Miss Major, Barbara Smith, Tourmaline, Alicia Garza, and Charlene Carruthers have a roundtable about the movement.
In honor of Women’s History Month, Out dedicates its March issue to women and nonbinary femmes. For the first time in our 27 years of publishing, our entire magazine only features and is photographed by, styled by, and written by women and nonbinary femmes. Joining us as guest editor for this edition is the activist, author, and director Janet Mock.
In partnership with Out’s executive editor Raquel Willis, our cover story features Mickalene Thomas’ photographs of the Mothers and Daughters of the Movement: five Black queer and trans women carrying our liberation forward, each of them representative of vital work around race, sexuality, gender, class, and beyond. For the occasion, Mock selected our “Mothers,” Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who rose up at Stonewall and is still fighting, and Barbara Smith, legendary Black lesbian feminist from the ‘60s to today. Joining them are our Daughters — Tourmaline, the artist best known for immortalizing and honoring the icon Marsha P. Johnson; Alicia Garza, the queer woman who coined the term Black Lives Matter; and Charlene Carruthers, who’s literally writing the book on modern, intersectional queer feminism.
Here, our cover stars have a roundtable discussion on what work we need to do immediately, who inspires them, and what’s coming next.
WHO WE FIGHT FOR
Miss Major: My transgender community. My girls — my Black girls, first, and then everybody else.
Barbara Smith: Everyone who’s oppressed all over the globe and anyone who’s being hurt or exploited. I fight
Alicia Garcia: Myself, Black people, Black queer women, Black trans women, everybody who deserves to live with dignity and doesn’t get to do that right now.
Charlene Carruthers: Myself, my ancestors, my niece, my mother, all Black women, queer folks, trans folks, gender non-conforming folks, and disabled folks.
Tourmaline: People in prison, hustling and not making ends meet, in hospitals, people who can’t get out of bed or can’t get out of a home, people living in homeless shelters, and the underdogs. I am the underdog that I fight for.
WHAT PUSHED US INTO ACTIVISM
MM: Losing a couple of very dear friends when I was younger, in New York, back in the late ’60s. They were murdered by someone who knew them and the police didn’t care. They weren’t interested in what the community saw and it never got solved. I decided that the [trans] girls and I had to stick together because we’re all that we have. While working the streets together, we formed bonds because tricks are assholes and we had to protect ourselves from them. So I got the girls to write down license plate numbers and pay attention to what car we saw our friends get in, in case they didn’t come back.
BS: Being born into Jim Crow in 1946, as a little Black baby with a twin, makes it really hard to look at dehumanization, hatefulness, and just outright terrorism and not want to do something about it. My sister and I experienced all of those events that are now so historic and well-known of the Civil Rights Era, in real time. I remember when Emmett Till was murdered because I was in elementary school. The people in my family talked about it in hushed tones with great sadness. All those major events I lived through, and because I came of age at just the right time, I
actually could come into the Civil Rights Movement and try to change things.
AG: I was raised by a single mother who did a lot of work so I could pursue my own dreams, and that meant putting some of hers aside. After everybody was asleep, it was her time to really dream and imagine what her life could be, and I got my spirit from her.
CC: I was 18 years old [when] I got involved in activism. I went to a predominantly white university, and some of the white students decided that they wanted to take away our power as Black, brown, LGBTQ students in the student government. So, we decided to organize. That same year, I went to study politics in South Africa, and it blew my mind.
T: Activism has kind of always been a part of my life and my story. Both of my parents were organizers for different periods of time, and [my] mom recently retired from being a union organizer.
WHAT WE WISH MORE PEOPLE UNDERSTOOD ABOUT THE WORK
MM: We’re not asking for anything that we don’t deserve. If you’re under somebody’s foot all the time, someone needs to come up and move that motherfucker off your neck.
BS: We build on the shoulders and the experiences of all those who fought before, so one of the things to know is that it’s not instantaneous. It’s not easy.
AG: It’s not a spectator sport. I’m all for different approaches, strategies, and theories on how things should go, but I only think those things are valuable in practice and in the testing of them.
CC: This work takes money, resources, and time. Just like any other craft, engaging in movement-building work deserves investment. It deserves being someone who actually takes the time to learn the craft, and to be supported in doing so.
T: It’s a protracted struggle. [And] the work can look different. I think all of the ways that we participate are deeply meaningful, and I think it’s really important that we expand what it means to be a part of this work.