Marsha P. Johnson was an important and notable figure in the fight for trans rights through the second half of the 20th century. She was an outspoken activist in the New York City trans community, fighting for inclusion of trans folks in social and legal institutions, including within gay activist movements of the time.
Johnson co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R), an organization dedicated to advocating and caring for homeless drag queens and trans youth. She worked to support this community with food and a place to sleep at STAR House, known for her care and compassion as a “mother” for shelter residents.
Johnson is also well known for her role in the 1969 Stonewall riots, fighting against a police raid of the “Stonewall Inn,” one of the few bars where gay, lesbian and transgender New Yorkers were welcome. This incident is largely seen as a key tipping point in the larger movement for gay liberation and even in modern-day gay rights.
She was a force to be reckoned with in the campaign for gay and lesbian rights. Johnson even said the “P” in her name stood for “Pay it no mind!” Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, after a Pride March and nearby harassment incident. While never proven, her death is believed by friends and family to be the result of a hate crime.
You can watch the excellent documentary “Pay It No Mind: the Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson” here.