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    From Stonewall to Decades of TLGBQIA+ Activism: Superqueeroe Miss ‘Mama’ Major Griffin-Gracy

    By Kin Folkz–

     

    (Editor’s note: San Francisco Bay Times welcomes new columnist Kin Folkz in this issue. A 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade Community Grand Marshal, Kin Folkz is one of our community’s most passionate and respected leaders and mentors.)

    Her strident voice scorches the air and shifts my spirit on its axis: “We must be visible. We cannot hide.”

    Miss “Mama” Major Griffin-Gracy stretches out the expansive length of her wisdom and lays it down before us like a 12-course meal. “You have to deal with us. We’re not going anywhere.”

    Mama Major’s invaluable insights and time-tested strategies enable us to do more than simply weather the current trans/bi/pan/homophobic, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and sociopolitical cesspool that we are treading in. Even during this late-night conversation, after decades of dogged resilience, Mama Major carries the truth effortlessly and expels it like the divine force of a child’s instinctual first breath. 

    Mama Major, the embodiment of the 2018 San Francisco Pride theme “Generations of Strength,” ignites the energy behind the 2018 Grand Marshal Kin Folkz + Oakland LGBTQ Center RESILIENCE SF Pride Parade contingent honoring Black and Indigenous TLGBQIA+ “superqueeroes” who have made profound contributions to the entire rainbow tribe and ally community.

    By recognizing the genius of marginalized TLGBQIA+ leaders like Miss Major—whose activism operates at a mature, sustainable level of compassion and passion—we begin to birth a long overdue paradigm shift toward equity. In this interview, the first of a series highlighting marginalized “superqueeroes,” Mama Major offers us a guidebook for equity along with a prudent, charted path well worn by her and other TLGBQIA+ activists.

    Kin Folkz: After decades of superhuman social activism as a Black transwoman, how do you continue to remain focused and encouraged, given the abject malevolence that is being vomited upon our community by this heartless, phobic White House administration and their minions?

    Mama Major: Oh, honey, we’ll always be the ones to survive. I’m not afraid, because I know that we’ve gone through much worse—especially us poor, Black TLGBQIA+ folks. We weren’t supposed to survive the trauma and the torture. We’re strong because they couldn’t break us; honey, we know how to bend. Our oppressors can’t. They’re hard-hearted and that makes them fragile. I know how valuable we are. They fear us—not because we’ve done anything to harm ’em—but because we’re a peek into the future, one that won’t include their dusty old asses. Their fear makes them lie to themselves, makes them pretend to be more than they actually are. They are proven, pathological liars. They’re more than weak-hearted; they’re weak-minded. They’re bullies. And there aren’t a whole bunch; they’re just very loud. They’re arrogant and stuck in time, like dinosaurs in tar pits. And, like the dinosaurs, their way of thinking is becoming more obsolete each day.

    Kin Folkz: What strategies do you advocate to resist the offenses that are unfolding daily against us, like the recent Supreme Court decision that sided with the Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple and left open the question of whether a business can discriminate against our community based upon First Amendment rights?

    Mama Major: We need to stop pretending that we know it all. For example, California has been oblivious, and has felt untouchable. But we know that there are some deep hatreds here just like in some more visibly segregated parts of the country. We need to come together and stand for one another. We need to realize how strong we are when we listen to what the most oppressed TLGBQIA+ are saying. Not just to hear, but to listen and let us lead. We are special in this world, and we’re wrongly taught to tear each other down. We need to dismantle jealousy. All of us aren’t society’s kind of pretty; most of us ain’t rich. Instead of valuing those things and trying to chase a heteronormative lifestyle, be your authentic self and live authentically—that means to be who you know you are. You are not a norm. We all are unique.

    Kin Folkz: You mention that our entire rainbow tribe benefits when leadership comes from the marginalized Black TLGBQIA+ community. Why is that, and how do we get the white-identified and white-skin privileged folks in our community who are hoarding decision-making power to release it to Black and Indigenous leaders?

    Mama Major: To survive and thrive, we need leaders who have the experience of seeing all sides. Kin, you already know that Black TLGBQIA+ – people especially folks like you and me, 2-Spirits, Trans, GNC—all living with overlapping oppressions—are forced to understand everyone’s mindset since our childhoods in order to simply survive. To see the bully’s actions before they even think of harming us, we have to know how they think and think 3 steps ahead of them. We especially know how to survive, because we’ve been forced to live without protection for so long. When we put the L and G first, some see that as encouragement to place the rest of us behind, or not to mention us at all. We are taught to see leadership as non-Black, non-Trans, non-GNC, non-femme. We must shift leadership power to the deeply marginalized TLGBQIA+ community. When we lead, we prioritize equity and take everyone’s perspective into account.

    Kin Folkz: How can we begin to heal as a whole community? How can we begin equity work when many of us TLGBQIA+ are so traumatized that the healthy acknowledgment of colorism, lookism, misogyny and internalized self-hatred often goes unnoticed, unearthed and unresolved?

    Mama Major: We need to stop negotiating our socialization as a community family solely through technology. Most of us don’t even know how to spell family. Can’t spell it, can’t feel it. Can’t feel it, can’t show it. Can’t show it, can’t experience it. Can’t experience it, they will resist it and walk around it. We need less Facebook and more face to face—like your open mic (https://www.meetup.com/Oakland-Queer-Open-Mic/?_cookie-check=g0a9x6yRb2Vd-c5A). Come out, meet your family, tell your story. Don’t let anyone take away the power of your experience. Don’t try to take someone else’s. We need you. We need your visibility, however you identify. Just keep telling your story!

    About Miss “Mama” Major Griffin-Gracy

    Miss “Mama” Major Griffin-Gracy has spent over 40 years advocating for marginalized TLGBQIA+.  Born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, she, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera assumed leadership when they chose to fight for their freedom in the 1969 Stonewall Riots with a commitment to support her sisters and other trans family. During the 1970s, Mama Major used her time in prison to deepen her liberation work and activism.

    In 2005, Miss Major served as a staff organizer, and later as executive director of the Trans Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project (http://www.tgijp.org/), advocating for incarcerated transgender women. She officially retired (https://www.gofundme.com/MsMajorRetirement) in 2015, and is currently seeking support for House of GG’s (https://www.facebook.com/houseofggs/), a safe haven and retreat house for the transgender community. 

    Kin Folkz is the Founder and Executive Director of Spectrum Queer Media, an Oakland-based national LGBTQ rights advocacy organization.