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After 30 years, Althea Garrison publicly takes her place in LGBTQ history

In 1992, Althea Garrison was elected a state rep in Roxbury, the first time a trans person had ever won election to a state legislature. She didn't tell anybody about that though and never discussed it, not even after the Herald outed her - at a time when coming out as trans could mean being murdered. In September, she discussed the issue publicly for the first time in an interview with Kate Sosin of the 19th.

"I always knew what I was," Garrison said. "It was just a matter of making the connections and getting the operation and everything, which is what I did."

Garrison, now 83, said she is now writing a biography and that her race this year, against incumbent District 7 City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, will be her last.

H/t Zack Huffman.

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Comments

She’s had to overcome, even on this site.

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The "hate" of which you speak comes mostly from her political leanings.

Meanwhile, the likes of me could hardly care less about any of this. She definitely represented a viewpoint that isn't too common in Boston anymore. She was a breath of fresh air.

I hope that after she wins in November, she reconsiders not running again.

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She’s a Trumper, a cop bootlicker, anti gay. She deserves hate as she supports fascism.

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She's no hero, and no friend to the L, the G, or the B.

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The fact that she had the courage to simply exist in public moved the needle in her time.

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I am sorry but no. She has stood out against LTGBQ rights before and even after she backed off a bit from it she never really embraced us. I am perfectly ok with someone doing what they need to do to protect themselves and she has every right to be for whatever she wants to be for or against politically but don't expect us to run into the streets waving rainbow flags for her when she has not only failed to help the community but actually hurt it with her views and comments. I do not believe her being transgender should make her positions any more wrong BUT I do think it is hypocritical to expect the community to suddenly come rushing to her side because she decided now was the moment to come out.

This is very similar to the situation with Caitlyn. I will respect who you and fight for your rights but if you are going against the community in such bold ways why should we celebrate and elevate you? She is more than welcome to continue to simply exist in public but will not be getting the accolades you seem to think she deserves.

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I think the rest of us here are old enough to pay attention to things like inviting lunatics like Ray Owens to give an convocation for the city council in 2019. Merely existing as an elected official doesn't do anybody any favors if you use that power to push people down.

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Just existing does not count. She moved the needle backwards for folks like her

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Swirly, keep your nose out of things you don't understand.

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How ignorant are you? She supports anti LGBT groups. What courage? She refused to admit to being trans.

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I agree that her politics are shit.

But you have no idea what people went through before your time.

Again, just being who she was in public could have gotten her killed. It didn't matter whether she claimed her trans identity or not - being outed could have gotten her killed, as could being in public walking down the street.

You should look up how Whitey Bulger got his career started - robbing people who couldn't fight back or go to the police because being gay and trans were illegal and cops could kill you for fun.

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Either

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There are those of us among the L, the G and the B who think that the issue of same-sex marriage sucked the oxygen out of the greater struggle for queer people's rights, and, gasp, some of us who even think that respectability politics played a big role in that.

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.

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If you've got something to say, say it. Don't sit there being passive aggressive. No one needs to justify themselves to you.

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So you support people who want to deny equal rights to gay people. Pretty messed up.

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Irrespective of Garrison's politics, good or bad, she comes from a time when she wanted the work to speak for her, and not let the fact that she was trans (which was not yet called that) define her. That's the difference from today's society where people LEAD with the identity, "I am trans", "I am LGBTQIA", "I am this" "I am that" and all else follows. For example, there was a time where there might be a "musician who happens to be gay", and the music they made defined them, and rightfully so. Now it would be "proud, LGBTQIA+ person making music". See the difference? I may be an old school gay person, but I prefer the former myself. It's more authentic than you may currently think.

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I may be an old school gay person, but I prefer the former myself.

Then you should feel free to do so when identifying yourself. But as an "old school gay person", you should be aware that thinking of yourself as a "musician who happens to be gay" doesn't mean the rest of the world will think of you that way -- and that that can influence what you're forced to deal with on a daily basis, which in turn can change your perception of what part of yourself is most important. Or not. There were Jews in Europe who identified as primarily German, or Hungarian, rather than as Jews, but that meant nothing to how they were treated by others.

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Up until fairly recently any prominent person wouldn't "happen to be" gay, they would "be suspected of being" gay.

The difference being that if that quality about the person went from suspected to fact it would mean the ruination of their career at a minimum but possibly imprisonment depending on the jurisdiction.

As an old school gay person you should be well aware of that.

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"The difference being that if that quality about the person went from suspected to fact it would mean the ruination of their career at a minimum but possibly imprisonment depending on the jurisdiction."

There wasn't a Black person in Boston that didn't know that Althea Garrison was a "crossdresser" as we used to say back in the day when he started running for office. In American Black culture crossdressers were always considered Gay. That didn't stop Althea from running anymore than it stopped Gladys Bentley from performing back during the Harlem Renaissance.

This killing in the name of gender is a way more recent thing that frankly Black people don't get behind. Gay or not.

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Althea's trans (transgender, and transitioned genders medically, meaning medications and/or gender reassignment surgery), not a crossdresser. And "she/her" pronouns should be used. See from the article on the 19th's website.

She started to socially and medically transition in the 1960s.

I have rarely ever agreed with Althea politically. I don't think I have ever voted for her, despite having seen her name on a dozen ballots over 20 years. However, I respect her, and I guess I feel protective of her. She's 83. It cannot have been easy for elder LGBTQIs coming up back in the day.

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The poster clearly stated "as we used to say back in the day". Which is accurate. "Crossdresser" is what people DID say, irrespective of whether people were what we would now know as transgender. Some people also started to say "transexual" which was generally reserved for people who had surgery. I believe the first time I heard "transexual" was in reference to Christine Jorgensen. But "transgender" did not come along for some time, and, even then, people originally said "transgendered". Don't practice presentism.

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N/t

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I don't know exactly what era an old school gay person is from, but this middle-aged gay person disagrees wholeheartedly with you. You hold this idealized view, which I would argue is quite modern, but I think we are very far from that vision.

Is this old school cognitive dissonance I am detecting? To have enabled you to make it through the travails of the violently anti-gay 20th century to today's era of Don't Say Gay and banning books(!) in some parts of the USA? Hmm...

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If there is one thing I am getting a little tired of that I did not have to put up with in the homophobic 20th century, it's people telling me HOW to be gay. As if there is, dare I say, an AGENDA. Any deviation from it and another label like 'self loathing gay" is slapped on me. This comes from both gay and straight people, by the way. (On the more humorous side of things, a college age woman I once worked with told me she couldn't believe I was gay because I wasn't "fabulous" enough, for whatever that's worth). Likewise, Althea Garrison should not be expected to explain herself to every busybody in town. It should be simply understood that she is a transwoman, and on with the work.
Isn't that the ultimate endgame to all this? Everyone just being what they are, and everyone just accepting it with no big to-do about it? Or is the endgame that identity is ALWAYS the first thing and all else follows? I don't like that future. it's divisive, tribal, and achieves the exact opposite of what it thinks it achieves.

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Question is, what do any of those words have to do with the comment you're responding to?

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As long as you’re not hurting anyone. That’s my point of view of what the fight for the rights of the sexual minority was/is/ and continues to be about.

You be you. Please enjoy all that you can, when you can, as you like it. I mean that sincerely. Life too’s short sometimes.

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It's always a classic.

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i wanted to respond to your “musicians who are gay vs gay musicians” thing. it suddenly called to me to make a list of musicians that I think entered the popular consciousness with most people thinking of them as “gay” performers, as the dominant part of their persona. Rather than musicians who happen to be gay.

These are ones that immediately came to mind:
Liberace, Elton John, Boy George, the Indigo Girls, KD Lang, Melissa Etheridge, the Pet Shop Boys.

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in Massachusetts for coming out as a trans. Stop the bomb tossing. Names and dates please.

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But since you didn't read that far down, try: Rita Hester and Channelle Pickett.

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N/t

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There's no Boston politician I can remember who was so delighted to campaign and hold office. Gracious and friendly.

I hope she writes that book. Something like "I'd Do it Again"

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The last couple of weeks - each time I hear some MAGA pol or a comment-box warrior suggest "make Trump Speaker of The House", I entertain myself with the counterproposal: "make Althea Speaker of The House"!

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Althea Garrison is a good reminder with the upcoming election.

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"... at a time when coming out as trans could mean being murdered."

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Possibly. But there are various closets, very large, where many secrets hide although they are secrets only by agreement.

I'm thinking of Strom Thurmond. It was an open secret that Strom's segregation polices regarding people of white and brown skin were policies that had significant exceptions. At least for his personal pleasures.

Don't Panic's statement strongly suggests that this was the case with Althea. Many folks realized Althea's identity had a layer that most people do not have nor ever have to deal with.

Her autobiography might be interesting. That is tbd.

Concerning identity politics: Nothing new about identity politics. The Civil War was as much about identity politics as it was about slavery. Nazi Germany could not have happened if Nazis could not have used identity politics to create the monster that arose from 1930s Germany. Identity politics is part of the gasoline that culture warriors and ultra rights bigots use to keep their engines of hate going.

There never has been a time when there was not an explicit or implicit lead of "I am XYZ" or "They are...."

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