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Miss Major Griffin-Gracy was born in the 1940s in Chicago, Illinois. Around age 13, she came out to her parents as transgender. After a psychologist, an exorcism, and prayer failed to change Miss Major’s conviction to live by her own rules, her parents kicked her out. To survive, she turned to sex work. In 1962, after being expelled from two colleges for wearing dresses, she moved to New York City. 

Frequently fired from jobs because of her gender presentation, Miss Major performed in various drag revues, relying on sex work and petty crime to cover her bills. A rough trade gay club called the Stonewall Inn was one of the few places where she felt welcome. On the night of June 28, 1969, when the Stonewall was raided for the umpteenth time by the police, Miss Major and a group of fellow transgender women were on the front lines of the crowd that finally fought back. A cop knocked Miss Major out, but the revolution had begun. The four nights of rioting that followed became known as the launch point of the modern gay rights movement. 

After Stonewall, Miss Major earned a five-year prison sentence for robbery. She was released on parole twice and twice sent back to prison—the first time for wearing makeup, and the second for entering a bar known for catering to “deviants.” While incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in far upstate New York, Miss Major met Frank Smith, who had led prison riots at Attica. Frank encouraged her to educate herself about black history, and to strive to address the causes of racism, inequality, and transgender oppression. 

Out of prison, and for many years since, Miss Major has continued to advocate for the rights, equality, and safety she stood up for at Stonewall. From 2006 to 2015, she was a key member and executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), an advocacy group for transgender people behind bars, and after their release. Miss Major wrote letters, met with prisoners, and helped newly released individuals to enroll in college and rehabilitation programs, find jobs, and fully embrace their gender identities. A documentary about her life entitled Major! was released in 2015, and garnered best documentary awards at 20 film festivals around the world.

OUTWORDS caught up with Miss Major in the summer of 2016, at the Oakland apartment she shared with her son. Parked outside was her gold Cadillac. Miss Major was sweet and sassy, fierce and feisty, and a big flirt. 
Mason Funk: [00:00:00] Do me a favor?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Sure.
Mason Funk: Before we go any further just tell me your name and spell it all out for me.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Okay. I'm Miss Major. M-I-S-S, not that Miz shit, Major. M-A-J-O-R. If you need my last name it's Griffin-Gracy. G-R-I-F-F-I-N dash G-R-A-C-Y.
Mason Funk: That's a good name.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: When I first said it, it was like, "Oh, I love that name. It sounds so cute." (laughter)
Mason Funk: [00:00:30] Do me a favor? Take me all the way back to the beginning: where you were born and when, what year and where?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: It began ... I wasn't found under a rock. What beginning? Beginning for me as human, childbirth thing? Or me the weird, little fat teenage boy? Or me the woman that got kicked out of college?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:01:00] Or me the bitch that terrorized New York? Or me the father of a child? Yay. Beginning, what beginning? How far back do you want to go and to where?
Mason Funk: I want to go back to the beginning of you as a newborn child.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Okay. Well, I was a preemie baby.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:01:30] I was due to be born in December, and wound up being born in October. From what the family told me through growing up and stuff was that it was really difficult at that time keeping me alive, because they were just starting to make or create incubators to put babies in who were preemies. I was one of the first few babies that got to get the advantages of that becoming a popular thing to use.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:02:00] They had to create special milks and things for me to sustain myself off of and different things to give my mother, shots so that her milk would help me to grow and not die. Supposedly, as a preemie all of my things weren't functioning; everything was there, but it just wasn't functioning at capacity. My mom used to have a picture of me in
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:02:30] my uncle's hand as a baby, I was in the palm of his hand and you could see his fingers and his thumb holding me. I was that small, to this 6'3" of absolute beauty. I think about that and giggle, that was a pretty rough start. I've been a struggling bitch from the moment I took breath; fighting to hang in there and survive and be here, and make myself known.
Mason Funk: [00:03:00] Where was this?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:03:30] This was in Chicago, Illinois St. Luke's Hospital. I was raised Catholic, so for me hes the saint that I like out of all the saints. Yeah, because he is the Patron Saint of the Impossible. Who, speaking of my folks and what I fall under, definitely I'm impossible. He was the one. Through the years as things get really wild or scary for me
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I always think about him and ask him for help. In a sense, keep me going.
Mason Funk: That's good to know. I didn't know that. Who else was in your family? Who was around when you were growing up or when you were a little one?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I was the first born in my family with my mom and dad. My sister came along 5-6 years later, and it was just her and I from then on. Mother was never to have any more children after that and
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:04:00] so it was just her and I, and them. Most of my challenges came from my mom indirectly, I'm a Scorpio and my mom was a Leo. She had to have control and I didn't know how to give that to anybody. Her and I have been fighting and been at wits end ever since I can remember. Little things that are of interest or may be of interest is that as a baby
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:04:30] my aunts told me I crawled backwards. I didn't like crawling forward. My mom thought that that was weird and she was going to break me of that habit. What she did waswe were in Chicago and we have a long hallway, like in a railroad apartment. She built the little walkways up against the wall and would take me as a baby and put me in it to make me crawl forward.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:05:00] I would back up instead of crawl forward to where I couldn't back up anymorethat was supposed to make me crawl forward. My aunt told me that I would back up the wall, fall over so that my booty was facing the direction I wanted to go, and then back down the hallway. After a while, my mother decided to take the wood away because it wasn't going to happen. Little things.
Mason Funk: You were always a contrarian.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:05:30] Always going to fight, yeah. It seems to be part of my makeup.
Mason Funk: Do you mind saying what year you were born?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I'd never mention what year I was born, ever. No. 40-something, 1940-1949 in there somewhere. What does it matter? It doesn't seem to make any sense to me. I had agreed to mention that I am 70-something or another. It isn't easy being 70-something or another.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:06:00] It wasn't easy being 22 either, not being able to find work or maintaining a job or do what people thought you needed to do at the time and get along in the world, it's never been easy. I've never thought it mattered. So I have birthdays all over the place. I used to have IDs for almost every year. I've gotten rid of them since.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:06:30] I think I have 2 left, I don't know which 2 they are. But I'm out there, I'm here so what the hell.
Mason Funk: Is it possible to say in general who were you as a kid? What were you excited about? What did you dream about? What scared you? Can you give us a sense of who you were in those growing years?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Growing up as a kid, I was excited about everything
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:07:00] because to me tomorrow always brings something new. Even as a teenage person, I was never worried about who I was going to be. It's like I'll be whatever it is when I get there. I used to speak a lot with my great grandmother because she was still alive up until I was like 13 years old. Her name was Grandma Cerils.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:07:30] She passed away. She was like 110 they told me. She was Indian, and she was just my best fan. She used to call me "Vain Thing" and rub my face and stuff. Through her I just had a calmer attitude about stuff than my teenage cohorts did. I wasn't anxious or pushing to get to be grown or trying to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:08:00] smoke cigarettes behind the garage and drink. It seemed like a silly thing to do when I could go and see a good movie somewhere for a whole nickel. What wound up happening was I became interested in the things that were going to come up. My mom used to drive us to school when I was younger, when I got to be a teenager and had to go take myself to school it was like an adventure
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:08:30] riding the subway, an elevator train to school and stuff.It was a Catholic school, all boys school. It was like okay, they were such jerks and so stupid. As kids are, they can't see past their little personal angst to know what's going on. Through high school, I wound up befriending a boy who everyone in the school picked on because
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:09:00] they assumed he was this sissy and just ridiculed the shit out of him all the time. He was a little tiny thing. He was like 5'1", 5'2". I was already 6 foot tall. Him and I just wound up hooking up and stuff and being together. I knew him for the whole 4 years that we were at this place.I think that it was just an interesting thing for me trying to share stuff that I found exciting with him, like being in Chicago. It was thrilling for me to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:09:30] sneak out of school and go downtown to Buckingham Fountain and watch the fountain come on. Then try to figure out how to sneak out and get there when the lights were on. That was an exciting thing to do. Or to go a part of Chicago where there were no black kids or go to Lincoln Park.I was fortunate enough to get to meet the mayor's son one day and wound up going to some parties and stuff with him. It always reminded me that
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:10:00] there's always another world or another door to open. As long that happens, keep going. If it opens, well go through it, see what it's like. You don't have to stay if it's not for you, back out. If it isenjoy, take it in, create a memory. That got me to here. I'm still creating memories.
Mason Funk: You were not an afraid kid?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: No. I didn't know what there was to be afraid of.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:10:30] Which is why I wouldn't want to be a kid today, because everything is scary todaythe drugs are killing kids and people are putting acid in Halloween candy. It's such a dangerous, dangerous time now.
Mason Funk: You mentioned dropping out of college. What happened? What was that about?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:11:00] I didn't necessarily drop out. They asked me to leave twice because they found out I wore dresses. It was like, "We're not having that here." Yeah, I don't have to answer to you, I'm grown. 17, I'm grown. Yeah, right. They packed my bag for me and gave me a note and showed me the door. "We're sending you back to your parents." Joy, joy.
Mason Funk: When did you discover that you liked wearing dresses?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:11:30] Oh, lord! 15? 16? Young! Scooting around the house in mother's stuff every now and then with my sister and telling my sister, "Don't tell mother." Of course, mother noticed one day that her shoesthe backs were mushed because my feet were bigger than mother's. She scared my sister; my sister was just frightened by everything. My mother yelled at her and smacked her hand on the table.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:12:00] Cookie told my mother everything. "Major is doing this and Major is doing that. He is wearing your dresses and he is running out through yard." She came and confronted me. There was nothing to do since Cookie already told her. I said, "Yeah. It's just something to do."After that beating, I realized don't tell your sister shit and don't say nothing to your mother about this. Just keep on the side or down low,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:12:30] as they call it now. Just keep this shit a secret. From then it was trying to figure out how best to do it. I met some friends who also were little drag queens and stuff and got to hangout with them before I'd come home from school. Got painted and dressed up at their houses sometimes. As friends did at the time, they made me look like the worst imaginable. I felt like the abominable snowman in a dress.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:13:00] They put me in mousy brown hair. I was tall so they told me, "Girl, you can only wear flats because you're so tall, and we have this Lane Bryant dress for you," which made me look like a wall instead of a person. The little flowers and daisies that they used to make bad girls wear. Oh god! Then these horrible brown wigs that they would cut the bangs to be short so the bangs would jet out out of your forehead and stuff.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:13:30] Then we were all going to go a party.Yeah, well I'd take me to a party too knowing I'm going to stand there and look like wagga Sue the Mess and they're going to be all cutesy and dancing with boys. Then I met an older woman who used to do drugs named Kitty who explained to me, "Your friends are getting you. Let me show you what to really do." She put me in blonde hair and gave me heels,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:14:00] the little opera pumps, white, which is still my favorite color hue. Dressed me up and pulled me together, painted me, and it's in a darker measure too. I felt like Natalie Wood in that thing. I am fucking pretty, god dammit. Aint turned back since. I was like, oh honey, I'm riding this horse till the end of the line.
Mason Funk: [00:14:30] For the first time you felt like a queen.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I felt absolutely gorgeous. Same for guys when they get that first suit that's tailor-made for them. Not off-the-rack shit but tailor-made to fit your body. When you look at you, you look great. There's no other expression for it. You don't have to be handsome or pretty or rich, you just look great:
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:15:00] shoes are hitting it, pants have a crease, the fit is right, it's tucked in at the waist, the shoulders... Child! You just can't take that away. It's something that you'll see, especially when it's the first time, for me, that you'll see. Every time I remember... It was a yellow dress. Every time I'll see a yellow dress that takes my brain back there. I get that breathe in all over again,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:15:30] and it's like I'm standing there again. Every time I go and see the documentary I start crying once that scene comes up, every time. Like Miss Thing aren't you over this shit? No.
Mason Funk: That's wonderful.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I know enough.
Mason Funk: In addition to being essentially a boy who liked to dress up but you were also so tall.
Mason Funk: [00:16:00] It's like that must have been another challenge, another thing you had to find a way to make your own.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: That happens with stuff. There's all kinds of things that you really have to negotiate around or through to survive no matter what avenue you take in your life. There are short people who want to be tall and tall people who want to be short. We don't have those options.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:16:30] This is the way you've got it, deal with it. Do whatever you need to do to make it work. One of the things that Kitty explained to me was, okay, so I'm over 6 feet tall. Wearing a pair of flats isn't going to make me less than 6 feet tall. I'm still going to be 6 feet tall. So, what does it matter if I'm in flats or heels? She said, "Okay.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:17:00] You're a big girl so what does it matter if you have hair clips through your head or you have a style that's full and out there? Nothing. You still have the same face you had before."Okay, so I'm tall. Oh well. Being tall got me into... When I did start getting into theater I could be a showgirl. Who wants to be a dancer? At 5'6" dancing around? I'm dying of energy. Now walking around being all glamorous,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:17:30] I can do that. Then learning the tricks of, okay, as a showgirl and you're going to be this glamour puss, you can't be too friendly and cutesy. You don't want to be smiling and grinning all over the place, you have to have a certain air about you. I learned what it took, I developed the air. I decided as a black child, I'm only wearing blonde hair. I didn't give a shit what people had to say about it, "You think you're white." I don't think a damn thing other
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:18:00] than you should mind your fucking business. I bought it, I'm wearing it.Take it from there. I've learned through the years that that just carries you through. It's not about... So I had blonde hair as a young black person? Guess what? I still had the attitude that a blonde person has. If you know any natural blondes, they're the most obnoxious and you want to just choke them. That hair or their
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:18:30] blue eyes is giving them this lease on life that they can just run amok and people are going to worship and adore and bow... No, I'm not worshiping and adoring shit. I've got blonde hair too, bitch. Get over it! Just take on the attitude and just do my thing.
Mason Funk: So you hightailed it to New York at some point? Tell me about that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah. I got out of Chicago. I was trying to live in Chicago so I went to college for the second of times. I tried to go again.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:19:00] Got kicked out again and said, "Okay, I'll just look for an apartment here and try to find a job." Funny job. That never came to fruition. So I wound up working part time for the Madison Society in Chicagothey were trying to assimilate gay people into the straight culture. In working for them, I got exposed to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:19:30] all parts of Chicago that I had never gotten a chance to see. People would come, and the gay guys would come in from the north side and from far out west or from Evanston. The lesbians were coming down and taking classes at Madison Society. I was the receptionist because everybody liked my voice so I could answer the phone.They were coming down to take classes on... For the lesbians they wanted to be more feminine-acting.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:20:00] These were the lesbians who they couldn't spell feminine. Especially at that time talk about scary butch dykes, scary! You would see them and just automatically start to tremble because you know they're going to come over and kick your ass because they know they can. The Madison Society would buy dresses for them
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:20:30] and have them in this little thing, then have them get dressed in little pinafore dresses with shirt collars at the time and kremlin slips and little inch-and-a-half opera pumps. Then try to show them how to sit and how to eat and how to walk in heels.It was like watching a football team throw on dresses and then send them out to dance. I couldn't take it,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:21:00] It was so funny. They told me, "You have to get your shit together, you can't be laughing at these people." "I'm sorry. It's just very funny. I won't do it again." That next charity they had all the gay guys come down, little fruitcakes. These skinny cute little white boys as ninny as they could be. It's like you need to throw a dress on that bitch then he'd be okay. But no, they were gay. They weren't weird.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:21:30] Then they would give them little suits and help them get Windsor ties. I would help them, since I was a boy to them, help them put their little ties on. Some of them, they were so used to loafers and little casual stuff so these Italian leather shoesthey couldn't walk because they would slip on the floor with their new shoes.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:22:00] You'd see these little sissies trying to walk around being all butch and they would slip, bump into another guyhe would fall. Then it's like, okay, there I go again. I fell out laughing.They fired me. They told me that I was not taking this transition seriously. All I could think about was "You all have no idea what a transition . . ." I'm transitioning. After Christine Jorgensen came out it was like, okay,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:22:30] she's in New York. I need to go to New York. I was still trying to keep a relationship going with my sister and going to see her. Found out that every time I saw her she would go and tell my mother she saw me. This one time I went to see her to tell her I was thinking about moving. I was talking to her in her room, and my mother burst in the room. I said, "You weren't supposed to be here. You were supposed to be out shopping." She said, "I parked around the corner so you wouldn't see the car."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:23:00] God. So what do I have to do? Walk around the block a couple of times before I come in here?She started cursing me out and she told me, "Chicago is not big enough for the both of us." I said, "Wow. Chicago is pretty big. I guess I have to go to New York." I went to New York. Talk about happy., New York was heaven. It was-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Could we stop for 1 second really quick?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:23:30] Sure.
Mason Funk: Should we put a wireless on Miss Major?
Goro Toshima: Yeah, maybe.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let me just hear a little bit. I want to see how much that traffic is affecting the sound.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I can shut that door if you want.
Mason Funk: The thing is it's giving us light. Letsjust listen for a second.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Sure.
Mason Funk: I want to hear what it sounds like. Okay. Could you keep talking so I could hear-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:24:00] Sure. That's not a problem. Anyway, it was a pretty interesting thing. We just have to keep this going as it does.
Mason Funk: Actually, tell me about going to New York.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Going to New York was fabulous! Like I said, New York was wonderful at that time in the 60s. In the 60s everybody was searching for who they were as a group. It wasn't an individual thing: it was blacks wanted their rights and other folks wanted the Vietnam war to end,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:24:30] women wanted equal pay for equal jobs, then all of this other political stuff was going on. Everybody in some form or another was fighting for their group or their section of people. Being in New York was a matter of sorting out who you wanted to fight with and for and be a part of.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:25:00] At that time there were a lot of trans women working with women organizations and helping and supporting them and doing different stuff. It slowly changed as time went on, more and more of the girls were being pushed out because the women got really weird and uppity and annoying. They didn't want us around and stuff. You're not really a woman so ...
Mason Funk: Yeah. Tell me about that. This is probably the 60s, late 50s or the 60s?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:25:30] Late 60s, yeah.
Mason Funk: The Mattachine Society and the women's movement is starting up and they're not necessarily all that inclusive of trans women.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: In the beginning they were because in the beginning it was basically a thing of anything that was feminine shaped they wanted involved in this. It was more or less a thing of:
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:26:00] "the more the merrier." So we have a bunch of women-identified people around. Yes. As it progressed and people started paying more attention to it and it was getting more public attention, and people started questioning it intelligently instead of as a joke, then they started wanting to weed out the ones that they didn't feel were suitable. For my community that happens to us a lot.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:26:30] It becomes a matter of "Now all of a sudden you're not a viable thing. You stand over there and we'll come back and get you." No. If I'm not going to be with you, you motherfucker, I'm not standing over here and waiting for shit.It slowly ebbed out. We were working with them hand in hand on stuff. I've gone to rallies with them. It made sense. If they're doing the same job why shouldn't they get the same pay?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:27:00] What's the big deal? 9 times out of 10 most women had children to raise and needed the money more than these dick-swinging motherfuckers who were making all of this money and delegating the work to some woman who worked with them. They get all the accolades and the money and she spends all the time doing the work. He gives her what? The crumbs. The edge of the bread. He eats the white part? No. So it made sense and so a lot of the girls were with them.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:27:30] In my mind I thought if that happens and they get to that, I may be able to slip in there and get a job or train someone to train me to do something. Yay. It never came to fruition. It just never, never did. Because as it progressed and they became more popular and more visible, we became less and less and less involved. Until there's now not even an association between us and them at all.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:28:00] New York is an everybody's city. No matter who the fuck you are or what your wishes were from good and angel-like to demon-ish and perverted, there's a spot in New York for you somewhere. At that time 42nd street was heyday. Just that 1 block out of all of Manhattan from 42nd and Broadway to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:28:30] 42nd and 8th Avenue, walk that block and everything you can imagine that's in New York is somewhere in that block. All you've got to do is let people know what you're looking for and it'll find its way to you. It was heaven. Hooking back there at that time was a fucking blessing. The money was good. The johns were great. You didn't have a lot of fat, oversized, piggy, disgusting johns.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:29:00] You can't pick and choose if you're hooking. They've got the money, you've got to give them the services. If all the johns are beautiful, oh baby, yeah. It's like, "Let me jump in the car with you."It was a fun time. 8th and 9th Avenue where the transitioning girls hooked was just heaven because the johns all knew who we were. We didn't have to explain anything. Technically all they wanted to do was they liked picking up
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:29:30] transitioning women and then sucking their dick. Wonderful thing, I'm down with that. We were walking in the middle of the street talking to cars as they drove by and stuff. They would slow down and talk to us and ride with us a little bit and then drive on, go onto the bridge or the tunnel. It was fun. You felt safe.Then somewhere in '67-'68 it got kind of dangerous. There was some guy killing
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:30:00] the girls and stuff there, and the police really weren't involved at all; they didn't care technically. I lost a really good, good, good friend there. She was killed in her apartment, drowned in her tub. She had 2 Rottweiler dogs, 2 of them that she raised from puppies. When they broke in the apartment because of the smell the dogs were guarding the body in the tub. Wouldn't let the police in
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:30:30] to get to her. They had to call an animal shelter to take the dogs out.When my friends and I found out that Puppy had died we of course, called the police station and tried to give them information who we thought might... No one cared. In talking with my friends about the matter, first of all we knew it had to be someone that knew her. Those dogs wouldn't have let just anybody get to her. She had to struggle if she's being drowned
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:31:00] so they would have known something was going on. They were probably used to that sound with that person there. We tried to tell them, "Investigate her boyfriends." We knew who all of them were because we were all close. They took the listthey never investigated anything. The boy who we all thought did this wound up getting run over in New Jersey by a hit and run. No one knows how that happened so it's one of those things.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:31:30] Anyway, after that we started keeping track of johns that the girls were going with. One of the girlswe would help support her so she wouldn't have to hook. She could just pay attention to the cars that we got in, write down the license number and if she could see them, a brief little description so that if anything happened we knew what was going on. For me that turned into more political stuff. My concern was keeping my community alive
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:32:00] and keeping us going and keeping us safe, because we're not safe. As a community we're just out there, heart on our sleeve, head in our hand, and still happy. Still doing what we need to do and be okay. We're not trying to take over or hurt or harm anybody else, we're just trying to live and survive and enjoy whatever the benefits are of our being human: freedom, security...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:32:30] What's that thing that the guy said before they cut off his head? Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That's all we're trying to get to.
Mason Funk: Let me ask you this. Out of curiosity, these women from this period in your communitywas this mostly women of color or was it a mixed bag? Were there whites and Hispanics and blacks?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: There were whites and Hispanics but there was always more black girls than other girls.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:33:00] For the black girls we came out earlier than everybody else. I don't know if it's the socio-economic thing of the time, or by being black and we're in a certain economic thing that as a family we don't get the opportunities that other minorities or groups have so we're rushed and pushed to this quicker. Once we realize what this is, it's "put up with this bullshit and go crazy or just jump out there and do it."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:33:30] Most of us just jump out there and do it. Most of the black girls that I know started early, like me at 15-14 years old. I was still with my family but most of them leave because the family catches it and throws them out.Most of the Latin girls at least got to finish high school and maybe get a year through college before it would dawn on them that he's really acting too femme so "Why don't we send you to America,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:34:00] and you do your thing and then send us back money until that stops." For white girls they didn't have to come out unless they wanted to because they were going to colleges, they were finding jobs, they were doing other things. They came from money or had money. That disparity in our social system and how we do different cultures and what our economy is helps to promote what it is that's going on.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:34:30] As always, mostly it was black girls. Of course we looked out for the white girls because they were our sisters and the Latin girls. We're all, as that term, I hate that umbrella term, but we were all a part of the same group and community and faction. We frequented the same clubs and stuff. It was a matter of at the end... And New York, clubs were everywhere..Every club had shows on Friday and Saturday night.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:35:00] Different girls could run from different clubs and do shows and make a little money. All under the table, all cash of course. No job. No taxes. You survived. That's really what it was all about.
Mason Funk: So you mentioned that this organizing you did right there on your street, on your block, became to be almost like a lifestyle, organizing,
Mason Funk: [00:35:30] advocating. It sounds like you were about to say that you were ready to start fighting for-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah. It evolved into that. It's kind of like it built up to it. In the beginning we were just doing that, I was just looking out for 2 of the girls that we were close to, our little circle. Then our circle expanded when we noticed that one of the girls we used to see all the time suddenly just disappeared. We read about her in the paper like,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:36:00] "Oh my God. She was killed. We need to really watch ourselves." Then it got bigger. Then as time progressed, boys started coming over from New Jersey, 4 or 5 in a car high off of beer and stuff and throwing full beer cans at the girls as they would drive down the street. We started figuring out how to fight back.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:36:30] Cursing them out wouldn't do no good because they were going to keep driving. We figured out a way to stop that car and they would get out. We would physically fight them. It's time to kick their ass and then send them home.Then they started coming over with weapons that we didn't have. Most of the girls didn't have guns and a lot of us were afraid of them at the time. We did have knivesor I carried a hammerto protect ourselves.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:37:00] The boys would come over and beat us up and it was fine. The police would come and have a boy who had a black eye from one of the girls, he would get arrested and go to jail and he would tell the boy, "Go back to Jersey. Don't let me catch you over here again." Arrest him. This is the beginning, him. She's the result of that and she's going to jail? It's still a problem.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:37:30] It just evolved. From there then it became a matter of, okay, now that we're doing that if those girls wound up getting in trouble over something and needed someone to go to court with, "Let me call her and ask her if she'll go with me." Then I wound up doing that. Then that evolved into "If you need to go somewhere, Major will go with you." Okay, Miss Major will go. What the hell. Then bingo, all of a sudden I'm 75 and I'm still doing the same thing.
Mason Funk: [00:38:00] Bingo. You're like-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah. It's like all of a sudden. Wow.
Mason Funk: Tell me what you remember. I watched online some memories you had about what happened. I know everyone talks about Stonewall all day long. Maybe you're tired of talking about but you were there.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: It's not a matter of being tired about it, it's a matter of they haven't been telling the truth about it since it happened. They've been berating
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:38:30] and demoralizing and defaming and disenfranchising all the girls who were popular and known at that time like Sylvia and Marsha. The other girls who were around like me and Helen and Evelyn and Monica, all the other girls who were around and they're doing all of that at that time, we're just the whitewash, the wayside of all this stuff. They concentrated on them
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:39:00] because those were the 2 that worked tirelessly to unite us and pull us together and stuff. By my being close with them I became involved in all of this stuff when she started STAR. Trying to get the girls to realize that we have to create a voice for ourselves because she noticed the gay guys doing it and she-
Mason Funk: Sorry. Who are you talking about?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Sylvia Rivera. She had started the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:39:30] She wanted us to pool together to form a block because we needed power. At the time we were young. Who thought about power? She did, she thought about it. Due to her perception and her vigilance and her caring about us as a community, it got me involved. She was in the village. I lived uptown over Amsterdam in the 80s. We were in different parts of Manhattan,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:40:00] but there was this one come-together moment there in the West Village.Going through that what wound up happening was to combat her when this all went downshe was an alcoholic, she was a drug addict, she was crazy. If you had to survive off the streets every day to make money, to survive, to pay rent so that you have someplace to live and then having the money to get a hot damn meal, yeah, you're going to drink.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:40:30] You're going to need drugs because you've got to stay up to do this shit, to turn the tricks, to make the money in order to survive. That doesn't make you this junkie person. You're trying to make it. You're trying to see the next day, get into tomorrow safely, humanely, positively so that you can enjoy that next day. Then you've got to go out and do it again. The little gay sissies that were running around there at the time were giving her such a hard time.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:41:00] None of us were really what we thought passable. We were just doing our thing glad to be in makeup, glad to be in a dress. It was a village, glad to be around yummy boys.
Mason Funk: I'm sorry. Can I check on this? Sorry. Okay. I just want to make sure everything is cool.
Goro Toshima: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Goro Toshima: Let's try lowering that mic.
Mason Funk: [00:41:30] Lowering it? Sure.
Goro Toshima: Yeah. Plus we can go ahead and just ...
Mason Funk: How's that?
Goro Toshima: Good.
Mason Funk: All rightie. Sorry to have interrupted you.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: That's okay.
Mason Funk: Wait, we're going to adjust. You get in the flow and then ...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Hey, my flows they come and go. They're so happy to be there. One day I'm hoping to get to show you.
Mason Funk: [00:42:00] All right. That was an invitation.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Definitely. Child, we can put flowers around it and everything, dress it up. Anyway, you can't help being yummy.
Mason Funk: I've tried.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I know, darn it.
Mason Funk: It's a cross I have to bear.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I know, you poor thing. I'll help you with that as much as I can.
Mason Funk: Okay. Thank you.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Take the weight off.
Mason Funk: [00:42:30] Take a load off. So as you called them, the sissy gay boys were giving Sylvia a hard time. How does this lead to Stonewall? Mention Stonewall, if you could, by name.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: In having the events happen that happened at Stonewall, for whatever reasons that it went down the way that it did, police had been harassing
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:43:00] anyone outside of the straight and, what they feel, normal culture everywhere in every major city all the damn time. Their routine is the same all over. You hit the door jamb with that night stick and it echoes through the bar and the bartenders know when that happens, turn the lights on. That's last call. In fact, there is no call. That's get up off your ass, stop touching the person that you're with and head out of the bar.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:43:30] Depending upon what their involvement was going to be, they either asked for ID or checked you out as you were leaving. Or as you stepped out of the club, you stepped into a paddy wagon.What wound up happening was that this was just one of those nights where that simply wasn't going to happen as had happened years and nights before. It just didn't happen. Why? God in heaven only knows because I don't know. I remember that earlier
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:44:00] that day or the day before, I think, they had buried Judy Garland. I remember how emotionally shook up I was over that, because up until that time I didn't really care about Judy Garland one way or another until then. Because when she died all of a sudden they played songs about her that I had never heard and so then all of a sudden I became really involved with her. So that was on the news and I saw it at home. I was thinking about it and telling my friends about it when we were at the club that night.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:44:30] Then this just jumped off.All of the rumors that started about Stonewall are just things that all of these gay guys created. There's a Stonewall veterans website or something, I hear. One of the girls was reading it and was telling me that different gay people were talking about what were they doing that night when all this happened. In reading this thing
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:45:00] you would think as if there was thousands of white gay guys there helping to fight this thing and fight the police. There weren't any white gay guys there. The hustlers who were in the club with us who came around us because they didn't mind being around us. Those gay guys didn't give a shit whether we lived or died.They still do that now when they see the girls somewhere on Castro or wherever the hell it is that you live, Hollywood, West Hollywood. One of the girls will be walking down the street minding her business
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:45:30] and you'll see these fags sitting there with their drinks nudging each other, "Look at that. That's disgusting. How could they? Why are they even over here? This is our spot." Oh really? You all wouldn't have this goddamned spot if our community didn't get together back in '69 and kick these motherfucking cops' ass for this shit to start. You motherfuckers took it away from us, didn't give credit to the people who did this. Just said, "This is the beginning of ..." Yeah, right. Okay.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:46:00] For me, I'm just sick and tired of it simply because I'm so annoyed in hearing it. There's so much of it out there, there are so many people that believe in that. Even though the truth is there, they're more comfortable with the lie than they are with the truth. I'm not God, I can't change people's opinion. I didn't make them, I didn't create them, they're not my child. I didn't raise them, so I can't help them learn how to think
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:46:30] or how to think properly or give respect to other people. That's just how it is. They've lied in history so long about it, they even made that stupid movie. How well did that do? Because finally a good number of people know the truth. We're like, "This is just taking it too far. We can handle you lying about it verbally but do we have to see it?" So good. They stopped that bullshit in its tracks. Yay. How about let's tell the truth here? No.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:47:00] They dedicated the building and made it the first monumental thing that you can't tear down. That's a good thing for everybody as a minority culture group of people, all of us. However, where were the people who were involved with this in the beginning? Why were there no black people there? It wasn't a white or black bar. It was a transgender, gay friendly male hooking escort bar.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:47:30] Johns were there, fine trick boys were there, girls were there. In or out of their shit, androgynously dressed or done up. Girls from the 82 club were there. They'd do their little show over there and they'd have run over and have a drink before you go home around your friends. Around people who you didn't have to explain who you were. Around people who understood. A cheers, it was like a cheers bar. We weren't singing but it was the atmosphere.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:48:00] The questions about it bring back so many memories who are sweet and harmful at the same time. I miss my friends, it would be nice if they were alive to be with me today so that we could all... I would love to be behind them and stand them up and let them get the accolades that they need for what they've done. Of course, because of the society they've been murdered and killed. They didn't just die in their sleep, they were both murdered.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:48:30] It's like, okay, I'm still here. I have no idea why but I know while I'm here I'm not letting this shit rest, I can't. I lost close people to me, AIDS had nothing to do with it. The one thing just wiped out a whole bunch of people didn't touch me like that at all till later. It's a hard thing to talk about.I'm going back to New York for the National Lawyers Guild
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:49:00] and they want to have a party at the Stonewall Bar. It's like, "Enjoy." After the event I'm going to my hotel. That's not a party place anymore for me, it's like going to a morgue; I don't want to dance in a morgue. The memories there are not pleasant. It's like, "Oh, someone threw a shoe." How do you know? You weren't there. You're 23. "Oh, no they threw a brick."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:49:30] Right. Okay, I was there. I don't remember a shoe, a brick, a bottle, a body, a garbage can. I don't remember shit. All I know is we were fighting for our life and we were kicking the cops' ass. I made sure they knocked me out so they wouldn't break every bone in my body and drag me off. It's not a fun thing. It's just not a fun thing.
Mason Funk: Yeah.
Goro Toshima: The traffic I think you can work on it but-
Mason Funk: [00:50:00] Okay. I'm going to ask Christopher if he can move a little further.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Sure.
Mason Funk: Hey. If you can move that. Sorry.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: That's okay, baby.
Mason Funk: [00:50:30] Do you want to see what it looks with the door closed? We are getting light.
Goro Toshima: Oh, okay.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: You can snatch the little freckle thing out the corner. Hey, Lola.
Mason Funk: We're going to try doing it with the door closed just to see-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Thanks boo boo.
Mason Funk: It'll be quieter as well.
Goro Toshima: Yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay.
Goro Toshima: Close that one.
Mason Funk: [00:51:00] All right. Here we go. Let's try that. Uh-oh, someone got a parking ticket.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Really?
Mason Funk: I just saw a parking ticket on the-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: It wasn't me.
Mason Funk: I see that little envelope and I'm ah.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah. That's his car.
Mason Funk: Let's see.
Goro Toshima: It definitely looks better with the door open.
Mason Funk: Yeah. Let's keep the door open.
Goro Toshima: Okay.
Mason Funk: Yeah, I like it better too. It just feels more natural.
Goro Toshima: Yes.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:51:30] See, that's such a wonderful word. Natural. You're going to keep passing by me and I'm just going to snatch you at the rate you're going.
Mason Funk: [crosstalk 00:51:39]
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: See? Okay. Nothing but trouble. The interview just shifted to a new room.
Mason Funk: Oh dear. We all had to get a little more comfortable, right?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I'm down.
Mason Funk: [00:52:00] All right. We're speeding again. That light in the back can you tell that it's still on?
Goro Toshima: It's still on. Cool.
Mason Funk: What is this about us where we want to carve out our little piece even within the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender community? Even within this group we want to go, "No, no, no. This is my people and all those other people are ..."
Mason Funk: [00:52:30] What is it about that divide and conquer even within ... Apart from being attacked from the outside, what are your 2 cents on why we do that, why we as humans behave that way?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: People doing that kind of separation from stuff even within their own community, it isn't just for the gay/lesbian/bi/transgender community, everybody does that. It's a matter of this theory on how this society has built itself
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:53:00] and the way it was built up and who it was built on to get us to this point. As I have seen it, it's a matter of everybody feeling as if "I'm better than ..." instead of we're all the same. There's no accounting for people taking the responsibility of realizing "I'm no different than you are." Now,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:53:30] the situations in my life may be different. The breaks that I get might be different. The way things present to me, they may not present to you. That doesn't make you more or less important than I am. That's just the circumstances. There isn't a willingness, I find, within people to ingratiate themselves and say, "Good for you. Congratulations as you move forward."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:54:00] It's "Why has that motherfucker gotten that? Why don't I have it? How can I take it from him? What do I have to do to make him pay for what he's getting that technically he has no control over?"It's like why do you get mad at kids who come from money because their parents had money? They didn't know being born that they were being born into this, and they didn't know that they were going to be receiving this. It's just how it clears out.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:54:30] Rather than dealing with the hand that you get dealt you want to stack the deck, you want to redo it. You can't do that. Life doesn't give you those opportunities or tools to set it up. Whether you have money or not or in a position or not or power or not, you can't control everything.No one on this earth as a human knows what's happening to them tomorrow
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:55:00] because it can all end tomorrow. Just like that, it could be over. Then what? The one with the most tools wins? No. You can't take the tools with you. Or the one with the most money? That aint going with you either. How about the one who did the most good? The one who loved the most amount of people, the one who gave back wins? There's no way to judge that, that's why they win. There's no judgment there,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:55:30] there's no accountability going on. It's just a matter of you do what you do to do it. If you're doing it because "I'm going to do this because I'm going to get a gold star." Okay, here, here's a box of gold stars. Now what? "That's not the same." Yeah, it is. You're doing this for this and here they are. Why wait to do one thing and get one little gold star? It doesn't make any sense.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:56:00] Within our community it's a matter of there is so much bitterness and angst and denial over who we are and how we got here. No matter who we feel that we are or know we are inside, the world that we're born into doesn't acknowledge, accept, approve of it, and want to erase us from the moment they realize that that's what's going on with us. If we're lucky we learn that early,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:56:30] keep it to ourselves and can get to the part of being grown. If not they break you, harass you, drive you crazy and you kill yourself. They feel, "Oh. Oh God. They're not here no more. It's God's problem now." It's more than God's problem. It's a matter of, for me, trying to make sure that people understand that you have to be true to yourself because you're all that you've got.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:57:00] They say you're born alone. No, you're not. There's a woman there. Last time I checked, no one pulled a rock aside, "Oh look, there's a baby Major. How cute." Sorry, I'm not alone. Oh, well you die alone. No. If I'm under a rock and I die I'm still not alone because I have all my memories with me. I have all the things
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:57:30] that I think and feel there at that time. I didn't start off with all these so there was a person there. When I leave I have all this so there's that there. There is something. In our humanness we won't accept that. No, that doesn't matter. Okay, yeah it does whether you've lived 6 months and you die or 60 fucking years.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:58:00] Babies have feelings from touch and sound so there's something there. The moment you take that breath shit starts getting recorded. It doesn't matter what your point of view is about all that.There isn't the opportunity or the willingness of people to back up off of their bullshit to accept the things that are based in reality. They won't acknowledge it.
Mason Funk: [00:58:30] How have you Because even within the transgender community it seems like there's divisions. The whole thing you were talking about earlier, passing. Talk about how this obsession, you could almost call it ... That might be too strong but people being focused on whether somebody passes as a woman and can disappear into that identity, how that can be a real slippery slope or a mixed blessing at best.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:59:00] Obsession is a good word to use simply because for my girls ... Oh.
Mason Funk: Good catch.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Okay. See, I told you. Trust, honey.
Mason Funk: Anything to get me to come closer, right?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: There you go. See, I'm no dummy.
Mason Funk: You weren't born yesterday. Right.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: That's also true.
Mason Funk: [00:59:30] Let me see once you've settled and make sure that mic is back in position. You want me to settle that? You'll hold it?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I'm going to hold this, yeah.
Mason Funk: Okay. Good. Let's see. Let me point it down a little bit. All right. You good? You comfy?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I'm good.
Mason Funk: How's that going?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Good.
Mason Funk: Okay. All right. You were saying obsession isn't-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Is a good thing. You didn't think to use that word. The thing is that it is an obsession. For people who get caught up on that train there is so much-
Mason Funk: Tell me what train you're talking about.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:00:00] Of passing and being unrecognizable to the world as to who you actually are as the person that you were born and existing as. You become obsessed with not letting anybody know about that. It's an obsession because it's your driving, moving, motivating force for everything that you do. Everything aims, points, pushes, coddles over, covers up, reshapes, and rebuilds it to make that a viable thing
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:00:30] so that it's never penetrated so that no one ever sees through it. It's kind of like Superman's coming so you put all your shit in a metal box so he can't see it. No one knows it's in there but you.Going through all of this what winds up happening is you become so ingratiated in this thing that you've created,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:01:00] because it is a thing and you did create it because it's not you. You wind up putting yourself in a position that locks you off from any and everything else other than what is acceptable to this one persona only. We need more than one thing to subsist over. There has to be multiple stuff going on. There needs to be more
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:01:30] avenues of things happening. Until we can accept that within ourselves we're not going to accept it within anybody else either. So it's a matter of if someone has it that we can see it's like how dare they? What's their problem? Their problem is the same problem that you have.Getting caught up into that it's kind of like waxing a floor, painting a floor. You start over here by the door and you paint yourself up until you've
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:02:00] painted yourself in a corner. You can't get out of the corner for 3 days because it takes that long for the floor to dry. If you step on the floor you'll stick to the floor. You're stuck there and then won't be able to move from the floor so you have to stay in this corner for days. Imagine if that was your life that you had to be in and stay in always.I find that when we get into that kind of situation where there are
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:02:30] no alternatives, as humans that's frustrating. Because one of the things that, I think, comes to us at birth is choice. I think choice is a wonderful thing. If you're painted in a corner you don't have a choice. It's either stay in the corner or get out. If getting out's going to kill you then you stay in the corner because leaving is not a choice. For some people
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:03:00] they'll take that choice and step out that goddamn corner and then they'll pay the price for that. Nothing comes without some type of consequence.So passing is not this persona or this wonderful thing to aim towards. It became so important simply because you get tired of being beaten up, and chased, and harassed, and berated for who you are every day. When you step out your front door
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:03:30] you never know if you're going to get back to it. If you do it's like, "Whew, I made it back home. Thank God." We shouldn't have to live like that. It should be, "I made it back home. Let me fix something for dinner." We don't have that accessibility, we don't have those options in our life because outside that door is death, doom, and depression. Horrible, horrible things are waiting that may or may not appear.
Mason Funk: [01:04:00] I was working on another documentary earlier this year, and we interviewed a young lady who had transitioned. She was born in Vancouver, Canada, Vietnamese parents. She was an absolutely beautiful young lady having a transition. I think of her when you were talking about the box or the corner. It was clear that she had put everything she was, all of her eggs so to speak-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: ]01:04:30] In that 1 basket.
Mason Funk: -she put it in a basket of "I want to be able to live in the world and not have anybody ever be able to tell that once upon a time I was a boy." I hear you. It's almost like I want to imagine you and her sitting down together talking, because it did feel a little bit like she was just going to be living in a straitjacket for the rest of her life. What do you say to people who feel like their life depends on passing?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:05:00] If that's their choice-
Mason Funk: Weave my question into your answer. Say something like, "Someone who feels like their life depended ..." or something like that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: If somebody is going to live their life in this passable position and try to figure out how to negotiate through society from that point of view, the thing to tell them is, in doing this before they start that build-up ...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:05:30] Cause it takes a while to get there. Once you got there you're on this mountaintop and you're completely impenetrable because of how you've set things up to be. You need to take into consideration as you're doing this kind of thing that for your sanity there has to be one person, at least one person
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:06:00] that when you two are together you can be who you are as you are and accepted for that no holds barred. Because without that, that aloneness it's like hate. It will encompass you and take you over and it'll drive you off a cliff.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:06:30] If you can be fortunate enough and relaxed enough in this to find that person to trust, which takes us to a point of there's another rub about being human: trusting one another. It's really hard, because you really don't know who or what's going on inside that brain. You have no idea what the levels
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:07:00] are of when they'll reach that point of "Fuck that bitch. I'm going to tell somebody," or she has to be paid, or you've got something that she wanted or desired and you got it because of where you are then she's got to take you down a peg and use that information against you. Which is usually why they don't have anybody to confide in because you can't trust anybody.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:07:30] My hope for them would be that there would be somebody that they feel they can trust, who'll hold up their end of the bargain. It's kind of like being in relationships, that's a 2-way street. A lot of times "Oh, I love you." "Oh, I love you too." Could you say that with a little more feeling? You say that to the dog. You never know,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:08:00] you don't know. Situations aren't always identical or the same. No, I didn't meet you and fall on my knees because you are so absolutely, fabulously gorgeous and I wanted to be with you for the rest... You have to build to this. This doesn't just happen overnight.Yeah, I believe in all the romantic things of love at first sight and all. I think all of that is true and wonderful. Even once that happens you've got to put the work in for it.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:08:30] None of this shit's free and none of it's easy. If you don't put in the time, and the energy, and the effort, and the emotion, and the spirit, and the caring, and it's like already that's too much, then you don't want this. If you want it you'll do what people do who want to pass. You'll put every energy you've got into it to make it work. You don't want to make it work?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:09:00] That's an entirely different scenario that you've failed on and you're going to blame this other person because you didn't do what you needed to do.Passing is horrible especially for the transgender women. Transgender guys, that's a whole other ball game; it's more than apples and oranges. It's like swimming or living in the desert. "I'm going to go swimming every day." "Where are you swimming?" "I'm over the in the Mojave Desert. There's some sand that's really soft."
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:09:30] That's not water. They pass at an alarming rate simply because how this society is set up. It comes down to dick and pussy. Really simple. You have a dick? Yay. You're a part of the world. You're going to rule. It's a man's world. Blah, blah, blah. Pussy? Oh God. You're one of those. There are so many straight guys who I know personally
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:10:00] who claim to love women, but it's a chore. They feel it's a responsibility. "I have to fuck her. Oh God, we've got to have kids. I really don't know if I want kids. I don't even know if I want to do this." That praise on their relationship, they're together 50-60-70 years, society put them in that spot and they'll stay there.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:10:30] It doesn't mean that they like it or enjoy it or wouldn't like to do something else should the opportunity arise. Most times it doesn't. When it does and they take that little excursion out then they feel guilt and remorse and dishonor and shame because they did something that they fucking enjoy. Now, if you love this person tell them. Maybe they'll enjoy that you had this wonderful experience too and you let them do it. "Oh no, I would never let her." Right. You can do this but she can't.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:11:00] If you were born with a penis and you want to be born with a vagina, how dare you? What is your fucking problem? How dare you want to leave all the power and structure and promise and privileges that come with standing up and being for this? We're going to make you pay. If you're born with a vagina or a pussy and you want to have a dick, you're welcome in the club. We're going to help you do this.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:11:30] There's no such thing as what a guy looks like. He can be 4'11" to 8 feet tall. Skinny, fat, ugly, fine, monstrous, scarred, burnt. It don't matter. He has a little beard. He's a guy. He doesn't shave. Yeah, look at that face he's got scars. Oh, okay.You're a woman? Don't be over 5'8", 5'9",
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:12:00] you're too tall. Don't be under 5 feet, you're too little. Don't be heavy, you're a size 12. No, no, no. Got to be a size 6 or 7. 6 or 7 that's my generation; now it's like 0 and 2, who is a size 0? Tie that bitch up in a knot and shove food up her ass. That doesn't make any sense to be a size 0. You want to buy clothes? Oh, yeah.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:12:30] Here's a Barbie doll and this should probably fit you. Where in the hell does that go? How does that work?
Mason Funk: One second. You were talking about the differences between men transitioning to women and vice versa. It's not even apples and oranges, it's like swimming versus a desert. I have to ask, how do you feel about those differences? Does it make you bitter or angry
Mason Funk: [01:13:00] that this whole disparity exists where if you want to be a guy it's like... There are so many things at play. There's the fact that you take a hormone and you grow a beard. Boom.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Like that.
Mason Funk: Yeah. You have top surgery and basically you walk out the door and you're a guy and everybody goes, "Let's go get some beers." For women there's so much more-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Drama.
Mason Funk: [01:13:30] -to take on in that quest for passing, which we've already talked about could be like painting yourself into the corner. The way you were talking about it just made me wonder whether you feel angry sometimes at basically this male dominated society where we live in that celebrates anything that's male and denigrates effectively anything that's female.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Having feelings about how passing and the way that this male society generates and looks at
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:14:00] male and female identified things doesn't really affect me personally in a matter of how I feel about it one way or the other. It's simply a matter of that I can see it and know that it exists. Hadn't been aware of it before until I could step back from the survival mode to really get a good look at it. To realize that now when I go to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:14:30] different things with my documentary there may be one or 2 trans girls in the audience that you can spot, because you can tell a trans woman is different than a biological woman. For the trans men I can't ever spot them but they're in there filtered through like you shuffle a deck of cards. There's only 13 spades in a deck but you can spot them as you shuffle. Society has done that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:15:00] It's nothing really to get upset about as it is to acknowledge and simply be aware of. My girls are just now getting an opportunity to go to colleges and learn trades and get jobs finally, but trans guys have degrees, most of them and have gone to college, black and white trans guys who have had an opportunity to live with the benefits of their male persona and be okay.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:15:30] Whereas my girls haven't had that opportunity to live in their persona and be okay because the girls aren't safe. The guys are safe simply because they're guys.Emotions or feelings about it? It's just how it is, and changing it would do what? It's really amazing. To me it's a matter of, okay...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:16:00] I call them PCP, penis-carrying people. All these PCPs running around here acting as if they're so empowered and so this and that. Their ass wouldn't be here if it wasn't for a non penis-carrying person to have them. Where is their respect for this person that they call mom. Where is their respect? She doesn't get it any more than any other woman does. A degree up simply because
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:16:30] you're being called mom. Yeah, that's going to turn motherfucking ninnies. Not how it should be but that's how it is.You've got to pick your battles. Change the things you can and let go of the bullshit that you can't. If that's how it is, deal with it. I can't change it.
Mason Funk: When you talk about your girls, I love hearing you say "your girls", who are your girls?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:17:00] My girls are any transgender person who happens to be or lean towards any feminine identification or showing, any. From painting their toenails, fingernails, hair. She can be in a suit and have panties on up underneath there and feel when she has them on she's the woman of her dreams, those are my girls. The girls who are hooking to survive off the street and trying to make it and get through one day after another. Dealing with the police and getting arrested and going to jail,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:17:30] having to deal with that bullshit and the cops that are in there and the solitary confinement that they put us under and stuff to protect their image and not us.To every breathing white, black, green, Asian, Indian, Hawaiian, I don't care. The society and the world doesn't care about us. I want them all to know that somebody does. S
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:18:00] omebody will hear that something's happened to them and cry and hurt and want them to do better and would take it on if I could. If I was a superpower being or could choose to be a superpower being, I would like to be someone who could fly somewhere like Superman, and take the pain and the hurt away from any girl that's suffering or in pain so that she doesn't want to commit suicide,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:18:30] or throw herself in front of the train, or be so angry and mean and evil and rude that she throws other girls under the bus. Temper her. Give her a chance to appreciate who she is, and help her deal with the bullshit that's coming because bullshit is out there. Those are my babies.
Mason Funk: You mentioned you go down sometimes here in Oakland to where the girls are hooking and just spend some time with them. Can you tell me about that?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:19:00] Yeah. I take the caddy convertible because everybody knows I drive an older, big car. I'll just park and then if I have my scooter, which usually I don't. I'll take my cane and hobble across the street. There's a bus stop there and sit on the bench and talk to them. Just say hi, see how they're doing, keep them safe. I used to be an outreach worker so I used to have boxes of condoms in my car. You could come to my car, I'd just pop the trunk and you could get lube and condoms in
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:19:30] different sizes, and colors, and flavors. The flavored lube and rubber gloves and if you needed to, a dildo or 2 just in case.I don't do that now because now it's more of a personal thing. I don't want them feeling as if I'm looking at them as if they're a job. Even when I was working with TGI it was never a job. It was always my heart that got me involved in doing this.
Mason Funk: [01:20:00] When you go visit them you're aware of the extraordinary risks that they're facing the ...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: All the time. My being there it could happen to me too when I'm there. I think about that too, but some things I just can't change. I don't want to be a martyr, I don't think I will be. I think the fortunate thing for me is
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:20:30] I haven't been beaten up as much as a lot of my daughters have, because I'm 6'2", I'm 250 plus pounds. If some boys are coming around to beat up on somebody they're going to think twice about jumping on me, especially in my youth because I could hold my own. One of the things within the black community that people realize you don't fuck with no queens, child. They will kick your fucking ass. Good reputation to have because it carries over.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:21:00] It becomes a matter of making sure that I carry myself confidently and feel safe. A lot of girls don't have that because some of them are tiny or a little bit frail or high. You can't really fight and defend and protect yourself if you're like that. I try to get them though to work with somebody. Have a girlfriend with you. Don't go out alone, always go in pairs;
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:21:30] the more the merrier. If you can go out 3 or 4 girls together, good. Keep an eye on one another.
Mason Funk: Do they have any system-
Goro Toshima: Excuse me. I'm just going to raise the mic a little bit.
Mason Funk: Okay. I still feel like how do these girls find the safety they need when sooner or later even if you go out with somebody... Or is that better than being out there just all by yourself?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: The thing about being out there and having somebody to take down a phone number is
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:22:00] you know that they have that so there's a certain amount of safety that comes with that, because you know someone knows where you are. When you jump in a car with a john there's only one, maybe 3 places that she's going to take him to turn that trick, all the girls know where that is. So there may be a girl already there turning a trick and leaving so she'll see her out the corner of her eye. You learn to acknowledge
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:22:30] the presence or the visibility of another girl without him noticing what's going on. You don't want him to feel paranoid and decide, "I'm not giving you my money." Or sometimes they give you the money and it's like, "I want my money back," no, you don't get the money back. If that fight ensues someone knows that you're there and get there to you.Whether there's somebody there physically or not, you know that somebody knows where you are.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:23:00] Just that knowledge that somebody knows gives you a certain amount of comfort that you don't have if you're out by yourself and no one knows where you are.
Mason Funk: It makes sense. That's great. It makes sense. When we were interviewing this guy, Marcus Arana yesterday, a trans man. His... Coming from his native American culture. The place he eventually came to was I don't think he rejects
Mason Funk: [01:23:30] the female person he was born as, he doesn't have a cleaver that says, "I have no connection to that past." His mission has been to really try to integrate all sides of his persona: his female side, his male side. Is that something that trans people can learn something from? Is that how you live?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:24:00] If you don't accept who you're born then you're not accepting who you are, because regardless of what is inside us, it's the physicality of what we're born into that the world sees and relates to. You have to work with that person. All of us in being raised are trained and raised according to what our parents and the world sees us.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:24:30] Penis or dick is what it comes down to again. It's like that pink and blue shit. It's like, okay, this is what boys do, this is what girls do. As you're getting older and you're realizing "I don't want to do what girls do. I'm going to do that." As you learn to do that, don't forget that you were taught to do this.In that guise what I notice happening sometimes is there are still these remnants
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:25:00] of how we were raised, in those initial years before it dawned on us that we were of the other ilk, that play out in our life that we don't see because we disassociate ourselves from that. If what he's doing is keeping those memories and ingratiating them together that, I would think, would make a stronger, more solid, confident
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:25:30] human being. Yes, this is what it was, but this is what it is now. How much stronger and more beautiful and how much more wonderful am I than just that? I'm now this, this marvelous, unique, challenging, informative, inquisitive, beautiful thing. I would hope that the girls and the guys would want to work on doing something like that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:26:00] The hard thing about it is 90% of them don't. It's a matter of "Fuck that feminist shit. Yeah." It's like, okay, girls in San Francisco are getting sex changes left and right now because the city is paying for them. I love my girls but there are some of those girls who should stay as far away from getting a pussy
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:26:30] as Mr. Ed the Horse from TV. This isn't going to change your life, make you better or have you be more acceptable. You've got to do that work before you get this thing. You have to build on who you are as a person, the structure of how you present, the way that you negotiate through this world, and society, and people. Oh, you have a vagina? That's nice.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:27:00] Who can look at you and see through your clothes to know you got a fucking vagina? Nobody. Superman's a cartoon character, he aint real. None of us can look, "Oh, you're a real woman. How nice." It doesn't work like that.If you have this vagina and you feel you're more womanly, how is that going to change your behavior, how you carry yourself, the things that you say, how you present,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:27:30] the way you dress? Who is this you? You're not the you you were before 'cause now you don't have a dick. You're something else now. "No one talked to me about that." Yeah, but somebody should have. When I've tried to go to the city and talk to the people who are doing this stuff, you all need to hire me or someone like me as a consultant to talk to these people. You're taking
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:28:00] these girls in and the girls say, "I don't like peeing standing up and I've always thought I was a woman." You can read that in [inaudible 01:28:09]. Everybody knows what to say. Everybody knows what the lines are that you all need to hear to okay the surgery, learned that, know it by heart, can present it to you with tears if I have to to get what I want. I don't really fucking need it
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:28:30] and if you cared about me you'd make sure I didn't get it. They don't care.
Mason Funk: Is it almost like it's becoming like an industry, would you say?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: It is an industry. They're whacking them out, child, like there's no tomorrow. The girls are going to hate me. Girls are going and getting this and they haven't had electrolysis done. There's such a long process for us as trans women to be trans women: there's electrolysis,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:29:00] there's facial reconstruction, feminization surgeries, All of us don't look like women. Then there's implants or not implants, there's hormones or not hormones, there's silicone but not silicone, there's waist breaking, tummy tucking, body reducing, hip building, all this other shit that's going on and then there's the vagina which is supposed to be at the end of the rainbow, not at the beginning.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:29:30] They're putting it at the beginning.If you start off there, where's the incentive to do these other things so that this at least suits the package that you're trying to present? My fear is that there are guys out there who really like and appreciate women and having sex with them. I don't care what work that they're doing or how real they're supposedly
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:30:00] looking or feeling or smelling. There's guys out there who are going to know that's not what it's supposed to be like and she's going to have to pay for that, which means she's going to get hurt. Even if it's not a physical hurt, guys can say damaging and hurtful things that as any feminine person you just can't let go of.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:30:30] When you least expect it it comes back.I had a sex change friend in New York who killed herself in '65, her name was Ashley. She went to Europe, was in France, she was on a magazine because people over there didn't care at the time. Ashley was just knocked-on drag out beautiful. She was a mixed kid, she was from New Orleans; light skin, green eyes, just a beautiful fucking bitch. 5'8",
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:31:00] nice size, great build. Got a sex change over there, came back to the States. Had tried to live in that passable shit in Europe, drove her crazy, she came to the States to hang out with the girls and go to the clubs and be Ashley. She got over here, running around. About a year of being here she ran into an old boyfriend. We were in the club the night that he saw her,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:31:30] and before she could tell him that she had a sex change I saw him lean over and whisper to her, "I can't wait to get you home and suck that pretty dick. Two days later Ashley was dead, she committed suicide. Because when he found out she had it, he didn't come over.A lot of these guys are with us while we're transitioning and going through
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:32:00] the 10 things before you get this. They're with you for all of that but they stop right before you get the sex change and find another girl to go through that with but they're not gay, they're still straight. What winds up happening is you wind up feeling disjointed and not connected. What did you do this for?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:32:30] Because a lot of us believe that once we do that everything is just going to be right with the world: the hurt is going to leave, the drama is going to leave because we're so caught up in the bullshit that happens to us because of who and what we are and how we present, we really haven't taken the time to realize that was going on before we got to this. It's happening to people who don't even do this, they're going through that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:33:00] If you don't see it then you can't acknowledge it. Once you don't acknowledge it, when it happens to you it's devastating.It was just too much for her. She had loved him and he was with her through starting the hormones then electrolysis and then becoming who she needed to be, and helping her come up with her name and stuff like that. I'm sure when he didn't show up that night she was just... I'm sure she thought if he would have she'd have gotten to explain to him
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:33:30] and he'd have come around. The horrible thing is they don't come around. They don't think enough about us to realize the hurt that they cause us and come around to ease the pain. They don't think about it.
Mason Funk: This has been amazing.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Thank you.
Mason Funk: I have my standard final 3 questions.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Oh. You have standards? Oh, shit. Wait a minute. Okay.
Mason Funk: Somebody has to have them.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:34:00] Yeah, I haven't got any. I'm just pretty easy.
Mason Funk: I like this little thing, whatever it is.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: It's the tail to my little cougar.
Mason Funk: Your cougar, his tail broke off.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah.
Mason Funk: You've got to get some glue.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I've got crazy glue in my other purse once I find the purse.
Mason Funk: The first of my standard 3 questions, is so to some young person who in any way,
Mason Funk: [01:34:30] shape or form is about to step out to be who he or she is, whether that's trans or bi or gay-
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Gender non conformant, yeah.
Mason Funk: Non conforming, whatever it is. What piece of advice or insider wisdom would you say, "Before you go I just want to tell you one thing"? Incorporate my question into your answer if you could.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I got that. I can incorporate the question together. My brain works.
Mason Funk: [01:35:00] You'd be shocked at how many people can't. Okay.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Really? It's ...
Mason Funk: It's basically people who have never done it before. They find it confusing. Anyway ...
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Anyway, the thing is having somebody that's just coming out and trying to sort out who they are and how to go about doing that safely so that they'll be okay during this transitional period, my thing to them is not to rush into it.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:35:30] To take their time to sort out what they feel their goals would be with that the direction that they would choose to go in should they pursue this, then to look at the different outcomes. Because, starting as a young boy to be a woman doesn't mean you're going to be a woman. You can start out as a young boy
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:36:00] and you could be an actress who plays women, you could be a drag queen who pretends to be famous women, you could be a mom, an aunt, a friend. Look at what the outcomes are that are going to be available to you when you start this period of transition, and to take the time
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:36:30] to not just do it slowly, but to breathe in and do what your heart and your body and your soul directs you into.I don't feel our bodies and our hearts are going to lead us in the wrong direction. Take a stroll along the beach with the rocks and the water, kick up sand and just talk to yourself, talk to the ocean. See what the sand says. Get to know who you are.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:37:00] Once you know who are and how you feel it'll help you decide a direction to go in, and then follow that. If in that journey it becomes uncomfortable, don't push past it, back up a minute. See if that's really the way you should be going. Maybe you're supposed to go there and then shift in another direction, maybe it's a fork. So take some time to figure out left or right
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:37:30] because you can't always go forward. Be fluid with it. Don't become austere or uptight or drivendriven will drive you right off a cliff.Yeah, that would be my advice to whomever, male or female.
Mason Funk: [01:38:00] What is your hope when you look down the road maybe next few years or longer when you're not even around? What's your hope?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: My hope for what?
Mason Funk: It's up to you. Your hope for the future.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Okay. If you're going to have hope it's got to be for something. My hope for whatever, since that's the way this was presented to me, would be
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:38:30] that people in general or mankind, as they like to call themselves, would back up off its own ass and give itself a fucking break. Not be so mean, and cruel, and harsh, and annoying, and vindictive, and forceful, and manipulative. That they would give itself and people a chance
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:39:00] to be what they need to be for themselves. That as a people we would take the time to understand and accept people.It's like that song that Barbra Streisand sang, people who need people. That's really cute but these motherfuckers in the 80s and 90s changed all that. They don't need anything but a good cell phone
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:39:30] and a mini computer on their wrist so that they're always connected to social media. I mean, really? Who needs to know "Ooh, Major is having tea." Who gives a shit if I'm having fucking tea. I'm up having a tuna sandwich, let me take a picture of the sandwich. Really? I don't give a shit what you're having; I'm not eating it, what I care?Hope is such a vast thing that we need
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:40:00] to survive to get through the next day. The faith to have the belief in it that it can change and that it could be better. Now, will it? It could be. That doesn't mean it's going to be. My hope would be that more people see that it could be. Maybe if a lot of people saw it could be, somebody will make sure that it does be.
Mason Funk: [01:40:30] Great. Wonderful. Thank you.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Thanks, honey.
Mason Funk: Last question. This project is called OUTWORDS. You talked about people knowing whose shoulders they're standing on. That's what I'm getting at, which is why do you think a project like this is important, like OUTWORDS?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: I think the OUTWORDS program is important simply because if you don't have the information,
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:41:00] and the truth, and the history, and the stories, and the buildup of people, and their culture, and their system of being. Every country has its own unique qualities to that country, their own unique laws for those people living within that. One of the
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:41:30] wonderful things I find about your program and what you're doing with this is it's opening up not just a door to some new experience.A lot of people can't handle a door opening, it's really too much for them to deal with. If you open a window for them to at least hear what's going on outside and then peek and see it, you can get their interest enough for them to
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:42:00] walk up to the door. If they open that door themselves because of something that you presented or they've heard through this, that's a door that will never close again. If they've opened it they're going to take possession of it. It's going to be something that they've done to help further their accomplishments as to who they are, how they present and what they stand for.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:42:30] That's a secure, comfortable ... It's like making an informed, clear, conscious, decisive, credible decision. If you have the information to pull it all together to make a good decision, that's a good decision. Right or wrong doesn't matter. It was still with all the facts that were involved the best thing to make.I think you have presented that
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:43:00] to people by doing this. It's doing more than just acknowledging the shoulders that they're standing on like, "Okay, bitch. I'm glad you did this or whatever the fuck that was." You're letting them know what that was and how that was for the people whose shoulders they're on, and you're giving them information of what the people were doing before that for the shoulders that I stood on to get here to help them stand on mine to reach up. So that they'll want to have someone come and stand
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:43:30] on their shoulders, and I can't help but love and admire and appreciate you for that and for having me be a part of that.
Mason Funk: Whose shoulders do you think you stood on?
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: God. For me it's a matter of standing on the people like Kitty who survived completely unacknowledged through this life and died, and put in potter's field with no name on her grave because
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:44:00] her family didn't care and society didn't care. She just became this random thing. And, for the trans men and women who've lived their lives in total, without anybody ever knowing the truth about them. There were a couple of jazz players who died as men who were jazz performers. When they died they found out through the morgue that they were women.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [00:44:30] Lived 40-50 years in that role as jazz musicians and stuff and no one never, never knew because you can't ever, ever tell anybody.In a sense the world is better because maybe now they could have told somebody and still had a full life, I'm hoping. I'm not sure that it would have. Just the fact that they did and they got there
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:45:00] and I got to know about it helped me stand up and let people know, "You're not going to do that shit to me." I'm not doing it. I don't want to pass. I don't want people to look at me, "Are you a man or a woman?" "I'm a man, simple motherfucker, and yes, I'm in this dress. If you didn't like it you wouldn't be looking at it," and going about my business. Those are the people I stand on
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:45:30] because nobody else knows about them and no one cares.
Mason Funk: It's amazing to think of people who, like you say, who ... You've lived your life and people have known. People have had the chance to decide "I like her," "I don't like her." They've had a chance to know you on your own terms.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Who I am. It's been hard, it hasn't been the easiest thing in the world. I had a lover who died of AIDS and I took care of him
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:46:00] the 10 years we were together because he got sick. When he passed away I got the VA hospital to dedicate a garden to him because he was a veteran, and they gave me so much shit; "The government's not..." I don't give a shit what the government's doing. He was in the service, he died in your hospital of AIDS. I can just take this to the paper and bitch about it or you all can help me put a garden up. They did put up the garden.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:46:30] The thing is that in going through all of that what winds up happening is there isn't this self fulfillment happening. You wind up doing all this stuff and in his paperwork it said, "Major was here and he said ..." Another doctor will write, "Major was here and she said ..." All through it's he, she, he, she. When he died they said, "Do you want us to go through this and change any of that?"
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:47:00] Why? That was Major and that's Major and I'm Major. Leave it, what I care? He, she. Please. Just call me Major. When you say he or she please say it respectfully. If you don't then I've got to read you and it becomes a big issue and you're going to want to fight and I have to shoot you because I don't fight no more.
Mason Funk: [01:47:30] Just make it easy. Just respectfully.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Thank you. Done. For me the people before me they didn't have that choice. Again, to me choice is so important. Since they didn't have it and they were forced into that ... I'm sure they had good lives and good times and were comfortable and of course their partners knew. To have lived 50 years
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:48:00] and nobody ever got to acknowledge who you are ... No one ever, for me, hugged me knowing that I'm Major. I don't have to worry about oh God, did they bump into my dick? Oh Jesus, is my tit still hard today? It doesn't matter. They hugged Major. Period. Those people didn't get to do that. I am adamant about never giving into that.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: [01:48:30] You can't deal with it then I'll see you. I don't have time. Life's too short. It's so funny saying that at 74 years old. Short? Goddamn, what is this shit? How long is this thing going on? I feel like [inaudible 01:48:50] break into song.
Mason Funk: You said life was short.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Yeah, right, life is short. To my girlfriends who most of them died before 35, we've got to change that statistic.
Mason Funk: [01:49:00] All right. From your mouth to God's ears.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Let's hope her ears would be nice. She could move the earrings. Could you take that shit off?
Mason Funk: So you can hear the rest of it.
Miss Major Griffin-Gracy: Thank you God.
Mason Funk: All right. We can stop.

Interviewed by: Mason Funk
Camera: Goro Toshima
Date: July 27, 2016
Location: Home of Miss Major, Little Rock, AR