Zazu Nova

Picture Of Zazu Nova Picture Of Zazu Nova

Left image
Zazu Nova sits on a table during a Gay Liberation Front meeting in 1970 with her hands crossed. She gazes somberly into the camera.
Credit: Diana Davies/New York Public Library

Right image
The backside of a printed photograph of Zazu Nova. It reads “Marsha P. Johnson (of G.L.F. + S.T.A.R.) at a GLF meeting. Credit: Photo by Diana Davies.” Davies misidentified the subject of the photo, leaving it incorrectly cited for several decades.
Credit: Diana Davies/New York Public Library

Gay liberation cannot be discussed today without addressing the collective contributions of trans people of color

The collective efforts of Black trans and gender-nonconforming people to the gay liberation movement were largely ignored and neglected from discussions for decades. Their voices were hushed, and their ideas were dismissed. They were often physically and metaphorically pushed to the back. Marsha P. Johnson, Jackie Hormona, and Zazu Nova were some of the many pioneering trans women of color who helped found the movement with which we are familiar today.[1]

David Carter’s book, Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution discusses how these women were believed to be the “three individuals known to have been in the vanguard” of the pushback against the peak of police violence the night of the Stonewall Uprising. Nova was identified by many eyewitnesses in Carter’s book and is regarded as the person who may have thrown the legendary “first brick” at the Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969.

Diana Davies, the legendary photographer who took the picture above, mistook Nova for Marsha P. Johnson and incorrectly cited her as the subject of the photo. Nova was often left out of discussions concerning the Stonewall Uprising altogether. Davies’ misidentification reminds us of history’s neglect of Zazu’s impact on the gay and women’s liberation movements.

Zazu Nova was a trans sex worker on the streets of Greenwich Village in the late 1960’s. She often referred to herself as the “Queen of Sex,” and she carried herself accordingly.[2] Though little was recorded about her personal life, David Carter shared an anecdote in his book which revealed details about Nova’s shining personality. According to Carter, she and a companion, Martin Boyce, were approached by a group of five men who spat transphobic slurs at them. Nova acted swiftly and pulled a heavy chain out of her purse and scaring the men away.

Nova was not reported to be inside the Stonewall Inn at the time of the policeraid. However, she did fight alongside Marsha P. Johnson on the first night of the Uprising, which could help explain why some witnesses believed that Nova was the individual who threw the first brick at Stonewall.

After Stonewall, Zazu Nova became involved with the Gay Liberation Front. Perry Brass, the co-editor of “Come Out” magazine, shared a story about Nova during her time with the GLF. He recalled the events of a Gay Liberation Front dance, where Nova had jumped into the crowd, unhooked her bra, and threw it into the flood of dancers. ‘Now that’s women’s liberation,’ one of Brass’ friends interjected.

Nova was also a founding member of New York Gay Youth, an organization that let the voices of LGBTQ+ youth to be heard. The NYGY worked with the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (or STAR), an organization established by Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

The reactions of the groups who arose from the ashes of the Stonewall Uprisings called attention to the conscious neglect of marginalized groups of people (transgender individuals, people of color, and gender-nonconforming folk) in the discussion of the gay liberation movement[3]. The GLF, the GAA, and STAR responded promptly to the abuse of the overlooked individuals. Immediate actions taken by these LGBTQ+ groups demonstrated the rise of tensions between members of the community. Gay liberation cannot be discussed today without addressing the collective contributions of the marginalized groups who spearheaded the movement[4].

Additional websites referenced:





Stonewall National Monument

Last updated: November 9, 2022