You've probably heard about the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's in the United States.

A Civil Rights march in the 1960's. People are proceeding down a street, holding signs demanding equality.. Photo by Library of Congress on Unsplash

But did you know that the gay rights movement was beginning around the same time?

Black and white clip of Marsha P Johnson in front of a microphone, saying

One of the pioneers of this movement was Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman. Her story can teach us lessons about being true to yourself, standing up for your rights, and showing kindness to others.

1. Try to Understand Others' Perspectives

Marsha was bullied as a child for being different. Her family and community didn't understand her because she didn't fit the norm.

Clip of Marsha P. Johnson saying

Imagine how hurtful this must have been for a young child just trying to be themselves.

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Lessons Learned

Most of us can relate to a time when we were bullied or put down. The next time you encounter someone who seems different, try to place yourself in their shoes. They're a person just like you. Kindness is the best path.

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Perhaps you're in a situation where you are the one who's different or being picked on. Do your best to build yourself up. You are worthy! Find others who support you, and try to ignore the critics. Marsha eventually came into herself, and so will you.

2. Stand Up for Your Rights

Marsha was a central figure in the gay rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. At that time, it was illegal to be gay or transgender, but Marsha was proud of her identity and didn't try to hide it.

During this time period, police kept watch on gay establishments and would arrest people who went to gay nightclubs. Marsha herself was arrested several times for exhibiting the fact that she was transgender.

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On June 28, 1969, the police raided a nightclub on Christopher Street in New York called The Stonewall Inn. Patrons, including Marsha P. Johnson, fought back. The uprising took place over a period of 6 days and came to be known as the Stonewall Riots.

A black and white image of the Stonewall Inn. The text reads,

Exactly one year later, Christopher Street Liberation Day, the first gay pride parade in New York City, was held.

Marsha has been quoted as saying, "No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.”

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Lessons Learned

  • Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.

  • Speak up if you are, or someone you know, is being treated poorly or discriminated against.

  • Be proud of who you are.

3. Pay It Forward

Marsha experienced many hardships during her life, but this didn't stop her from helping others. Instead, she tapped into her difficult experiences and decided that she would reach out to people in similar circumstances.

Marsha saying:

Together with her close friend, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha established the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) organization to help homeless transgender youth.

STAR was the first LGBTQ+ shelter in North America. The organization provided food, housing, and support to young transgender people who were often shunned by their families and society and were at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. Marsha helped them get off the streets and assured them that they were loved.

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Lesson Learned

Use your talents and personal experiences to help others. Even in times of hardship, it's possible. In fact, going through tough times can result in greater empathy and may motivate you to support others going through a similar experience.


Mimi is being put down by her family members because they are transgender. What would Martha P. Johnson tell Mimi? Select all that apply:

Take Action

An animation of Marsha P Johnson. She is wearing colorful flowers on her head and images of New York City are behind her.

Marsha P. Johnson was a pioneer in the LBGT+ rights movement. She fought for equal rights and advocated for others in need. Her life wasn't easy, but she persevered to the best of her ability, helping to pave the way for others to be more accepted.


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