New York state park to be renamed after trans pioneer Marsha P Johnson

Stonewall Riots: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson

A New York state park will be renamed to honour the trans activist Marsha P Johnson, New York governor Andrew Cuomo has said.

Cuomo announced that East River State Park in Brooklyn would be renamed at the Human Rights Campaign greater New York gala on Saturday February 1.

Johnson, a black trans woman who worked as a sex worker, is most well-known for her involvement in the 1969 Stonewall uprising, often seen as the beginning of the modern gay rights movement.

She was also a trans rights pioneer, and in 1970 she founded “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries” otherwise known as “STAR”, with her friend Sylvia Rivera.

According to AP News, Cuomo said at the gala: “New York state is the progressive capital of the nation, and while we are winning the legal battle for justice for the LGBTQ community, in many ways we are losing the broader war for equality.”

He said that hate crimes against black people, Jewish people, Muslims and the LGBT+ community were on the rise, but that they were driven by “fear and intolerance”.

He continued: “We are fighting back, and we will continue achieving progress and showing the rest of the nation the way forward.”

New York state park renamed for Marsha P Johnson

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks onstage during the Human Rights Campaign’s 19th Annual Greater New York Gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on February 01, 2020 in New York City. (Gary Gershoff/Getty)

After the gala, Cuomo added on Twitter: “I’m proud to announce that East River State Park in Brooklyn will be named in honor of Marsha P Johnson, a pioneer of the LGBTQ rights movements.

“New York unequivocally supports the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers, now and always.”

In December, 2019, the earliest known recording of Johnson and Rivera was discovered by a researcher in the basement of New York’s Lesbian Herstory archives, the tape simply marked “STAR”.

On the tape, recording in 1970, the pair discuss reactions to their gender from people around them.

Rivera said: “My grandmother completely freaked out for a number of years until she just recently has to be satisfied that I’m, that I’m going to be my way.

“And now she calls me Sylvia. I’m her dear granddaughter… Society keeps on saying, ‘You can’t do this because this isn’t your role.’

“Who is to tell who what role we’re supposed to take?”