New York to Honor Two Transgender Activists with New Monument

It was announced on Wednesday that the city of New York will be honoring Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera with a new monument in Greenwich Village. Both Johnson and Rivera were two transgender women of color who were pioneers in advocating for transgender and gay right. The site is just down the street from the famous Stone Wall Inn, the location of the June 1969 Stonewall Uprising in which activists fought back against police who raided the bar. They are both seen as key figures in the uprising and in the movement for gay rights.

The monument was announced in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the uprising. It is also a part of the city’s push for wider representation in public art displays. There has been a lack of diversity in public statues, especially of LGBTQ figures which are almost nonexistent among the city’s monuments. This is particularly true about representation of the trans community and people of color. In an interview with the New York Times, New York’s first lady Chirlane McCray said “the L.G.B.T.Q. movement was portrayed very much as a white, gay male movement. This monument counters that trend of whitewashing the history.”

Johnson and Rivera’s monument will be the first in the world for transgender people. Both were drag performers and very well known in the Village. The two best friends worked on behalf of homeless LGBTQ youth in New York, as well as those affected by H.I.V./AIDS. Together they founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an advocacy, housing, and support organization for homeless LGBT youth and sex workers.

While both women are no longer with us (Johnson died in 1992 of undetermined causes and Rivera in 2002 from liver cancer), both of their legacies will continue to live on. The two life long friends will be remembered forever for their courageous acts and willingness to help the community.

Officials are hoping to have the statues completed by the end of 2021 and will soon start searching for artists to create the monument.

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