Flowers for Mothers

by shay bell 

In observance of Pride Month, I wanted to honor the pioneers who made this celebration possible. Marsha “Pay No Mind” Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are the icons of the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 70s. These confidently expressive women who met and became friends in NY during the early years of their life made history by orchestrating the first-ever Pride parade as a protest to the brutal police attacks at the Stonewall Inn in 1969. 

Rightfully angered by the discrimination and violence towards the LGBTQ+ community, Johnson and Rivera sought to gain justice for their community. However, despite being active in the early developments of the then-gay rights organizations, Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance, Johnson was still affected by the transphobia in these groups. This led to the development of STAR, the first LGBTQ+ organization that was dedicated to housing young trans people who had been excluded from their families. 

Together with the help of Rivera, these two women sheltered over 24 people in the first location, making them the first house mothers of our time. Johnson and Rivera helped these youth to find community, safety, and shelter at a time when everyone turned their backs on them. Though the STAR House was evicted only months after its founding, its impact already made a lasting impression on the LGBTQ+ community, and they deserve their flowers. 

I highly encourage everyone to watch the Netflix documentary, The Death & Life of Marsha P. Johnson, to see the evolution of a movement that changed the course of history and the leaders who paved the way for LGBTQ+ visibility without shame. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Marsha, thank you, Sylvia, and may you continue to rest in power, in peace, and in love. 

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