by Mel Goldsipe | Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
Like so many parts of American history, popular culture depicts transgender history as one in which white leaders paved the way for everyone. But, as our community has to keep reminding people, it was trans women of color who led the Stonewall riot and set off the gay rights movement in this country.
The work of countless black trans warriors have made significant impacts on equal rights and visibility throughout history. These pioneers forged ahead despite intersecting challenges and oppressions. Here are just five of the many black trans women whose influence has helped shape the transgender community as it is today:
1. Lucy Hicks Anderson
Lucy Hicks Anderson was a pioneer in the fight for marriage equality. She spent nearly sixty years living as a woman, doing domestic work, and working as a madam. During the last decade of her life, she made history by fighting for the legal right to be herself with the man she loved.
After marrying her second husband, soldier Reuben Anderson, in Oxnard, California, in 1944, local authorities discovered that she was assigned male at birth. The couple was charged with perjury for marrying despite their both being legally male, resulting in ten years of probation. Standing up to the charges against her, Anderson said, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” Years later, Anderson and her husband were charged again, this time with fraud after she received federal money reserved for military spouses. Both went to prison and were banned from Oxnard upon their release.