You can’t talk about the movements and important moments in the LGBT community without mentioning Marsha P. Johnson, which is why Netflix’s upcoming documentary about the activist is so significant.
The documentary will examine the mystery surrounding Johnson’s death, a story that comes at a time when violence against transgender women is at an all-time high.
Johnson was a transgender activist at the forefront of pivotal moments in history. She played a large role in the Stonewall Riots and co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) along with Sylvia Rivera.
The activist tragically died in 1992 at the age of 46, when her body was found in the Hudson River. The circumstances surrounding her death are still being examined, but the activist lives on through her legacy. Here are five things you need to know about Marsha P. Johnson.
1. She co-founded STAR and STAR House.
Along with close friend Sylvia Rivera, Johnson co-founded STAR, an organization that provided shelter to homeless queer youth. STAR House created the blueprint for similar organizations and homes like it.
2. She played an important role in the Stonewall Riots.
Johnson was on the frontline of the Stonewall uprising, many believing that she was the first to start it. In his book, Stonewall: The Riots that Sparked the Revolution, David Carter wrote that Johnson was one of three important figures leading the way during the riots. However, in an interview, Johnson says the riots had started before she even arrived. “I was uptown and I didn’t get downtown until about two o’clock. When I got downtown, the place was already on fire, and there was a raid already. The riots had already started.”
3. She toured America and Europe as a member of avant-drag performance troupe, Hot Peaches.
Johnson was a woman about town, always photographed out and about at parties with the likes of Andy Warhol. In an Out interivew, Al Michaels, her nephew, recalls Johnson as an incredibly loving and fun person, “Our house would be full of people dancing.”
4. Johnson also co-founded the Gay Liberation Front.
The organization advocated for the sexual liberation of all people. The group was immediately formed after the Stonewall Riots with its first act being to maintain the momentum of the uprising.
5. Johnson’s death was ruled a suicide, but the case has since been reopened.
Peculiar circumstances surround Johnson’s death. The activist’s body was found in the Hudson River six days after she was reported missing. Police ruled it a suicide, but friends and family disagree. Police were slow to investigate Johnson’s death, but in 2012 the case was reopened. Netflix’s upcoming documentary will take a closer look at the events surrounding her death.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson premieres Oct. 6 on Netflix.