Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson: Trans Pioneers, BFFs, Film Stars

By Jamilah King Aug 15, 2014

Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson were two trans activists whose contributions to the 1969 Stonewall Riots were somewhat lost to history. Now, two modern-day activists have raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter to bring the story of their radical friendship to new audiences.

Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel wrapped up the successful crowdsourcing campaign for "Happy Birthday, Marsha," a short narrative film based on the hot summer day in June of 1969 when the two friends helped make history. 

When Marsha and Sylvia, self-proclaimed "street queens" – homeless, Black & Latina trans women – ignite the Stonewall Rebellion, they change LGBT politics forever. It’s a hot summer day in June, 1969. Marsha throws a party, but no one shows up. Meanwhile, Sylvia gets stoned and forgets the party after unsuccessfully introducing her lover to her family. Throughout the difficult day, the friends struggle with harassment and alienation before converging at the Stonewall Inn to finally celebrate Marsha’s birth. Unbeknownst to them, the NYPD has plans to raid the bar that night.Happy Birthday, Marsha! is the story of two brave best friends and the everyday decisions they made that changed the course of history.

As Wortzel says in the Kickstarter video, the film is about "the everyday choices that can change the course of history." It’s currently in pre-production, according to a tweet from Wortzel: