In honor of Women’s History Month, we want to recognize and celebrate the contributions of trans women throughout history. Trans women have played a vital role in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality, even as they face discrimination and marginalization within both the women’s movement and society at large.
From Sylvia Rivera, who was instrumental in the Stonewall uprising, to Wendy Carlos, a prominent musician and advocate for trans rights, trans women have fought tirelessly for their rights and the rights of all women.
But, despite the progress made, trans women continue to face significant challenges, including violence, discrimination, and limited access to healthcare and legal protections. It is crucial that we continue to uplift and support trans women in their fight for equality and justice. As we reflect on the contributions of trans women this Women’s History Month we’ve put together a list of just a few of the trans trailblazers whose impact on the fight for equality can’t be overstated.
Sylvia Rivera (1951 – 2002)
“I was a radical, a revolutionist. I am still a revolutionist…I am glad I was in the Stonewall riot. I remember when someone threw a Molotov cocktail, I thought, ‘My god, the revolution is here. The revolution is finally here!’"
Sylvia Rivera was a trans rights activist and prominent figure in the Stonewall uprising, which marked a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement. Rivera was a tireless advocate for the rights of trans people, people of color, and those who lived in poverty. She co-founded several organizations, including STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), which provided support for trans youth. Despite facing discrimination and marginalization her entire life, Rivera never gave up fighting for justice and equality.
Christine Jorgensen (1926-1989)
“Nature made a mistake which I have had corrected and I am your daughter.”
Christine Jorgensen played a significant role in the history of gender identity and trans rights. In 1952, Jorgensen made headlines around the world when she became one of the first people in the United States to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Jorgensen’s openness about her transition and her advocacy for trans rights helped to raise awareness of gender identity and inspire others to come forward and live openly as transgender individuals. Her legacy continues to be celebrated during Women’s History Month and serves as an inspiration to those fighting for trans rights today.
“Transness is taking control to bring your body more in line with your soul and spirit so the two aren't fighting against each other and struggling to survive.”
SOPHIE was a groundbreaking musician and producer who helped reinvent the electronic music scene, particularly in the realm of avant-garde pop. SOPHIE began making music in her early teens and eventually gained widespread recognition for her unique style, which blended elements of pop, techno, and industrial music. In addition to her musical talents, SOPHIE was known for her advocacy on behalf of transgender and nonbinary people, using her platform to raise awareness and push for greater acceptance and inclusion. Her untimely death in 2021 was a devastating loss for the music world, but her legacy as a trailblazer and visionary artist continues to inspire.
Crystal LaBeija (1930s-1990s)
“I have a right to show my color, darling. I am beautiful, and I know I’m beautiful.”
Crystal LaBeija was a prominent figure in the LGBTQ community during the 60s and 70s, particularly as a leader and founder of the ballroom scene in New York City. LaBeija competed in the 1967 Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pageant, a competition that was documented famously in The Queen. As a Black trans woman, LaBeija faced significant discrimination throughout her life. However, she refused to be silenced and instead used her voice to advocate for the rights and visibility of trans people of color. LaBeija founded the House of LaBeija, which became one of the most renowned and respected houses within the ballroom scene.
Wendy Carlos (Born 1939)
“As human beings we do change, grow, adapt, perhaps even learn and become wiser."
Wendy Carlos is a pioneering electronic musician and composer who made major contributions to the development of electronic music. Carlos began experimenting with electronic music in the 1960s and became one of the first musicians to use the Moog synthesizer. She gained widespread acclaim for her work on the soundtrack for the film A Clockwork Orange, as well as several successful albums, including Switched-On Bach. Carlos’s innovative use of technology paved the way for future generations of female musicians and composers. As a trans woman, Carlos played an important role in raising awareness and promoting the acceptance of the trans community in the music industry.