Highlighting Marsha P. Johnson

Morgan Jeremy, Reporter

Marsha P. Johnson was a woman who wore many hats for her community. As a black transwoman during a time when homosexuality was still considered to be a “mental illness,” Marsha P. Johnson refused to hide in the shadows. She was an inspiring LGBTQ rights activist, prominent New York City drag queen, and a key figure in the 1969 Stonewall Riots whose legacy deserves to be honored.

Marsha P. Johnson was born in 1945 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She had a difficult childhood due to her Christian upbringing but later found acceptance among the drag artists and fellow members of the LGBT community in Greenwich Village, New York City. 

Though she struggled greatly to live on her own and faced homelessness, Marsha P. Johnson never lost her sense of style. She designed all of her own costumes using thrifted materials or whatever she could find and these were always paired with an outlandish hat and bold jewelry. 

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen,” said Johnson. “That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.”

On June 28, 1969, during the police raid of the popular LGBT hotspot the Stonewall Inn, Marsha P. Johnson is remembered for shouting “I got my civil rights!” before throwing the “shot glass heard around the world” marking the beginning of the Stonewall riot and the march on Christopher’s St. 

In addition to her contributions at Stonewall, Marsha P. Johnson along with her friend and trans activist Sylvia Rivera founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organization dedicated to helping house homeless transgender youth. 

Sadly, in 1992 shortly after participating in a pride march, Marsha P. Johnson went missing and her body was later found in the Hudson River. Though police originally ruled the case as a suicide, the case was reopened in 2012 and the cause of death was changed from suicide to undetermined. 

Today we still remember Marsha P. Johnson, especially around Pride month, for the tremendous contributions she made for the LGBT+ community. According to PinkNews, plans are currently underway for the construction of Marsha P. Johnson State Park on Brooklyn’s East River to further honor her life and legacy.


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