Madison Watkins, Staff Writer
As part of Gay-Straight Alliance’s Pride Month, the club screened a documentary on April 12 in the Ogeechee Theatre about famous transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson. GSA held a screening of the hour long documentary “Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson.” The film discussed her life from growing up in New Jersey to living in New York City as a drag queen.
Marsha P. Johnson was born in New Jersey on August 24, 1945, originally under the name Malcolm Michaels. Johnson legally changed her name after she moved to New York in 1966. The “P” in her name stood for “pay it no mind.”
Even though she became a well-known drag queen around New York, she along with many other queens were homeless and destitute. She often had to sleep on the floor at her friends’ apartments. Many years passed before she was able to rent an apartment of her own with a friend.
As an openly transgender woman living in the 60s, Johnson was subject to much discrimination. Even living in the more LGBTQ-friendly community of Greenwich Village, many people in New York City still did not approve. Johnson was arrested countless times for gay liberation activism and sex work, though was usually released after only a week.
One of Johnson’s most famous actions includes her participation in the first Stonewall Riots at the Stonewall Inn, which was a well-known gay bar. The riots began when police started raiding the bar in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 and the patrons fought back.
Johnson was described by witnesses and peers as one of the first people to start the riots. She threw what is now known as “the shot glass heard ‘round the world.” The riots repeated the following night and again a few nights later.
Later in life, Johnson founded the Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries (STAR) with fellow transgender activist and friend Sylvia Rivera. The purpose of STAR was to be a place for gay people, transgender youths and others to get off the streets to have safe housing.
Johnson was was found in the Hudson River in 1992. Her death was ruled a suicide by police even though her close friends knew she was not suicidal and was last seen being harassed by an unknown assailant. Activist Mariah Lopez was able to convince the New York Police Department to reopen the case as a possible homicide in 2012.
The vice president of the GSA Charles Breazeale who explained that, “as an officer of the GSA I feel like it’s important to know about our heritage and where we came from. It’s important for us to learn about our history. This documentary shows the role transgender people played in the rights for LGBTQ people.”
He went on to insist that it is important to show documentaries on the subject matter, compared to Hollywood movies such as the film “Stonewall” that was released in 2015, which had many inaccuracies about the Stonewall riots.
You can watch “Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson” on YouTube. For more information about future GSA events and Pride Month, check out Armstrong’s events calendar.