ColumnsUnapologetically Trans

Mixed Emotions

A bittersweet Stonewall anniversary for the trans community.

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This month marks the 50th anniversary of a riot that changed the course of history and sparked a movement.

The June 28, 1969, Stonewall riot in New York was triggered by trans, lesbian, and gay folks of color who were tired of repeated police harassment. The Greenwich Village neighborhood where the Stonewall Inn gay bar was located saw three days of violent protests in the streets. That uprising is now celebrated with parades in New York and most other cities around the world.

But as this 50th anniversary approaches, we trans folks are feeling mixed emotions about Stonewall. Trans people long ago noticed the irony of our transcestors Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera being celebrated for kicking it off, even as the trans community has not received the benefits from the TBLGQ activism that has been done in their names since 1969. That’s because our biggest trans oppressors have often been the gay-and-lesbian-run civil-rights organizations and trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs), rather than the white evilgelicals or the current Republican Party.

The anti-trans bathroom meme didn’t start with the right wing, but with former congressman Barney Frank railing about “penises in showers” as he and the HRC tried to keep trans people out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

And I still haven’t forgotten the Lesbian/Gay Rights Lobby of Texas, the proto-organization of Equality Texas, working diligently during the 1999 and 2001 Texas legislative sessions to cut transgender Texans out of the state’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.    

We trans Texans have been trying ever since to be added to the Texas hate-crimes law. Rep. Garnet Coleman has been supporting our efforts as hate crimes against transgender Texans continue to rise.   

It is still legal to fire a trans person from their job in 34 states, and the Trump misadministration is trying to make that even easier to do. Trump also wants to keep trans people from using homeless shelters, joining the military, and accessing medical treatment. The “trans panic” defense has only been outlawed in California, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Nevada.

Because the Republican Party, evilgelicals, and the TERFs are ramping up anti-trans hatred for nefarious political gain, the violence aimed at trans people is on the rise—and black trans women are disproportionately taking the brunt of the attacks.

We have lost five black trans women so far this year to anti-trans violence—four of them under age 35. One of those five is 23-year-old Texan Muhlaysia Booker, who was laid to rest on May 28. She had survived a brutal April 12 assault in Dallas’ Oak Cliff neighborhood, but was then found shot to death in far-east Dallas last month.

And I can’t let you forget my trans Latina sisters Carla Pavon and Nikki Enriquez, who were murdered last year. Trans Latinas such as Roxsana Hernandez are also being abused and disrespected while in ICE custody.

Carla Pavon’s case was particularly infuriating because she left Honduras to escape anti-trans violence, only to die here in the United States because of it.

I must also take a moment to accentuate the positive things that have been happening in the 50 years that have elapsed since the Stonewall Riots.

Trans folks are increasingly getting elected to office, and that includes the state legislatures of Colorado and Virginia. New Hampshire has two trans women serving in their statehouse. Andrea Jenkins and Phillipe Cunningham, a black trans man and woman, are serving together on the Minneapolis City Council.   

One of the breakaway hit shows on TV last season was FX’s Pose, and it’s coming back at you for Season 2 on June 11. Pose not only features five main cast members who are trans, but the writing and producing talents of Janet Mock and Our Lady J are behind the camera.

We have this amazing generation of trans kids who continue to educate people about our trans lives while unapologetically living their own.

And yeah, I need to pop my own collar for a moment. Last month, I became the first trans person to win the Harris County Democratic Party’s Barbara Jordan Breaking Barriers Award.    

I am also proud to be repping our community for this year’s Houston Pride parade, along with my fellow honorary grand marshals Dee Dee Watters, Atlantis Narcisse, and Ana Andrea Molina.

But all four of us do so cognizant of our post-Stonewall history. We are all quite aware that when the Houston parade is over and the downtown street sweepers have cleaned up the last of the trash, we’ll still have much work to do to make the world better for our trans kids and the trans community we serve in various ways.

Happy Pride, people.

This article appears in the June 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts, a native Houstonian, is the founding editor of the GLAAD award-winning blog TransGriot. Her ongoing mission is to educate people on the lives of transgender people and fight for everyone’s human rights.

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