Honoring Marsha P. Johnson – Stonewall Riots Activist
Marsha was a drag queen, sex worker, and gay liberation activist. A leader of the Stonewall Riots. According to several eyewitnesses, Marsha was the one who “really started it”. She was “in the middle of the whole thing, screaming and yelling and throwing rocks and almost like Molly Pitcher in the Revolution or something”.
Marsha dedicated her life to activism, co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (later renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries). Johnson ensured that the young drag queens, trans women and other street kids on Christopher Street were fed and clothed. Marsha also housed them whenever she could. In the 1980s, she was an activist and one of the originators in ACT UP.
When asked what the “P” stood for, she would say “It stands for pay it no mind” and even provided this response when asked by a judge what it meant. He found it amusing and let her go. It was also intended to be a sarcastic response to the frequent question she was asked about her gender.
Along with Sylvia Rivera, Marsha founded STAR: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970 which was a transgender rights group and also had a shelter for homeless trans* teens and drag queens. The organization also fought for the inclusion of trans* people under the umbrella of gay rights.
Marsha was considered herself many things and commonly used terms in the NYC scene included drag queens, street queens, femme gay men and radical faeries in the interconnected subcultures of the era, Johnson’s friends often used “she/her” pronouns for Johnson The Andy Warhol piece actually was part of a series on famous drag queens.
She has been identified by RuPaul as the one who paved the way for drag queens and is often described as the true drag mother.