She was one of the icons of the gay rights movement in the 1960s, the self-described "street queen" of NY's gay ghetto, and founded the Transvestites Action Revolutionaries with fellow luminary Sylvia Rivera.
When Johnson's body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, police called it a suicide and didn't investigate. In David France's new documentary, trans activist Victoria Cruz seeks to uncover the truth of her death while celebrating her legacy.
Johnson was a key figure in the disturbances that followed a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar on Christopher Street, early in the morning of June 28, 1969. Many legends have grown around the event — often characterized as a riot, but more recently described as a rebellion or uprising — but the evidence suggests that Johnson was among the “vanguard” of those who resisted the police, according to David Carter, the author of “Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution.” She was 23 at the time.
Stonewall helped to galvanize a more assertive, even militant, gay-rights movement. It prompted the first gay pride parades in 1970. The same year, Johnson joined Rivera in founding Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, to advocate for young transgender people — and, for a time, house, clothe and feed them, from a tenement at 213 East Second Street. STAR grew out of the Gay Liberation Front, which advocated for sexual liberation and pushed to align gay rights with other social movements.
Her goal, she declared in an interview for a 1972 book, was “to see gay people liberated and free and to have equal rights that other people have in America,” with her “gay brothers and sisters out of jail and on the streets again.”
We suggest watching the whole movie "The Death and Life of MarshaP. Johnson" on Netflix to learn more about this tragedy.
Watch a preview below:
For more read, "Marsha P. Johnson: A transgender pioneer and activist who was a fixture of Greenwich Village street life" written by SEWELL CHAN and is part of the remarkable NYT's "Overlooked: Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now, we’re adding the stories of other remarkable people" series.