Laverne Cox Narrates An Illustrated History Of The Transgender Community, Highlighting Struggles And Hope

“We have always existed, and we will continue to fight until we are all safe and free.”

Being transgender is not new and is not a fad. The community has a long history of struggle for acceptance and equal rights that stretches back to the mid-20th century. Taking us on a journey with a video titled A Trans History: Time Marches Forward And So Do We — a collaborative effort between the ACLU's Chase Strangio, Transparent producer and artist Zackary Drucker, Emmy-winning Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox (who narrates), and artists such as Molly Crabapple, Kim Boekbinder, and Jim Batt — we get an illustrated history lesson filled with hope for the future.

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The narration begins with by describing the Stonewall riots of June 1969 in New York City and noting how it is widely regarded as the "beginning of the LGBTQ movement in America." Cox then acknowledges the that the movement has even deeper roots, taking us back to events such as May 1959 at Cooper's Donuts in Los Angeles, May 1965 at Philadelphia's Dewey's, August 1966 at San Francisco's Compton's Cafeteria, New Year's Day 1967 at The Black Cat in Los Angeles, and likely many others that haven't been uncovered or identified yet that "remind us of our courageous history of resisting institutionalized bullying and oppression."

In decades following these uprisings, Cox notes that transgender people "largely remained in the shadows, quietly contributing to society" and were denied, as Cox puts it, "essentially the basic right to live." The movement went on, though, with key figures — which Cox calls "transcestors" — such as Miss Major, Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Flawless Sabrina, who fought on and "dared to be themselves when our society made it a crime to deviate from gender norms."

Fast-forward to now, a time, Cox explains, where "trans people are more visible than ever" — but quickly notes that while they are sometimes "celebrated" they are often "targeted." From schools to bathrooms, laws do not protect transgender people. Homelessness, HIV, and incarceration are epidemics for transgender women of color — not to mention a murder rate that increases "with every passing year." And, as Cox explains, the current political administration is trying to "literally and figuratively delete us" as opposed to investigate and "invest in our survival."

While 18 states in the U.S. "explicitly and comprehensively protect trans people from discrimination," 22 states in 2017 have introduced more than 50 bills restricting their rights. "Even as these lawmakers signal that we are not worthy of protection, we persevere," Cox says.

"Most of us have already spent years in dark places wrestling with our truths, feeling ashamed of who we are. But when we manage to survive — and even to love ourselves — we are stronger than ever," Cox continues. "Try as they might, these lawmakers cannot erase us. Our rights will be hard-won, but we are winning. Our community is resilient and our history of resistance runs deep. Following in the footsteps of Flawless, Major, Sylvia, and Marsha, we fight back the way they did. We take care of each other, we tell our own stories, and we demand justice."

As for how to help, Cox urges viewers to get involved in the courts, in the state legislatures, in the streets, and in the voting booths. "Resistance is our birthright passed on from our elders," Cox says, calling back the riots and uprisings of the past that "continue to give us hope and life." Cox concludes: "We have always existed, and we will continue to fight until we are all safe and free."

Watch "Time Marches Forward & So Do We" in full here:

(H/T: Time)

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