5 Trans Women of Colour who Paved the Way for the Next Generation

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.”

Anderson spent the remainder of her life in Los Angeles until her death in 1954, at age 68, leaving behind a legacy of authenticity and determination in the face of unjust laws.

Miss Major

Miss Major is one of the most prominent pioneers of today’s trans rights movement. She has fought for trans rights for over forty years.

After participating in the original Stonewall Riots, she worked to organise fellow sex workers in the 1970s and to became a leader in fighting for trans rights. Currently, Miss Major is the Executive Director of the Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project, an organisation working “against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures” for transgender women of colour and their families.

Sir Lady Java

Sir Lady Java was a performer and female impersonator based in Los Angeles, California, during the 1960s. At the time, Los Angeles law made it illegal to “impersonate by means of costume or dress a person of the opposite sex” and was often used by police to break up shows and punish trans people.

When Sir Lady Java became more popular, authorities began targeting her directly. Recognszing this violation on her civil rights and affect this had on the LGBT+ community, she fought back. Joining forces with the ACLU, Sir Lady Java took Rule No. 9 to court and brought the LGBT community together through public rallies and protests.

While it was determined she didn’t have legal standing to file the initial lawsuit, Sir Lady Java made it possible for Rule No. 9 to be stuck down two years later.

Marsha P Johnson

To name a few, Marsha P Johnson was an activist, model, sex worker, and mother figure to many young trans women in New York. A leader within the transgender community in Greenwich Village, Johnson was one of the original instigators of the Stonewall riots. Her fight for equality has been greatly influenced by her experience of homelessness. It’s not clear whether Johnson actually defined herself as a women, but it has been told that she used female pronouns.

In 1970 she created co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera. STAR provided shelter, clothes, and much-needed support for young homeless trans women and drag queens. In 1992, Johnson was found dead in the Hudson River at age 48. While her death was ruled a suicide, those who knew her and within the community remain convinced that she was murdered.

Carlett A. Brown

Carlett A Brown only discovered that she was intersex after undergoing a routine physical exam as part of her Naval duties in the 1950’s. After being immediately discharged from service, she worked as a female impersonator and dancer to earn money to complete her physical transition.

Discovering that the surgery she required wasn’t legal in the United States, Brown searched for a surgeon in Denmark, where the first Sex Reassignment Surgery was performed in 1952. She soon learned that these operations were only available to Danish citizens, prompting Brown to renounce her US citizenship and apply for citizenship in Denmark, which would also allow her to change her legal gender and marry her boyfriend, Sgt. Eugene Martin, who was stationed in Germany.

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