A monument dedicated to iconic trans rights activist Marsha P. Johnson is being built in her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. According to ABC, the monument will be the first in the county to honor a trans person.
Johnson is best known for her prominent role in the Stonewall uprising of 1969 where she and others fought back against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village. As a Black trans woman, her work pushed the LGBTQ+ community to recognize the importance of advocating for trans people, particularly for trans people of color. Johnson’s battle against anti-gay discriminatory laws helped spawn the modern LGBTQ civil rights movement as well.
Johnson’s family helped draft the proposal for the monument, which will be erected in the city’s downtown area.
"Today, the family of Elizabeth native and LGBTQ+ Civil Rights activist Marsha P. Johnson was joined by Union County Freeholders and LGBTQ+ advocates to announce the future site of a public monument on Freedom Trail in the City of Elizabeth in Johnson's honor," Union County officials wrote in a statement. "The monument is anticipated to be the first public monument in the State of New Jersey to honor a LGBTQ+ person and transgender woman of color."
During her life, Johnson founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries, which worked to help homeless transgender youth. She died at the age of 46 in 1992. Her death was initially ruled a suicide after her body was found in the Hudson River, but an investigation was opened in 2012 due to her family’s concerns of foul play. Marsha would have turned 75 this week and her death remains unsolved to this day.
Just a few days before the monument was announced, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to dedicate East River State Park in Brooklyn to Johnson. That declaration also made it the country’s first park ever to honor an LGBTQ+ person, per ABC.
"I'm proud to announce the dedication of East River State Park in Brooklyn to #MarshaPJohnson. Today, Marsha P. Johnson State Park becomes the first State Park to honor an LGBTQ person," Cuomo tweeted. "NY is indebted to her for her brave advocacy and relentless fight for LGBTQ equality."
While it’s exciting to see Marsha P. Johnson get the flowers she deserves, hopefully, this is just the first step in acknowledging how much work we still must do to uplift and protect trans people in our communities.