NYC's New Monument Will Honor Transgender Activists

A new monument is coming to New York City. The monument will commemorate Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, transgender activists, drag performers and close friends who played central roles in the1969 Stonewall Uprising. The statue is one of six commissioned by public arts campaign 'She Built NYC' for its first wave of women-centric installations. This monument will be the “first permanent, public artwork recognizing transgender women in the world,” according to the City of New York.

Johnson and Rivera were prominent figures at Stone Wall during the gay liberation movement. They advocated for homeless LGBTQ youth, those affected by H.I.V. and AIDS and other groups. The two were also involved in the Gay Liberation Front, a radical organization that peaked in the immediate aftermath of Stonewall, and the Gay Activists Alliance, a more moderate and narrowly focused spin-off group. In 1970, Johnson and Rivera launched Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries [STAR], an organization dedicated to sheltering young transgender individuals who were shunned by their families.

According to accounts of the Stonewall Uprising, Johnson and Rivera were some of the first to physically resist a police raid on the bar. To commemorate their involvement in this, the monument's proposed location is blocks away from the Stonewall Inn.

She Built NYC, the organization behind the new monument, launched in the summer of 2019 with the goal to increase the city's ratio of statutes depicting historical women to 50 percent. Before them just five of the 145 monuments featured women.

The organization announced plans to commission five monuments, one for each borough of the city. Statues of the jazz singer Billie Holiday, civil rights advocate Elizabeth Jennings Graham, medical activist Helen Rodríguez Trías, lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker and first black congresswoman Shirley Chisholm will be installed in Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and Brooklyn, respectively.

Alex Schmider, associate director of transgender representation at GLAAD, told theGuardian, the monument of Johnson and Rivera “will not only serve as a reminder of transgender women of color’s existence and persistence, but also send a message of reverence to the history and legacy of our community’s pioneers, without whom we would not be where we are today.”

Photo: Getty

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