Through the month of October, Pride Soc will be using this account to highlight some queer, Black women who may have been sidelined or overlooked by history.
Marsha P Johnson (1945 – 1992) was one of the most prominent figures of the gay rights movements in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today, we might call her a trans woman or transgender, as she was assigned male at birth but chose to go by she/her pronouns and wear women’s clothing, however the term “transgender” only became commonly used after her death; Johnson described herself as a gay person, a transvestite, and a drag queen. She did not adopt the name Marsha P. Johnson until after graduating high school and moving to New York with “one bag of clothes and $15.”
It was difficult for those on the margins of society to find employment anywhere in America at this time and New York was not an exception forcing Johnson to turn to sex work to support herself. She was often abused by clients and arrested by the police. She also did not have a permanent home during this time, and bounced around sleeping at friends’ homes, hotels, restaurants, and movie theatres. She also found work waiting tables and performing in drag shows.
She is most well known for her involvement in the Stonewall Riots of 1969 – in the early hours of the morning, police raided the Stonewall Inn and began arresting the patrons. In a later interview, Johnson said that she arrived after the raid and riots had already begun, and there are many competing stories about what Johnson did during the raid. What is not questioned, however, is the fact that she was on the front lines, against the police.
In many cases, we owe the rights we have today to Marsha and the other transgender women who fought at Stonewall and set up houses or hostels for those who had left their homes for one reason or another.
Thank you to the Pride Socieity and Kit Lashmar for suppliing the profiels. Head over to their Instagram to see more profiles being published through out October.