The Lives of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be immortalized in a monument down the street from the Stonewall Inn for their work as transgender activists. Here's what you need to know about them. Special thanks to Making Gay History - The Podcast.

Honoring Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson was born Malcolm Michaels Jr. in 1945 in New Jersey. In 1963, she moved to New York City with “$15 and a bag of clothes.” Ray Rivera, who would later take the name Sylvia, was born in 1951 in the Bronx, NY. She began living on her own at 10 as a child sex worker. Rivera and Johnson met on Halloween night in 1963. Both drag performers, they faced consistent harassment — particularly from the police.

On June 28, 1969, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn — a gay bar in Greenwich Village igniting six days of protests. Many legends have grown around the event. There's been a persistent myth that Marsha P. Johnson threw the first shot glass, which she herself said didn't happen. She said herself in an interview with Eric Marcus that she didn't arrive at the Stonewall Inn that night until 2:00 a.m. By then things were already in full effect. The Stonewall riots became heralded as a turning point of the LGBTQIA movement. In 1970, Johnson joined Rivera in founding Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), to advocate for young transgender people. STAR did a lot of street action, and they also ended up having several apartments, that they would use to house, they called them transvestites at the time.

Rivera became involved with the Gay Liberation Front. But as she says as she was pushing back against the white LGBTQIA establishment to fight for rights for all, the organizations pushed the two activists out. Rivera, who attempted suicide after giving that speech, left activism, and New York, in 1973. In the mid-1970s, Johnson became a muse to Andy Warhol. In the 1980s, she joined the AIDS action group ACT UP. On July 6, 1992 her body was pulled from the Hudson River.

Her death was quickly ruled a suicide, then revised to an unexplained drowning. Many close to her think she was murdered. Her case was reopened in 2012 and remains open. After Johnson’s death, Rivera struggled with addictions. But, by 2001, she was sober, and marching in pride parades. In 2002, she died of liver cancer. On May 2019, the City of New York announced plans to build a statue honoring the lives of Johnson and Rivera.


06/28/2019 10:35 PMupdated: 07/01/2019 12:53 PM


  • Rayna V.
    06/28/2020 11:22

    Makes me sad 😢

  • Frederic C.
    06/28/2020 01:45

    NOT to have LIVED is the worse sin! ?️🤔👍💐

  • Nevin S.
    06/28/2020 00:35

    the agenda is to confuse the strong emotion of friendship with sexuality in the kiddies - a truly sick and perverse agenda

  • Sherry P.
    06/27/2020 20:07

    I appreciate your story 💝

  • Jennifer C.
    06/27/2020 17:25

    I recently watched an interesting documentary on Marsha. Sylvia was prominent in the show.

  • AK D.
    06/27/2020 16:27

    I don't care...Gods word states that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God...Now that is a beautiful thing...💯 STRAIGHT PRIDE...

  • Davon R.
    06/27/2020 16:10

    People will do anything to be happy. We all gotta end the bloodbath regardless of political affiliation.

  • Connie H.
    07/31/2019 01:32

    I'm pretty offended already! There should be no statues!!

  • Pat M.
    07/30/2019 17:12

    Wonderful history

  • Howie J.
    07/30/2019 03:29

    That is the hardest I've laughed in a long time that's so funny got to be a joke right

  • Yahko Y.
    07/29/2019 03:12

    I don't understand in the 1960s this was declared a mental illness but today its socially accepted, whoever is complicit is mentally ill

  • Jeremiah I.
    07/28/2019 02:13

    Throw all abomination in the lake of fire

  • Louie M.
    07/27/2019 23:05

    What turned these whatever's around. A learned trait from their family atmosphere. They weren't born this way, there's no such thing as a Gay gene, you were taught this buy your parents or people you hung out with.

  • Tony D.
    07/27/2019 19:45

    Abomination end of story

  • Prauve M.
    07/27/2019 06:22

    An abomination.

  • Uloma P.
    07/25/2019 23:46


  • Clotine A.
    07/24/2019 10:45

    So she was kick out of the LGBT for being black?

  • Carl R.
    07/23/2019 23:25

    We know everything there is to know about them they are psychologically unstable

  • Janet S.
    07/23/2019 17:30

    Innovative force. In the future.

  • C S.
    07/23/2019 11:49

    Loved this time... We supported each other..

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