In 1994, when Ontario was debating the merits of same-sex marriage, I was working with a Toronto-area trans group. I spent a lot of time working on the group's periodical. Every few months, I'd go through a bunch of news articles that had been sent out through a trans news email list, and I'd précis the various stories into one-paragraph summaries. These summaries would be printed in the sidebar of the first several pages of the mag.
This particular trans group was mostly dominated by upper-middle-class self-identified crossdressers, and many of the articles were about vacuous things like make-up and clothing, but I was always very pleased with the summarized blurbs about trans issues from around the world. Even though we weren't American, we had good coverage of American issues like DOMA and ENDA as well as tragic events such as the Brandon Teena murder, and the avoidable death of Tyra Hunter.
It was also the year of the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and I recall a lot of the unfortunate conflicts between trans communities and the organizers of the Stonewall anniversary committee. I recall sitting down, one day, to summarize for my group's trans magazine, how one of the anniversary committee's organizers had gotten fed up and finally announced that the trans community was trying to ride on the coattails of the gay and lesbian liberation movement by inserting themselves into Stonewall anniversary events.
Of course, my view on Stonewall differed quite a bit. While Wikipedia suggests that the riots are "frequently cited as the first instance in American history when gays and lesbians fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals," for me, it was the story about how genderqueer people kick-started the LGBT movement. If anything, I felt, middle-class gays and lesbians were riding the coattails of genderqueer people. I acknowledge that I think it's a bit simplistic to suggest that it was us transfolk, alone, who made it happen, but sometimes that's the way I view it.
Around about then, I started to acknowledge two people, Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson (the 'P.' stands for 'Pay it no mind'), as two of my heroes. Two years earlier, while doing my news article summarization job, I'd had to type up the story of how Marsha P. Johnson was found dead in the river, and although there was some reason to suspect foul play, the cops weren't gonna look into it. These, of course, were members of the same police force that Marsha P. Johnson helped to barricade in the Stonewall Inn in 1969.
I accept that this is a simplistic worldview, but some days I genuinely believe that Silvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson created the modern LGBT movement together. And they're two of my heroes.
Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American trans woman. And part of me is glad that she didn't have to see this.