Celebrating Women – Martha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson, a warrior for transgender women

During Women’s History Month, we celebrate Marsha P. Johnson, an American gay rights activist and outspoken woman who fights for rights of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Johnson was born on August 24, 1945 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Johnson was one out of 7 siblings. Her parents are Malcolm Michaels Sr. and Alberta Claiborne.

She and her friend, Sylvia Rivera, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), one of the world’s first transgender rights organizations in 1970. 

Throughout her discovery phase, she was referred to as Black Marsha before settling on Marsha P. Johnson. The “P” stands for “ Pay It No Mind.”

Johnson moved to New York’s Greenwich Village to discover herself. As a transient, she turned to prostitution to survive. She eventually found her happiness as a self-made drag queen on Christopher Street, where she was infamous for her unique beautiful designs and custom creations.

Marsha P. Johnson enjoyed expressing herself through her appearance. 

Johnson spent most of her life without living in a permanent home. She usually slept in hotels, restaurants and movie theaters. 

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world,” she once said.

The Stonewall Uprising was an awakening for an entire generation of LGBTQ activists. Johnson attended several rallies, sit-ins and meetings of the new Gay Libertation Front, which formed as a result of the uprising. 

The work was exciting for Johnson; however, she was frustrated how white gay men and lesbians dominated the conversation. 

She questioned where transgender people fit in. Trans People were more likely to be homeless and targeted by police. The movement didn’t appreciate the extent to which transgender youth needed help and support. 

Her forthright nature and enduring strength led her to speak out against this injustice. 

Marsha P. Johnson has been recognized as a vanguard of the gay liberation movement in the United States. 

On July 6, 1992, Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River near the Christopher Street Docks. Her death was confused as an suicide but later changed to “ undetermined,“ which  reopened up her case.

In 2012, authorities reopened up the investigation to her death, which still remains unsolved. However, members of the LGTBQ+ community continue to investigate her death. 

The Marsha P. Johnson Institution was created to give black trans women an opportunity to not only survive but flourish!

Google.org is donating $500,000 to the Marsha P. Johnson Institution, which works to end violence against Black Trans women across the United States by creating a world where they’re safe, valued and treated with human dignity. This donation is a testament to her enduring legacy.