We remember the riot: Revisiting queer and transgender scholarship and activism

On this, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the catalyst for the modern LGBTQ+ movement, we pause to remember the activists and scholars within and outside of counseling psychology. It is not possible to assemble an exhaustive list of all of the individuals who have been and are currently embroiled in the fight for queer and transgender equity. It is important, though, to pause and reflect on some of the people who have fought and continue to fight for queer and transgender people around the world. It is our hope that they will serve as inspiration and as sources of encouragement as we continue a battle that, in many respects, has only just begun, with challenges continuing in religious institutions and the military.

Historical Context

“The original pride was riot.” You may have heard this or similar phrases on social media over the years. The phrase is popping up with more regularity as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that started on June 28, 1969. The first gay pride marches in US history were held on the one-year anniversary of the riots. Stonewall was actually the first of a series of riots and protests that included the riot at Cooper’s Do-nuts in 1959 and the riot at Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966.

We recognize that transgender women of color were at the forefront of these uprisings and continue to be central to the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. The advances for LGBTQ+ community that have been made over the past five decades are certainly nothing to balk at, but the most marginalized within our community, queer and trans people of color, have often been and still are left behind.

In this counseling psychology space, a place where empowerment and social justice advocacy are encouraged, we want to take a moment to reflect on the inspiring lives of some of the trailblazers in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, all of whom were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots.

  • Marsha P. Johnson, a black, queer, trans woman who was an activist, drag performer, and sex worker. She died under mysterious circumstances in 1992, but her story lives on thanks to documentaries such as The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson.
  • Sylvia Rivera, a Latina trans activist who co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). She fought tirelessly to help homeless LGBTQ youth and highlighted that the LGBTQ movement needed to be more inclusive of different genders, classes, and racial identities.
  • Miss Major Griffin-Gacy, a black trans woman, has dedicated much of her life to fighting for justice for incarcerated transgender people and is currently the executive director of the Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project.

Counseling Psychologists

Against this historical backdrop, The Counseling Psychologist continues to feature articles about transgender and non-binary psychology and health. The most recent issue included 3 articles on transgender and non-binary topics. These articles and other resources have been and are being produced by scholars and advocates in the counseling psychology community.

We invite counseling psychologists to draw inspiration from the advocates listed here and from the many others we didn’t have space to name. In honor of this PRIDE anniversary, we hope counseling psychologists will take a moment to reflect on what each of us can do to contribute to a more just, affirming world for queer and transgender people.


Chloe Goldbach (she/her), MS, is a second-year graduate student in the counseling psychology doctoral program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She holds a BA in psychology, BS in mechanical engineering, and MS in biomedical engineering, all from the University of Florida. Chloe conducts research in transgender-affirmative mental health care, LGBTQ+ relationships, and de-stigmatization of transgender bodies and of how society conceptualizes gender dysphoria. She was the instructor of record for Introduction to Sexual Diversity Studies and Workplace Diversity and now serves as secretary for the Women, Gender, and Sexual Studies Student Group at SIUC. She is also the recipient of the 2019 Welcoming Project graduate scholarship for LGBTQ+ activism and the SIUC Master’s Fellowship for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Douglas Knutson (he, him), PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Douglas serves as the communications chair for the American Psychological Association, Society of Counseling Psychology, Section on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues (SLGBTI) and he is a member of the Counsel of Counseling Psychology Training Programs Standing Committee on Advocacy, Diversity and Inclusion. He conducts research investigating health and resiliency among transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay identified populations.


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