Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Transgender Nation staged its first major action at the 1993 American Psychiatric Association convention to protest the APA’s classification of “transsexuality” as a mental illness. In the short span in which the group was active, it was instrumental in bringing transgender issues to the forefront of queer political consciousness and for inspiring the formation of new groups focused on transgender rights.

Summary of Event

Transgender Nation was first organized in 1992 by male-to-female (MTF) transsexual Anne Ogborn. The group’s first action was a major protest at the annual convention of the American Psychiatric Association American Psychiatric Association;protest by Transgender Nation (APA) at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. Several demonstrators at the conference center on May 23, 1993, including Ogborn, were arrested for defacing public property and disturbing the peace that day. Christine Tayleur, a member of Transgender Nation, described in an interview during the protest that she had been institutionalized at the age of fourteen because she cross-dressed, and while institutionalized, she had been administered medication. “They call it treatment. I call it torture,” she was quoted as saying by the San Francisco Chronicle in its next-day report of the demonstration. [kw]Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest (1992) [kw]Protest, Transgender Nation Holds Its First (1992) Transgender Nation Protests and marches;and transgender/transsexual rights[transgender transsexual rights] Political activism;and transgender/transsexual rights[transgender transsexual rights] Psychiatry;and transsexuality[transsexuality] [c]Organizations and institutions;1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest[2150] [c]Transgender/transsexuality;1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest[2150] [c]Civil rights;1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest[2150] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest[2150] Ogborn, Anne Green, Jamison Stryker, Susan Tayleur, Christine

Female-to-male (FTM) activist Jamison Green recalled in his memoir that he had talked to psychiatrists at a transgender education booth inside the Moscone Center as the protesters demonstrated outside. According to Green, many of the psychiatrists were more inclined to speak to him because they wanted to understand why the protesters were outside. “The two strategies worked together,” he wrote, noting that the presence of Transgender Nation demonstrators outside the convention enabled transgender educators inside to make headway in conversations with APA members.

The protest was reminiscent of the “gay invasion” demonstration at the APA meeting in San Francisco on May 14, 1970, in which activists demanded that homosexuality be depathologized and dropped from the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Similarly, transgender protesters at the 1993 action called for the removal of “gender identity disorder,” Gender identity disorder “transvestic fetishism,” Transvestic fetishism and “transsexualism” Transsexualism as mental illnesses listed in the DSM. While “homosexuality” was removed as a diagnosis in 1973, and “ego-dystonic homosexuality” was removed in 1986, “transsexuality” and related diagnoses remain in the latest version of the manual, nearly fifteen years after the Moscone Center protest.

Transgender Nation modeled its actions after the in-your-face activism of Queer Nation Queer Nation;Transgender Nation and and ACT UP ACT UP;Transgender Nation (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), speaking out publicly on behalf of transgender civil rights and to combat transphobia. Transphobia The group drew support from the expanding queer political movement of the early 1990’s, forging connections among drag communities, transsexuals, and the emerging group of queer activists earlier identified as part of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual communities. For example, on February 13, 1994, members of Transgender Nation and the drag Drag activism action-group Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence gathered together to stage an action at Nordstrom’s, a department store in downtown San Francisco, to protest the company’s transphobia.

In 1994, the group worked for inclusion of “transgender” in the title of San Francisco’s annual Freedom Day Parade, and also lobbied at a public hearing on the issue on May 12 for a city ordinance prohibiting transgender discrimination. Both measures were ultimately successful, taking effect the following year, in 1995. By that time, Transgender Nation had already folded, as had Queer Nation before it. Historian Susan Stryker credits Transgender Nation with breaking political ground for successor groups such as Transexual Menace Transexual Menace and It’s Time, America, It’s Time, America[Its Time America] groups that “went on to play a larger role in the national political arena.”

Significance

As a direct action group, Transgender Nation was the first known action-oriented political group to organize for transgender civil rights. Emerging from San Francisco’s radical queer communities of political activists in the early 1990’s, the group drew inspiration from the Bay Area’s long history of protest for gay and lesbian rights, AIDS activism, and the “in-your-face” actions of Queer Nation and ACT UP.

The mainstream media coverage of the Moscone Center protest against the APA’s continued listing of transsexuality as a mental illness was undoubtedly one of the first demonstrations to focus on transgender rights. At the APA demonstration, furthermore, the direct action and civil disobedience of protesters outside the convention paved the way for transgender educators working on the inside to promote awareness and understanding of the problems surrounding the published diagnoses of transsexuality and related conditions as mental illnesses in the DSM.

Transgender Nation’s efforts to make transgender issues visible came at a time when the debate concerning transgender inclusion in gay, lesbian, and bisexual movements was heating up. In this respect, San Francisco activists played a leading role in the drive to include transgender people as part of the new queer political agenda. On the national scene, transgender activists lost the battle to include the word “transgender” in the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. Two years later, though, San Francisco pride organizers added the term to the literature of the Freedom Day Parade there, and city officials signed into law what was at the time just the fourth city ordinance in the country to protect transgender individuals from discrimination.

Although the APA demonstration itself did not result in a change in the DSM, the cumulative impact of Transgender Nation’s actions from 1992 to 1994 helped establish transgender concerns as a bona fide element of a new queer political agenda, and they even brought transgender issues to the attention of the country. Transgender Nation Protests and marches;and transgender/transsexual rights[transgender transsexual rights] Political activism;and transgender/transsexual rights[transgender transsexual rights] Psychiatry;and transsexuality[transsexuality]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Califia, Patrick. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism. 2d ed. San Francisco, Calif.: Cleis Press, 2003.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Currah, Paisley, and Shannon Minter. Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policymakers. New York: National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, 2000.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">

    Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Green, Jamison. Becoming a Visible Man. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Olszewski, Lori. “Transsexuals Protest at Psychiatry Meeting.” San Francisco Chronicle, May 24, 1993, p. A13.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stryker, Susan. “Transgender Activism.” GLBTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. http://www.glbtq .com/ social-sciences/transgender_activism.html.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stryker, Susan, and Jim Van Buskirk. Gay by the Bay. San Francisco, Calif.: Chronicle Books, 1996.

September 24, 1951: George Jorgensen Becomes Christine Jorgensen

August, 1966: Queer Youth Fight Police Harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco

November 21, 1966: First Gender Identity Clinic Opens and Provides Gender Reassignment Surgery

July 31, 1969: Gay Liberation Front Is Formed

December 15, 1973: Homosexuality Is Delisted by the APA

1978: Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association Is Founded

March 20, 1990: Queer Nation Is Founded

June, 1992: Feinberg Publishes Transgender Liberation

1993: Intersex Society of North America Is Founded

June 17, 1995: International Bill of Gender Rights Is First Circulated

1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man

1998: Transgender Scholarship Proliferates

April 30, 2002: Transgender Rights Added to New York City Law

March, 2003-December, 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation

November 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project

March 5, 2006: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, and Transamerica Receive Oscars

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