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LGBTQ pioneers Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson to be honored

The iconic activists, who co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, will be honored with a monument in NYC's Greenwich Village neighborhood.
Sylvia Rivera
Sylvia Rivera in 1970.Kay Tobin / Courtesy of New York Public Library

NEW YORK — Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two LGBTQ rights activists who took part in the 1969 Stonewall rebellion and founded an organization that helped homeless gay youths, will be honored with a public monument in New York City, officials announced Thursday.

The yet-to-be-commissioned monument is part of an initiative to increase the diversity of the statues and monuments in public places around New York City. It will be paid for out of $10 million allocated for new public artworks.

Marsha P. Johnson hands out flyers for support of gay students at NYU in 1970.
Marsha P. Johnson hands out flyers for support of gay students at NYU in 1970.Diana Davies / Courtesy of New York Public Library

The monument will be installed in Greenwich Village a block away from the Stonewall Inn, where patrons resisted a police raid on June 28, 1969, and helped usher in a new, militant phase of the movement for gay rights.

Johnson died in 1992 at age 46 and Rivera in 2002 at age 50. Both gave accounts of joining in the Stonewall uprising, which is commemorated every June with marches in New York and around the world. Some witness accounts identify them as leaders of the rebellion.

Advocates for the rights of transgender people consider Rivera and Johnson to be pioneers of the movement. The two close friends died before the term transgender was commonly used.

Johnson and Rivera joined up to found the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, a group that advocated for homeless gay young people, in 1970.

While they are celebrated for their activism for gay liberation and other causes including the rights of people with AIDS, both Johnson and Rivera led difficult lives and often lived on the streets.

The circumstances of Johnson's death remain murky. Her death was initially ruled a suicide when her body was pulled from the Hudson River on July 6, 1992, but was later reclassified to drowning from undetermined causes.