Intersectionality

Marsha P. Johnson Probably Didn't Start Stonewall, and Might Not Have Been Trans. Does It Matter?

The media and activists are using revisionist history of the Stonewall Riots to fit their intersectional narrative.

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Head over to Google today and you'll see one of its famous doodle sketches in the form of Marsha P. Johnson, the LGBT rights activist, with her signature flower crown, gender-bending ensemble, and wide smile.

In recent years, Johnson has been credited as a "trans woman of color" who started the Stonewall riots and thus, in some sense, the LGBT rights movement. While it's undeniable that she was a charismatic central figure in that story, it's far from clear that she was one of the main instigators at Stonewall. Even more fraught: It's far from clear she was trans. 

On one level, it doesn't really matter. She was an inspiring person who fought for civil rights despite huge obstacles in her way, and that's enough to celebrate. But being on the right side of history—as so many activists in the intersectional social justice space believe they are—doesn't give you license to rewrite it. In the end, the facts matter, even when they are slightly less convenient for your narrative.

In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, New York City police officers descended on the Stonewall Inn to conduct what had become their typical, humiliating, and brutal raids on gay establishments. Patrons weren't having it. Several days of violent demonstrations followed.

In popular culture, the Stonewall riots are widely viewed as pivotal. But there's also a mythic air to the protests. Folkloric tellings and retellings change with each passing year: Who spearheaded the charge against authority? Who threw that fateful first brick? Or was it a shot glass?

The answers to those questions largely remain elusive, but in recent years one narrative has taken hold. The claim that it was "trans women of color"—especially Johnson—who led the uprising has been repeated uncritically by politicians, pundits, and in the national media. 

But it isn't difficult to figure out that the Stonewall riots did not begin with Johnson. For one thing, Johnson said so herself. "I was uptown and I didn't get downtown until about two o'clock. When I got downtown, the place was already on fire, and there was a raid already," she told historian Eric Marcus in 1987. "The riots had already started."

Yet in recent years, an alternate narrative has shifted from urban legend to indisputable fact. Johnson was "one of three individuals" who first "incited pushback against police," writes Rolling Stone. "It started when Marsha P. Johnson cried 'I got my civil rights!' and threw a shot glass into a mirror," says a Forbes contributor, whose piece was selected and promoted as an Editors' Pick.

"Transgender women of color led the uprising at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago on Sunday," The New York Times claimed, though the paper later ghost-edited that line and appended a correction. 

What's more, there's no evidence Johnson used the term transgender for herself. Though it's true that the term was not nearly as widespread as it is today, it wasn't unheard of. And Johnson—who employed both "she" and "he" pronouns, and wore both male and female clothing—identified as a drag queen, as well as "gay" and as a "transvestite." To conflate those identities with transgenderism trivializes and misappropriates the unique struggles those communities face.

Intersectionality—while built around the well-intentioned idea that we should be vigilant and caring toward society's most vulnerable—can end up encouraging activists to prioritize identity at the expense of the truth. Saying your movement was started by a "transgender woman of color" checks a lot of boxes and confers the proper legitimacy on your cause.

Exactly how Johnson identified shouldn't really be the main focus, though present-day activists have placed undue emphasis on it. She was a determined activist for the cause and a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front. 

In that vein, we could all stand to learn from Johnson, whose chosen middle initial—"P"—stood for "Pay it no mind," a common response she'd give those who'd inquire about her gender. She begged not to be put into a box. Today's activists have done the opposite.

On a broader level, the retroactive reimagining of history makes it hard to actually learn from the past. "Stonewall Inn was not a very hospitable place to those who were then referred to as transsexuals or transvestites," says James Kirchick, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "A lot of gay bars were segregated in that way, and a lot of gay bars were racially segregated, maybe not officially or legally, but unofficially certainly." Those like Johnson, then, were often rejected by the community they wanted to join. Members of that same community have now co-opted and reimagined Johnson for their own purposes.

Put differently, you could say Johnson was likely one step ahead of her peers. But that was because she understood what it was like not to have a seat at the table, much less to be at the head of it. "In some ways," writes journalist Andrew Sullivan at New York, "it was the rebellion of those with much more to lose that marked a shift in consciousness." 

Perhaps ironically, the left has often led the charge against attempts to change history and decried the effects of such revisionism. When it comes to the debate around Confederate monuments, for instance, many liberal-leaning folks have rightly resisted false portrayals surrounding the circumstances in which those statues were erected. To rewrite the Civil War narrative, they say, is to erase a savage history of human suffering, one that we're still trying to learn from today. 

It's for that same reason that Johnson's history—her actual history, to the extent that we can know it—should be told truthfully, and in full.

NEXT: Stock Market Suspiciously Healthy. The Federal Reserve Does All It Can to Keep Economic Reality From Setting In.

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  1. Jesus H. Christ, is it even possible for average people to write an unproblematic sentence about this?

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      1. With all due respect, rbhbak, that’s not really an unproblematic sentence.

  2. all history is revisionist. and fuck intersectionality just be nice.

  3. Wait, what?
    The socialists are lying again?
    For pure politics?
    Say tiit ain’t so.

    1. Also, please say there will be an edit button as soon as the unicorns get back – – – – –

  4. I’m confused. What statue are we supposed to pull down over this?

    1. The statutes against anti-gayism?

    2. Paul Lynde

    3. James Buchanan

    4. “Stonewall” Jackson should suffice.

  5. I remember reading that the Stonewall Inn was constantly raided because they were selling booze to underage kids. The riots started when the cops arrested a 14 year old transvestite prostitute.

    1. 95 percent of reason writers aren’t one bit bothered by that. Libertarianism is weaponized depravity and billionaire worship.

      1. If you’re dumb enough to think a 14-year old transvestite can become a billionaire through prostitution alone, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

        1. Hey look it’s bignose the idiot I crushed.

        2. Lol you are definitely dumb enough to both buy a bridge and think you could resell it lololol

        3. Oh, right, go ahead and a young person’s dreams.

          1. and crush

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  6. When it comes to the debate around Confederate monuments, for instance, many left-leaning folks have rightly resisted false portrayals surrounding the circumstances in which those statues were erected.

    COMPARING JOHNSON WITH A CONFEDERATE STATUE? That’s all I learned from this article and I just fainted from righteous outrage.

  7. “Transgender women of color led the uprising at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago on Sunday,” The New York Times claimed, though the paper later ghost-edited that line and appended a correction.

    So, when does the NYT cancel itself? There are no transwomen, remember – they’re just women now. Tsk, tsk. Time for your struggle session comrades. Come clean and admit your trespasses.

    1. I’m sure it’s coming. Pretty soon progressives will consider “transwomen” a slur for distinguishing artificial from natural women.

  8. —identified as a drag queen

    You mean was a drag queen. Its a hobby. Its like me saying I identify as a video-game player. Its just what I do for fun.

    Also, I’m pretty sure that modernity has erased the existence of transvestites – males who identify as men who like dressing up like women.

    1. Everything has been erased. What used to be useful monikers for people who engaged in very different types of activity now all fall under ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’.

      1. It’s a clever way to inflate the numbers of a tiny demographic.

  9. It’s far from clear she was trans.

    Wait, what?!!

    What’s more, there’s no evidence Johnson used the term transgender for herself. Though it’s true that the term was not nearly as widespread as it is today, it wasn’t unheard of. And Johnson—who used both “he” and “she” pronouns, and wore both male and female clothing—identified as a drag queen, as well as “gay” and as a “transvestite.”

    What the shit is this? Is this the modern “transgender” community continuing to line up anyone and everyone against the firing squad post? This feels like pure history revisionism with the trans-activists destroying the “four olds”.

    It was literally only a few years ago that we had multiple terms for various conditions that everyone understood.

    Drag Queen: Usually a gay man that liked to dress up in women’s clothes, mostly for performative reasons, but may live by day dressed as a man.
    Transvestite: *Usually a man* who just preferred (for whatever reason) to dress in women’s clothes.
    Trans-sexual: Someone who had or was in the process of doing a medical transition to the opposite sex.

    The post-marxist/post-moderinists really should fuck off.

    It sounds like Marsha P. Johnson was a gay man, who was a drag queen and flipped personas. And good for him/her. I can get into the technical questions of whether or not she threw the first ‘brick’. That’s fine to ask questions about. But fuck off trying to determine if she/he was ‘legit’ trans. The trans activist community now says that anyone who says so is. So we’re done here.

    1. It’s far from clear she was trans.

      And by the way, this sentence proves how we’re willing to debase the language. The sentence refers to what is clearly a man as “she” and is at the exact same time able to assert that’s it’s ‘far from clear’. The sentence MAKES IT CLEAR! If it’s ‘far from clear’ then use he/him. If you insist on using the ‘she’ pronoun, then you’ve answered your own question: it’s 100% clear, she was trans.

      1. Crossdressers and drag queens frequently prefer to be called she to fit their role/presentation. A preference for pronouns doesn’t definitively correlate with trans status.

        1. No one fucking cares what he wants to be called.

          1. That’s not even logical, esp. since I just said that some people do care.

        2. Drag queens, when performing, prefer to be called “she”. It’s an act. A transvestite or crossdresser, when dressed, may or may not go by “she”. It’s a hobby (or a kink, depending).

          The number of feminine pronouns in this article is unnatural, even if he were writing about a woman.

      2. All that is true, but Binion knows he gets unpersoned if he does not follow the pronoun convention. It is a small case of cowardice.

    2. “The post-marxist/post-moderinists really should fuck off.”

      Best thing I have read all day. Wish Donald would get off his chair grab a platoon of Marines and start fucking the Marxists HARD.

      Start with K street.

  10. They were always trans women. There were no men in sight anywhere. And the cops wore confederate flag pins and deaths head skulls on their caps. And laser guns on their hips.

  11. Literally who?

  12. Here are some words of wisdom: “When you submit to arguing exclusively on the opponent’s terms and with all of the opponent’s premises, you have lost the debate before it begins.”

    Here are some points for Binion to chew on:

    The modern concept of “Transgender” didn’t exist in 1969. Nobody back then played these make-believe games of pretending at all times that a man is biologically a woman and a woman is biologically a man.

    They had Drag Queens, Transvestites and Trans-sexuals, but people implicitly understood that Drag Queens and Trannies were just acting out a fantasy, and never felt morally obligated to ‘play along.’ Even the Drag Queens and Trannies themselves understood this.

    Which is why I find it especially strange that Binion GOES OUT OF HIS WAY, overtly and obsessively throughout the article, to use exclusively she/her pronouns for a person who never relied exclusively on she/her pronouns themselves, who knew nothing about modern concepts such as “dead-naming,” and who in all likelihood wasn’t ‘trans’ in the modern sense at all, but was merely a Drag Queen.

    Who is Binion trying so hard not to offend? From a historical perspective, I don’t think Johnson would have given a damn about he/him pronouns. As best I can tell, Binion is only virtue signaling for modern trans activists (who by the way have almost nothing to do with Johnson or old school Drag Queens anyways)

    1. It is very ironic that trans activists are so quick to co-opt Marsha’s narrative without consent, retroactively post-mortem even, when this same community preaches “respect identities” and “don’t misgender”.

      Believe it or not this is all part of an ongoing campaign of respectability politics spearheaded by radical PC authoritarians to erase the legacy of gender nonconforming people from LGBTQ history, like Storme DeLarverie or Leslie Feinberg who were both highly influential butch lesbians in their day but now they are relegated to footnotes. LGBT icons that can’t be so easily erased due to their prominence, are rewritten as “trans women”, such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. In fact Slylvia abhorred being called “transgender” and didn’t even care for the label “woman”.

      Tumblrite SJWs were particularly instrumental at the mass alienation of drag queens and crossdressers from the LGBT community in the early 2010s. They did so by redefining the term transgender to center self-identification is a sole prerequisite for inclusion in the trans community. This was a radical departure from Leslie Feinberg’s original 1990s interpretation of “trans”, which served as a broad umbrella for crossdressers, transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, gender queers, butches, femmes, and other gender outlaws. Is it any wonder why Leslie Feinberg has been conveniently forgotten from the history of trans rights despite being a principal architect of the modern trans rights movement itself? It’s because Leslie was not only a gender nonconforming lesbian, but also effectively detransitioned.

      Of course Marsha P. Johnson, being a crossdresser and drag queen didn’t sit well with the Tumblrite SJWs either. But given that she was already a popular trans icon on Tumblr at the time, then the only solution was to rebrand her as a trans woman, so that no questions would be asked about her gender variance. And the rest is history — er, rather revisionist herstory?

      1. “And the rest is history — er, rather revisionist herstory?”

        Fun fact: history comes, via latin, from the greek ‘histor’. “His” isn’t the masculine pronoun in that, “tor” is!

        I know, shocker, SJWs suck at etymology too.

    2. Because the Good Fact right now is that Johnson was transgendered and Binion knows he will catch unholy hell from the Woke Party if he uses male pronouns with regards to Johnson. The Party has decided what History is, regardless of what the True Facts are.

  13. You doesn’t has to call her Johnson.

    1. Marsha P. Johnson. The P stood for either Packin or PlentyO.

    2. Of course not. Her johnson answers on its own.

  14. Johnson was a drag queen, not a transsexual. The difference is clear as night and day: might major surgery and a lifetime of hormones.

    Fck those modern activists who are misappropriating gay and lesbian history to advance their political agendas.

    1. But those activists deserve it for letting it happen. Gay does not exist. If somebody likes fucking dudes, they are female now. Sorry, peeps. You allowed these rules to go. You’re just like the Confederate flag supporters who used “Heritage, not Hate”. They had their chance when they sat back and did nothing when the KKK ran amok.

      1. “Gay does not exist” was the rallying cry of conservatives, who saw homosexuality as something that is easily cured through Jesus and therapy. So, the reason we are here, with progressives and neo-Marxists running out of control is because the right dropped the ball and became the same kind of shitty authoritarians as the left.

  15. He*

    Marsha was a gay man, and using female pronouns is like a slap in the face to not only his memory, but the history he helped create.

    It absolutely matters. If we can make someone Trans after they’re dead, with little to no push-back, then there’s nothing stopping someone from lying about other famous peoples pasts either.

    1. Meh you fuckers have been lying for decades eat some of your own cooking.

    2. Gay drag queens don’t exist anymore. They’re all transwomen because the “T” in LGBT needs a boost.

  16. Thanks for explaining the Google doodle. I’d thought it was Carmen Miranda.

    1. Not a spam link I swear

  17. A few years ago the Chicago Tribune had an online article about a fight that broke out at a club for Black Drag Queens when they had a beauty pageant. I would have sworn it was over the Miss Congeniality prize. I sent it off to “News of the Weird” however the Trib pulled the article. Not sure if it was an early example of Cancel Culture.

  18. Marsha P. Johnson

    Literally who?

    1. Literally nobody.

    2. Literally Malcolm Michaels.

  19. “…does not give you license to rewrite [history].”

    Are you at all familiar with the tactics of LGBT activist movement? That is one of their prime gambits. There are few ideologies more committed to ignoring the past.

    The Left in general is more interested in spouting the narrative that best fits their needs of the moment then whether it has any connection to reality.

  20. So some fag got uppity a long fucking time ago doing something that other fags think was important but wasn’t, and now some mutilated men are trying to claim him. Sounds like their kind of drama.

  21. Johnson—who employed both “he” and “she” pronouns, and wore both male and female clothing—identified as a drag queen, as well as “gay” and as a “transvestite.” To conflate those identities with transgenderism trivializes and misappropriates the unique struggles those communities face.

    *** scratches head ***

    Can those identities and transgenderism be conflated with “queer”?

  22. And for their next trick…..normalizing pedophilia
    If kids can be “encouraged” to identify as the other sex, they can be “encouraged” to identify as being sexually mature adults. Voila!

    The most depraved minds in our society are behind this trans brainwashing shit

  23. There is no such thing as “trans”, so the point is moot.

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  28. intersectionality, while based upon the well intentioned idea..

    Stop right there! Intersectionality is perhaps the worst intentioned of ideas, designed literally to tear apart society into aggrieved factions who hate each other.

    1. Social status and personhood itself being determined by one’s belonging to, or rather identifying with, a bundle of racial, sexual, and gender identities. Multiply the oppression values of your assorted identities, and add your enthusiasm level for progressive politics, to ascertain your worth as a human being.

  29. Truth is that which serves the Revolution, comrade.

    If it did not, how could it be true?

    Four Legs Good! Two Legs Better!!!!

  30. I notice that Johnson used both he and she pronouns in addition to questioning him being trans, but this article determinedly sticks with “she” despite Johnson being a biological male. That’s some virtue-signaling.

  31. The cops should have raided Stonewall harder. If that’s where the current wave of weaponized depravity started, I wish everything associated with it had been burned and buried.

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  34. “…you could say Johnson was likely one step ahead of *her* peers…”

    “Her”?!?! Uh oh Binion, you better prepare yourself. Hordes of activists are en route bearing Staffs of Fire and Wands of Cancellation.

  35. Ironically I’ve been arguing all the points in this article for over years. Here you can see a post I made around this time last July.

    https://www.facebook.com/gendercreativepride/posts/2462292950489433?

    Hopefully people get the hint that rewriting history is not benefiting anybody.

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