There is an immense euphoria emanating from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community today following President Barack Obama's mention of the Stonewall riots in his inauguration speech. Since Stonewall is considered to be the flashpoint of the Gay Rights Movement in America, its acknowledgement by the president is an unquestionable landmark moment in the observation of LGBT history.
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall... Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
Without question, President Obama is the most inclusive head of state the US has ever elected, becoming the first sitting president to endorse the right of same-sex couples to marry and all of the legal protections and entitlements afforded to heterosexual couples. This makes his second inauguration speech bittersweet, as bisexual and transgender men and women were once again left out of the conversation. Their exclusion is assuredly unintentional, as conventional wisdom dictates that "gay" is an umbrella term which applies to gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender men and women, despite its androcentric, cisgender coinage. The word "queer" in its academic context has been utilized to be much more inclusive, describing anyone who does not fit into a heteronormative paradigm, but continues to be met with resistance due to its historical usage as a derogatory term. Nonetheless, "queer" and the LGBT acronym have consciously been pushed into mainstream usage in order to avoid the white/male privilege invoked by the term "gay" within the community.
It is important to distinguish bisexual and transgender individuals in their own right, because like Bayard Rustin, the openly gay African American mentor of Martin Luther King, Jr. who continues to be regarded as the "Lost Prophet of the Civil Rights Movement," bisexual and transgender men and women (especially those of color) continue to be cloaked in a mist of erasure. Trans women of color such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson are now and forever indispensable figures of the Stonewall riots and in LGBT history as a whole. They were both co-founders of Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), while Rivera was also a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. Despite facing such insurmountable odds, historical figures such as Rustin, Rivera and Johnson are not the household names they should be. The simplest way to begin rectifying that problem is to consciously and fervently include bisexual and transgender people in our everyday, national and historical conversations. Knowing these people are are an integral part of the president's address to the nation is one thing, hearing it is quite another.