MARSHA “PAY IT NO MIND” JOHNSON is one of the great heroes of LGBTQ history, and making her birthday, August 24, a day that many of us in the LGBTQ community believe should be a recognized holiday. The day would not only commemorate Johnson, but give us the opportunity to reflect on our history, community, and shared values that would truly honor her legacy.
Andy Warhol immortalized her. RuPaul called her “the true Drag Mother who paved the way for all of us.”
New Yorkers referred to her as the Queen of Christopher Street for decades. She was one of the first Stonewall patrons to resist during the Stonewall uprisings in 1969. She always wore flowers in her hair, and she always had a smile for everyone.
According to a USA Today story timed around #Stonewall50, “Marsha P. Johnson was not well known during her life. But in death, her legacy is stamped indelibly onto the rainbow pride flag.”
The transgender activist was among a group of blacks who in the 1960s stood on the front lines of the LGBT liberation movement and is now receiving overdue credit for her trailblazing role.
Johnson, who founded one of the first organizations to protect transgender youth, was an outspoken figure in New York’s Greenwich Village.
“For so long, the role that people like Marsha played was dismissed,” says Marisa Richmond, a trans scholar who teaches history at Middle Tennessee State University. “The world is more open, welcoming and inclusive than it was 50 years ago. Her efforts helped make that happen.”
In the spirit of Marsha’s legacy, the GHOST Project provides both support and empowerment to members of the transgender community who are struggling to overcome and survive in a world that does not celebrate us. We learned how to care for community from Marsha, who made this road we walk on every day.