it and was awed that people were fighting back for the first time. (I know more now.)

Marsha P Johnson

At the time, the Stonewall Inn was owned by the Mafia. The people who hung out there were among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn.(Wikipedia) Usually they got to abuse people anyway they wanted to, but not this time. Sylvia Rivera, a Latina, and Marsha P Johnson, an African American, were in the forefront of the battle. Many people believe that Johnson threw the first brick.

In the late 60’s they would have been identified as transvestites, or drag queens, or transexuals. Johnson and Rivera would not have called themselves “transgender.” The word was not in common use. But they lived almost exclusively as women, and transgender people today consider them two of their own. (NY Times)

For a short time after Stonewall, LGBQ people were united. Then “respectability” kicked back in, and the people who stood up for themselves and for all queers at Stonewall were erased from the history (until fairly recently, and then only occasionally). Gay men, mostly white, took over the movement and ostracized women like Johnson and Rivera.

There is a statue of two gay men (and two lesbians sitting behind them on a bench.) made to honor the people who fought at Stonewall in a small park across the street. They are white and very respectable in their presentation. Very often our public art reflects not the true history but the comfortable story.

Respectability, wanting to appear “normal” in the larger society is always an activist problem. It expels people who are perceived as different in presentation or attitude, and who are are perceived as outrageous. It is a box imposed often by activists themselves.

Both women had difficult lives and no longer survive. They founded the first transgender support organization and were intermittently very politically brave and active in their lives. They got some recognition in the 90’s. Rivera said The movement had put me on the shelf, but they took me down and dusted me off, in a 1995 interview with The New York Times. Still, it was beautiful. I walked down 58th Street and the young ones were calling from the sidewalk, Sylvia, Sylvia, thank you, we know what you did. After that I went back on the shelf. It would be wonderful if the movement took care of its own. But don’t worry about Sylvia.

Finally 50 years later NYC is honoring Rivera and Johnston with a statue. And this all and good but I know if they were still here they would rather see a better world for transgender people and everyone who was in the bar. But transgender people don’t have discrimination protection. They can no longer serve in the military. In 2018 we know that at the very least 29 transgender people were murdered (the most ever recorded), most of them black and brown, and at least nine more have died in 2019.

LGBQ people have made remarkable gains since Stonewall, but transgender people, particularly people of color, have been far too often left behind.

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Thanksgiving 2013: So Much to Be Thankful For

Laurie and Debbie say:

There’s so much good news that we’re leaving stuff out! Let’s start with an in-your-face inspiring video.

“Say it right or don’t say it at all,” says Sha’Condria “iCon” Sibley, 2012 National Poetry Slam Championship Team, in a video entitled “For All the Little Black Girls with Big Names (dedicated to Quevenzhane’ Wallis).

There are rays of hope for the earth: The European Union has banned the neocotinoid pesticides which are almost certainly responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder which is destroying bees around the world. Massachusetts has signed contracts for wind-generated electricity at a lower price than traditional coal and nuclear energy. In Debbie’s back yard, river otters and ospreys are coming back to Lake Merritt, a human-made lake in Central Oakland.

river otter with fish in mouth

On a human note, extreme poverty in the world is actually seriously declining. And, contrary to the pattern of contemporary corporations, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline are making HPV vaccines (which prevent cervical cancer) available in poor countries at an almost affordable price (though of course it could be even less).

South Korean transgender people can now change their legal gender without changing their genitals. And in California, transgender students can now select both bathrooms and athletic affiliations based on their self-chosen identity. Perhaps even more surprising, California children can now have three legal parents.

The United States government has actually done some constructive things this year. The Affordable Care Act may have gotten off to a shaky start, but it is certainly improving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. And Vermont is parlaying it into single-payer, the kind of health care we’d really like to see. Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate finally went some distance to limit the filibuster, which has become a tactic of uncontrolled Republican obstructionism . And in the most amazing recent news, the Obama Administration has made a preliminary deal with Iran about nuclear weapons and sanctions, which may even spread to help end the war in Syria.

The Catholic Church has selected an Argentinian pope who is committed to consensus, community, and feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Among Pope Francis’s public statements since assuming the papacy are opposition to fracking as part of of his anticapitalist stance. He wants to see the power of the Church  un-Vatican-centered.

We wrote last year about Rolling Jubilee, and now they have bought $15 million dollars in random medical debt, and torn it up. The most recent large buy removed debt from 1900 debtors, with the largest single debtor having $237,000 in debt. Their website says “and more to come.” The debt forgiveness is real, but the underlying intention to call attention to the trillions of dollars of debt which burdens more than 70% of Americans

Ann Makosinski holding the flashlight she invented

And then there’s Ann Makosinski, the 15-year-old girl in Canada, who invented a flashlight powered by the heat of your hand.

We could actually add a lot more, but this seems like a fine assortment. We’re taking Thanksgiving weekend off, and we hope you are doing something wonderful!