This guest post was written by Women’s Center student staff member Ty Philip.
In celebrating LGBTQ History Month, it’s important to remember those who don’t fit into the mainstream representation of the LGBTQ community. As the LGBTQ community has made gains in society, it is important to recognize that the face of the movement is increasingly white, cis, male, gay, upper class, able-bodied, and heteronormative. When arguments for marriage equality are made, our leaders look back to Stonewall as a way to validate their arguments. Stonewall, after all, sparked the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in America. So it’s only right for us to assume that because the face of the LGBTQ movement today is one that is predominantly white, cis, male, gay, upper class, able-bodied, and heteronormative, it has historically been the face of the movement. We know that this is not true.
When we think of LGBTQ rights and Stonewall, we don’t think of all of the trans women of color who have both presently and historically risked their safety and continuously had their lives threatened in order to try to claim a right to navigate in our society. What we think of is people like Harvey Milk whose politics are catered towards those of a privileged LGBTQ identity. We think of Neil Patrick Harris, who is a living representation of the effects and benefits of those privileges. We don’t think of people like Sylvia Rivera, who was present on the actual night of the Stonewall riots. We don’t think of Reina Gossett, either, a trans woman of color who is representative of the same kinds of intersectional oppression faced by Sylvia and all of the others present at Stonewall. It is important to remember that what is the face of the community is not representative of the community itself, that there is marginalization within the community that leaves certain narratives untold.
As a trans woman of color, Reina Gossett’s narrative is one that is largely untold. Mainstream trans women of color such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock do an excellent job at bringing widespread attention to unheard narratives, but Gossett delivers this narrative from an activist perspective. Gossett’s emphasis on social change and social action are things that I strongly identify with. With Gossett coming to UMBC, I find myself able to see how social justice can be practiced through social programming. I see how people like Reina Gossett, people like me with marginalized identities and generally untold stories, can find platforms through which we can have our voices heard and inspire change.
I commend Critical Social Justice, the Women’s Center, and Student Life’s Mosaic: Cultural & Diversity Center for choosing Reina Gossett as the keynote speaker for LGBTQ History Month. I am appreciative that untold narratives are being given a space to exist and thrive when they are not given such opportunities by mainstream media. It is important to remember that the while the L and G are the most prominently seen part of the LGBTQ community, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are representative of the community. Trans people of color exist now, and have existed since even before the Stonewall riots. Our stories will not be erased or eradicated.