Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002) was a drag queen and transgender activist, as well as a founding member of both the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front.
She helped lead the charge on the night of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which is often considered the beginning of the LGBT+ rights movement. As the New York Times reported, she was one of the drag queens who fought back against a police raid at a gay bar on June 28, 1969. She was heard to shout:
“I’m not missing a moment of this – it’s the revolution!”
Rivera was a queer Latina drag queen, so she was no stranger to being marginalised. She fought for others who refused to be pushed to the side or silenced in favor of more palatable gay rights legislation, and was active in the LGBT+ community both before and after Stonewall, continuing her work right up until her untimely death in 2002.
An inspiring woman, Rivera said to a crowd of gay rights activists:
“I have been beaten…I have had my nose broken, I have been thrown in jail, I have lost my job, I have lost my apartment for gay liberation.”
Together with Marsha P Johnson, she started the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or S.T.A.R., to provide support, information and a community for the disadvantaged trans people in their area. Their pamphlet read:
“We’re tired of running…We intend to fight for our rights until we get them.”