“Sylvia Rivera kicking ass on stage after some radfems & transphobes tried to refuse her the right to speak at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally. Said radfems then had their own march in part protesting trans participation in Pride. A precursor to today’s Dyke March.”
It is women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson who started the Stonewall riots and queer liberation. 43 years later, trans women of color, the people who started the movement, are the people maligned and left behind by it.
In Sylvia’s words, “What the FUCK is wrong with you all?”
Testimony by SYLVIA RIVERA, New York
In this powerful essay, legendary trans activist Sylvia Rivera talks about her life and experiences in the LGBTQ rights movement.
“We were doing what we believed in. And what we’re doing now, the few of us who are willing to unsettle people and ruffle up feathers, is what we believe in doing. We have to do it because we can no longer stay invisible. We have to be visible. We should not be ashamed of who we are. We have to show the world that we are numerous. There are many of us out there.”
Sylvia Rivera kicking ass on stage after some radfems & transphobes tried to refuse her the right to speak at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day rally. Said radfems then had their own march in part protesting trans participation in Pride. A precursor to today’s Dyke March.
40 years later in the very same park trans women are still fighting for space within Pride as this year’s Dyke March fiasco demonstrated. I’m feeling challenged and troubled by the narrative that trans women’s response to transphobia must take the “form of serious, calm, point by point analyses of why radfems are wrong” as Stephen Ira pointed out.
What strikes me about this video is that she isn’t trying to be calm and collected after being attacked. She’s not internalizing the notion that fighting transphobia has to take on the oppressive notion of “respectability.”
These conversations have left me wondering: has the non profit industrial complex and professionalized activism gentrified our political activity?
So within all of that, I say: nothing but love and power to trans women creating space for ourselves in queer community! Special shout out to Voz who inspired this post!
“You all tell me go! And hide my tail between my legs! I will not any longer put up with this shit!” —Sylvia Rivera
We are not going anywhere!
chills down my spine
I know many trans women who have organized with Sylvia Rivera before her passing and they always share with me that she took charge of the room and would tear motherfuckers down. And she does.
Portrait of Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) posing in front of her altar to Marsha P. Johnson (1944-1992), by Valerie Shaff, ca. 2000
In the early 1970’s Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson co-founded S.T.A.R., Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an organization designed to achieve rights for her community, and provide social services to this largely ignored and stigmatized group. For a short while she and Marsha P. Johnson ran S.T.A.R. House which provided shelter for homeless young street queens. Lack of funds and problems with the certificate of occupancy for S.T.A.R. House, forced the abandonment of the venture at that time, but Rivera never lost the dream of creating a supportive and safe living space for young transgender people.
Rivera was greatly disillusioned with the desire of many early gay and lesbian activists to distance the gay movement from transvestites, drag queens, and other gender variant people, in spite of the fact that these people were often the “shock troops” for the entire gay community.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project notes,
A veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, Sylvia was a tireless advocate for all those who have been marginalized as the “gay rights” movement has mainstreamed. Sylvia fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York, and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of people of color and low-income queers and trans people.
Sylvia Rivera is one of the most inspirational women in my life. I remember reading and listening to her in my earlier years of undergrad and feeling transformed. Her passion, devotion, and care were endless, and her message clear. Sylvia Rivera is a revolutionary that will always be in my heart.
Of Puerto rican and Venezuelan decent. Que orgullo!