This Saturday marks a very important anniversary. You know what it is?
The 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the event largely regarded as the starting point for the modern LGBT movement. Maybe you remember seeing something about them in the news?
The riots started at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, one of the few places where gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals could be themselves. Unfortunately, police would routinely raid gay bars, looking for people who didn’t appear to dress in alignment with their sex or exhibited gay behaviors. On June 28, 1969, however, the customers at Stonewall refused to comply, rioting against police abuse and catalyzing a movement. Today, the Stonewall Riots are remembered yearly as Pride celebrations throughout the country. That’s why most Pride events fall in June.
At the center of the riots were transgender women, notably and most vocally Sylvia Rivera, an outspoken advocate for queer and transgender rights until her death. Unfortunately, as gay and lesbian rights made vast strides into the mainstream, transgender individuals remained pushed to the side, facing discrimination and violence.
Transgender women of color face extremely high rates of violence and murder compared to other queer individuals, Dad, and it seems almost every week another story of a murdered transgender woman is in the news. Last week, the body of Yaz’min Shancez was found burned and dumped behind a trash can. The death of Islan Nettles in the fall inspired massive protests, but still transgender women face widespread hate and fear for their lives.
As a feminist, I believe that all women deserve to feel safe and happy, and this includes transgender women. So this Saturday, when the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is observed, I’ll be thinking of Yaz’min, and Islan, and Sylvia, and honoring them, and trying to find more ways to help and protect transgender people moving forward.