Remembering Marsha P. Johnson

As she continued her road of self discovery and became known for being an eccentric woman with unique hats, she eventually decided to settle on a new name. Marsha P. Johnson was born in the middle of disputes with police, with a career and a passion for being herself. Whenever anybody asked what the P. in her name meant or dared to question her sexuality, Marsha would contest with the phrase “Pay it no mind”. A phrase which would help determine herself and would become a major part of how people would remember her.

Here in the Green Party and across the Y.E.S caucus we strive to be allies for the LGBTQ+ community. We constantly find ways to help protect and fight for people of all genders and sexualities. There is even the lavender caucus, something that is special for the Green Party and is entirely dedicated to our LGBTQ+ members. I - Silas Lee - am an openly pansexual man myself and today I believed it would be a good idea to inform people of some of the most influential activists within our community that need to be learned about. For our first article, we will discuss the life and story of Marsha P. Johnson.

 

On August 24th, 1945 the fifth child of seven to come from Malcolm Michaels Sr. and Alberta Claiborne, Marsha P. Johnson was born as Malcolm Michaels Jr., a name and gender that did not fit her. Born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Marsha Johnson grew up as a black woman in a place foreign to most. As time continued, she was identified heavily by her sense of self and never fearing judgement from anyone who may not like her or who she was. After being enrolled in the Elizabeth Public School System and graduating from the Thomas A. Edison High School in 1963, Marsha enrolled in the U.S Navy.

 

After her brief period with the Navy, Ms. Johnson moved to New York to discover herself. More specifically, she went to Greenwich Village. After finding herself in some hard struggles, Marsha began a career in prostitution in order to survive. As a self made drag queen, Johnson was happy. She had found people similar to herself, and had found a passion in life - one that many people in the United States disagreed with.

 

As she continued her road of self discovery and became known for being an eccentric woman with unique hats, she eventually decided to settle on a new name. Marsha P. Johnson was born in the middle of disputes with police, with a career and a passion for being herself. Whenever anybody asked what the P. in her name meant or dared to question her sexuality, Marsha would contest with the phrase “Pay it no mind”. A phrase which would help determine herself and would become a major part of how people would remember her.

 

June 28th, 1969. The Stonewall Inn - a mainstay for the New York City LGBTQ+ community. Police arrested countless gay men, women, and others on questionable charges. After years upon years of oppression and suffering, the people within the Stonewall Inn had enough. As police were forcing people into handcuffs and putting them into cars, Marsha P. Johnson helped start a massive revolt against the system that showed her and her colleagues so much hate. From thereon-out, Marsha was seen as a liberator and a vanguard for the LGBTQ+ liberation movement.

 

In 1970, Marsha helped open S.T.A.R: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. S.T.A.R was an organization that helped to aid transgender youth struggling with homelessness. Often, said homelessness was caused by family rejections and being thrown out. Marsha and co-founder Sylvia Riveira ensured these young people were assisted in getting shelter and providing other services. S.T.A.R was all around the U.S. Across cities like New York City, Chicago, the state of California as well as in England S.T.A.R was making a difference and helping people who needed it most. Sadly, the organization is currently disbanded.

 

July 6th, 1992, the body of Marsha P. Johnson was found in the Hudson River. Police questionably ruled her death a suicide, despite the friends of Marsha claiming she wasn’t suicidal. Marsha did struggle with mental illness, as well as always putting other people far beyond her, but friends of her claim she wouldn’t have done it. After a quarter century, Victoria Cruz reopened the case.

 

For the flaws Marsha may have had, she will be remembered as a revolutionary. She will be remembered as a symbol of hope- a symbol of power. She will be remembered as a caring, loving woman who wanted to change the world for the better. A bisexual transgender sex worker who helped start a revolution against an oppressive state. A revolution that is still felt to this day, and still continuing to this day.

 

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.” - Marsha P. Johnson

 

Sources:

 

https://ucnj.org/mpj/about-marsha-p-johnson/

 

https://marshap.org/about-mpji/

 

https://www.glsen.org/activity/glsen-lgbtq-history-cards-marsha-p-johnson

 

https://www.biography.com/activist/marsha-p-johnson

 

https://www.outhistory.org/exhibits/show/tgi-bios/marsha-p-johnson%20


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