Sylvia Rivera was a Latina-American gay liberation and transgender rights activist, prominent as an activist and community worker in New York.

Rivera, who identified as a drag queen, participated in demonstrations with the Gay Liberation Front. She was remembered for fighting for the inclusion of drag queens and those she felt were being left behind in the queer liberation movement, such as people of colour and low-income community members.

With close friend Marsha P Johnson, Rivera co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group dedicated to helping homeless young drag queens, gay youth and trans women. Together they also fought for the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA) in New York. SONDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit and the exercise of civil rights. The act was eventually passed in 2002, the year of her death.

She spent almost her entire life fighting for civil rights reform, not only for gay and transgender people, but also for non-White members of the LGBTQ+ as part of the second-wave feminist movement. On her death, one prominent activist cited her as “the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement”.

Her portrait now hangs in the US National Portrait Gallery.

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+44 (0)1904 323529