When Existence is Resistance
Trans Activism in New York, 1969 to 2019
Friday, December 20, 2019 by
In 2019, the Museum commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising through exhibitions, public programs, and participation in the Stonewall-50 consortium. As the year comes to an end and the exhibition PRIDE: Photographs of Stonewall and Beyond by Fred W. McDarrah closes on December 31st, the section of our ongoing exhibition Activist New York on trans activism, “When Existence is Resistance: Trans Activism in New York, 1969 to 2019,” will remain on view in the near year. Installed in the spring of 2019, this section of the exhibition uses photographs, print publications, art, and ephemera to examine trans New Yorkers who mobilized at the Stonewall Inn during the police raid in June 1969, formed pioneering trans organizations, and pushed gender boundaries in decades to come.
The exhibition materials focus on the New York-based group STAR, or Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. In 1970 Sylvia L. Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, who both participated in the Stonewall uprising the year before, founded STAR to empower marginalized youth and people of color before the term “transgender” was widely used. They marched, corralled resources, and operated the first group shelter in the nation dedicated to serving trans youth, STAR House. They also dealt with stigma and opposition from gay liberation and women’s liberation groups, and crafted a wide-ranging platform against discrimination and violence. Although the group folded in 1973, their pioneering work has impacted trans organizing to this day.
The exhibition section also includes more recent materials, including artists, intellectuals, and activists from the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. In 2002 trans protections were added to New York City’s human rights law for the first time, and in 2019 the New York legislature passed the statewide Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). Trans activists have been at the forefront of these legislative initiatives, as well as continuing grassroots mobilizations for trans representation, safety, and equality.
Visit “When Existence is Resistance” in Activist New York in 2020 and beyond.