MISS Major Griffin-Gracy does not hide behind niceties and diplomacy when she wants to get a point across.
It is no surprise the star of the award-winning documentary MAJOR! does not beat around the bush when it comes her advocacy work in the trans community, she’s been an LGBTI activist for more than 40 years.
Screening at this week’s Queer Screen Film Fest, MAJOR! tells her story from her time in prison, her life as a former sex worker, a community elder and leader and a human rights activist.
To begin with, the beloved Miss Major did not know why somebody wanted to make a film about her life, but she soon realised the film would do more than tell her story, but could help her community as a whole.
“I thought this would be something a tool that could be used for the girls who are coming up behind me,” she told Star Observer.
“It doesn’t stop with me. I’m sorry, but we’ve been here a long time. People have been ignoring us, stepping over us, killing us, because no one’s going to say anything , and I’m tired of walking around with a target on my back.”
“People don’t take the time to see we are varied and different.
“We may not be identical to their thought and their beliefs, but we have parents, we were raised by them if we were lucky, we try to lead decently and openly but society won’t let us do that. So you learn to do whatever you need to to make it though and see another day.
“And so in doing that it’s a matter of making sure they stop this bullshit they’re putting my community through and acting as if we’re the abominable snowman.”
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Filmmakers Annalise Ophelian and Storm Miguel Florez collaborated with Miss Major, trans people of colour (transPOC) and a Community Advisory Board to ensure that the “stories, which are often marginalised, exoticised, or played for tragic drama, retain the agency and humanity of those who tell them”.
“The Community Advisory Board… came to us and they were like ‘this feels like a trope, this feels like a stereotype’,” Ophelian said.
“One of the pieces of advice I appreciated from the Community Advisory Board came after an early cut of the film, had a montage leaning on Major’s role as mother to the community and there were black folks who came back saying ‘we’re pretty oversaturated as black women as mother figures’, how can you retool that so you’re not relying on this cultural stereotype.
Ophelian was attracted to Miss Major’s story because she is a “force of nature” and admired her use of resilience as resistance.
“The only way to describe it is her optimism and veracity and her joy in life is a constant inspiration for me, and to have survived what she has survived and to have gone through and seen what she has seen, and suffered the losses that she has and to remain such a source of power, passion and brilliance is really remarkable,” she said.
“Miss Major and by extension the people around her are so focused on this notion of resilience as a form of resistance, that these women are pushing forward to thrive and be amazing people.”
But in classic Miss Major style, she is much more direct about the importance of resilience in the face of ongoing discrimination.
“The things is that, not just me, but my entire community, we’re a tough bunch of bitches,” she said.
“We have been beaten and ridiculed and chased and hated from our own families who’s supposed to love us.
“So it’s a matter of resilience, it’s a matter of letting these people know you are not going to bury me, and I’m not going to stop fighting until you get it right.
“To me, we’re still fucking here, we are not going anywhere. I’m not going to back into the closet , standing in my house all day, wearing my female clothes in my home.
“I’m sorry, I need to get in my car, I need food to cook for myself and if a skirt is more comfortable for me, then you have to get over it.
“You don’t belong up my skirt anyway.”