New York City is a very diverse and accepting space, and the transgender community as a whole is becoming more widely accepted not only in the United States but across the world. However, both NYC and the transgender community would not be what they are today without Marsha P. Johnson.
Marsha P. Johnson was born in1945 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. She was assigned male at birth and identified as a transgender woman. For as long as she could remember, she loved admiring and dressing in feminine clothes and accessories. She had repressed her identity in high school out of confusion and safety but then moved to the “Big Apple” with nothing more than $15 and a bag of clothes as soon as she graduated. It was hard for her to find work, but she made do with drag shows, sex work, and waitressing. On June 28th of 1969, the NYPD raided the stonewall inn, a popular gay bar. They were arresting people for cross- dressing and dancing with the same sex, but Marsha was there on the front lines, protesting the raid. Although there are a few varying recollections of the story, we know that Marsha was doing what she could to protect herself and her community. She was throwing shot glasses at mirrors, dropping heavy objects on police car windows, and was immensely vocal about the discrimination her community faced. The stonewall riots were one of the most influential events for the trans community, and as the face of it, Marsha was a crucial steppingstone in making New York City, and the world, a safer space for trans people.
I’ve always wanted to move to NYC after college, even though it’s seemed like an unachievable dream. Marsha moving there with almost no money, and still becoming an incredibly significant historical figure gives me so much hope for my journey. She had shown me the imperative skill of making do with what you have without sacrificing who you really are. When I move to NYC, I know that I will have a more accepting experience because of her. Not only that, but she has set the stage for transgender activism. When she attended LGBTQ+ meetings, she expressed that the conversations were led by gay white cis-gendered people and that people of color and trans people were both underrepresented and silenced. I’ve been a BLM and LGBTQ+ activist for a few years now, but Marsha’s story gave me the courage and ambition to lead my own protests in my school and region and to make sure conversations are diverse. Even in being assaulted both physically and verbally during protests for LGBTQ+ rights, I’ve kept fighting; Marsha has helped me become more comfortable in my own identity and has given me a voice to stand up for myself and my community. Thank you.