Award Date

5-2014

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor 1

Lynn Comella

Advisor 2

Marcia Gallo

Advisor 3

Andrew Hanson

Abstract

Stonewall, the act most associated with sparking gay liberation in 1969, was preceded by several events of queer insurrection. These events, which often featured trans people of color playing central roles, are not widely known. Similarly, Stonewall itself has been mythologized in order to be palatable within mainstream society, effectively whitewashing its history. This research utilized archival investigation and discourse analysis, as well as the concepts of symbolic annihilation and trans-misogyny, in order to examine certain publications’ representations of trans women from 1969 – 1979. I found that mainstream publications such as the Chicago Daily Tribune and the Los Angeles Times continued their precedents of portraying transgender people in a skeptical, sensationalizing light and tended to focus on middle-class, heterosexual, white trans women celebrities. Some gay and lesbian publications, such as The Advocate, arguably mirrored this trend. Comparative analyses of Christine Jorgensen and Renée Richards with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson reveals that, in both mainstream and some gay, lesbian, and feminist publications, representations of trans women were often quite similar throughout the period between 1969 – 1979. Jorgensen and Richards, who fit into the mold of acceptable transsexuality, often made headlines, though their identities were routinely questioned. In contrast, trans women of color Rivera and Johnson were largely barred from print media coverage. Both excluding marginalized trans women and writing about trans women in a hostile or sensationalistic way arguably leads to the dehumanization of trans people, or the invisibilization of voices from the historical record, which has contemporary consequences.

Keywords

Gay liberation movement; Sexual minorities in mass media; Stonewall Riots, New York, New York, 1969; Transgender people; Transphobia

Disciplines

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | History | History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Women's History | Women's Studies

Language

English