Legendary LGBTQ rights activists Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera – who took part in the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, kickstarted the Gay Rights movement, and later founded an organization that helped homeless gay youths – will be honored with a public monument in New York City. It will be the world’s first monument to transgender activists.
The monument will be in the West Village, not far from the Stonewall Inn. The New York Times notes that…
…. a monument already exists paying tribute to the Stonewall Uprising, in a park just across the street from the historic bar, but the four figures it depicts—two men and two women, all painted white—don’t even hint at the contributions of trans women or people of color like Johnson and Rivera, who were at the vanguard of the gay rights movement.
Speaking to the Times yesterday, New York City first lady Chirlane McCray said it was important for such a monument to have a “name and a face:”
In teaching people about the gay rights movement, she said, it is vital to include stories of activists like Ms. Johnson, who was black, and Ms. Rivera, who was Latina.
“The L.G.B.T.Q. movement was portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement,” Ms. McCray said. “This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.”
From The Root:
Johnson, in particular, has been lauded as the “Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” with her and Rivera’s work extending far beyond that summer night in 1969. The pair founded the world’s first trans-rights organization, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) a year later, which gave support (and for a short time, shelter) to poor young people who had been kicked out of their homes for their trans identities.
Al Michaels, Marsha’s nephew, told the Times that although he thought his aunt might scoff at the idea of a statue of herself, she would be ecstatic that New York had reached a point at which it would build a monument to a transgender woman. Michaels said his aunt would be proud that the city was “leading the world into the future.”
Johnson died in 1992 at age 46 and Rivera in 2002 at age 50. The AP notes that “The two close friends died before the term transgender was commonly used.” (Which is also why I used the term “gay rights” as opposed to “LGBTQ Rights” and other antiquated terms when referring to their lives and their work).
Oh! Oh! and be sure to be on the lookout at the end of June for the World of Wonder produced Stonewall: Out Loud featuring Adam Rippon, Isis King, Lance Bass, Michael Turchin, and Raja lip-syncing to original audio from Stonewall survivors! Available on YouTube… more information coming soon!