Stonewall Transgender Woman Celebrates Marriage Equality Decision

Erica Kay Webster, founder, CEO and president of the Foundation For International Justice, Inc. and CEO and executive director of Promise Place School
Photo: David Webster
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Erica Kay Webster, founder, CEO and president of the Foundation For International Justice, Inc. and CEO and executive director of Promise Place School  Photo: David Webster

Erica Kay Webster, founder, CEO and president of the Foundation For International Justice, Inc. and CEO and executive director of Promise Place School
Photo: David Webster

By: Erica Kay-Webster—

WEST BARNSTABLE, Mass—At The Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 we firmly stood our ground and refused to surrender to the injustices that we had lived with for so many years. That was the night that we said enough is enough. We fought back and the riots on the streets lasted for 3 days and nights.

As the last living Transgender Woman** who was at Stonewall that night, this day is especially significant for me, because I am also the only Transgender woman in this country** who was ever imprisoned for having married the man I loved. I was sent to prison for four years after my marriage was invalidated as a same-sex marriage when we separated. I was in possession of a family vehicle and since our marriage was no longer considered valid or legal I was not entitled to community property, and therefore the State of Georgia said that I was guilty of theft by taking it. I studied law while in prison and, acting as my own attorney, I challenged my imprisonment through the Georgia court system. It took me the entire four years to challenge the discrimination I faced as a transgender woman. Finally, ten days before my release I received notice that I had won a victory in the Georgia State Supreme Court. [pullquote]As the last living Transgender Woman who was at Stonewall that night, this day is especially significant for me, because I am also the only Transgender woman in this country who was ever imprisoned for having married the man I loved.[/pullquote]

I understand better than many what it feels like to be made to feel less than a living human being. I was harassed, degraded, humiliated, and shamed. That was not my first experience with those feelings. I had experienced homelessness at age 15 after being rejected by my family. I struggled for two years on the streets of NYC and damn near starved to death.

Since then I have gone on to found the Foundation For International Justice and Promise Place School for Homeless LGBT Youth. I took all of my anger and used it to fuel me into positive actions for change that were based in love and not hate. It has always been my greatest dream and hope that not even one other person would have to face or live through what I have survived.

Upon learning from The Rainbow Times of today’s SCOTUS decision I never expected to have the physical reaction which came with today’s historic news. These were some of the rights that we had begun fighting for on that night at Stonewall 46 years ago. [pullquote]Upon learning from The Rainbow Times of today’s SCOTUS decision I never expected to have the physical reaction which came with today’s historic news. [/pullquote]

My tears have been relentless and it has taken me several hours to compose myself well enough to write these words of thanks and deep gratitude to all of us who have been in this fight.

It is with my deepest gratitude that I say thank you to GLAD, the ACLU, the Supreme Court Justices, MassEquality, PFLAG, NCLR, HRC and Boston Pride all of our incredible allies—The City of Boston, Mayor Walsh, President Obama, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Legislature, and a special thank you to all of my fellow Stonewall Veterans at the STONEWALL Veterans Association in New York City.

“If we dare to dream it we can achieve it.” [pullquote]It is my hope and prayer that with this victory we can now begin to focus our attention on achieving full equality for the Transgender members of the LGBT community and that we can help to bring an end to the senseless murders of transgender people in this country and around the world.[/pullquote]

It is my hope and prayer that with this victory we can now begin to focus our attention on achieving full equality for the Transgender members of the LGBT community and that we can help to bring an end to the senseless murders of transgender people in this country and around the world.

And, we must remember that today in our country we still have over 600,000 homeless LGBT youth on the streets who are homeless because of family rejection and abuse by families whose values are so deeply ingrained to a false religious belief, that they would rather throw God’s creation away than to show love and support to their own children.

Congratulations America! And congratulations to all of my LGBTQQIA brothers and sisters!

If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Erica Kay-Webster at 774 330-3106 or email at ericakaywebster@gmail.com.


 

Apology from the Author

**It is with profound and deep sincerity that I apologize to Miss Major Griffin-Gracy  for my error in stating in my recent statement to the press that I was the last living Transgender Woman from Stonewall. I had no idea that Miss Major identified as trans or of the amazing work that she has gone on to do for our trans women of color. [pullquote]When I received word today from The Rainbow Times and learned of her I was elated beyond words. I have felt totally alone and separated from our trans experience of that night on June 28, 1969 because I had no knowledge of another transgender survivor. [/pullquote]

Please let me briefly explain some of our history. In 1969 the word Transgender did not exist. We were all labeled Drag Queens. Even then many of us who went on to transition were still questioning their identities when we found each other and began hanging out at the Stonewall Inn. Were we gay, drag queens. or something else? There was a lack of a true identity for us back then. The only word for transgenders in those days was sex change. Some of us, and I might add those of us who were lucky enough to have found the funding for our transitions remained in contact for several years. One by one each died in the years that passed following the Stonewall Riots. Josie, Tammy, Gidget, Twiggy, Marsha, Sylvia and the list goes on.

I had no idea that Miss Major identified as trans and that she was still alive and doing such great work. When I received word today from The Rainbow Times and learned of her I was elated beyond words. I have felt totally alone and separated from our trans experience of that night on June 28, 1969 because I had no knowledge of another transgender survivor.

I have already reached out to Miss Major in an email and sent her my profound apology. It is my goal to somehow get together with her and remember that night and the many other fond memories that we both share from the Stonewall Inn.

Sincerely,

Erica Kay Webster,

Founder, CEO and President, Foundation For International Justice, Inc.
CEO and Executive Director, Promise Place School

 

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13 Comments on "Stonewall Transgender Woman Celebrates Marriage Equality Decision"

  1. Hey, Just FYI, there are other trans women, in fact trans women of color, who were at Stonewall who are still alive. Thinking specifically of Miss Major Griffin Garcy in San Francisco.

  2. Um excuse me…Miss Major Griffin Gracy is definitely alive and well just saw her at Trans March. She’s a Trans Woman of Color doing amazing work for our communities here in SF and on national levels.

  3. Not to steal this persons thunder BUT Miss Major is still alive and it has been well documented that she was at Stonewall. Please fact check. http://www.missmajorfilm.com

  4. Kelly Winter | June 29, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Reply

    Actually, Miss Major Griffin-gracy is still around and was out celebrating on Friday night. She is an activist in San Francisco who is doing amazing work, in particular with women of color and the criminal justice system. I’d suggest a fact check.

    • Hi Kelly,
      The story you are referring to is a submission directly received by The Rainbow Times from Miss Erica Kay-Webster. This is Ms. Kay-Webster’s story about her “life” and as an op-ed piece, we did not fact check it because it is not one of our in-depth or investigative stories. We thank you for the information and will definitely make a decision about it soon, or will run a correction to reflect your information and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy’s work and life.

  5. Indeed, Miss Major Griffin Gracy is not just alive and kicking, she has been running an incredible justice organization, the TGI Justice project (http://www.tgijp.org/) for many years, helping countless of the most vulnerable in our community. She’s not hard to find!

  6. Greetings,

    I’m writing on behalf of the production of MAJOR!, a biographical documentary currently in post-production about the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a Black transgender activist and community leader who was at Stonewall and has been advocating for trans rights for over 40 years. She’s also part of a large and vocal community of trans women of color who push back against the whitewashing of the Stonewall Uprising.

    I understand how journalistically appealing it is to run stories about the “first,” “only,” or “last” person to do a thing, and this is a trend that is especially apparent in reporting on trans lives. But such stories of individual exceptionalism do nothing for our communities, whose resilience and power so often comes from our inter-dependence and capacity to form families of choice.

    If you’d like to learn more about Miss Major and her tireless campaigns for trans women’s rights, you may visit the film’s website at http://www.missmajorfilm.com or http://www.tgijp.org

    Many thanks,

    Annalise Ophelian, Psy.D.
    Director/Producer: MAJOR!
    http://www.missmajorfilm.com
    contact@missmajorfilm.com

    • Ms. Ophelian and everyone else,
      Thank you for your thoughts and concerns over this submission. We have just spoken to Miss Major herself on the phone and she had not read the piece but was gracious and understanding of the author’s oversight. The author does not work for The Rainbow Times. As a rule, when a credible source and a reputable member of our community here in Massachusetts sends us a column about her life, her experiences, her struggles, etc., like Ms. Kay-Webster did, we do not question such words since they are her opinion and her opinion only. That is not a report, nor a news story and it does not come from our experienced reporters, editors or team.

      Ms. Annalise Ophelian, to further explain, The Rainbow Times is not the author of this piece, so this was “not journalistically appealing” as you per your comment to us. Our reputation about serious reporting is well documented in our website and our print issues. Look into our database and you will see that this is a first-of-a-kind situation for us, as a matter of fact. We pride ourselves in our job and the factual reports that our team investigates and writes about for it.

      The good news coming from this confusion is that Miss Major will give The Rainbow Times an exclusive interview (which this is coming from our team, not anyone else) that will highlight her life, her accomplishments, and her story. It will be a one-on-one factual Q&A with this legend of the Trans People of Color Stonewall Riots.

      We look forward to continuing to hear from your feedback and thank you for it.

      Best,
      TRT Editorial and Publishing Teams

  7. Miss Major Griffin Gracy!

  8. Judy Greenspan | June 29, 2015 at 9:36 pm | Reply

    I cannot believe this oversight. White people have to be very careful when they announce that they are the only ones. It was transgender, transsexual people of color, Black, Brown, Native American who led the battle against the police at the Stonewall Inn. We should never forget that!

    • Dear Judy,

      I would like you to know that I have apologized to Miss Major and the fact that in no way was I trying to minimize the role that she and others played in that night. You should also know that I am also a woman of color. I am from a mixed race family with very strong roots in the Cherokee nation.

      At the Foundation For International Justice we advocate for the rights of every human regardless. Having lived through discrimination myself I understand what it means to achieve full equality. I hope that you can read my apology and my experience and realize that this was a mistake on my part. One that I quickly apologized as soon as I learned of Miss Major and her work.

      Since she and I were both there that night and many nights before the riots I can assure you that everyone of us, gay, lesbian, trans, white, black, and brown stood united in the fight for equality on that night. Enough was enough. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson were friends of mine as well as many others. Those of us who were trans in those days did not identify as trans because the word did not even exist back then. We were all called drag queens and later on were called “Sex Change.” Some of us like Marsha Johnson did not go on to transition with surgery.

      I am grateful to have learned from this experience of Miss Major’s existance and of the work she has gone on to do and that she identifies as a trans woman. It is good to know that we are still both alive and contributing to our communities.

      It is really sad though that we must still be identified by the color of our skin and not as loving, caring, and committed human beings working towards a common goal.

  9. Excellent article!

    I want to add this to the comments though…

    PLEASE be aware Erica made an error and has amended it… in case you didn’t see it:

    “Apology from the Author
    **It is with profound and deep sincerity that I apologize to Miss Major Griffin-Gracy for my error in stating in my recent statement to the press that I was the last living Transgender Woman from Stonewall. I had no idea that Miss Major identifiedas trans or of the amazing work that she has gone on to do for our trans women of color.

    I’m just saying that to prevent any hassle.

    Again Erica – THANK YOU for all you’ve done and for sharing your feelings here. Get in touch any time with my twitter account. @transphobiastop

    🙂

    Ian.

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