Miss Major Griffin-Gracy is a lifelong LGBTQ activist with a profound legacy. Her journey spans pivotal moments in queer history, from her participation in the historic Stonewall Uprising in 1969 to her unwavering advocacy for trans women of color, particularly those who have faced incarceration in men’s prisons, for over four decades.

Originally assigned male at birth, Griffin-Gracy grew up on the South Side of Chicago. In her teens, she encountered an older drag queen who became her mentor in the art of dressing and applying cosmetics. She delved into the vibrant world of drag balls and immersed herself in the drag culture. While gradually opening up to her family about her true self, she continued to present as male in public.

At the age of 16, Griffin-Gracy pursued higher education, residing in the men’s dormitory. Unfortunately, an inadvertent discovery of her women’s clothing by her roommate led to her outing and subsequent expulsion. Similar challenges arose in her subsequent attempts at college elsewhere. At 22, she relocated to New York, where she sustained herself through work as a drag performer and sex worker.

During the 1960s, police raids on drag shows and other gay gathering places were commonplace. As a regular at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, Griffin-Gracy found herself arrested on June 28, 1969 — the inaugural night of the monumental Stonewall Riots. A year later, she faced incarceration after a robbery charge while working as a sex worker. She experienced five years of turmoil within the prison system, enduring humiliation and abuse. This harrowing period ignited her dedication to aiding other trans women in similar predicaments.

Following her release, Griffin-Gracy entered a relationship with a cisgender woman, resulting in the birth of their son. They subsequently moved to San Diego in 1978. Despite the end of their romantic relationship, Griffin-Gracy remained dedicated to co-parenting their child.

In California, Griffin-Gracy dedicated herself to assisting trans women facing incarceration, homelessness, or battling addiction through her work with a food bank. Amidst the peak of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s, she played a pivotal role in supporting her community at the Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center.

Around 2004, Griffin-Gracy joined the Transgender Gender-Variant & Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP) to extend her support to incarcerated trans women, eventually assuming the role of its executive director. In 2019, she established House of GG, a haven providing a wide array of services for trans and gender-nonconforming individuals.

Griffin-Gracy’s contributions have earned her numerous accolades and recognition. Her extraordinary life is the focus of the acclaimed documentary “Major!” (2015), and she co-authored “Miss Major Speaks: Conversations with a Black Trans Revolutionary,” published in 2023. She and her partner, Beck Witt, a fellow trans activist, are parents to a 2-year-old biological son. They currently reside in Arkansas.

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