Born in Chicago in the 1940s, Miss Major is a trans activist and icon well known for her outspoken activism towards trans rights and freedoms. As a young child, Miss Major often explored her gender expression, trying on her mothers’ clothes while no one was home, and befriending older drag queens who allowed her to experiment with makeup and dressing in drag. When Miss Major came out as trans to her family, they struggled accepting her transition and gender identity. At the age of 16, Miss Major graduated from high school and moved into a post-secondary dorm room.

Although she had been out to her close family and friends, she still presented in a traditionally masculine way, resulting in her being placed in a men’s dorm. During this time, Miss Major was outed when one of her roommates found dresses and makeup in her room, leading to her expulsion from the college.

After her expulsion, Miss Major moved to New York in 1962 and began working as a sex worker. While in New York, Miss Major became involved with drag shows, and performed as a showgirl. Within the community, Miss Major was accepted for who she was, and began to feel a sense of belonging. During the Stonewall Riot in 1969, Miss Major played a role in protecting queer community members against the brutality by the police. As an activist, Miss Major has said that although Stonewall was a turning point in the 2LSBGTQ+ rights movement, transgender and queer women of colour had long since been advocating and organizing for the rights and freedoms of the community. 

In 1988, Miss Major and her partner moved to San Diego California. She continued working as a drag performer, and started mentoring younger drag performers and trans women, earning her the nickname Mama Major. During the AIDS crisis in the 80s, Miss Major became involved in AIDS activism after losing her partner. Moving to San Francisco in 1995, Miss Major continued her work in HIV/AIDS activism, becoming a health promoter and educator for Tenderloin AIDS Research Center. She developed a mobile outreach centre, where she went into the streets to meet with unhoused folks who needed assistance. 

Currently, Miss Major lives in Arkansas with her partner, and has continued her work in activism and advocacy.


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