Fine Arts Library Film event discusses the life of a transgender activist Miss Major

Reagan Ritterbush

Miss Major is one of the original champion for transgenders women of color and is now the subject of a documentary highlighting her refusal to give up on LGBT rights.

As part of its Films in Person series, the Fine Arts Library screened the documentary “Major!” depicting the life of Major Griffin-Gracy on Wednesday night. The film was followed by a discussion with English associate professor Matt Richardson about the social issues Griffin-Gracy fought to eradicate and the strides she made in changing society in the ’70s and ’80s. 

“The Fine Arts Library does this series to honor the faculty that helps select the films,” said Gary Johnson, media operator for the Fine Arts Library. “Since we are in such serious times, these films play a major part in spreading information to students that they wouldn’t know otherwise.”

The documentary “Major!,” directed by Annalise Ophelian, illustrates Griffith-Gracy’s fight for justice for transgender women of color and her role as a mentor to many transgender people. Nicknamed “Mama,” she was a survivor of sex trade and of the male prison of Attica State, as well as a veteran of Stonewall Rebellion.

“Major was present during key points in American history which makes her a huge historical resource for people doing activist work now,” Richardson said. “It’s important for students to know who was working on change long before they were even born.”

The film is now available on the online video streaming service Kanopy, which the Fine Arts Library provides access to for the UT community. According to the Fine Arts Library website, Kanopy provides access to “26,000 titles covering educational topics and feature films from some 800 producers.” 

“We want students to take advantage of the collection of films here on campus and open their eyes to things they’ve missed,” Johnson said. “It takes one person to stand up and make a difference. Everyone else will follow.”

Juan Otero, a chemistry, chemical engineering and French senior, said the documentary was intended to push people to fight for the rights they deserve. 

“Using Miss Major as an example, the film motivates people to believe in themselves and always move forward,” Otero said. “A big part of the film was also about trying to place trans people in the center of the LGBT community because they were always there fighting.”