Caitlyn Jenner, the woman formerly known as
Bruce Jenner, made her debut in a big way. We’re achieving greater and greater visibility in society. Transgender visibility might be moving from
the margins into the mainstream, but what does it mean? As long as trans women of color are suffering
and dying in the streets, I’m going to hold off a little bit on the celebrations. The eighth trans woman murdered in the U.S. this year. Every breath a trans person takes is an act of revolution. And while transgender people helped kick off
the fight for gay equality, progress in their fight for civil rights has been decades in the making. Trans lives matter! What’s shocking is not Bruce Jenner coming out.
What’s shocking is the way people treat us. That female side is part of me. When Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, told
the story about being born with a body that didn’t match her internal sense of who she
is, many people gained a better understanding of what it means to be a transgender person. Well, finally, people have woken up and realized
that they know someone who’s transgender. With an award winning TV show about a family
patriarch changing gender…. This is me. … And transgender actress Laverne Cox gracing
the cover of Time Magazine, you might think society has reached a new level of understanding.
Activist Lourdes Ashley Hunter says you would be mistaken. The community that I work for is wondering
how they’re going to eat tonight, wondering if they’re gong to have health coverage,
wondering if they’re even going to make it back to the shelter where they’re staying.
I don’t want people to watch “Transparent” and say, “This is the lives of trans people.”
Because it is not.” In 2002, Hunter came to New York City at age
26, on a one way bus ticket from Detroit with $20 in her pocket. She planned on doing community
service work in exchange for a place to stay. But when she went to a women’s shelter,
she was turned away for being transgender. Then, she says, things only got worse. And so I found myself homeless and ended up
having to be assigned to a men’s shelter called Wards Island.  Wards Island housed
about a thousand men, and every night there was a fear for me.  I couldn’t sleep. I could
remember a time where I went to take a shower, and a man came into a shower and raped me.
 And he had a razor blade. And there was nothing that I can do.  When I went to the
shelter staff to tell them what had happened to me, they blamed me.  They told me that
I didn’t have to be there, that it was my choice to live this lifestyle that I was living.
And so, for me, having to have those experiences is just a snapshot of what we have to go through,
just to live. Most trans people would rather sleep under a overpass, or in the park, than
have to deal with that type of violence. Hunter runs the Trans Women of Color Collective
– to provide leadership and raise awareness not only about current events,
but historical ones as well. We come from a rich legacy of revolutionary
freedom fighters. Historically, those stories have been erased from the history books. What history remembers is the 1969 Stonewall
Inn uprising, the birthplace of today’s gay rights movement. A routine police raid on an unlicensed bar;
The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. But what’s been largely forgotten is the
role transgender women played in kicking off that movement. Activist Randy Wicker describes
how there were restrictions against serving alcohol to homosexuals in the 1960s, and… Being in drag was illegal in those days. Dancing
was permitted, although, of course, a white light would come on if a policeman came and
then you had to stop dancing or find a member of the opposite sex to dance with. They really
reached a point where they said, “We’re tired of this.” And so the next time the police raided, things
took a different turn. Suddenly the customers were giving the police
a hard time. For the first time, the clientele sort of
fought back. The protests lasted for days, and transgender
people were among the hundreds who took part. Transgender people were the most motivated
to fight back because they had been abused the worst by the system. But also the second
thing they had nothing to lose. For them it was a great opportunity to get up on the soapbox
and really give it to society. What have you been doing to us, you know? You’re so wrong. One of the early icons in the fight for transgender
rights was the late Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia always thought of Stonewall as the
beginning of her activism to make changes in the world. I was grateful to be there to see the revolution
being born. She really was the mother of the transgender
movement. Sylvia was a Puerto Rican street drag queen
who, along with her friend, Marsha P. Johnson, created Star House, a refuge for transgender
runaways. These kids were going to end up being just
ground up by the system you know, not being able to find jobs, being forced into prostitution.
Sylvia and Marsha had lived it so they knew what they were doing. The survival instincts that made Rivera a
fierce advocate were at odds, she said, with a gay rights movement that was trying to establish
a more conventional identity. We do not fit into their role of Main Street
gay men and women. Rivera stormed the stage after being excluded
from a 1973 gay rights rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park. She demanded that
transgender people be recognized as part of the burgeoning lesbian and gay rights movement. You all tell me, go and hide my tail between
my legs. I will no longer put up with this shit. She was considered kind of disruptive and
a loudmouth. I believe in us getting our rights or else
I would not be out there fighting for our rights. Sylvia Rivera died in 2002. That same year,
New York State passed a gay rights bill that, despite Sylvia’s dying wishes, did not include
protections for trans people. Even on her deathbed, she fought for the rights
of her people. Across the country, in California, three years
before Stonewall, a similar uprising had taken place. It had mostly been forgotten, until
historian Susan Stryker stumbled on an obscure San Francisco gay magazine. I found this beautiful document and I open
it up and in the centerfold is this thing that says “on a hot August night in 1966,
Gays rose up.” At Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, a 24 hour diner
popular with transgender women, another routine police sweep erupted in spontaneous violence.
Stryker made a film about the uprising. A police car was destroyed, the corner newsstand
was set on fire and years of pent up resentment boiled out into the night. It was the first collective militant action
against police harassment that we know of in US history by trans and queer people. The
cops thought they were dealing with people who were like the lowest rung of society.” Decades of those kinds of attitudes have taken
their toll on the estimated 700-thousand transgender people in the U.S. About half are believed
to be trans men, says Nick Adams, who works for GLAAD, an LGBT advocacy organization. 
There isn’t a lot of statistical information about the community, but it’s a diverse
group. Adams says the focus now should be on those most in need. Visibility really needs to translate into
legislative changes that make the world a safer place for those transgender people who
are really struggling. When you don’t have resources it makes you
more susceptible to physical violence.  Because now you’re disposable.  
No one cares about you. Whatever people think is shocking about transgender
people’s lives is nothing compared to the injustice that we have to face every freaking day. Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan teaches in
the English department at Barnard College and has written a best selling memoir. To be trans means to be visible. If you walk
out your door it can mean you are at risk for violence. Many transgender people have been the targets
of violent hate crimes. They’re also at greater risk for suicide — as was the case
of an Ohio transgender teen. Alcorn’s suicide note ended with a plea.
‘My death needs to mean something. Fix society please.’ What’s shocking is that young people like
Leelah Alcorn have to throw themselves in front of a truck, rather than live their lives. Transgender teens and adults say they routinely
endure discrimination in employment, housing, access to public bathrooms and government
willingness to acknowledge their gender status in official documents. People fire us for being who we are. The trans community has been left out of legislative
advances by the gay community. Our gay and lesbian counterparts moved on, and are celebrating
life in ways that we have yet to experience. The priority is not marriage – not for black
trans women. And while momentum now may be on the upswing,
the movement that began nearly half a century ago still has a lot of obstacles to overcome. Silvia would be pissed the hell off that we’re
still fighting, and struggling, and we’re still dying. We’ll know that our work is done when everyone
can live the life that they love with honor and dignity.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. I guess Lourdes' fear of being put in a men's shelter is similar to the fear that the individuals in the women's shelter felt having whom they perceive to be a male using their facilities. Or will we refuse to believe that trans people can rape too?

  2. For those of you who doesn't understand and dislike this video, There's nothing wrong with them. put yourself in their situation for example you identify yourself as Male or female you have the sexual organ to confirm your sexual identity and your brain reflect that way of thinking.

    In the case for transgender their brain tell them that they are another sex despite their anatomy telling them otherwise. it' is nothing to do with nurture but how the brain is construct from the time they are born as no amount of denial will change that. as that's how they truly feel.

    Trust me they didn't woke up one morning just to piss you off or for them to be ridiculed behind their back or for them to be seen as trash for religious people. They cannot change how they feel, just because you're lucky enough to be in the right body for your own sexuality doesn't mean they have the same luxury.

    I as well was ignorant of their plight till I understand. We're in the age of the internet there's no excuse to be ignorant especially to hate or dislike someone that is different to yourself.

    Obviously for some. my comment will be ignored but a little understanding goes a long way.

  3. As a gay man, I feel that we have made a lot of progress for LGBTQ+ rights, but we have SO MUCH further to go. It’s not over, and we can’t stop fighting.

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