In this special series, LGBT celebrities and public figures talk to Tim Teeman about the Stonewall Riots and their legacy—see more here.
Jake Graf is a multi-award winning transgender director, writer, and actor known for his roles in The Danish Girl and Colette, and for viral hit Headspace. He is married to Captain Hannah Graf, the highest ranking transgender soldier in the British army. Their website is here.
When/how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of it?
As a writer who has always identified as queer and who was a part of the London lesbian community pre-transition for over a decade, I have always been interested in our history as a global community.
The Stonewall Riots are almost folkloric for us. When I transitioned I wanted to learn more about our specific transgender history. I did feel a sense of pride that the riots happened as a result of courageous and outspoken trans women, mostly of color, standing up to bigoted and violent law enforcement officers. Those women started a movement that was long overdue, and one that slowly turned the tide, making life more livable for queer folk across the world.
What is their significance for you?
Their significance is huge. As a trans man proudly married to a beautiful trans woman, what happened over those days in 1969 in the West Village signaled that we would no longer be treated as outcasts, pariahs, or victims.
How far have we LGBT people come since 1969?
We have come a long way, but not far enough: 1969 was the beginning, followed some time later by Harvey Milk and his equally brave and ultimately fatal drive to win acceptance for LGBTQ folk, and countless trailblazers and warriors since.
Currently, it does feel that globally we have taken some steps back, but as with all civil rights movements throughout history, there will always be resistance to progress and equality. We have to believe that we are heading towards a time of universal acceptance and understanding, where all of these battles will simply become part of our rich and vibrant history.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
A day when LGBTQ kids aren’t scared to come out to their parents and families; where older people don’t have to end their days forced back into the metaphorical closet; and where queer people across the world can live safely and happily, the fear of incarceration or death a distant and shameful memory in the history books.
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