She was sometimes an outsider in LGBTQ circles, but often she wasn't. It's perhaps difficult to explain the dynamic that existed in the 80s and 90s in activist circles. With people from Queer Nation and Act Up, Marsha was something of a hero already. She got to experience a little reverence before she died.

I mean, when Lenny and other people pointed her out to me, it’s because she was a celebrity. Not that being one helped her find fulfillment, I think.

But she did get to bask in a warm glow of admiration sometimes.

But as I say, that was in the activist set I moved in. Other groups LGBTQ people thought less of her and of the street queens of color she stood up for. I was just at a reading of a screenplay last night as a matter of fact, for a project I’m working on, and had to insert a little reality into the dialogue. The screenwriter had a Johnson-like drag queen sitting in an upscale bar for gay white men in 1991, swapping jokes with the bartender.

I had to say, “Hold on that a minute, reality check. I don’t buy this.”

I think Marsha would have felt unwelcome in many gay white spaces. But for what reasons? Being effeminate or being Black?

She pushed back hard on both kinds of discrimination, and that didn’t always make her popular.

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store