MAJOR! is a documentary film exploring the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a formerly incarcerated Black transgender elder and activist who has been fighting for the rights of trans women of color for over 40 years.”

The above description and few additional details from Miss Major’s Wikipedia Bio were all I knew about Major Griffin-Gracy a few weeks ago when I accepted an invitation to attend film’s premiere at the 2015 Transgender Film Festival in San Francisco.

It’s not that I didn’t know the statistics.

I did.

From the advocacy of Janet Mock, I learned about the increased risk of violence faced by transwomen of color and through the incarceration of CeCe McDonald, I learned about their disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system. I’ve seen the graphs and charts, but Major! explores these issues through story; tracing the harrowing yet exuberant life of an irreverent, irrepressible and utterly disarming woman who has built family and community for transgender women in and out of prison.


TGI Justice

Miss Major’s TGI Justice Project works to create “a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom… working in collaboration with others to forge a culture of resistance and resilience to strengthen us for the fight against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures.”

The staff and volunteers at TGI Justice visit prisoners, write letters, do research and advocate for their sisters behind bars. It is a noble work. It matters.

What I experienced watching this film is akin to the religious conviction of a lapsed evangelical during a barn-burning sermon. I was deeply affected and ultimately shamed by how little I have done for others. in my life. As I witnessed Major’s struggles and losses, I became acutely aware that for too long, I have excused my inaction by wrapping myself up in grief.

I am too sad, too anxious, too broken to do the work that must be done is an easy out, but for how long? At what point do the injustices of this world demand that I snap out of it?

One of the most powerful moments of the night was Miss Major’s defiant battle cry; I am still fucking here. At the film’s close, familiar and unfamiliar transgender women appeared on-screen, echoing this refrain. It was evidence of the resilience of the human spirit in a society and its systems which seek to destroy. And yet, there are so many who are not still here.

The empty seat beside me was glaring and I wept throughout the 8-minute standing ovation. Leaving the theater, I felt the full weight of having been a useless ally – mostly in theory and woefully out of practice. My daughter is gone, but I am still fucking here and I should damn well be putting that grief to work in her name.

For such inspiration and a renewed fire in your belly, I highly recommend checking out MAJOR!, when and where you can find it.

MANY THANKS to AJ Russo, who squired away tickets for J., Mouse and I to attend the event.

Visit the MAJOR! doc’s website:

Find out more about the work TGI Justice does here:




a new preface for old stories

villaIn a dusty box in the storage closet of the HUD Housing complex behind the Burger King on McHenry Avenue, you’ll find my file, three inches thick and spanning my nine year residency. The last time I saw the file was the summer of 1999.

I’m standing in The Villa’s tiny office, where the clatter of the air conditioner nearly drowns out the children splashing about in the pool just outside. From behind the desk, Terry thumbs through the folder and then shoves it towards me.

“You should really have a peek.” His tone is serious, but his eyes are warm.

“I’d rather not.” I glare at the thing and it glares back.

I don’t have to open this catalogue of sins to remember the myriad of noise complaints, repair requests for two windows and a door, the landscaping bill for a light-saber-battered shrub, a letter of apology for crashing a Big Wheel into the pool at 3 a.m. or the string of warning notices about my unauthorized cat.

“I’m not trying to be a hardass, Jules, but –“

Terry sighs like a disappointed dad, then gets up and gestures for me to take his chair. He slips out the door to the pool area as I slump into his chair. On the far side of the deck, he lingers near the chaise lounges of Maura and Shell. Fully aware of their cyclical retaliatory boyfriend-thievery, he bravely drags a chair up between them.

I am nearly thirty.

I have spent most of my adult life in this place, among these people.

My “I don’t really belong here” shtick is wearing thin and the ugly reality lay out before me is that I haven’t been the bad-luck good girl for a very long time.

While I contemplate liberating my file, a small gathering of children begin to make blow-fish faces against the window beside me. I look at their baby teeth and tonsils, their waggling tongues.

In the end, there is no absolution, so Villa Bitch through and through, I lean toward Jory and Jellybean and press my open mouth to the glass in a silent scream.


[The Villa Stories is a work in progress, every now and then, since for what feels like forever but is more like thirteen years. Wow. That IS a long time to NOT finish something without abandoning it altogether. Regardless, this is a new bit. With any luck, others will follow.]

In Book News

The 2nd edition of The Complicated Geography of Alice will be available in paperback by Nov. 1st 2015 and is already up for Kindle. This edition has some minor editorial tweaks and additions to the end piece.  (The list of Badass Transgender Writers has grown, so be sure to check them out.)

There are some new things in the works and I’ll fill you in soon. Reviews at Amazon and Goodreads are always appreciated and as always, you can message me with other comments or questions: laurustina {at} gmail {dot} com

peace –