Marsha P Johnson was a trans activist, performer, and popular figure on the New York City gay scene from the 1960s to the 1990s.
She was on the front line of the Stonewall Riots in 1969. She was the “mother” of S.T.A.R. (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) house with Sylvia Rivera, getting together food and clothing to help support the young drag queens and trans women living in the house on the Lower East Side of New York. It has been noted that Johnson and Rivera often worked the streets so that the younger drag queens and trans women they cared for didn’t have to.
Johnson, when asked by a judge what the ‘P’ in her name stood for, famously remarked what later became her trademark - “Pay it no mind.”
She was photographed by Andy Warhol, as part of the “Ladies and Gentlemen” series of polaroids featuring drag queens. (See photo above).
"I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world."
Marsha died in 1992. Her body was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers shortly after the 1992 Pride March. The police ruled her death was suicide, despite reports of her being harassed in the area before her death. Friends of Marsha insisted she was not suicidal. In November 2012, New York police reopened the case.
The band ‘Antony and the Johnsons’ were named in tribute to Marsha.
Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.
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