No Justice, No Pride
June is celebrated as Pride month for members of the LGTBQIA+ community. June 28th is the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. But in 1969, much like today, not everyone believed it was a victorious moment but rather an act of defiance. When police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28th, 1969, and began to drag, beat and arrest patrons and staff- they were not met with compliance but with resistance. What occurred was considered a “violent demonstration” that began six days of rioting in Greenwich Village, New York City. This history of rebellion for basic human rights runs deep in the current events. There have been peaceful protests, riots, and public outrage for the lives and treatment of Black Americans all over the country. This movement for liberation like many others in social justice movements involves communities that are often forgotten, thrown away, or considered less than.
In the Stonewall Uprising, this community was Black Trans sex workers. The history behind the stigmatization of erotic laborers begins long before the 1900s but became outlawed to the general public in the 1940s due to WWII.
“Men, both doctors and both active in local and national public health organizations argued- like many before and many since, that prostitution was an enemy to men, to families, and to the moral foundation of the nation “ - Sex Work & Sex Trafficking in the 1950s by S. Chautlez
This narrative was also found in various news outlets, was believed by law enforcement, as well as public officials across the United States. These women were referred to as “nightwalkers” and were distinctly identified as black women in the press as “Negress” or “Negresses”. During the early 1950s, the domestic homemaker image of women depicted in the media often left out the narrative of expression of sexuality entirely. This was before sexual liberation began to peak for other communities, although not those of color. For example, the first Playboy magazine was published as early as 1953. Yet, the first Black Playboy Bunny, Jennifer Jackson, was not in print until the March 1965 edition of the magazine. Despite the stigma, erotic laborers have contributed to various unions, mutual aid resources, and coalitions specifically targeted towards decriminalization and protection of a plethora of communities all over the world.
This has carried on into other movements in which those who did not conform have been on the front lines, especially black trans individuals. The Stonewall riots were no different. Marsha P. Johnson, a black trans woman, is known widely in the queer community for her part in the Gay liberation movement. She was a known activist, performer, and drag queen. She also was a sex worker. At the time of the Stonewall riots, many individuals of color were silenced, jailed, or murdered. A fate many activists have met in the fight against injustice. Unfortunately, this was also true for Marsha who was murdered in July 1992, although her death was ultimately ruled a suicide by police. A narrative that is notoriously familiar to Black women who have been murdered but dismissed as suicides up until this day. Movements of liberation come from all walks of life. They require input from those who may not meet society’s standards but we must never forget the history of those who got us here.
Black Lives Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter.