Day 25-28 – Participants in the Stonewall Riots
June 28th, 1969 – Start of the Stonewall Riots
Fifty-one years ago, marked day one of the multi-day rebellion known as the Stonewall Riots. As the larger society learns more about that historic night, some important names have become more recognizable. People like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson have received significant media attention, and there’s nothing that I can add to their unique and powerful stories. Sadly, they’re no longer with us. Today, I want to highlight three veterans of that historic night that are still with us. We should take time to give these individuals our thanks and praises now, rather than in memoriam. In keeping with the theme of this month, I am only highlighting a few BIPOC, but there are so many more people to explore. And if you missed it, go back to Day 18 to read my bio of Stormé DeLarverie, who was also at Stonewall.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, is a longtime community leader and trans activist. She was born in the South Side of Chicago, and as a teenager participated in drag balls. Facing violence and homelessness, Griffin-Gracy resorted to theft to support herself. Seeking a more welcoming environment, and after being expelled from two colleges for wearing dresses, she made her way to New York City in the 1960s. At Stonewall, she was struck by the police and has said that while in prison, a corrections officer broke her jaw. In the early 1970s, Griffin-Gracy was incarcerated for various burglaries. Upon her release, she moved to California to become involved in AIDS activism and LGBT rights causes. In 2005, Miss Major joined the California based Trans Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and she retired as Executive Director in 2015. After retirement, she founded the Griffin-Gracy Educational Retreat and Historical Center, more commonly known as the House of GG. The 2016 documentary MAJOR! Highlights her life and legacy. In July of 2019, Miss Major was hospitalized after suffering a stroke. Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is still here and still fighting.
There’s a photograph by Luis Carle in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery of Sylvia Rivera and it is said to be the first time the Smithsonian acquired and displayed a portrait of a trans person. In the same photograph are two other trans women, her partner Julia Murray, and activist Christina Hayworth. Born in Puerto Rico, Hayworth served in the U.S. Army and Vietnam War, obtaining the rank of Colonel before she retired. Following the Stonewall Riots she worked in New York and Puerto Rico as an activist and journalist. For a time, she was the Latin American ambassador to the Stonewall Veterans Association. She was the founder of the island’s first Puerto Rican Pride Parade in 2003. The 2010s were difficult for Hayworth. In 2013 she was homeless, and was taken in by an anti-LGBTQ minister. She eventually found housing and shelter with family and friends, but as of today (2020), her whereabouts are unknown.
Rev. Magora Kennedy
When Magora Kennedy was a teenager, her mother gave her two choices to cure her of her homosexuality, get married or be placed in a mental institution. She was married at 14 years old. Born and raised in upstate New York, Magora attended Boston University and Yale Divinity School. She became a minister and teacher, and later came out as a lesbian and divorced her husband. In 1969, she was in Manhattan with a group of girlfriends attending a memorial for Judy Garland. Kennedy, like hundreds of other queer people, heard the radio announcements about the developing Stonewall uprising. Instead of driving home, they went to participate in the riots, with Kennedy still wearing her minister’s collar. She continued with activism work in Boston and New York, focusing on LGBT rights and prison/police reform. She’s considered the Chaplain of the Stonewall Veterans Association. In the 1980s, Rev. Kennedy began to shift her spiritual focus, incorporating more African elements into her ministry. As an elder, Rev. Kennedy is involved in SAGE, an advocacy organization and community center that provides and supports LGBT seniors.
For More Information:
Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders: https://www.sageusa.org/,
Stonewall Veterans Association: https://www.stonewallvets.org/
View the work of Luis Carle: https://luiscarle.com
Raquel Willis Interview with Miss Major: https://www.them.us/story/transvisionaries-miss-major
Watch Major!: https://www.amazon.com/Major-Miss-Griffin-Gracy/…/B079H7TSVN
House of GG: https://houseofgg.org/
The Stonewall You Know Is a Myth. And That’s O.K. | NYT Celebrating Pride