By Paulette Orhii
Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were trans activists that paved the way for the LGBT movement through their involvement at the Stonewall Riots in NY in 1969.
The Stonewall Riots erupted when police raided a gay club called the Stonewall Inn. This launched a revolution led by these two incredible women dedicated to fighting discrimination against women and LGBT people. They also opened STAR, Street Transvestite Action Communities, which provided housing and support for homeless trans people from 1970 to 1973.
While some may know their names, few know their sacrifices.
In 1992, Marsha P. Johnson's body was found floating in the Hudson River. She was suspected to have been murdered by the New York mob, but her death was ruled a suicide.
Sylvia P. Johnson was betrayed by the LGBT community when she was booed at a rally despite all of her efforts for the movement. After Johnson’s death, Rivera struggled with alcoholism and homelessness. While she was able to overcome these battles, she eventually died of liver cancer in 2002.
I write this all to call attention to the fact that, ironically, the most marginalized groups of people often lead movements for the collective good of the community, then are forgotten when the more privileged people win their rights. Transgender women are still 1.8 times likely to experience sexual assault, 3.7 times more likely to be harassed by police, and made up 72% of hate-crime classified murders in 2013 (National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs). Furthermore, they are more prone to homelessness, drug abuse, and suicide attempts. These rates are compounded further for trans women of color. The Trump era indeed threatens our civil liberties, but the end of his presidency could trigger complacency. We must keep a plan in mind that upholds the rights of everyone. None of us are free until we all are free, so let’s continue to stand in solidarity.