Sylvia Rivera

By Prema Kapoor

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As we started LGBT History Month with Marsha P. Johnson, it seemed only fitting to introduce you to Sylvia Rivera next. Like Johnson, Rivera is a renowned gay liberation and transgender activist. Along with this, she was also an advocate for homeless people. While she fought for others to have easier lives, hers was far from that.

At the age of 11, she left home to live on the streets. She was soon adopted by a “community” of drag queens and had to work as a prostitute until she was 18. During this same year, the Greenwich Village gay bar was raided by police officers outside of Stonewall Inn. Rivera was one of the first people to throw bottles at police. This later became known as the Stonewall Riot, an uprising that was a key factor in launching the gay rights movement.

Following the riot, Sylvia joined the Gay Activists Alliance to take part in their campaign to pass The New York City Gay Rights Bill. She became well known soon after she was arrested for climbing the walls of NYC’s City Hall in a dress and heels to crash the closed-door meeting.

In the following years, she co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries alongside her close friend, Marsha Johnson to provide shelter, clothing and food to struggling trans people.

Sadly in 2002, at the age of 50, Sylvia died from Liver cancer. Although she is now gone, her legacy and work will live on forever.

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