Marsha P. Johnson

Information about Marsha P. Johnson

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Johnson was born Malcolm Michaels Jr. on August 24, 1945, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Michaels had six siblings and a father, Malcolm Michaels Sr. , who was an assembly line worker at General Motors. Michaels' mother, Alberta Claiborne, was a housekeeper. They attended an African Methodist Episcopal Church during Michaels'/Johnson's childhood and remained devoutly religious in later life, often taking an interest in Catholicism, but also making offerings to the saints in a personal manner, keeping a private altar at home. Johnson first began wearing dresses at the age of five but stopped temporarily due to harassment by boys who lived nearby. In a 1992 interview, Johnson described being the young victim of sexual assault by an adolescent boy. After this, Johnson described the idea of being gay as "some sort of dream", rather than something that seemed possible, and so chose to remain sexually inactive until leaving for New York City at 17. Johnson's mother reportedly said that being homosexual is like being "lower than a dog", but Johnson said that Alberta was unaware of the LGBT community. After graduating from Edison High School (now the Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Academy) in Elizabeth in 1963, Johnson left home for New York City with $15 and a bag of clothes. Johnson waited on tables after moving to Greenwich Village in 1966. After meeting gay people in the city, Johnson finally felt it was possible to be gay and was able to come out.