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
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  • Jae R.
    06/29/2019 10:14

    Yikes with the dead names right off the bat 😬

  • Brut
    07/01/2019 14:14

    Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson’s fight to free incarcerated trans women of color is far from over:

  • Allen J.
    07/01/2019 16:00

    I don't need to know any of this.Ttell your maker what he needs to know and see how that fairs for

  • Mug A.
    07/03/2019 20:30


  • Joyce W.
    07/08/2019 14:09


  • Lola L.
    07/08/2019 22:18

    Jo your legendary real life heroes stories ehe 😁 I thought I'd share with you guys 😊 ❤🧡💛💚💙💜

  • Gayla T.
    07/09/2019 13:20

    Yet they remove statues related to historical events! Really?

  • Santa C.
    07/10/2019 00:16

    I seen a documentary on their lives

  • Erendira R.
    07/10/2019 08:59

    Los dos enfermos mentales que acabaron con la poca moral y familias bien formadas, no soy omofobica para que no frieguen con eso , tu vida sexual dentro de tu hogar y debajo de la cintura es tu vida no la Mia ni la de mis hijos, porque quieren imponer algo que es solo su deceo y no el de todos , son una plaga que terminara por extinguir a la familia tradicional de donde venimos todos , solo espero que al parar de reproducirnos ya no salgan mas drag queens en el mundo

  • Debbie P.
    07/10/2019 16:48

    Just live the life you want and shut up.

  • J.J. P.
    07/11/2019 21:37

    So remove statues of war vets to put up statues of mentally disturbed miscreants trouble makers trying to destroy our society .. honk fn honk welcome to clown world .

  • Cynthia K.
    07/13/2019 00:37

    Trying to get revelation going no where just let God.🗣🙏🏾

  • Amanda R.
    07/13/2019 03:41

    “child sex worker”? That is not a thing.

  • Jose O.
    07/13/2019 15:07

    I say for them gay or straight live free cause life will soon be over so give god his love cause for him im here thank u father for giving me life AMEN

  • Sandra J.
    07/15/2019 14:50


  • Allen J.
    07/17/2019 02:44

    I don't need to know anything about this.

  • Christine G.
    07/17/2019 03:10

    Live and let live

  • Erika V.
    07/18/2019 16:13

    I dont understand using their dead names throughout the video-- seems to counter the point of the video

  • LeKenya R.
    07/21/2019 00:30

    I'm glad they opened her case back up.

  • Marchetta H.
    07/21/2019 01:07

    So glad for them