TransVisionaries: How Miss Major Helped Spark the Modern Trans Movement

March 8, 2018

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we must elevate the brilliant and powerful transgender women of color who have paved the way for today’s social justice movements. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy has spent more than 40 years advocating for the marginalized, whether in prisons or on the streets. Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, the trans activist came to know herself in the 1950s and 60s, when police raids of queer bars were rampant and the thought of LGBTQ+ people speaking out against oppression was novel. She, alongside other vanguard activists like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, emerged from the perilous 1969 Stonewall Riots with a commitment to support her sisters and other trans family.

Though Miss Major’s lifelong leadership is now widely acclaimed, the road hasn’t always been smooth. She spent several stints in prison during the 1970s, and credits her radical political stance on issues like abolition and Black liberation to those experiences. Despite her own run-ins with white supremacist, cisheteronormative systems like the prison-industrial complex, she has always played a role in building up and motivating the trans community. In MAJOR!, a feature-length documentary that chronicles her life, many of her close friends and confidants share the positive influence she has had on their lives and the various local communities she has lived in.

In 2005, Miss Major joined San Francisco-based Trans Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) as a staff organizer, and later as executive director, to lead their efforts advocating for incarcerated transgender women. She officially retired in 2015, but her fire continues to burn. She is currently working on building House of GG’s, a safe haven and retreat house for the transgender community. We caught up with Miss Major to discuss her long fight for liberation, self-care, and her thoughts on the current political climate and what it means for trans activism.

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