Sylvia Rivera, at a sweet moment
The Christopher Street Liberation Day Rally started in 1970 with the express purpose of asserting the visibility of gays and lesbians demanding rights and respect. It also commemorated The Stonewall Riots, a series of violent clashes with police attempting to raid The Stonewall Inn, a New York gay club commonly targeted for police harassment and brutality. Here we see Latina trans activist Sylvia Rivera, homeless from the age of ten and brutalized by the police ever since, fighting for the mic in Washington Square Park to demand gay and lesbian activists recognize more than white, middle-class, cisgendered folks in the struggle.
You can hear the boos and heckles as she denounces the burgeoning transphobic, bourgeois queer culture, in spite of the fact that she herself was a Stonewall Rioter at the age of 18. Sylvia would not be intimidated, shouting, “You all tell me go and hide my tail between my legs! I will not any longer put up with this shit!” Rivera continued her radical activism up until her death in 2002, criticizing assimilationist gay initiatives up until the very end.
With today’s Supreme Court to ruling on DOMA, I’d like to keep her in mind. There’s still so much work to be done. Sylvia Rivera didn’t shout through a crowd of her own community for nothing.