This story is part of the Pride Month Trailblazers series. Watch the video here!
Especially in its early stages, the gay rights movement wasn’t without its flaws. A major one being the blatant exclusion of trans and gender non-conforming people. All throughout the 70’s, Rivera fought back against gay rights leaders that were unsure about including transgender people in their advocacy work and refused to recognize the role trans people played in the uprising. She eventually reconciled with the gay rights movement after its expansion to embrace more of the community and was given a place of honor in the 25th Anniversary Stonewall Inn march in 1994. She said, “the movement had put me on the shelf, but they took me down and dusted me off...Still, it was beautiful.”
Here are 5 facts about trans rights advocate and icon Sylvia Rivera:
1. She was a founding member of the Gay Activists Alliance
Rivera was an active creator in many organizations including the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front. Along with her close friend Marsha P. Johnson, founded STAR -- the Street Transvestite Action Revolution.
2. She was banned from New York's Gay and Lesbian Community Center
Rivera's had an aggressive, in-your-face approach to activism that other activists didn't quite take to. She was banned after she destroyed a desk in the lobby because she felt the center did not address the needs of transgender homeless youths who slept in front of it.
3. Rumor has it she refused to sleep during the Stonewall riots
The story goes that Rivera refused to go home or even sleep during the Stonewall uprising. She firmly believed that the riot was the beginning of a revolution (she was right) and she wasn't going to miss a second of it.
4. She was a hardcore advocate for unhoused people in New York City
So much so that she would often live on the streets in solidarity, notably when she lived on a pier in the West Village in the early 90's.
5. She set the record straight on how Stonewall really went down
Telling LGMNY in 2001, "I have been given the credit for throwing the first Molotov cocktail by many historians, but I always like to correct it. I threw the second one. I did not throw the first one!”