Google has unveiled a new logo illustration (“Google Doodle”) for Marsha P. Johnson, the pioneering LGBTQ rights activist and self-identified drag queen who was a pivotal figure in the original Gay Liberation Front and the Stonewall Riots.
Born Malcolm Michaels, Jr., on August 24th, 1945, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Johnson moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village upon graduating from high school, where she adopted her drag queen persona and legally changed her name to Marsha P. Johnson. (The “P.” stood for “pay it no mind,” a phrase she allegedly used to describe her gender.)
A beloved figure in the Sixties New York Village scene, Johnson modeled for Andy Warhol and performed onstage with the drag troupe Hot Peaches, but she was best known as a prominent early figure in the gay rights movement.
In addition to joining the Gay Liberation Front, she co-founded the radical activist group Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) with her friend Sylvia Rivera; it was the first such organization in the U.S. to be led by a trans woman of color, and Johnson and Rivera went on to open STAR House, the first homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth, in 1972. Johnson is also said to be one of three individuals — along with Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona — who incited pushback against police who raided the Stonewall Inn on the night of June 28th, 1969, leading to the landmark Stonewall Riots.
Throughout the Eighties and early Nineties, Johnson continued to take on a leadership role in the community by participating as an organizer and marshal for ACT UP, the grassroots group working to end the AIDS pandemic. Shortly after the 1992 New York Pride Parade, Johnson’s body was discovered floating in the Hudson River. Although police initially ruled the death to be a suicide, there have been several attempts over the past decade — by former New York state senator Tom Duane and activist Mariah Lopez, among others — to reopen the case and investigate whether or not Johnson was the victim of a hate crime.
Last year, the city of New York announced plans to erect statues of Johnson and Rivera at Ruth Wittenberg Triangle in Greenwich Village, down the street from the Stonewall Inn. According to city officials, it will be one of the first monuments made in honor of transgender individuals once completed.
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