Speed Reads

History Lesson

Sylvia Rivera to Caitlyn Jenner: Retro Report explores the hidden history of transgender America

When Bruce Jenner publicly transformed into Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair, "many people gained a better understanding of what it means to be a transgender person," said Retro Report in its look back on the history and challenges of transgender Americans. But transgender activists say that the new high profile of people whose gender identity doesn't match their birth body — Jenner, Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, the protagonist of the TV show Transparent — masks the hardships America's estimated estimated 700,000 transgender people face.

"Whatever people think is shocking about transgender people's lives is nothing compared to the injustice we have to face every freakin' day," says Jennifer Finney Boylan, a transgender writer and English professor at Barnard College. Lourdes Ashley Hunter, executive director of the Trans Women of Color Collective, shares some terrible stories to illustrate that point.

Retro Report traces the history of the transgender rights movement back to the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in New York, led in part by pioneering transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, and to riots three years earlier in San Francisco. But the transgender community hasn't shared in the legislative victories of its sometimes gay-rights allies. "While momentum may now be on the upswing," the narrator says, "the movement that began almost half a century ago still has a lot of obstacles to overcome." You can learn more in the video below. Peter Weber