• Transgender activist and historical icon, Marsha P. Johnson. (Tribeca Film Festival)Source: Tribeca Film Festival
Netflix will soon screen David France's 2017 documentary about the remarkable life and suspicious death of the hugely influential transgender activist, Marsha P. Johnson.
Chloe Sargeant

5 Jun 2017 - 3:51 PM  UPDATED 5 Jun 2017 - 3:51 PM

The incredible life, and mysterious and tragic death of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson has been commemorated in David France's 2017 documentary, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this year, and received praise for its modern-day investigative portrayal of Johnson's story.

Johnson, a trans woman, sex worker and drag queen, was a well-known fixture in New York City's Greenwich Village gay scene and a stalwart of the Stonewall Riots, at which she is often credited for 'throwing the first brick'.

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“I think anyone who watches this will understand by the end why it’s not democratic to have a population vote on whether a part of that population gets to have things that everybody else has, and to just know it’s wrong,” she says, referencing Australia’s now dead plebiscite.

She was known as being friendly and vivacious, and commonly told people that her middle initial, 'P', stood for, "Pay it no mind" - some reports state she even said this to a judge during a court session. 

She created activist group STAR (Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries) with fellow trans activist Sylvia Rivera. The group was a very visible presence during gay liberation marches in New York City in the 1970s.

Johnson and Rivera also created STAR House, which provided food and clothing to support young drag queens, trans women, and LGBTQ youth on the streets.


Johnson died tragically and suddenly in July of 1992, at the age of 46 - she was found floating in the Hudson River. Police initially ruled her death as suicide, but her loved ones fought for police to investigate her death as suspicious. Her death sparked protests in New York; many LGBTQ people were outraged that the NYPD were both quick to label her death as suicide, and resistant to the many requests for them to investigate further. 

The documentary recounts Johnson's story via a modern-day investigation by Victoria Cruz, the activist behind the NYC Anti-Violence Project. Cruz embarks on a quest to find out what truly happened to Johnson, which leads her to speak to numerous people who knew her - all are adamant that the activist could not have taken her own life. 

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson will also soon screen at Outfest in Los Angeles, shortly after the country's national Pride celebrations. 

SBS has reached out to Netflix to confirm when the documentary will be available to stream in Australia, but did not receive response by the time of publishing.