Thursday, June 29, 2023

Gay History: Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992), who would cheekily tell people the "P" stood for "pay it no mind", was an outspoken transgender rights activist and is reported to be one of the central figures of the historic Stonewall uprising of 1969. Following the Stonewall uprising, Johnson joined the Gay Liberation Front and was active in the GLF Drag Queen Caucus. On the first anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion, on June 28, 1970, Johnson marched in the first Gay Pride rally, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day. One of Johnson's most notable direct actions occurred in August 1970, staging a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall at New York University alongside fellow GLF members after administrators canceled a dance when they found out that it was sponsored by gay organizations. 

During a gay rights rally at New York City Hall in the early '70s, photographed by Diana Davies, a reporter asked Johnson why the group was demonstrating, Johnson shouted into the microphone, "Darling, I want my gay rights now!"

Along with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera, Johnson helped form Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a radical political organization that provided housing and other forms of support to homeless queer youth and sex workers in Manhattan. The two of them became a visible presence at gay liberation marches and other radical political actions. She was also a popular figure in New York City's gay and art scene, modeling for Andy Warhol, and performing onstage with the drag performance troupe Hot Peaches from 1972 through the ‘90s. Johnson was also an AIDS activist with AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP).

Johnson's body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992. Initially and quickly ruled a suicide by the NYPD, controversy and protest followed, eventually leading to a re-opening of the case as a possible homicide.

( ~ Wikipedia)

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