You Can’t Have Pride Without Marsha P. Johnson

Ishmael Bishop
Jun 3, 2018 · 6 min read
Image for post
Image for post
From left to right, Marsha P. Johnson, her boyfriend, Joseph Ratanski, and Sylvia Rivera in 1973 (Image: Gary LeGault / Wikipedia Commons)

Since its origin in the late 1960s, Pride has referenced a coalition of grassroots organizers, community members, activists, performers, sex workers, and gender and sexual subversives who come together to celebrate the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community. Marsha P. Johnson was an architect to some of the earliest iterations of Pride and because of her resilience in the face of bigotry and discrimination, Pride lives to this day.

While Pride proclaims itself to be many things to many people — including the harbinger of inclusion and civil rights in this country — Pride continues to provoke contradictions within those who have historically remained on the margins.


Image for post
Image for post
Marsha P. Johnson in the documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.” (Netflix)

“It is more important now more than ever for trans and gender nonconforming people to be the architects of our own narratives. While trans visibility is at an all-time high, with trans people increasingly represented in popular culture, violence against us has also never been higher. The push for visibility without it being tied to a demand for our basic needs being met often leaves us without material resources or tangible support, and exposed to more violence and isolation.”

As Pride draws near, it is crucial that we learn and understand our history through the eyes of those who have struggled through it.

Johnson’s work toward liberation is well documented.

Image for post
Image for post
Photo: Leonard Fink, courtesy LGBT Community Center National History Archive.

Marsha P. Johnson’s engagement in the earliest iterations of Pride, and yet her struggle to sustain housing and mental health care, astutely demonstrates the contradiction inherent to participating in a movement that is ignorant of your humanity.

“So much of what Marsha had to deal with remains a reality for many of us. Marsha’s history has helped me make plain the connections between the historical erasure of trans women of color from the LGBT movement, and contemporary forms of anti-black transphobic violence happening today.”

Image for post
Image for post
#NoJusticeNoPride (Photo: #ByCHuBBz)

Pride is a time to appreciate how far we have come as a community out of a place of abject cruelty and adversity to where we are now.

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

Th-Ink Queerly

Think Queerly offers insight towards a balanced humanity.

Ishmael Bishop

Written by

Race, gender, sexuality, network science, and security writer. Contact me at ishmaelgb@gmail.com.

Th-Ink Queerly

Th-Ink Queerly is now closed. The publication was created to question and challenge the status quo through queer eyes and advocate for LGBTQ social issues.

Ishmael Bishop

Written by

Race, gender, sexuality, network science, and security writer. Contact me at ishmaelgb@gmail.com.

Th-Ink Queerly

Th-Ink Queerly is now closed. The publication was created to question and challenge the status quo through queer eyes and advocate for LGBTQ social issues.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store