9. Marsha P. Johnson

Marsha P. Johnson, a trans woman of color born in 1944 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, is considered the main figure behind the Stonewall Riots. She was a vibrant woman who would respond with “pay it no mind,” when she was asked what the initial P would stand for.

Marsha moved to New York City in 1967 t0 get away from the persecution she faced in New Jersey, and celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday that night at the Stonewall Inn, the only place where the LGBTQ could dance and be with each other. Johnson is often cited as being the first to resist and fight back against police when Stonewall Inn was raided. People who knew Marsha claimed that she occasionally went by her name, Malcolm, and used that persona to let out her more aggressive side, but those reports are unproven. When the movie, Stonewall, released its trailer, the LGBTQ community and allies were livid that the film largely whitewashed the movement. The main character was a gay white man instead of focusing on Marsha and the other LGBTQ people of color that were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots.

Before Marsha came out as transgender (which wasn’t yet used as the label at the time), she was a prominent drag queen as she was drawn by Andy Warhol. RuPaul, of the popular drag TV show, credits her as the true drag mother who “paved the way for drag queens.” After the Stonewall Riots, Marsha continued her activism and she and trans friend Sylvia Rivera co-created the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, more commonly known as STAR, which helped support young trans women, drag queens, and street kids. Johnson also became involved in Act Up, an organization to help better the lives of people with AIDS.

Marsha was found dead in the Hudson River in 1992 and despite witnesses who saw her being harassed that day, her death was ruled a suicide.