Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Trans Activist Who Is Not Forgotten

The article says “And most people do not know her name.” but the trans community knows her name and all the work that she did for the early trans rights movement… Sylvia Rivera.
A Forgotten Latina Trailblazer: LGBT Activist Sylvia Rivera
NBC News
By Raul A. Reyes
October 6, 2015

NEW YORK, NY -- Before Harvey Milk, she was a seminal figure in the LGBT rights movement. Before Caitlyn Jenner, she was one of the country’s first transgender activists who worked tirelessly for justice and civil rights.

And most people do not know her name.

She was Sylvia Rivera, who occupies a unique place in LGBT history. Rivera helped lead the charge on the night of the Stonewall riots in New York City, considered the beginning of the LGBT rights movement. As drag queens fought back against a police raid at a gay bar on June 28, 1969, the New York Times reported, Rivera shouted out, “I’m not missing a moment of this – it’s the revolution!”
And I think the author got next paragraph wrong…
While Rivera’s presence at this landmark event has been disputed, there is no denying that she was an LGBT civil rights pioneer. Yet she remains little known, even within the LGBT community. The recent movie Stonewall, based on the events of that fateful night, drew protests for “whitewashing” Rivera out of the story in favor of a fictional white character.
I don’t think there is no dispute that she took an active part in the Stonewall Uprising, I think that the only ones that dispute her being there is “Gay Inc.” as they try to “whitewash” the uprising.
I was at the Stonewall riots. The movie ‘Stonewall’ gets everything wrong
PBS News Hour
By Mark Segal
September 23, 2015

Last Sunday, I was at the Stonewall Inn in New York City to kick off a campaign to make neighboring Christopher Park a national park. As the site of the infamous 1969 riots that energized the struggle for LGBT equality, it deserves to be memorialized and for its spot in history to be officially recognized. Those in attendance agreed: activists, community members, neighborhood residents and members of Congress, including New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. It was a remarkable, dignified event.

But the movie “Stonewall,” directed by Roland Emmerich, which comes out this Friday and purports to portray this history, is not so dignified.

I take this subject personally, since many of the people portrayed in this film were, and some still are, my friends and family. These real-life events shaped me and guided me to all that I’ve done and accomplished in my life.

In 1969 I was 18, one of those street kids who spent their nights walking up and down Christopher Street and occasionally popping into the Stonewall. The homeless sex workers that form the main portrayal of the LGBT community in the film were oversimplified and trivialized in the film. Homeless LGBT sex workers were only one part of a large and complex group of people, a group who wanted to stop being beaten up and jeered at, who wanted to feel something other than dehumanized. In reality, Marsha P. Johnson, who is portrayed in the film, kept a switchblade handy for anyone ready to attack her.
Sylvia Rivera said in a 1998 interview in Worker’s World with Leslie Feinberg that,
It was street gay people from the Village out front-homeless people who lived in the park in Sheridan Square outside the bar-and then drag queens behind them and everybody behind us. The Stonewall Inn telephone lines were cut and they were left in the dark.
In another interview Sylvia Rivera characterized the Stonewall Inn as “a white male bar for middle-class males to pick up young boys of different races.”
The original article said,
With her friend and fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and opened a shelter for homeless transgender youth. She was also an early member of groups like the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front, which were the forerunners of today’s LGBT advocacy organizations.
[…]
But as the gay rights struggle progressed, Rivera was increasingly left out of a movement that was concentrating on going mainstream. Still, she rallied, protested, caucused, and got arrested in the name of what she believed in, earning her the title of “The Rosa Parks of the Modern Transgender Movement.”
She was pushed out by “Gay Inc.” who wanted lily white gays and lesbians who could assimilate into society, they wanted people that they could say, “See we are just like you” and Sylvia Rivera didn’t fit their image.
Riki Wilchins noted that it is not unusual for those that started a movement to be somewhat erased from history. “The gay rights movement was not founded by the gays hanging out at Fire Island. It was started by people like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, it came from low-income people of color outward. And they may not be the face that the modern gay rights movement wants to show the world.”
As this Pride month ends let’s make sure that we are not erased from history.

1 comment:

Richard Nelson said...

Sylvia, Marsha and Storme' will never be erased from my ourstories. 3 mad as heck women of color who were not afraid to fight back. I have always loved what Storme' had to say and I think it sums up the spirit of the times, "The Cop Hit Me So I Hit Him Back." Years later in an interview she noted that she had some blood on her but the cop was laying on the ground. I want to speak a bit about Storme' as she is one of our forgotten mothers also. A cross dressing butch lesbian who sang in the Jewel Box Review and was finally noted as the struggling dyke fighting with the cops while yelling for people to do something. We did a tribute in videos over at furbirdsqueerly to all three this PRIDE month. As noted many times here and other places Storme' would have been arrested simply because she did not have on 3 pieces of clothing that a woman was suppose to wear. The Ct. Stonewall Foundation brought Sylvia Rivera to Hartford in 1999 after there were some nasty attacks against drag queens and the Bi-community spear headed by the Metroline in this area. There is a video of her talk floating around on you tube.