Ms. Rivera was a trans woman and extremely prominent transgender rights activist from the late 1960’s up until her death in the early 2000’s. She made huge sacrifices for the trans community, fighting against trans people’s exclusion from the queer community, and was someone who truly made a difference for people like us.
- Pronouns/gender: she/her, transfem
Sylvia was born in 1959 in New York City, to an absent father and a mother who took her own life when Sylvia was three. She was then put into her grandmother’s care, who beat her when she started experimenting with feminine presentation. At age eleven, she ran away from home, and resorted to prostitution as a means for survival. She found a mother figure when she was twelve in Marsha P. Johnson, a drag queen who inspired her to fight for trans inclusion in queers spaces, especially for trans women of color! Marsha and Sylvia both participated in the fight for African-American rights, and were both involved in the extremely important event in queer history, the Stonewall Riot of 1969. Sylvia stayed awake and rioted for six days, exhilarated by what she described as the start of a revolution.
Sylvia led protests soon after protesting the police raid that spurred Stonewall, and resisted arrest following the event. Though the first Pride Parades started a year after Stonewall in 1970, trans folks were excluded and told not to attend. She continued her activism throughout the 70’s, fighting for the inclusion of trans people in the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act, which would later be passed in 2002 and illegalized any sort of discrimination regardless of sexuality or gender identity. Her and Marsha formed STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) in 1971