Queer Icon: Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

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By Kyle Parker

Marsha P. Johnson
(1945-1992)

Seated amongst the angels is Ms. Marsha P. Johnson, Holy Mother of the queer liberation movement.

The Stonewall Inn was a bar that served members of the LGBTQ community at a time when it was illegal to do so. In June 1969, harassed by police, Johnson, a trans sex worker and drag queen, threw a shot glass and resisted arrest, sparking the start of The Stonewall Riots. With her drag siblings and fellow queer bar goers, Johnson helped lead the riots that lasted two intense nights. In the week following, demonstrations for gay liberation sprouted up all over New York City. Today, we remember this by celebrating Pride during the month of June.

Johnson, along with fellow Stonewall Riot leader Sylvia Rivera, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries *) which helped to house and take care of trans and gender non-conforming youth and sex workers of lower Manhattan. Johnson also performed as a drag queen and became a fixture in the 1970s art world, even being photographed by the famed Andy Warhol in his Polaroid series "Ladies and Gentlemen". In the 1980s, Johnson became involved in the AIDS activist group, ACT UP. She did this until her untimely death in 1992. When her body was found in the Hudson River, police ruled it a suicide. However, those who knew her thought otherwise. In 2012, her case was reopened and looked into as a homicide.

Marsha P. Johnson glows in the clouds, shining like a deity. Setting her in a heaven-like atmosphere further instills that not only is god a woman, but god is trans woman. May her holiness and memory shine over us forever.

* The term "transvestite" was used in place of “transgender” at the time. Terminology as well as understanding of language have changed, but for the sake of continuity and reporting the facts, transvestite is used in the "STAR" definition.