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5 Trans Women of Color You Definitely Need to Know About, and Celebrate

Activism for the LGBTQ+ community is not a new concept. For decades the fight has raged on–members of the community have fought and are fighting valiantly to achieve equity for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ civil rights movement as we know it today would not exist without the efforts of these astounding female activists, so let us reflect on their contributions today as we act for the betterment of tomorrow.  

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Johnson was a key founder of the LGBT civil rights movement we know today. Her social pertinence began with the riots at Stonewall Hotel in a fight back against police brutality and discrimination against gay and transgender people. She would spend her life providing trans women in need with food, shelter, clothes, and emotional support through STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) and other such programs. It is suspected that she was murdered at age 48, contradictory to police reports that dismissed her death as a suicide.

“[on the “P.” in “Marsha P. Johnson”] It stands for pay it no mind.”

Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002)

Much like Johnson, Rivera was an activist whose roots began with Stonewall. She fought for inclusion of the non-gender conforming in the LGBT agenda. Rivera founded STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries), and worked with the Gay Activists Alliance and The Gay Liberation Front to represent those unspoken for, even in LGBT social circles. She was vocal all her life about her unease with the LGBT community for shifting its focus to equal marriage rights and military service to appeal to a broader, more moderate audience.

“You all had rights, we had nothing to lose. I’ll be the first one to step on any organization, any politician’s toes if I have to, to get rights for my community.”

Sir Lady Java (1943-present)

Java was a premier performer in 1960s Los Angeles, where she gained so much traction in the underground LGBT community of the time that she became a direct target of the LAPD. She is known as one of the direct contributors to the overturning of LA’s “Rule 9” which stated that people were not allowed to dress as the opposite sex.

“It’s got to stop somewhere, and it won’t unless someone steps forward and takes a stand. I guess that’s me.”

Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (1940-present)

Miss Major survived time spent in prison in lieu of the Stonewall Riots. After her release, she moved to California and began helping trans women who were trapped in the correctional system or homeless. In the early 2000s she became one of the faces of TGIJP (Transgender GenderVariant Justice Project). She would later become executive director. She is still a strong voice in the LGBT community, and fights for POC trans inclusion to date.

“We have to look out for one another because we’re all we’ve got.”

Angie Xtravaganza (1964-1993)

Angie and a few other trans performance artists founded the first Latino house in the LGBT ballroom scene of New York:  House of Xtravaganza. Aside from being an underground celebrity, she was known for taking in many LGBT youth from the streets, giving them a mother and a home.

“A mother is one who raises a child, not one who borns it.”

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