By Chris Wolff
Happy Pride! June is the official Pride month, but if you live in British Columbia, Pride season has only just started! Most of the big Pride events, including Vancouver Pride, are still coming up within the next few weeks of July and August.
While Pride is officially for everyone under the rainbow umbrella – people who feel they belong to the LGBTQIA2S+ community, those who are allies, or questioning – oftentimes Pride events seem to have white cisgender gay men at the forefront. It is important to remember that transgender people are just as big of a part of the gay and queer movement, which spans all the way back to Stonewall and before.
The first protest was in fact not at Stonewall, but three years earlier, in 1966 at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco, when transgender women fought back against police harassment and violence. And when Stonewall happened, in 1969, it was again transgender women of color, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who formed a crucial part of the fight against police.
Out of Stonewall came the Gay Liberation movement, during which Rivera and Johnson founded STAR – Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries – an organization dedicated to housing and support for queer and trans youth and sex workers. Sadly, because of hostility from the gay and lesbian movement, STAR stopped its work in 1973. Sylvia Rivera gave a speech during a Christopher Street Day event (now known as Pride), denouncing the lack of support from cisgender gays and lesbians.
Trans people, and specifically trans women, had gained a visibility through certain movements and events, such as Christine Jorgensen’s transition in the 1950s, which was covered widely in the media. Trans men lacked such visibility for many years. A notable exception was Reed Erickson, a transgender millionaire who founded the Erickson Educational Foundation in the 1960s.
In the 1980s, Lou Sullivan, a gay trans man, single-handedly created the first resources for gay trans men and changed medical transition forever by forcing medical services to treat gender identity and sexual orientation as separate entities. Leslie Feinberg, who lived as a trans man for several years and ultimately embraced a butch lesbian identity, was also a crucial voice with hir writings, mostly published during the 1990s.
Still, the gay and lesbian movement struggled often to meaningfully include trans people, despite the work of these pioneers. Only in the last few decades has this changed. Trans visibility has exploded, with many artists and activists being featured in mainstream media on a regular basis. Laverne Cox, a trans woman of color, was on the cover of TIME magazine. TV shows with trans actors have become more and more common – for example on the Netflix show “Tales of the City”.
More and more cities now hold special Trans Pride events, like Vancouver (Facebook event). However, it’s important that regular Pride events are accessible to everyone, and we should not hesitate to attend them and claim those spaces for ourselves as trans people.
We encourage newcomers to BC to attend these events as they can be especially important and affirming in finding community and support. Often, events will feature informative booths by organizations such as Trans Care BC, which can provide information about support services.
MOSAIC’s Trans Online Resource Hub provides information and support to folks who identify as transgender, transsexual, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, two-spirited, agender, polygender, bigender, and many more gender identities and expressions that are different from expectations based on their sex assigned at birth. To learn more, please visit trans.mosaicbc.org.