LGBTQ History #14: S.T.A.R. is Founded by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

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LGBTQ History #14: S.T.A.R. is Founded by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson (Photo: tumblr)

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both trans women of color, were not only leaders at the Stonewall riots, but also very active advocates for members of the LGBTQ community that were overlooked by even their gay peers. Many cisgender members of the gay community felt ashamed of Johnson, Rivera, and other poor, transgender individuals. This did not stop them from fighting for the rights of their community (while looking extremely fashionable). Rivera once said, “You all had rights. We had nothing to lose. I’ll be the first one to step on any organization, any politician’s toes if I have to, to get the rights for my community.”

Because of the needs that Johnson and Rivera saw, in 1970 they started S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), an organization aimed to house queens and trans women who were living on the street. In the home that was established, everyone lived collectively, and Johnson and Rivera worked to get food for the young girls. S.T.A.R. was the first initiative focused on the homeless trans youth within New York City.

The home lasted two years, but Johnson and Rivera continued to be strong advocates for their communities. Marsha “Pay it no mind” Johnson lived a powerful legacy; she was known as a drag mother to many in the New York City community. Her story can be watched in the documentary Pay It No Mind. Unfortunately Johnson died in a mysterious and violent way that is all too common for black trans women, and was found in the Hudson River in 1992. Rivera was also known for her continued activism until she died in 2002, now her legacy is remember in organizations such as the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.