Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson: 1945-1992

Marsha P. Johnson, along with Sylvia Rivera and other transgender and gender non-conforming people of color, has been credited with starting the infamous Stonewall Uprising of 1969. When police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City, in June of that year — as they had many times before — Johnson and others who were there that night decided they’d had enough and fought back. The ensuing protest lasted six days and is considered the start of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. The first Pride parade was held in June of the following year to commemorate the uprising.

After Stonewall, Johnson continued her activist work and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) House with Rivera. The two women, who were both sex workers and homeless for much of their lives, saw that the needs of gender non-conforming and homeless youth weren’t being met by gay rights groups of the day and started STAR House in response. It was the first LGBTQ+ youth shelter in the U.S. and the first organization led by trans women of color.

In the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, Johnson became caregiver to friend and fellow activist Randy Wicker’s lover. Her connection to the community led Johnson to attend early meetings of AIDS advocacy group ACT UP. She was an outspoken activist for people with AIDS, transgender people, and homeless youth until her death in 1992.

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