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This Institute Has Been Helping Black Trans Folks During COVID-19

This organization "protects and defends the human rights of black transgender people" and has been instrumental in providing financial relief for transgender people and people of color during the pandemic. 

The pandemic has been detrimental to black transgender people. To help support black trans folks, the Marsha P. Johnson Institute has announced that they are donating over $250,000 to 500 people that have been impacted by COVID-19 2020 across the United States.  

How Has the Pandemic Affected Transgender People of Colour?

According to a recent Human Rights Campaign report :

  • 54% of transgender people and 58% of transgender people of color have had reduced hours during the pandemic, which is higher than LGBTQ+ people and the non-LGBTQ+ population. 
  • 27% of trans people and 37% of trans people of color have had pay cuts, which is higher than LGBTQ+ people and the non-LGBTQ+ population.
  • 27% of trans people and 30% of transpeople of color have had no choice but to switch part-time work, more than other LGBTQ people and the non-LGBTQ+ population.
  • 19% of trans people and 26% of trans people of color have become unemployed because of the pandemic at higher rates than LGBTQ folks and the non-LGBTQ+ population

Here are some of the financial impacts for transgender people due to COVID-19:

  • 32% of trans people and 51% of trans people of color have had to modify their household budget 
  • 59% of trans people and 67% of trans people of color are worried about the inability to pay their bills and debts

Related: Reducing Stigma Toward the Transgender Community

Who Was Marsha P. Johnson, and What Is the Marsha P. Johnson Institute’s COVID-19 Relief Fund?

Before her tragic death in 1992, Marsha P. Johnson was a performer, drag queen, and notable figure in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969. She first went by the name “Black Marsha” before deciding on Marsha P. Johnson. The “P” was significant because it stood for “Pay It No Mind,” which is what she would say when asked about her gender. 

The Marsha P. Johnson Institute’s COVID-19 Relief Fund gives a one-time relief payment of $500 to Black transgender or non-binary folks. The Institute prides itself by centering on the needs of the most marginalized populations. They also gave priority to Black trans women, sex workers, the formerly incarcerated, and other vulnerable community members.

The program started in June 2020 of last year and closed for submissions in October. Thousands of Black LGBTQ+ people from all 40 states and Puerto Rico, Mali, and Columbia applied for it. 

Why Are These Funds Beneficial to Black Trans Folks?

Since the pandemic has caused many individuals to lose their incomes or have them significantly reduce, these funds are life-changing. They have been used to supplement income and pay for things like rent, groceries, and medication. These funds also give Black transgender people the opportunity to support family members and loved ones.

Elle Moxley, Founder and Executive Director of the Marsha P. Johnson Institute, even sees it as a way of offering their own stimulus check. The organization is one of the only ones providing d direct cash assistance. 

The Impact of Martha P. Johnson 

In June of 1969, police raided a gay bar (the Stonewall Inn) in New York. They used excessive force and violence to remove 200 people out of the bar and into the streets. Marsha, who was living in New York, fought and stood up against the police as the raids were happening. 

She resisted arrest and led various protests and riots to stand up for gay people’s rights. These riots were a momentous historical event, inspiring change worldwide and for others to protest for equal rights. A month later, the first-ever openly gay march happened in New York, an important event for the LGBTQ+ community.

Related: Police Banned from Attending Pride Events in NUC Until 2025

Although the Stonewall riots inspired more activism and support for LGBTQ+ folks, there was still much and continued discrimination against the community. Young LGBTQ+ people were and are still being kicked out of their homes and being assaulted or murdered. 

Marsha and another activist and close friend of hers, Sylvia Rivera, founded STAR (Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). This organization supported homeless LGBTQ+ people. Marsha experienced mental health issues but still dedicated her life to helping her community. She was given the nickname “the Saint of Christopher Street” (the street of the Stonewall Inn) because of how much she had helped the LGBTQ+ community in New York.  

What Happened to Marsha P. Johnson?

In 1992, Marsha went missing. The police found her body six days later. They determined no one was responsible for her death, although many friends argued against their decision at the time. Since attacks on gay and trans people were much too common, her friends strongly believed that she was murdered. Some even reported her being harassed by a group of people a few days before.

Read more: Update: There Have Now Been More Trans Murders in 2021 than 2019

In 2012, the NYPD decided to reopen Marsha’sMarsha’s case and investigate it as a potential murder. The reason they reopened the case was after a successful campaign led by Mariah Lopez. After they reopened the case, the NYPD changed Marsha’sMarsha’s death from “suicide” to undetermined.

Last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city announced that the city would honor the work of Martha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera by building statues in Greenwich Village. This monument is the first in the world that celebrates transgender people.

Marsha’s Legacy Continues to Live On Today

Marsha’s influence on the LGBTQ+ community continues to benefit the most marginalized lives with organizations like the Marsha P. Johnson Institute. This organization “protects and defends the human rights of black transgender people” and has been instrumental in providing financial relief for transgender people and people of color during the pandemic. 

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Billie Olsen

MODEL: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.