Two LGBT Rights Heroes Are Getting Statues

Sylvia Rivera (left) and Marsha P. Johnson (second from left) / Image via NETFLIX, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON

Two important, and often unsung, heroes are getting their much-deserved recognition.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride and two activists who played roles in the movement’s inception are being honored with monuments.

While stirrings of Pride were on the rise in the West coast of America through riots happening in California, it’s the Stonewall riots in New York City that are marked as the start of the gay rights movement.

The Stonewall Inn was a hole-in-the-wall gay bar being terrorized by homophobic police and opportunistic mafia members. After being bothered by a sloppy police raid one night, several customers fought back. Trans patron Marsha P. Johnson was an active member of the riot that ensued.

While there were about 205* customers within the bar during the initial police raid, historians believe that it was “flame queens,” hustlers, and gay “street kids” who started the riot against hostile police officers.

Marsha P. Johnson / Image via NETFLIX, THE DEATH AND LIFE OF MARSHA P. JOHNSON

Marsha P. Johnson is also recorded to have been among the crowd during the historic night. She not only actively fought against the police, including the rumor of climbing a lamppost and dropping a heavy bag onto a police car’s windshield, but she also made several speeches and protest events after that night.

Sylvia Rivera is noted for saying of the moment, “You’ve been treating us like shit all these years? Uh-uh. Now it’s our turn!… It was one of the greatest moments in my life.”

That said, there has been some question as to the legitimacy of Rivera’s statement. Even Johnson herself, a friend of Rivera’s, stated that the latter wasn’t actually at the first riot.

 

The two were also founding members of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance. They also helped to create the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR House, which acts as a refuge for homeless LGBTQ people.

As for that first organization, it was one of the foremost organizations to fight for LGBTQ rights post-Stonewall.

“The magic and the spirit of Stonewall was created by the Gay Liberation Front,” said L.G.B.T.Q. civil rights pioneer and historian Mark Segal to the New York Times. Segal says the organization “is why we have everything that we have today.”

“Before Stonewall, you had organizations that only allowed white people who were properly dressed to ‘represent’ the community,” Segal said. “We were black, brown and every other stripe of the American quilt.”

“We no longer were professional men and housewives pleading for our rights, we were demanding them,” Segal said. “We would no longer let others label us.”

Now, decades after that fateful night and the following years of activism exhibited by both women, they are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be the first transwomen immortalized as statues in the US.

According to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, the statues will be placed in the Greenwich Village area where the Stonewall riot took place.

These statues will cost the city an estimated $750,000 and the artist, who hasn’t been commissioned to work yet, will be paid out of the city’s $10 million budget allocated for new public artworks.

“Putting up statues doesn’t change everything, but it starts to change hearts and minds,” de Blasio explained during a press conference. “We want to honor them because they lived their truth and they made history.”

Happy Pride month to the women who helped start it all.


Update: This article’s title used to suggest that Johnson and Rivera were the “Mothers of Pride.” That mistake has now been corrected. In addition, a note has been added that Rivera’s presence at the Stonewall riot is hotly contested.

*Note: The number of patrons within the bar during the night of the Stonewall riot is hotly contested. Mutliple publications insist on 205 customers that night, while others insist on there only being 50. Perhaps the number of onlookers from the outside who later joined the riot is adding to the confusion.

4 thoughts on “Two LGBT Rights Heroes Are Getting Statues”

    • Poorly done video. Blaming lesbians for taking over the lent movement. Picking apart the drunk history video. Communism? There was about 30 seconds of interesting information. Can I have the other 15 minutes back?

      Reply
  1. Excuse me but where do you get your facts? First of all Brenda Howard and Craig Rodwell are the mother and father of PRIDE because PRIDE is different than the Stonewall Rebellion.

    Secondly The Stonewall Inn could not have fit 200 patrons inside it. It was multi-roomed but small and in 1969 no gay bar would have had a crowd that size. The real estimate is less than 50.

    Third, Marsha P. Johnson was one of hundreds of people who rioted that night. LGBT and straight it is recorded no where that she made speeches that night or any night. It is rumored that she pulled out a parking meter but not verified. She did not climbing a lamppost and dropping a heavy bag onto a police car’s windshield,

    And finally as for “Sylvia Rivera is noted for saying of the moment, “You’ve been treating us like shit all these years? Uh-uh. Now it’s our turn!… It was one of the greatest moments in my life.”. It has been proven that she was even there when the raid happened by Marsha herself.

    Reply
    • Hi Will,

      My intention with this article was to share a story celebrating Pride, LGBTQ rights, & gay/trans history. In addition, I was attempting to expand on the story of the two recieving a statue, so it wouldn’t be a 100 word article that says nothing.

      I appreciate your correction with “Mothers of Pride” comment. I was simply going for a catchy and fun title to honor these two women. That’s now been changed. In addition, I’ve included your note about how Rivera’s presence at the riot is in question. I have updated those two mistakes, so as not to offend.

      That said, the 205 number was based off use by other publications such as the New York Times, the Independent, and PBS. As such, that number will stay (but I’ve added a note of its’ uncertainty).

      Keep in mind, this article was written in good will and to celebrate two women who helped to make LGBTQ rights what they are today. Not an attempt at revisionist history. Hope all’s well.

      Reply

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