Marsha P. Johnson

By: Elizabeth Patrick

I am excited and proud to introduce you to Marsha P. Johnson. Marsha was born on August 24, 1945, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Marsha was an African American transgender woman and revolutionary LGBTQ rights activist.

One of the main events that Marsha was known for was that she was credited for being an instigator in the Stonewall riots. Growing up as a child, Marsha dealt with many challenges due to her Christain upbringing.

After graduating high school, Marsha moved to Greenwich Village in New York City. While she was in New York, she was homeless and prostituted herself to make ends meet. Throughout her struggles, she found joy as a drag queen amidst the nightlife of Christopher Street.

In order to save money, Marsha made most of her costumes herself. She quickly found success and was an influential and inspirational person in the LGBTQ community, where she served as a “drag mother” She helped the homeless and struggling LGBTQ youth and toured the world as a successful drag queen with the Hot Peaches. She was known for her outlandish hats and glamorous jewelry. She was also very fearless and bold.

Despite her difficulties with mental illness and numerous police encounters, whenever she was asked what the “P” in her name stood for and when people pried about her gender or sexuality, she answered back with “pay it no mind”. Sadly on July 6, 1992 at the age of 46, Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers.

The police ruled that she had committed suicide despite claims from her friends and other members of the local community that she was not suicidual. However, twenty-five years later, Victoria Cruz, a crime victim advocate of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, reopened the case.

Johnson’s story is featured in Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson (2012) and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, and Happy Birthday Marsha (2017).

In 2015, the Marsha P. Johnson Institution was established. Its mission is to defend and protect the human rights of transgender and gender non-conforming communities.

To finalize, Marsha is honored as a Stonewall instigator, a drag queen, an Andy Warhol model, an actress, and a revolutionary trans activist.

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