BHM: Historical figure - Marsha P Johnson

October 11, 2019

Written by Louise.

All views are Louise’s.


Marsha P Johnson was a drag queen, who lead the famous Stonewall Riots outside The Stonewall Inn in New York from 28th June to 1st July 1969. I have picked Marsha because only did Marsha fight against racism daily, but by taking part in the riots also fought against homophobia and for the LGBT+ community. This year was the 50th anniversary of these riots and in 2015, a film was made about them.

This film is rightly controversial in the LGBT+ community as it includes whitewashing (the removal of people of colour, especially black people, in films and tv shows). In 1969, the Inn had an illegal liquor license which the police became aware of and stormed the bar. The LGBT+ community in the Inn was in danger of being arrested for being gay, a crossdresser or a drag queen as at this time it was still illegal. Aggression and persecution by the police ensued while arrests were being made and that morning, the people of Stonewall Inn decided to fight back. This is when Sylvia Rivera (a Latin-American drag queen) and possibly Marsha P Johnson through an item (debated to be a brick, stone or bottle) at the police, starting the Stonewall Riots. It is unsure if Marsha P Johnson was present at the item throwing as she stated in a 1987 interview, that she did not arrive until later.

Even if this is true, she went on to lead the riots with Sylvia across these four days. Marsha had her fair share of difficulties; living with mental health problems and HIV and AIDS. Marsha’s gender identity has been discussed since the riots as the term transgender was not used then and sadly, she cannot shed light on it herself anymore.

Today marks National Coming out day and I feel if Marsha was around today, she would be out, loud and proud about how far we as a LGBT+ community have come, but still fighting against racism, homophobia, transphobia and for acceptance across the globe. It is important to include the LGBT+ community when taking part in Black History Month because racism is still rife in the community and needs to be tackled.

This racism is predominately portrayed by white people, like me. Furthermore, HIV/AIDS has shown to be more common in black people-both women and gay/bi men. Therefore, the inclusion of the LGBT+ community in Black History Month helps shed light on both these issues.