Listed in order of the onset of their respective movements
Gay and lesbian Soldiers returning from World War II settle in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York rather than returning to small towns. There they found under ground communities of gay and lesbian people.
While being gay or lesbian, might not have been specifically illegal meeting another lesbian or gay person and hooking up with them was defined as solicitation for a lewd act. Actual homosexual acts were illegal in most if not all states.
The Mattachine Society, the first modern US Gay organization was founded in Los Angeles in 1950. Its founders included Harry Hay, Rudi Gernreich, Dale Jennings and lovers Bob Hull and Chuck Rowland.
In 1952 some of the early members split with the original group and founded ONE Inc.
From Wikipedia: The Mattachine Society existed as a single national organization headquartered first in Los Angeles and then, beginning around 1956, in San Francisco. Outside of Los Angeles and San Francisco, chapters were established in New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other locales. Due to internal disagreements, the national organization disbanded in 1961.
The first post-war lesbian organization, the Daughters of Bilitis was founded in the mid-1950s.
One of the earliest connections of “transgender as umbrella” to the gay community was Jose Sarria, a drag queen, who performed at The Black Cat, a bar on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. Dressing as a member of the opposite sex was illegal under 650.5 of the penal code and could include women wearing front zipped jeans or trousers as well as T to F transsexual and transgender people dressed as women.
In the 1955-60 period both ONE and Virginia Prince had to fight with postal authorities for the right to mail magazines or news letters. This was an extremely important free speech battle and as much as I hate Virginia Prince I give her a great deal of respect for fighting this battle along with the people of ONE.
There were small groups of heterosexual transvestites across the nation as well as services such as resorts where they could go to cross dress. The name game started early when Prince decided that transvestite sounded “gay” or something and would never do because being gay meant being a pervert. So heterosexual TVs became “femmephiles”
In 1952 and 53 the stories of “sex changes” started appearing in the news. While the surgeries had been done earlier Christine Jorgensen and Roberta Cowell became the first “famous transsexuals”. They do not appear to have considered themselves part of either the gay movement or CD movement although in the years after Stonewall Christine appeared to be publicly supportive of the Gay and Lesbian Movements as well as furthering the rights of transsexual and transgender people.
In the late 1950s early 1960s Dr. Burou opened a clinic in Casablanca where he started performing relatively large numbers of transsexual to female surgeries. this is where April Ashley and others went. The women who went to Dr. Burou seemed decidedly hipper than Roberta and Christine. In the US Dr. Elmer Belt was performing small numbers of surgeries as was Dr. Barbosa in Tijuana. Aleshia Brevard had her SRS from (if memory serves me correctly Dr. Belt in that time frame.
In California the bars were more likely to be actually gay or lesbian owned than in New York where they were Mafia owned and or operated. In California the bar owners formed the Tavern Guild and organized against police harassment. Drag Pageants and balls were common and there was the start of the Imperial Court system.
Gay protests and riots regarding police harassment of gay bars started occurring. including an incident in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.
In 1963, John Rechy’s break through memoir/novel “City of Night” was published and what had been a hidden world or at least a world ignored by hetero-normative society became visible. The book has realistic depictions of the queens (transgender sex workers) who were part of the downtown Los Angeles scene in the late 1950s.
1965 Frank Kameny, Barbara Gittings and others start picketing in various locations regarding employment discrimination: Wikipedia: In 1965, Gittings marched in the first gay picket lines at the White House, the US State Department, and at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to protest the federal government’s policy on discrimination of homosexuals, holding a sign that read “Sexual preference is irrelevant to federal employment.” Transsexual or transgender people were not involved in these protests
1964 Life Magazine published “The Homosexual in America” a nasty piece of gay bashing that nonetheless increased gay visibility (but not lesbian visibility). Coming on the leading edge of the wave of the sexual freedom revolution that made the 1960s and 70s an era of sexual liberation the article was a case of even nasty bashing publicity being good publicity.
In 1964, SIR, The Society For Individual Rights was founded in San Francisco. SIR was a transitional organization and was in many ways several years ahead of its time. It was far more open than The Mattachine Society. It created a model for the modern LGBT/T Community Centers. While it was limited to gay men, it held lesbian inclusive conferences as well as being a place one could go to get the information that would connect one with lesbian or transsexual groups and resources.
At a time when same-sex dancing was banned in bars, SIR’s most popular events were regular dances held at the group’s space on 6th Street near Market in the heart of San Francisco’s skid row. Opened in April 1966, the SIR Center – the nation’s first gay and lesbian community center – contained office space, a library, and a large public assembly area.
SIR’s social activities proved to be the drawing card that got members involved in its service and political work. Along with other local groups, including the Daughters of Bilitis (the nation’s first lesbian rights group) and the Tavern Guild (an organization of gay bar owners), SIR helped form the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, in conjunction with progressive Protestant clergy. A police raid on the coalition’s New Year’s fund raising ball in 1965 brought media attention to the plight of the city’s homosexuals and helped build public sympathy. SIR and the other groups started hosting candidate forums, and progressive politicians began courting the gay vote, taking out ads in Vector, SIR’s glossy magazine. “If politicians do not openly address themselves to homosexuals,” SIR president Beardhemphl told the San Francisco Examiner in 1966, “they do not need our 90,000 votes.”
Darrell G Raynor , Jan 1, 1966, publishes, “A Year Among the Girls”, documenting heterosexual transvestism in America including meeting with Virginia Prince as well as a visit to a transvestite resort run by Susanna. I remember thinking the whole idea of heterosexual transvestism was kind of strange in a way I didn’t think the cross gender behavior of queens as strange. While the heterosexual CD groups have always maintained a distance (fear) of association with either homosexuality or transsexualism I too was naively hetero-normative in my own association of needing to be female and assuming I would be heterosexual after SRS.
In August the queens and transsexuals living in San Francisco’s Tenderloin rioted after an incident of on-going police abuse in what has come to be referred to as the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots.
In November, Johns Hopkin’s announced they had begun performing sex change operations.
In late 1966 early 1967 COG, (Change Our Goal) started meeting at San Francisco’s Glide Memorial. It went on to become the Transsexual Counseling Service operating under the aegis of the War on Poverty. It was an organization by and for transsexuals who wanted to have lives beyond the ghetto of “drag queen.” The groups rapidly distinguished themselves based on often arbitrary lines at first, but by the early 1970s those lines had become one line, surgery or being surgery tracked made one transsexual rather than a queen.
From James Driscoll’s “The Transsexuals” published in Transitions: A Journal of Sociology writing about events occurring in 1967.
(With Transsexuals) More than this, the medical contacts strengthen the feminine self-concept of the girls. They feel that they now have some positive medical sanction to their claims for womanhood, and this feeling commits them more firmly than ever to their career pattern as a transsexual. The hormone treatment itself brings about some startling bodily changes in a surprisingly short period of time. After about three months of hormones, the girls begin to develop a bust, and there are visible changes in the distribution of body fat. The shoulders become thinner, and the hips and buttocks fill out. Body hair begins to fall off, and facial hair becomes lighter and sparser. Needless to say, these changes are extremely encouraging to the girls. Once they have gone this far, they begin to live almost entirely for the eventual operation. They refer to themselves exclusively as women. The drag queen is now regarded as some sort of a freak: a homosexual who dresses as a woman.
This along with “A Year Among the Girls” documents how there was never any real interaction between heterosexual CDs, queens(transgenders) and transsexuals, indeed the animosity we see today has always been present.
I have always believed the events of 1968 payed a role in the uprising that occurred in June of 1969 at The Stonewall in New York City, in that minority rage was no longer suppressed and boiled over into open rebellion against police repression. From Columbia University, to the ghetto up-risings, to People’s Park. People were no longer willing to be treated like sub-humans by armed thugs in blue uniforms.
Stonewall seemed less important to me in the Bay Area in 1969, perhaps because the news took days to reach us in any detail, but it is equally possible that events earlier in the year meant that gay liberation as a movement was already in full swing when Stonewall occurred.
Many of the claims made by “Transgender Inc” that transgender people were always part of the LG communities and that Sylvia Rivera’s participation in the Stonewall uprising proves it, fail to take into account the parallel world aspects of LGT. I’m deliberately eliminating bisexual from this because it too is a relative late comer to the alphabet soup.
Sylvia Rivera and other “queens” were initially involved in the Gay Liberation Front, which for a brief and shining moment united gay men, lesbians, queens maybe even a few transsexuals in a generally left wing movement that associated itself not only with “Gay Liberation” but all liberation movements as well as the anti-war movement.
Unfortunately Gay Liberation Front was incredibly short lived. Lesbians objected to gay male sexism. Gay male misogyny and worship of masculinity caused the queens to be treated as pariahs. Many gay men were more conservative than others and rejected the ties with other liberation movements.
In New York City, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson founded STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an organization of queens, who were often people of color and just as often street sex workers. Lee Brewster founded Queen’s Liberation Front, slightly upscale, better educated, more given to doing sex work in bars and phone.
Sylvia had many problems due to poverty and substance abuse plus a combative personality particularly when drunk which alienated her from the more conservative Gay Activist Alliance, which superseded the GLF. Marsha Johnson was murdered and Sylvia pretty much disappeared until she emerged years later clean and sober with the gravitas of being both a survivor and a person of history. Not a bad accomplishment in reality given how few transgender people of that era survived the violence, the substance abuse and AIDS.
Sex work was often a given since it was generally impossible to get ID that matched your gender presentation until after SRS.
The same was true of our organization in San Francisco. The people involved both as workers and as clients were transsexual and in the process of obtaining SRS. Nixon’s ending of the War on Poverty damaged our ability to live up to certain goals but we were able to continue to meet others thanks to a grant from the Reed Erickson Foundation.
By about 1973-74 the various factions that had briefly united under the banner of the GLF were barely speaking to each other.
In Los Angeles, Morris Kight and other visionaries had founded the Gay Community Services Center. Just as the Transsexual Counseling Services (later the National Transsexual Counseling Unit) provided counseling and access to services, these organizations were less politically oriented than aimed at serving their communities.
In 1976 I was attending sessions of a group called Renaissance, in Los Angeles, run by Jude Patton, Carol Katz and Joanna Clark. This is where I first heard the term “transgender”, which then occupied a space between transvestite and transsexual. It specifically meant someone who lived full time as a member of the sex not commonly associated with their present genital and who was neither working towards SRS or desired SRS.
This group met at a public health clinic, not at the Gay Community Services Center, again the parallel universes phenomena.
In 1976 or 77 gays and lesbians managed to work out some of their differences and lesbian started getting equal billing in the organizational titles. The Gay Community Services Center became the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center.
The anti-transsexual battles within the lesbian communities ignited during this time after having died down for a few years after the trashing of Beth Elliott.
It was about this time that people breaking away from Tri-Ess, in many cases after having concluded they were transsexual rather than heterosexual cross dressers started publishing a newsletter that became a magazine titled “Tapestry” when it changed formats in the early-mid 1980s.
The people putting out this newsletter are the actual founders of the modern Transgender Movement, something to be said for coming from a background of at least some privilege and education. While the majority of states had passed provisions regarding changes of ID including birth certificates and driver’s licenses, as well as passports for post-op folks many actual transgender (original definition) as well as pre-op folks were left twisting in the wind.
The late 1970s were marked by the rise of the ultra right wing Christo-Fascist anti-women, anti-gay and anti-lesbian politicians and movements aimed at depriving gay and lesbian people of their hard won and only newly realized rights. Transsexual and transgender people were so invisible at that point as to not be on the religious right’s radar much less within their cross hairs.
Self-help/support groups remained the general rule for TS/TG folks through out the 1980 and up into the early 1990s. AIDS became the focus of the gay community and lesbians took over positions of leadership within the “Gay and Lesbian” community. Even though AIDS killed many transsexual and transgender sex workers, and certain groups within various cities had a majority of trans-sex workers testing HIV positive, TS/TG people were an invisible component of those dying from or living with HIV.
The Q emerged in the late 1980s with Act-Up, Queer Nation and Larry Kramer hitting the streets and publications full of rage regarding the Reagan/Bush regime’s malevolent neglect of the people with AIDS and the ethnic cleansing this neglect was causing.
At some point bisexual people became part of the alphabet soup.
Finally we come to the point in the 1990s when transsexual and transgender people joined the mix. Post-SRS, lesbian and gay people had always been part of the lesbian or gay communities in spite of the controversy our presence sometimes aroused.
Transgender as umbrella owes much to the work done by the people who published Tapestry and to events occurring at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I am not exactly certain if Nancy Berkholder was TS/TG post or pre-op, but she was thrown out of the festival. This was circa 1993 or 4. The next year Riki Wilchins and others formed Camp Trans as a protest.
It was about this time that more progressive Gay and Lesbian Centers opened their doors to transsexual and transgender groups and started providing support as well as facilities. Some times this accommodation felt more welcoming than at other times but at least the effort was made.
This did not solve the friction between transsexual and transgender people, however and the wars between these two factions continue to this date.
With regard to the relationship TS/TG people have with Gay/Lesbian…
Just as with the differences between gay men and lesbians the priority given the needs of each group has always been a matter of disagreement, with the various factions threatening to leave the loosely based coalition if their needs are not given top priority.