In the spirit of Pride Month, we commemorate the journey of the LGBTQ+ community,
highlighting the significant contributions of Black queer and trans people whose resilience and activism have shaped the movement. As Pride Month comes to an end, it is important to remember the history, which started with the Stonewall Uprisings, a series of protests by members of the LGBTQ+ community in response to a police raid that began in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, New York.
One year later on June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in Chicago,
Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. The Stonewall Uprising sparked a wave of activism and transformed the LGBTQ+ rights movement forever.
One remarkable figure emerging from the uprising was Marsha P. Johnson, an African
American transgender woman, drag performer, and activist. Johnson’s courage and unyielding determination played an instrumental role in igniting change. Her activism extended beyond the Stonewall Uprising as she was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.), providing shelter and support to homeless LGBTQ youth alongside Sylvia Rivera. Despite their activism, Johnson and Rivera were ejected from the gay rights movement in 1973 by the white, male, and cisgender leadership who perceived their marginalized identities as a hindrance to achieving mainstream acceptance.
While Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson was known for her compassionate activism and radiant personality, she actively confronted the violence and mistreatment the LGBTQ+ community endured at the hands of law enforcement. There is a prevailing belief that she may have experienced this violence firsthand.
In 1992, Johnson’s body was found floating in the Hudson River. Her death was quickly ruled a suicide by NYPD; however, those who knew her rebut the notion that she would have taken her own life. LGBTQ+ rights activist Victoria Cruz leads an investigation into Johnson’s death in Netflix documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.”
Transgender women of color, especially Black trans women, continue to experience violence at disproportionate rates.
As Ananya Garg reports in Yes Magazine, the murder rate for Black transgender women is more than seven times as high as that of the general population. Fortunately, more people are recognizing the need for greater inclusion and representation within the LGBTQ+ community.
One such development is the modification of the Pride Flag to encompass the colors of the transgender flag and black and brown stripes, symbolizing solidarity with the Black and Brown queer and trans community. As we conclude Pride Month, it is essential to honor the courageous individuals who fought for LGBTQ+ rights, particularly queer and trans people of color, who played a pivotal role in the struggle for equality.
This article was written by Niya Harris, editorial intern for The Burton Wire. Follow Niya on IG @Niya.Harris.