Sylvia Rivera and Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson
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Sylvia Rivera and Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson were trans women of color, fixtures of New York’s Christopher Street, instigators of the Stonewall Riots, fearless pioneers of gay and transgender rights movements, lifelong civil rights activists, and tireless revolutionaries for drag queens and transwomen of color, and homeless youth. They founded the group STAR (Street Transvestites/ Transgender Action Revolutionaries) as an activist group that demonstrated and advocated for POC homeless trans youth and was also, at times, a shelter operating out of their own home.
They lived in a world where they faced the constant threat of violence from police, from the public, and from within a gay rights movement that ultimately tried to erase their presence. Still, they persisted. Their courage didn’t stop at the boundaries of their bodies, at the act of dressing and presenting themselves, at the riot of flowers in Marsha’s hair. What made them remarkable was that they had space for other lives, they had enough left over to fight for more. It’s that radiating audacity that is at the heart of progress, and it deserves to be honored.
Aaron Flynn is an artist and Aries currently living in Austin TX www.shapesofthings.com