LGBTQIA2S+ Pride and Disability

Written by Kari Havenaar, MA

Image Description: Morty Manford is in the center of the photograph with people surrounding on each side and behind them. The individuals are holding microphones to Manford as he speaks to a crowd of people. Manford is wearing a suit and slicked back hair. The image is in black and white.

June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, and DNWML is featuring prominent figures in the LGBTQ community. Disability, sexuality and gender are all interconnected with each other, and many historical figures emanate that. The beginning of the Gay Liberation Movement came from Stonewall Riots, when police invaded gay clubs and dwellings and incarcerated individuals based on their identity and sexuality. From there, mass protests were arranged and activists from all over the country came to participate. 

Morty Manford was born in New York and grew up during the 1950s and 1960s. Manford struggled in his childhood because being gay and or identifying as such was incredibly stigmatized or equated to mental illness. In the 1970’s, Manford was part of the Gay Liberation Movement, and advocated for equality and social justice for the LGBTQ community. He was on the front lines of the Stonewall Riot and social justice movement in New York where he was involved in the Gay Activists Alliance, and later cofounded a parent and friend group with his mother known as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Manford went on to become an assistant New York State Attorney General where he continued to advocate for LGBTQ rights and social justice. He died in 1992 due to complications from AIDS, and in memory, the Morty Manford Award was created by PFLAG to continue social justice and advocacy in the LGBTQ community.  

Image Description: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera are side by side leading a protest in New York. Johnson is on the left, and Rivera is on the right. Both women are dressed up in extravagant outfits and have big hair. Johnson is holding her purse to her chest and Rivera is holding her hand to her mouth as if she were preparing to shout. The background is downtown street buildings and people in congregation of the protest.

Along with Manford, Marsha P. Johnson was instrumental in paving the way for activism in the LGBTQIA+ community. Johnson

 was assigned male at birth, and during her childhood she was bullied for wearing dresses. When Johnson graduated high school, she moved to New York with one bag of clothes and $15. When in New York, Johnson adopted the name we know now; Marsha P. Johnson, where the “P” stands for “Pay it no Mind”. For Johnson, hardships came in the form of employment and housing. She had difficulty finding a job, and making money to survive, so she went to work in the adult industry. In this industry, there was lots of abuse from clients and she was arrested by police many times. During this time, Johnson was houseless, couch hopped at friends’ places and slept at hotels, restaurants, and movie theaters. She also found work as a waitress and performed in drag shows. 

While in New York Johnson met Sylvia Rivera who identified as a Puerto Rican transgender woman. Rivera struggled with alcoholism and eventually passed away in 2002 from liver cancer. Rivera had a friendship with Johnson until the time she died and viewed her as a mother. Rivera loved how Johnson expressed herself with bright and colorful clothing and always wore a flower crown. Together, Rivera and Johnson, on June 28th, 1969, arrived at Stonewall Inn, where patrons were being arrested. This raid by police lit a fire to the beginning of the gay rights movement. In wake of the raids, Rivera and Johnson led a series of protests because they were angered by the police and the oppression and fear they experienced because of it.  

Image Description: This is a bronze bust monument of Marsha P. Johnson in a park in New York City. This monument has a floral crown upon the head of Johnson. The background is of buildings and trees lining the edges of the park.

The first Gay Pride Parade took place in 1970, where organizations such as the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activist Allianceemerged. Through the creation of these groups many were exclusive to only individuals who identified as gay, where they left out the transgender community and people of color. Increasingly getting more frustrated, Johnson and Rivera founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) in 1970, where they created a place for transgender youth to find sanctuary and community amongst each other. STAR House was created for homeless gay people of color to find sanctuary. Tired of being excluded from activism Johnson and Rivera carved their own path advocating for Transgender Rights. Throughout the 1970s, Johnson gained much traction with her activism and became a prominently known member of the gay rights movement. Johnson struggled with her mental health and spent a lot of her time in psychiatric hospital care. In 1990, Johnson was diagnosed with HIV where she spoke publicly about her diagnosis. In 1992, Johnsons body was found in the Hudson River, and the nature of her death is still unknown to this day. 

In 2019, New York announced that a monument to Johnson will be commissioned by Public Arts Campaign “She Built NYC” honoring transgender women. In 2020, New York named a waterfront park in Brooklyn after Johnson in her memory.  

Additional Resources: 

New York Honors Early Transgender Activists With First-Ever Monument ( 

Marsha P. Johnson | National Women’s History Museum ( 

Sylvia Rivera | National Women’s History Museum ( 

Activists Install Marsha P. Johnson Monument In Christopher Park – Gothamist 

Who We Are – Marsha P. Johnson Institute 

SRLP (Sylvia Rivera Law Project) 

Sylvia Rivera – Speech, Stonewall & Death ( 

1969 Stonewall Riots – Origins, Timeline & Leaders ( 

1969: The Stonewall Uprising – LGBTQIA+ Studies: A Resource Guide – Research Guides at Library of Congress ( 

Summary of Michigan’s LGBT Heritage · Online Exhibits ( 

Come Out! In Detroit | Perspectives on History | AHA ( 

Morty Manford | Making Gay History 

The Intersection Of LGBTQ History And Disability – Philadelphia Gay News ( 

50 years ago, Pride was born. This is what it looked like – 


 LGBTQIA2S+ Organizations: 

The Trevor Project – Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ+ Young People 

Home | Youth Pride Association ( 

Homepage – PFLAG 

LGBTQ Resource List | GLAAD 

Human Rights Campaign ( 

The Corner Health Center 

LGBTQIA Midwest 

National Black Trans Advocacy Coalition 

Youth – Transgender Law Center 

Home – Trans Lifeline