Many transgender people have also come to hail Johnson, and her longtime friend and colleague Sylvia Rivera, as pioneering heroes. (The term transgender was not in wide use in Johnson’s lifetime; she usually used female pronouns for herself, but also referred to herself as gay, as a transvestite or simply as a queen.)
“Marsha P. Johnson could be perceived as the most marginalized of people — black, queer, gender-nonconforming, poor,” said Susan Stryker, an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Arizona. “You might expect a person in such a position to be fragile, brutalized, beaten down. Instead, Marsha had this joie de vivre, a capacity to find joy in a world of suffering. She channeled it into political action, and did it with a kind of fierceness, grace and whimsy, with a loopy, absurdist reaction to it all.”
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