Recognizing the Roots of Pride

By Jack Warnecke.


Marsha P Johnson. Sylvia Rivera. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Stormé DeLarverie.

These are the names of the four transgender and gender non-conforming Black Women and Women of Color who led the rebellion at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. You may not know these women’s names, and that is the problem. I did not read about these women in my AP US history course in high school. In fact, I read at most a handful of paragraphs about LGBTQ+ history. Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was the only person I read about in relation to the LGBTQ+ community during my primary education. He may have been gay, but he was a cis white man.  Much like all of American history, LGBTQ+ history has been whitewashed and omits the voices and actions of Black people and People of Color.

The brief covering of Stonewall in my history textbook failed to mention what actually happened during those six days of protest. It was not a mass of people peacefully protesting and stomping their feet and screaming down the street. Stonewall was an uprising and rebellion. Stonewall was six days of violence, police brutality, burning, and destruction. My history textbook also neglected to include the fact that trans and gender non-conforming Black Women and Women of Color were at the frontlines of Stonewall and led the fight for LGBTQ+ liberation.

Women like Johnson, Rivera, Griffin-Gracy, and DeLarverie leading and standing at the frontlines of Stonewall are the reason the LGBTQ+ community is where it is today. They risked their freedom and their lives for their community. For members of the LGBTQ+ community who think the community has been fully liberated: you’re wrong. The same women who risked everything for the liberation of the LGBTQ+ community in America have a global life expectancy of 35 years. That statistic means liberation hasn’t occurred for every member of the LGBTQ+ community. Trans and gender non-conforming people, specifically Black women and Women of Color, are still fighting for their lives every day in America. Cisgender and white members of the community are too blinded by their cisgender and/or white privilege to see the fight is still happening and there is more liberation that still needs to occur.

Pride celebrates diversity and how far the LGBTQ+ community has come, but it also acknowledges all of the struggles the community still faces. The community will never recover from the neglect the government showed during the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Trump Administration is still actively working against the LGBTQ+ community, especially the trans community. Transphobia and homophobia are alive and well in America.

The LGBTQ+ community will not be equal until every member has the same rights as their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. That goes for every community within the LGBTQ+ acronym and in every aspect of their lives. You can neither participate in pride month nor celebrate the LGBTQ+ community if you do not acknowledge the role transgender and gender non-conforming Black Women and Women of Color played at Stonewall. Failing to acknowledge their role in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights contributes to the whitewashing of American history and silences the voices and actions of Black people and People of Color.  

Marsha P Johnson. Sylvia Rivera. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. Stormé DeLarverie.

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