New York City has 150 statues of historical figures—and just five of them are women. But thanks to She Built NYC, an initiative launched last year to even the score, that’s about to change.
Days before Pride Month celebrations kicked off around the world, the city announced that a monument to iconic transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera is in the works for downtown Manhattan, the sixth in a line of public arts projects planned to honor local women’s history.
“The contributions of too many women, LGBTQ people, people of color, and people living on the margins of society have been obscured or erased entirely,” said New York’s first lady Chirlane McCray at the event announcing the monument. “Marsha and Sylvia, and many other trans people of color who led the way, have not gotten their due in history.”
Instrumental in New York’s gay liberation movement, Johnson and Rivera played a pivotal role in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and later founded an organization that advocated and provided a support system for transgender youth. “Transgender history is American history, and lasting recognition of the work done by those who came before us is a crucial step towards honoring the past and reaching the future Marsha and Sylvia worked to build,” Gillian Branstetter, a spokeswoman for the National Center for Transgender Equality, told the Guardian.
The city hopes to place the monument in Ruth Wittenburg Triangle on Sixth Avenue, just a block or two over from the Stonewall monument (and the bar itself) on Christopher Street. There’s an open call for artists looking to throw their hats in the ring, and with a reported budget of around US$750,000, there are sure to be some takers. After an artist is selected later this year, the aim is to wrap the project by 2021. According to Out, this will be one of the first permanent monuments in the world to pay homage to trans women.