Is It The Trans’ Turn Yet?


by Chris Bodenner

In the latest TNR cover story, Eliza Gray sees transexual equality as the next big – and long overdue – civil rights struggle:

For a long time, gay and trans people were equally marginalized in the United States, and so they tended to band together. But this all started to change with the rise of the modern gay rights movement, which began in earnest in June 1969, after the police raided the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. By some accounts, the Stonewall riot broke out when a drag queen named Sylvia Rivera threw a beer bottle. When the officers retreated into the inn and barricaded the door, Rivera and others rammed it with an uprooted parking meter. After Stonewall, Rivera lobbied tirelessly to help the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) pass a gay and transsexual rights bill in New York City—and got arrested for scaling City Hall in high heels and a dress. But not long afterward, the GAA dropped drag queens’ and transsexuals’ rights from their agenda.

In 1973, the gay rights movement succeeded in removing homosexuality from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). At the same time, transsexuals were moving in the opposite direction, and, in 1980, transsexualism was added to the DSM, providing a means to obtain access to hormone therapy, reassignment surgery, and other treatments. (Transsexualism was later incorporated into the controversial designation “Gender Identity Disorder.” The entry is under revision for the next version of the DSM, to be published in 2013.) Susan Stryker, the author of Transgender History, says a sense started to emerge in the gay community that transsexuals were not only different from gay people, but somehow inferior as well.

In 1973, Rivera was blocked from speaking at the ceremony to commemorate Stonewall.

Photo of Rivera via Ashley Love, who penned a tribute to the late activist. TNR has a great gallery of other transgender men and women.