Excerpt from Queens In Exile, The Forgotten Ones by Sylvia Rivera
There are two stories how Marsha died. One is that she supposedly committed suicide and the other is that somebody murdered her. They fished her body out of the Hudson River at the end of Christopher Street 9 years ago. It was very shocking for me when I got the telegram. Actually I was really pissed at her because our pact was that we would cross the Jordan together. She would get angry with me when I tried to off myself so we made a pact. That’s why I find it hard to believe she committed suicide.
Marcia had been on Social Security disability for quite some time because she had several nervous breakdowns She had been locked up several times in Bellevue and Manhattan State. Her mind started really going. She had a doctor who did not diagnose her syphilis right away. So when they finally caught it, it was in the second stages. Marsha lived in her own realm and she saw things through different eyes. She liked to stay in that world so with that and the syphilis infection and then her husband, Cantrell, was shot by an off duty officer. He was shot to death and she really went over the edge. She managed to come out of that one, and then she lost at again. She came over to my house dressed like the Virgin Mary in white and blue and she was carrying a wooden cross and a Bible. She came in and started preaching the Bible to me and we had a few words. Then she took the wooden cross and hit me upside the head with it. If it had been any other queen I would probably be in jail because I would have killed her. She drew blood because the nail wasn’t completely bent, and she put a gash in my head. The next day I heard they arrested her and locked her up again so she had several breakdowns.
Bob Kohler who was very close to her and to me says that she committed suicide. He was closer to her the last few months. She would always go down to the end of Christopher Street supposedly talking to her brother and wanting to go talk to her father in the water. And there is some testimony that some guys were messing with her and they threw her in the river. The police couldn’t prove that so I’m still stuck in the middle. When I heard that she was murdered I couldn’t understand why anybody would kill her. Marsha would give the blouse off her back if you asked for it. She would give you her last dollar. She would take off her shoes. I’ve seen her do all these things so I couldn’t see someone killing her. I know there are crazy people out there. I know there are transphobic people out there. But it’s not like she wasn’t a known transperson. She was loved anywhere she went. Marsha was a great woman.