California has become the first state to declare a Transgender History Month.
The state Assembly last week passed a resolution marking August as the month. The resolution doesn’t require approval by the Senate or governor, so next August will be the first official observance. The Assembly passed the measure 58-0, with only Democrats voting on it.
Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney, a straight and cisgender ally who represents a San Francisco district, introduced the resolution. LGBT History Month is recognized nationwide in October, but Haney felt that there needed to be a month to celebrate the contributions of trans people.
“There is no proper representation and emphasis on the imperative leadership of transgender individuals in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights throughout history, and the transgender community substantially trails behind the level of inclusion and acceptance afforded to the broader LGBT community,” the resolution reads in part. It notes that trans people are under attack by right-wing politicians and activists around the nation, even in generally progressive California.
Since 2021, San Francisco has recognized Transgender History Month in August, commemorating the August 1966 uprising at Compton’s Cafeteria in the city, which saw trans women, drag queens, and other gender-nonconforming people stand up against police harassment. So the state has chosen August as well.
“As long as there has been a California, there have been transgender people here,” Haney said at a press conference September 6, the day the resolution was adopted. “Contributing to their communities, making history, and expanding civil rights, and helping to build a California that is more inclusive and prosperous for everyone.”
Anti-trans forces often treat trans identity as a recent cultural phenomenon, but the truth is, “trans people have always existed,” Haney said. “In every era and in every culture, they have existed. As long as there’s been the written word, there has been a record of trans people. Ancient Egypt, the Romans, China, Native Americans — the history of transgender people is there if you look for it.”
The first written documentation of trans people in California came in 1775, when a Spanish soldier encountered Native people near present-day San Diego, appearing in what he called “the clothing and character of women,” Haney noted. The soldier wrote, “They are called joyas, and they are much revered.”
The mid-nineteenth-century California gold rush created an open atmosphere that attracted many trans people, the assemblyman added. One whose story has survived is stagecoach driver Charley Parkhurst, a trans man who ran a route between Stockton and San Jose. His life was the inspiration for an episode of the 1950s-1960s TV anthology series Death Valley Days. The show and many other accounts of Parkhurst’s life depicted him as a woman who lived as a man due to the social strictures on women, without necessarily identifying as male, but he now could be understood as transgender.
Haney pointed out that California has established itself as a sanctuary for trans people as they face unprecedented political attacks. “I’m proud to be a member of California’s legislature that has been a voice of humanity and truth against the anti-trans movement currently sweeping across America,” he said.
There was a team effort behind the creation of Transgender History Month. San Francisco trans activist Jupiter Peraza came to Haney with the idea. “Transgender history is not exclusive to San Francisco; it is everywhere, it is certainly throughout the entire state,” Peraza said at the press conference. “It is history that dates back to the Gold Rush era, and it is history that has played a monumental role shaping the state of California into what it is today.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Honey Mahogany, a Black trans woman who is Haney’s district director, chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, and a founder of the Transgender Cultural District, which is located in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. With so much misinformation and hate being spread about the trans community, she said, it’s important “to tell the truth and educate people about who we are and what we need.” The new history month is part of that, she said.
CA Assembly Declares Nation's First Transgender History Month.www.youtube.com
Pictured above is California Assemblymember Matt Haney.