Decades after their death, two pioneers within the LGTBQ community are getting the recognition they deserve. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two trans women who fought for the rights of LGBTQ people for years and were at the Stonewall Inn riots in 1969 in New York City, will have two statues presented in their honor. The statues will be erected in Greenwich Village, the same neighborhood where the riots took place.
“We need to remember them correctly,” Matthew Riemer, co-author of We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation, said to CNN. “Yes, they were there for Stonewall, but that’s not it.” He added, “Sylvia was a radical militant who would show up and would embody anyone’s oppression as ‘my oppression.’ She showed up for every fight.”
Both Johnson and Rivera, who was of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan descent, were also founders of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries in 1970, which was an organization that helped homeless LGBTQ youth.
Ahead of #Stonewall50, the city of New York has announced that it will honoring two of Stonewall’s key players, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, in the form of permanent monuments. These monuments are proposed for the Ruth Wittenberg Triangle near where the Riots took place. pic.twitter.com/CzJDdIUzJx
— them. (@them) May 30, 2019
The funds for the statues, which will cost $750,000, will be taken from a $10 million public art budget. In a press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “Putting up statues doesn’t change everything, but it starts to change hearts and minds. We want to honor them because they lived their truth, and they made history.”
He also stated on Twitter, “Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two remarkable trans women whose activism changed our city forever. The monument we raise in their honor will send a powerful message to every young person grappling with who they are.” He added that by honoring these two women, the city is telling the nation that people still need to fight for LGBTQ people more so now than ever. Just this week, President Donald Trump continued to take away the rights of the trans community by allowing medical professionals to deny them treatment.
“At a time when our federal government is working overtime to take away rights from trans people and against a backdrop of horrific violence against this community, New York City is honoring trans leaders who fought against hate and injustice,” the Mayor said on Twitter.
In 1992, Johnson was 46-years-old when her body was pulled out of the Hudson River. The cause of her death remains somewhat of a controversy. In 2002, Rivera died at the age 50 of liver cancer.
Rivera is famously known for being the “Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement” because her work “helped put the ‘t’ in LGBTQ activism.”