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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Erica Kay Webster,