"The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" Gives an Icon Her Due
If there is ever a documentary that the LGBT community and its supporters should watch, it is The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, which was just released on Netflix this past Friday. Marsha was a major force and a transgendered icon & Stonewall veteran who fought for gay rights since the late 1960's.
The film, directed by David France (who produced another amazing doc, How to Survive a Plague), follows around Marsha's friend and fellow transgendered activist Victoria Cruz, who now works for the NYC Anti-Violence Project. Victoria's goal throughout the documentary is to get the answers surrounding Marsha's death, which was originally ruled a suicide by the police back in 1992. Was it a suicide? Or was she murdered because of who she was?
There is so much packed into this documentary that deals with Marsha's life and death, but also delves into Victoria's life and a major third person in all of this by the name of Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia was a trans-activist who lambasted other activists for not supporting trans-women. There are many scenes in this documentary that are heart-wrenching in its own way, but watching Sylvia try to explain herself and the lack of support within OUR community here back in 1973 is truly saddening in that its a big realization that many of us didn't have her or countless other trans-women's backs. See the clip here.
Throughout the documentary, you see Victoria go into full "detective" mode, as she tries several different methods to find out what really happened to Marsha before she was found floating in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers. Although the police ruled it a suicide, many of her friends believed there was foul play involved. Victoria dissects everything, from the "four guidos" that Marsha got into the car with, to being harassed by a group of "thugs" who called her homophobic slurs and everything else possible that could potentially prove that Marsha did not kill herself.
Marsha's life was documented throughout, and she is a great representation of what the younger generations should know about as she was a pioneer for LGBT rights in a time where you could be arrested just for being gay. The positive spin on her was one that showed what an awesome individual she was, and how her life was cut way too short due to reasons that are still unknown.
A common thread throughout the movie is how the murders of trans-women are still the highest in the LGBT community, one case in particular about Islan Nettles, 21, who was beaten to death by James Nixon. He wound up getting 12 years in prison for what he did, which isn't enough time as one person said in the movie, and that he will just get out and do it all over again.
Essentially, what this documentary has taught us is that what happened to Marsha 25 years ago is still happening now, and we should do everything we can to stop it from happening again.