QUEER HISTORY: Miss Major Griffin-Gracy

Miss Major Griffin Gracy is a trans elder and activist and among other things, was present at the Stonewall Inn Riots in 1969. She’s a community leader who has worked tirelessly over the decades to support other trans girls/women and the LGBTQ community, especially those who are or have been incarcerated, and helped spark the modern trans movement.

Miss Major was born in 1940 and grew up in Chicago. Early on in her life, she became involved in drag balls in Chicago and came out in her teens. After being kicked out by her family, Miss Major made her way to New York City and was a part of the Stonewall Inn Riots in June of 1969. She spoke about the riots to the Huffington Post a couple years ago, saying in particular:

And the aftermath of that ― there was a sense of pride that stood up for ourselves and we fought back. That they didn’t just roll over us like one of those concrete things that smooths the roads. We actually stood up and it was empowering.

Miss Major was also incarcerated at several points in her life, which greatly influenced her later work and activism around prison abolition and supporting incarcerated trans and gender nonconforming folks. She’s worked extensively with the Bay Area organization, TGI Justice. TGI Justice is a community and collaboration of trans and gender non-conforming folks working together for survival and freedom, especially in the context of the prison industrial complex. The organization especially works to help those currently in or just leaving prison through advocacy, visitations/letters, and so much more.

There’s so much about Miss Major’s life that has fueled her activism and love for her community. A few years ago, Julia Carrie Wong wrote this amazing piece about Miss Major and her life for SFWeekly and Jessica Stern wrote a different but equally amazing piece for the Scholar &Feminist Online. Honestly, the more I read about Miss Major, the more grateful I am to still have her around.

The community around Miss Major has been working to help support her during her retirement and created a GoFundMe to help cover expenses like rent and medications. I think it’s incredibly important to help support Miss Major (and many elders like her) because she has worked for our community for decades now but it’s still difficult to survive as an LGBTQ elder. From everything that I’ve read and watched about Miss Major, she has helped countless members of our community face a myriad of different issues.

If you want to learn more and hear from Miss Major herself, I definitely recommend watching the documentary Major! that came out a couple years ago. Additionally, Miss Major was also one of the many trans folks to be interviewed in HBO’s The Trans List. You can watch Major! on Amazon Prime and The Trans List on HBO.