Below is a brief timeline outlining some important dates in transgender activism:

From 1839 - 1844 a group of male-to-female cross-dressers, known as "Rebecca and her daughters", battled their way through the Welsh countryside, destroying road toll barriers which were making the poor even poorer.  

In 1895 a group of self-described androgynes (males who identify as females) in New York organized a club called the "Cercle Hermaphroditos", based on their wish "to unite for defense against the world’s bitter persecution".  The "Cercle Hermaphroditos" is one of the earliest organizations in the United States for gender and sexual emancipation.

One of the first major organizations to form was the Organization for Sexual Equality in 1950, now the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL).

Also in the 1950's, Louise Lawrence, a transgender person who began living full-time as a woman in San Francisco in the 1940s, developed a widespread correspondence network with transgender people throughout Europe and the United States. Lawrence worked closely with Alfred Kinsey to bring the needs of transgender people to the attention of social scientists and sex reformers.

In 1952, using Louise Lawrence's correspondence network for its initial subscription list, Virginia Prince and a handful of other transgender people in Southern California launched Transvestia: The Journal of the American Society for Equality in Dress, which published two issues. The Society that launched the journal also only briefly existed in Southern California.


On Sunday, April 25th, 1965, more than 150 transgender, gay & lesbian protestors staged a sit-in at the Dewey’s Coffee Shop located at 219 South 17th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the time, management of several Dewey’s around the city had made it clear that they would refuse service “to a large number of homosexuals and persons wearing non-conformist clothing.”

 Police arrived on the scene and three of the protestors who refused to leave were arrested. Journalist and activist Clark Polak and the Janus Society, a local gay rights group, were notified. Over the next week, in support of the protestors, they distributed some 1,500 leaflets outside the restaurant. On Sunday, May 2nd, a second sit-in was staged. This time, when the police were called, they spoke with the protestors and simply left, declining to take any action at all. The management agreed to end the discrimination and the protestors left, having staged the first successful gay rights sit-in in the country. This marked an important step in the struggle for LGBT people to lay claim to the right to public space in 1960s Philadelphia.

In 1966, one of the first recorded transgender riots in US history took place. The Compton's Cafeteria Riot occurred in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The night after the riot, more transgender people, hustlers, Tenderloin street people, and other members of the LGBT community joined in a picket of the cafeteria, which would not allow transgender people back in.  

The demonstration ended with the newly installed plate-glass windows being smashed again. According to the online encyclopedia glbtq.com, "In the aftermath of the riot at Compton's, a network of transgender social, psychological, and medical support services was established, which culminated in 1968 with the creation of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit (NTCU), the first such peer-run support and advocacy organization in the world". 

Many transgender men & women were heavily involved in the Stonewall Riots of 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in New York. Among them was transgender activist, Sylvia Rivera. The Stonewall Riots are widely considered to have begun the LGBT rights movement in America.

The first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights was held in Washington, D.C. on October 14th, 1979. The march drew between 75,000 and 125,000 transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay people, as well as straight allies. The cause was to demand equal civil rights and urge the passage of protective civil rights legislation. The march was organized by Phyllis Frye (who in 2010 became Texas’s first openly transgender judge) and three other activists. 

The Human Rights Campaign Fund is founded by Steve Endean in 1980. The campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.

In 1991 a transgender woman named Nancy Burkholder was removed from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival when security guards realized she was transgender. Every year since then, there has been a demonstration against the Festival's women-born-women only policy. This demonstration is known as Camp Trans.

The first "San Francisco Trans March" took place the last weekend of June, 2004.  

In 2005 transgender activist, Pauline Park, became the first openly transgender person chosen to be grand marshal of the New York City Pride March, the oldest and largest LGBT pride event in the United States.  

On February 15th, 2013, Transgender advocacy group, Gender Justice LA, marches to the offices of the Los Angeles Times and presents them with a signed petition that includes over 300 signatures, demanding that the newspaper use more delicacy when writing about transgender men & women. The petition was in response to a controversial February 4th article published in the LA Times that was a about a November 17th, 2011 murder of a transgender woman in LA.  

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