As cities across the country gear up for PRIDE celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in New York’s Greenwich Village, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy laments the key part of the story that’s been forgotten or played down: Trans women of color played a major role in the rebellion.
Miss Major herself was there, and she took beatings from the police alongside trans friends and other patrons during the riots in June 1969. She’s since become a key figure in the fight for transgender rights.
“Stonewall for me isn’t a happy memory; it’s a sad memory,” she said. “When I think of Stonewall, I think of all the harm and horrific beatings that we took that night. It was three nights of total pandemonium. It was like when somebody throws a grenade. You don’t know where the grenade came from. All you know is ‘boom’.”
Now, with all the 50th-anniversary events happening this month, she’s getting lots of requests to speak about Stonewall and show up at PRIDE marches, but she’s been critical of what, in her opinion, has become a commercialized event that's often oblivious to its origins as a riot.
“They’re making a big deal out of this 50 years. But I don’t know what the crap they’re doing. They don’t really know what PRIDE is all about anymore!”
Miss Major, now 78, has shifted her activism to the South. A few years ago, she moved from San Francisco to Little Rock, Arkansas, where she runs House of GG —House of Griffin-Gracy — a nonprofit organization that organizes retreats in different cities to empower local transgender people.
“The community here is still living in the late '50s, early '60s, you know. I want them to have the things that the girls who live in New York or San Francisco have. I want them to have the opportunity to live their lives the way that they want to live them and have the services that they need here.”
This segment originally aired June 7, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.