Why we need to know our #BlackTransHistory

Brianna Moody, YW Boston Women's Health and Wellness Intern

We need to know our #BlackTransHistory, and here’s why.

When we resist racism, we can think about ourselves as standing on the “shoulders of giants.” We can think about our work as an accumulation of many visions of justice, many stories, and intersecting struggles against power. By knowing our #BlackTransHistory, we can intentionally work towards a future that honors the resilience of our predecessors.

Popular culture portrays transgender history in America as one in which White leaders paved the way for everyone (see Whitewashing History). In an effort to “know history” and “know self,” as Jose Rizal once put it, it is up to us racial justice activists to hold ourselves and other accountable to remembering and acknowledging the role that trans women of color have played in paving our way.

Black trans women led the Stonewall uprising in June of 1969. The Stonewall Riots was a series of demonstrations started by Black trans women against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York City. The Inn was a gay bar and was targeted for the populations it catered to: transgender people and homeless youth. This uprising has long been considered one of the most important moments in the LGBT+ liberation movement. The Stonewall Riots inspired LGBT people across the country to organize in support of gay rights; within two years after the riots, there were active gay rights groups in nearly every major city in the United States.

The Stonewall Riots is is but one example among many of trans women of color starting social movements and inciting change that inspired others seeking justice all across the country. The labor and love of countless black trans champions has paved the way for equal rights and visibility throughout history. Here we share just three of the many black trans women whose influence has helped shape American history.

1. Lucy Hicks Anderson (1886-1954) 

“I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.”

Lucy-Hicks-AndersonLucy Hicks Anderson was an early leader in the fight for marriage equality. After marrying her second husband, she was charged with perjury on her application for a marriage license, resulting in ten years probation.


2. Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992) 

Marsha-P_-Johnson_005-300x214Marsha P. Johnson was a transwoman and an important face of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in New York City. She was one of the first Stonewall instigators, and founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).


3. Miss Major (1940 – ) 

iMiss-Major-Griffin-GracyMiss Major participated in the Stonewall riots and worked to organize fellow sex workers and continued on to become a leader in prison abolition and trans rights. Miss Major is currently the Executive Director of the Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), an organization that works against police brutality, imprisonment and racism for women of color and their families.



At a time where violence against trans women is so pervasive and trans folks are stripped of their humanity as they are disproportionately targeted for hate-violence, we must speak the truth of #BlackTransHistory. What Black trans stories do you know?