International Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual holiday occurring on March 31 dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide. The holiday was founded by Michigan-based transgender activist Rachel Crandall in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people, citing the frustration that the only well-known transgender-centered holiday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance which mourned the loss of transgender people to hate crimes, but did not acknowledge and celebrate living members of the transgender community.
From Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (see below) to modern-day activists and “possibility models,” like Angel Collie, Rev. Norma Gann, Rev. Miller Hoffman, Rev. Jake Kopmeier, Zach McCallum, Rev. Aaron Miller, Rev. Maxwell Reay, Stacy Sanberg, Steve Sills, Rev. Mykal Slack, and Julie Walsh, our proud trans* siblings that serve as members of MCC Trans* Gender Non-Conforming Advisory Council, we pay tribute to all those who have boldly shared their stories, spoken out against discrimination, and smoothed the path toward equality and acceptance for all those who follow in their footsteps like, Rev. Brendan Boone, Rev. Emma Chatton, Dr. Colt Meyer, Monica Roberts and many others.
Remembering Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera, the Bronx-born Puerto Rican LGBTQ icon, is rumored to have started the infamous 1969 Stonewall Riots, yet she remains generally unknown. A tireless advocate for LGBTQ rights until her death in 2002, Rivera worked to ensure that change was constantly on the horizon for her community. Since 1960, New York City has been home to a thriving LGBTQ community and gay scene, despite harassment, arrests and assault.
Historians of the period believe that earlier foreign migration in the city injected new life into the already established gay scene, making it renowned. Greenwich Village, Times Square and the streets in neighboring areas became home to gay, working class and homeless youth. Among them was Rivera, a self-identified “queen,” who was raised by her Venezuelan grandmother until Rivera left home at age 11. Transforming from Ray Rivera to Sylvia Rivera, she began dressing in drag and prostituting herself on 42nd street.
“It was a hard era. There was always gay bashing on the drag queens. We had to live with it, but none of us was very happy about it,” Rivera said during a recorded interview.
Rivera and other “street queens” were constantly in danger of being arrested, mainly because of the fact that cross-dressing was illegal at the time. Raids of gay bars were common, and by the time she was 17-years-old, Rivera had already made countless trips to Riker’s Island. The arrests and harassment bred frustration, and Rivera craved a revolution.
On June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, an establishment that’s widely considered the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement, that revolution came. When officers attempted to storm the Stonewall Inn, they quickly lost control, and the self-aware gay and transgender community reacted with riots and protest. Rivera was rumored to have thrown one of the first Molotov cocktails that evening, while others claim that she wasn’t at the Stonewall Inn at all.
The radical moment in history has been debated time and time again by historians, but one thing that’s evident is the whitening and “suburbanizing” of the Stonewall Inn Riots, leading to Rivera being dropped from historical texts related to Stonewall. However, what makes her involvement so profoundly important is that she represents working class, queer Latino and black street youth, who happened to be responsible for the more militant actions that took place that evening.
The homeless people living in Sheridan Square were non-white. They were predominately Puerto Rican/Latina and they were prominent and active. Their inclusion in the night’s riots helped make it what it was, and that contingent would go on to produce more fruitful actions.
The following year, Rivera and other activists organized the first Christopher Street Liberation march to commemorate the Stonewall Rebellion. That tradition became what’s presently known as the Gay Pride Parade. Rivera went on to do profound work in the transgender community, founding the Street Transvestite/Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), and organizing with the Black Panthers and the Young Lords to drive change in the queer community as well as other disenfranchised communities.
“We Dare Not Confuse Sincere Prejudice with Sincere Religion”
MCC global moderator to witness signing of presidential executive orders with NO added exemptions
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first LGBT faith delegation to meet with U.S. White House staff in 1979, and she served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson has been invited to the White House to witness President Barack Obama sign two executive orders. The first will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the 1965 Lyndon Johnson executive order which banned discrimination based on race, religion, gender, or nationality in hiring by federal contractors. The second order adds gender identity to the list of protected classes of federal workers and was first signed by President Richard Nixon, who added disability and age. President Clinton added sexual orientation, and President Obama adds gender identity.
“We are thrilled that President Obama will sign executive orders to include sexual orientation and gender identity within Federal policies of non-discrimination. It is even more historic because no sweeping religious exemptions sponsored by conservatives will be added,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC).
“Using religious exemptions as a smokescreen for discrimination is the kind of persecution the First Amendment to the Constitution helps us to avoid,” said Dr. Wilson. “Everyone loves religious liberty, but we dare not confuse sincere prejudice with sincere religion. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people know that exemption from the law is a dangerous by-product of religious bigotry, not religious liberty.”
“MCC stands with all people of good will to support President Obama in this historic action,” said Dr. Wilson. “It is a deep honor to represent Metropolitan Community Churches at the signing event. While these executive orders will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes for federal contractors and workers, we will not rest until Congress passes the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with no religious exemptions so all Americans will be hired and fired based on their work and integrity rather than their gender identity or whom they love.”
“We know that conservatives will continue to market their prejudices under the guise of religious freedom, but we will not let their brand of judgmental Christianity be the only voice of faithful Christians that the public hears. We are LGBT and straight people of faith together who know that we are created in the image of God,” said Dr. Wilson. “We categorically reject the disastrous religious dogma that God wants Christians to hate some people.”
DATE: 13 June 2014
Contact: Jason O’Neill, MCC Communications
MCC Moderator Urges Southern Baptists to Stop Condemning God
SBC condemns transgender people and creates a climate of persecution and discrimination
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson is the Moderator of the Metropolitan Community Churches, which has ministries in over 40 countries. Dr. Wilson was part of the first LGBT faith delegation to meet with White House staff in 1979. She served as a member of President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, global leader of Metropolitan Community Churches, spoke out today to urge Southern Baptists to learn about humanity rather than to pass resolutions that reject people based on their gender identity.
“Jesus said, ‘judge not lest ye be judged,’ but the Southern Baptist voting members ignore this core message of grace when they reject God’s children who happen to be transgender,” said the Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson. “The lives of transgender people are at stake. When a person’s outer gender does not match their inner identity, it is almost impossible for them to lead a full and meaningful life. For over 45 years, MCChas provided a church home for all people who are rejected by their churches because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Now it’s time for all churches, including the Southern Baptist Convention, to learn about the diversity of humanity as created by God. Stop condemning God for creating wonderfully diverse human beings who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer!”
“When churches reject transgender people, it contributes to a climate of rejection and condemnation,which leads to persecution and violence against transgender people,” said Dr. Wilson. “In one study, 83% of transgender people reported suffering verbal attacks, half experienced job discrimination, and a third experienced physical attacks. Transgender women of color are literally hundreds of times more likely to experience violent attacks than the average person. Where are Southern Baptists when a child of God who is transgender is murdered?”
Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change, aging, and global human rights. MCC was the first to perform same gender marriages and has been on the forefront of the struggle towards marriage equality in the US and other countries worldwide.