Born in 1945 in New Jersey, Marsha P. Johnson was an African-American activist dedicated to gay liberation and creating a safe space for black and Latino LGBTQ+ youth in New York.
Marsha felt an affinity for wearing feminine clothing from a young age before bullying from neighbouring boys led her to suppress her self-expression until later years.
Some information about what Marsha P. Johnson achieved
Marsha arrived in New York in 1963 with a bag of clothes and $15 to her name. Her poverty and marginalisation did not define her though. She became a drag artist and was known as a vibrant and positive light on the Greenwich Village scene for three decades and a muse to Andy Warhol, appearing in his project Ladies and Gentlemen. Marsha worked with homeless young people ostracised by their families because of their sexuality and went on to found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group to support young transgender people. Johnson was also a tireless advocate for AIDS patients and was herself diagnosed with HIV in 1990.
Marsha’s death in 1992 was ruled a suicide by the NYP police and went widely unreported by the press. However, in recent years Marsha has been celebrated as one of the key figures involved in the uprising that took place at the Stonewall Inn, New York from 28 June to 3 July 1969. Frustrated by ongoing police brutality, the Stonewall riots were a pivotal moment for the LGBT+ community and continue to be so today on a global scale.
Why I find Marsha P. Johnson inspirational
Speaking in a 1972 interview, Marsha said she wanted ‘to see gay people liberated and free and to have equal rights that other people have in America’. She may not have been able to see that ambition achieved in her lifetime, but she set the stage for future generations to fight on in her wake.