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Activist Miss Major Recounts the First Night at the Stonewall Riots

Casting the First Stone/Miss Major

Here's what happened when trans and queer folk cast the first stone and gave birth to a movement.

Stonewall wasn't done out of a sense of pride. It was done after a buildup of shit from constant police raids in Greenwich Village. It just came to a head like a pimple -- and it got popped. The memory of that first night doesn't come to me with a sense of joy or happiness, because so many of the girls and a few guys got really hurt. After the city police barged into the bar -- with numbers and attitude -- the prevalent feeling that night was fear. Looking at the riot squad was like watching Star Wars stormtroopers, but they were in black with riot gear, sticks, guns, mace, helmets, and shields. The brutalization as they moved across and down the street was like a tidal wave hitting a coastline city. It just hit and rolled over you. If you fought, you'd wind up down, and if you were down, they would keep beating on you.

There was never a moment of reflecting on what we were doing, or what the outcome was going to be. It wasn't until days later that you had a chance to think about it and wonder, "What was it all for?" The sad thing is, it's 50 years later and that question still comes to my mind. Things haven't changed enough for my girls, trans guys, gender-nonconforming people, and me to feel safe. There's a pain that comes along with the courage to still go out every day to present and be, to resist cowering and hiding. A lot of girls stepped out of the closet and, in the process, we burned the house down so there'd be no closet for motherfuckers to chase us back into. But since the transphobes can't put us in a closet, they kill us, beat us up, and take away our sense of liberty and freedom. The only pleasurable thing on the first night of the riots was watching the police get backed into the bar because they were afraid.

The abuse and dissociation the trans community has been through hasn't changed in 50 fucking years. Why aren't things better? Cis gays and lesbians should have been supportive of trans people then, so we could have a better time today, so that people could be celebrating a trans woman becoming a senator or Democratic presidential nominee. It's been 50 years of fags running around talking about how proud they are and doing it on the back of my community. No, I don't think that's something that should be tolerated or accepted. The future is hopefully a place where my guys, gals, and gender-nonconforming people can get a chance to be who they are openly and proudly. Pride is supposed to be about everybody having a sense of self, stability, safety, the ability to grow and love, and a relative amount of security and sanity.

This account appears in Out's June/July 2019 issue celebrating Stonewall 50. The three covers feature the enduring legacy of activist Sylvia Rivera, the complicated candidacy of presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and the triumphant star power of actress Mj Rodriguez. To read more, grab your own copy of the issue on Kindle, Nook, Zinio or (newly) Apple News+ today. Preview more of the issue here and click here to subscribe.

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