#FeministFriday post 5 – Marsha P. Johnson

In honour of LGBT+ History Month, this instalment of #FeministFriday is about African-American, Trans woman, drag queen, sex worker, and activist in the LGBT+ liberation movement, Marsha P. Johnson.

CN; mentions of violence, death, & possible murder.

Johnson has been identified as one of the first to fight back in the clashes with the police in the Stonewall Riots in June, 1969. She was seen during the riots to have climbed a lamppost, and dropped a heavy bag onto the hood of a police car, shattering the windshield.

In the early 1970s, Johnson and close friend Sylvia Riveria co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR. (They were later renamed the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries.) Johnson was a mother of STAR House, responsible for sourcing food and clothing to help support young drag queens, Trans women, and other street kids living in New York City. They were a visible presence at LGBT+ Liberation Marches and other direct actions.

In the 1980s Johnson continued her activism as an organizer and marshall with ACT UP, an organisation founded to fight the AIDS crisis.

Once while at a court hearing, a judge asked Johnson, “What does the ‘P’ stand for?” she gave the response “Pay it No Mind.” This then became something of a catch phrase of hers.

In July 1992, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River shortly after the Pride March in New York. Police ruled the death a suicide. Johnson’s friends and supporters said she was not suicidal, and a people’s postering campaign later declared that Johnson had earlier been harassed near the spot where her body was found. Initial attempts to get the police to investigate the cause of death were unsuccessful. However, after much lobbying by activists the New York police department re-opened the case in November 2012 as a possible homicide. No one has as yet been brought to justice.

“No Pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

#FeministFriday is a part of EHSU’s Women in Leadership campaign. On the last Friday of each month EHSU Women’s Officer, Rosie McKenna, writes a spotlight blog on an inspirational woman. If you have any suggestions for women you would like to see featured, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.