Frances Thompson (1840 – ~1877)
Black and trans and so goddamn proud of it
In her words: “I am woman.”
In others’ words: All direct documentation for Frances Thompson was destroyed
Bio: Frances Thompson was a freedwoman, an anti-rape activist, and most likely the first trans woman to testify before a congressional committee in the United States. Thompson was born in Alabama, but seemed to have a spent great deal of time in Memphis, Tennessee. Thompson walked with crutches due to health problems with her legs. It is unknown if this was a condition she had since birth or if it was caused by the years of abuse she endured due to her status in life.
In 1866, when the riots in Memphis broke out, white men (including police officers), busted into the home she shared with her friend Lucy Smith. They beat, raped, and robbed the two women. Smith and Thompson testified about this night to a congressional committee, along with three other African American women.
Ten years later, Thompson was arrested for an unknown reason and outed as being trans in the local newspaper. She was sentenced to the chain gang, where she was forced to dress in men’s clothing and was subjected to continued abuse. She had been living fully as woman for the past 27 years. Her allegations presented to the congressional committee were then discredited.
Shortly after her release from the chain gang, she fell ill and died. We do not know exactly when she died, but can surmise that it was around 1876-1877.
NOTE: Information about Frances Thompson is very limited and hard to come by because the state of Alabama destroyed the records on her life.