Women's Activism NYC

Sylvia Rivera

1951 - 2002

Date Added:

“Hell Hath No Fury like a Drag Queen Scorned” Sylvia Rivera was born to a Venezuelan mother and a Puerto Rican father in the Bronx, New York. She faced a lot of disapproval from her family and those around her. She started wearing makeup in the fourth grade and faced a lot of bullying. She decided to leave her family behind at the age of 11 and move into Forty- second street an area known for its drag queens, and sex workers. Moving out of her grandmother's house and living with drag queens made her become an activist for transgender rights. From there she turned into a transgender activist who spoke out for drag queens, many non-gender conforming people, and the queer youth. She went against all status quo and fought for the inclusion of transgender people, drag queens, homeless queer youth and many others who had been marginalized. As a proud Latina and drag queen she lived her life fighting for others who wanted to be heard and wanted more palatable gay rights legislation. However, being involved was not easy, her identity was thought to be troubling since she was a Latina, street worker, drag queen, and poor. Many white, middle class activist groups saw her as being all types of wrong. Despite, the groups unwillingness to help her she continued to work within the organizations in hopes of achieving inclusion for all gender variant people. She was involved in the campaign to pass New York City's first gay rights bill and fought so that drag queens could be included in the bill which caused her to fight many of the mainstream gay advocacy organizations. When the bill was finally passed it did not include any protection for transgender people, drag queens, or any other gender variant people. Which angered Sylvia. In the 1970's she decided to start her own organization called S.T.A.R which gave queer and homeless youth a place to stay. She was a strong advocate who shaped the lives of many and who should not be forgotten. “Before I die, I will see our community given the respect we deserve. I’ll be damned if I’m going to my grave without having the respect this community deserves. I want to go to wherever I go with that in my soul and peacefully say I’ve finally overcome"

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