MN Writes Reads

50 Years Since Stonewall

Quinn Villagomez (photo by Sarah Whiting)

As a young trans woman of color, I wasn’t aware of the Stonewall Riots until early adulthood. What I have learned since is both surprising, scary, and courage-building.

Fifty years ago, the world was not okay with “gay.” Being “homosexual” was invisible as a necessity. Often, people who identified as gay or queer or trans were killed or harmed.

We still have a long way to go — 50 years later — to educate people on the rights for queer, trans, gender non- conforming, and non-binary identities.

Every day, and not just for Pride Week, or during the month of June, we need to be visible, we need to be vocal, and we need to occupy space. Queer and trans people of color especially need to take up the space that we are often not given or allowed.

Who Is Marsha P. Johnson?

Marsha P. Johnson (1945- 1992) is an icon and hero for the gay community. She is considered a trailblazing activist who founded an organization to protect transgender youth and — right after Stonewall on June 28, 1969 — was a key member of the Gay Liberation Front, which advocated for sexual liberation. She was influential in the movement that led to today’s evolving LGBTQ+ rights.

Violence against queer people, especially trans people of color, exists to this day. I look to the example of Marsha P. Johnson as a force who never stopped, despite the hate around her.

Although she is no longer with us physically, Johnson’s voice and passion is still working through us.

I am an openly transgender Latina woman, living in a society where my safety is at risk, my reputation is questioned, and my “gender” is a main focus or topic of debate. I will not allow that to limit who I am.

I am trans, yes. I am a Latina woman, yes. I have dreams, goals, and aspirations. I intend to flourish. My gender identity should not define me.

It was difficult growing up not able to be my true authentic self, struggling each day to live (unhappily) as male, in a predominately all-white community.

Having mentors and organizations focused on LGBTQ+ work might have helped me be more comfortable living freely and openly.

Today, I am living my passion in radio and media, which is a long-time dream I once thought would never happen — I had not seen or heard of a queer or trans artist in media. To be that person now, in Minnesota, means so much to me.

I hope my journey of living my dreams will resonate with many — to help inspire others to never give up, and to not let odds against you make you stop. We still need more representation — to have our voices heard on topics such as gender, pronouns, labels. We need to work within our community, yes, but we also need to give all communities a chance to listen and learn from each other.

My mission is to continue to shine bright and give hope to those in my community. Being queer or trans is fabulous. We can do anything we want to if we continue to educate and inspire and to be shimazing!


The History of Stonewall

Marsha P. Johnson

On June 28, 1969, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, police raided a gay bar called Stonewall Inn. This was a known LGBTQ+ gathering place, which the police frequently raided. On this night, however, when customers and staff were being arrested, patrons began throwing coins, then rocks, then bricks at them. After riot police arrived, the crowd gathered in response, shouting “Gay Power!”

For the next several nights, the crowd returned in increasing numbers, handing out leaflets and rallying themselves, leading a few weeks later to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, which demanded an end to the persecution of LGBTQ+ people, and eventually fighting against racism and traditional gender roles. Pride marches are now held on the anniversary date of the original riot.


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