Sylvia Rae Rivera

Silvia Rae Rivera (July 2, 1951 - February 19, 2002)was a Latina transgender activist who was a combatant at the Stonewall Inn during the rebellion that began June 28, 1969. She consistently fought for the inclusion of transgender issues on many fronts, including inside the ranks of the early gay movement and for protective legislation. She was a lifelong advocate for people of color and the poor.

Sylvia was born in New York of Venezuelan and Puerto Rican parents. At age 11, she became part of a street community of transvestites as her grandmother disapproved of her effeminacy.

She was a founding member of several LGBT organizations including the Gay Liberation Front, Gay Activists Alliance and STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), the later she formed with her activist friend, Marsha P. Johnson. STAR had chapters in New York, Chicago, California and abroad in England.

To break away from the Mafia-controlled bars and police harassment, Sylvia and Marsha secured a building on East 2nd street to house and feed street transgender people in the early 1970s.

Sylvia’s activism was not limited to LGBT liberation, but she also fought against the Viet Nam War and became active in organizations fighting for the liberation of Puerto Rico and the African American community, the Young Lords Party and the Black Panther Party respectively.

“I became one of them (the Young Lords Party). Any time they needed any help, I was always there for the Young Lords. It was just the respect they gave us as human beings. They gave us a lot of respect,” Rivera told transgender activist Leslie Feinberg in a 1998 interview.

“In many ways, Sylvia was the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement, a term that was not even coined until two decades after Stonewall,” said Riki Wilchins, the founder of Gender Public Advocacy Coalition.

In 2005, the corner of Christopher and Hudson streets—just two blocks from the Stonewall Inn—was renamed "Sylvia Rivera Way" in her honor.