"Who's Marsha Johnson?"
Marsha P. Johnson was a beloved and revered figure of the New York City LGBT community from the 1960's to '1990’s, fighting back against the police raids during the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Legend has it she threw the first brick in the stonewall riots. She was regarded as a mother figure, specifically helping the homeless. In 1992, Marsha's body was found in the Hudson River and police wrote the death off as suicide, but many believe Johnson was the victim of a hate crime.
When we started talking to people about this leader and unsung hero of our community, the question we kept getting asked was “Who’s Marsha Johnson?” Queers of all ages did not know who she was. Was this because she was trans? was this because she was black? Did she not fit into the narrative that our community felt comfortable presenting to the world?
You gotta dig deep when looking for real queer history, it's there, but it's hidden. It's been hidden by men in ties for hundreds of years, we happened, we loved, we fucked and we got white washed over. History is written by the victors and queers were rarely the victors in this ongoing battle of sexes, genders, colors and tastes. But even in our own recent queer folklore, there are stories that are missing, stories that should be told more, stories that we need to fill in the gaps. But our community has done its own white washing. We have covered up and re-written the past. No fats no femmes? We may see it all over “Grindr” now, but we have been conditioned to think this through the ages. Sissies,drag queens, non traditional body types, people of color, it's all missing from our story. Its been “made pretty”.
Drag queens have been our leaders, our voices, and our community organizers since the 1950's. Perhaps its because they were THAT much more marginalized that they felt what else could they loose by really being themselves. But our community was ashamed of them. Yet they still lead us and loved us. When it came time for some legal protections to be granted to the LGBT community, the T was left out. When it came time for us to stand up for them, we were silent. Yet they stuck with us. We have always treated our drag queens like royalty in the clubs, but in the cold harsh morning light, we ignored them in the street. Where as they were still dolled up but we had removed our drag so as to fit in with the world. Our community will be forever haunted by the ghosts of drag queens, kings and trans folks who we have let down time and time again.
This image of Marsha P. Johnson is present in each of the following images. It is a homage to a leader, a fighter and a hero. We are where we are today because of people like her, people who our community has done little to commemorate.
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vain Hein. Models: Jem Jehova and Vain Hein
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vain Hein. Models: Robbie Sweeny and Jem Jehova
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vein Hein. Models: Jem Jehova and Krylon Superstar
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vain Hein. Models: Jem Jehova and Vesper Synd
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vain Hein. Models: Jem Jehova, San Cha and Vain Hein
A collaborative project by Robbie Sweeny and Vain Hein. Models: Jem Jehova and Krylon Superstar