Trans Women Gave Us Our Rights. We Must Repay the Favor

Part IV: Gender, Sex, & Sexuality

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: The Stonewall Uprisings happened 54 years ago yesterday. Since then, trans women have led the way to expand rights and freedoms for LGBTQ+ people and all minorities.

Read on for moreโ€ฆ


You might have heard the phrase, โ€œThe first Pride was a riotโ€

You probably know the words Stonewall.

Did you know the modern gay rights movement owes many victories to the most historically disenfranchised LGBTQ+ people: trans women?

We can thank trans women for the advancements of the LGBTQ+ community. Marriage, bodily autonomy, legal rights, freedom from persecution, and even abortion all stem from an uprising that began 54 years ago.

What was the Stonewall Uprising?

Letโ€™s start with facts. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the NY police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village.

When police became violent, bar patrons fought back and rioted against the constant police abuses. The police intentionally set the bar on fire to cause chaos and blame LGBTQ+ folks. Protests persisted through the next few nights transforming the Village into a center for LGTBQ activism and organizing.

While Stonewall was frequented by mostly white cis-gendered gays, the most vocal patrons were Trans women, LatinX, Black, sex workers, and the working class. Marsha P Johnson, a black trans woman, arrived late that night and quickly became a leader in the movement with her friend Sylvia Rivera, a trans Latina.

Stonewall Wasnโ€™t a Rallying Cry for All Gays

Unfortunately, like today, there were transphobes in the LGBTQ+ community who were not happy about the Stonewall Uprising.

โ€œMany wealthy gays, sunning at Fire Island or in the Hamptons for the weekend, either heard about the rioting and ignored it...or caught up with the news belatedly. [They described the riot as] โ€œregrettable,โ€ as the demented carryings-on of โ€œstoned, tacky queensโ€ - precisely those elements in the gay world from whom they had long since dissociated themselves.โ€

- Martin Duberman

Many heterosexual, predominantly white, gay men were frustrated by the uprising and thought it would take the movement back.

Their privilege gave them proximity to โ€œpolite society,โ€ which many were afraid to give up. Some were working to show cisgender and heterosexual people that LGBTQ+ people were just like them. It was easier to show that they fit in than to stand up for diversity.

While many have since come around and recognized the significance of Stonewall, their opposition supported the continued oppression of LGBTQ+ folks. Their privilege blinded them to the daily violence and poverty that many black and brown trans and queer folks experienced in New York and elsewhere.

Stand Up In Solidarity Now

Today, we see something similar in the TERF community. TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist. They believe that the existence of trans women is an affront to women. Their principles deny trans people their full humanity against consensus from the medical community. When they say women, they mean โ€œfemaleโ€, which as weโ€™ve discussed, is not an accurate term and ties directly to harmful views from patriarchy.

The most disheartening part is that some lesbians are a part of the TERF faction. Itโ€™s a big shift for a community that once cared for gay men during the AIDS crisis when most others wouldnโ€™t.

If Iโ€™ve learned anything, itโ€™s that a large coalition is crucial to advancing social change. We raise up all LGBTQ+ people by supporting everyone, especially the most vulnerable. We all win if the most vulnerable are supported. The attacks on trans people have been relentless in the past few years and itโ€™s our responsibility to push back.

There are so many resources out there on how to be a trans ally from GLAAD, NCTE, and The Trevor Project. This Pride, I encourage everyone from all walks of life to find their voice and become an ally for trans people.


๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€๐ŸŒˆ Queering Life๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿคนโ€โ™€๏ธ Social & Cultural

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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