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Marsha P Johnson memorial is a win for the LGBTQ+ community

Marsha P Johnson memorial is a win for the LGBTQ+ community

Marsha P Johnson memorial is a win for the LGBTQ+ community
September 05
12:18 2020

Famous LGBTQ+ civil rights activist Marsha P. Johnson will have the distinction of being the very first transgender person to be honored with a statue in her memory. The memorial statue is expected to go along in the Freedom Trail in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. For over 166,000 people, this honor has been a long-time coming for the beloved activist who trended earlier this year after New Jersey residents called to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus and replace him with Johnson.

I believe this marks a huge win for members of the LGBTQ+ movement that ranges from yesterday’s pioneers whose struggle paved the way for today’s younger generation who are still fighting for rights. LGBTQ+ history has played a huge role in the story of America and as such, deserves to be acknowledged by the commemoration of a key figure. Johnson was well-known for being one of the biggest figures in New York’s gay liberation movement from the 1960s to the 1980s. She is perhaps most well-known for her part in the Stonewall Riots, possibly having thrown the first brick or shot glass that ignited the uprising.

The Stonewall Riots occurred on the morning of Jun. 28, 1969, when New York police raided a bar that barred the selling of alcohol to gay patrons. Thirteen people were arrested during the riot which led to the creation of the modern-day gay rights movement. The first Gay Pride month was held a year later in June 1970.

In her life, Johnson was known for being a compassionate and affable individual. A trans woman of color, Johnson faced much difficulty during her life such as homelessness, struggles with mental illness and prostituting herself for money. No matter what came her way, she didn’t let this deter her sense of great diligence toward her community. Johnson co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) along with fellow transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, a group whose goal was to help homeless transgender youth by providing food and shelter. Though STAR only lasted three years, the organization was known as being a groundbreaking organization at the time.

2020 has seen the removal of many statues belonging to historical figures from the first U.S. President George Washington to confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but the removal of Christopher Columbus in favor of Marsha P. Johnson has to be the most historically significant of the recent trend. It sends a powerful message to LGBTQ youth that they can begin visiting part of their culture in an open manner since the statue will be out in public.

To say that gender is synonymous with the body parts of an individual is an outdated and ill-informed way of thinking. Gender is an identity and a way of life. Labels serve only to make humans comprehend certain individuals or situations, but labels are not binding. The only person who can label you is yourself, and it doesn’t make you any less valid or important to the world. This is what Marsha P. Johnson had to offer to not only members of the LGBTQ+ community, but to anyone who wanted peace like she did.

Historical figures are as divisive as water is to oil. In this life, a person can either choose to impact the world in a positive or negative light. Christopher Columbus did make an impact on the world by being the first explorer to discover America. To say that he’s an impactful figure is an understatement whether you like him or not. However, it is our choice in who we celebrate. In life and even after death, Johnson was an advocate for kindness and compassion. Columbus represents a time of pillaging and hate.

A different generation made the decision to erect a monument of Columbus in public. He was though, reflective of the times. America has to decide what message it wants to spread to the people. If America is the land of the free, we should reflect our beliefs by honoring those who fought for freedom and change and memorialize them. In an article by CNN, Johnson’s nephew Al Michaels claimed that Johnson was more known throughout the world than she was in her own hometown. It’s time we changed that.

Featured Illustration by Austin Banzon

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Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

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