Entertainment

Sylvia Rivera Is One Of The Most Prominent Influencers Of LGBTQ+ Rights And Here’s Everything Your School Didn’t Teach You About Her

Pride Month might be over but the celebration of LGBTQ+ icons and history lives on. When it comes to LGBTQ+ Queen Sylvia Rivera the party will always live on. Nearly two decades after her death, and exactly 50 years after her role in the spark of the Stonewall Riots and Pride, Sylvia Rivera still remains one of the most prominent influencers of LGTBQ+ history and rights.

You may not remember her name or face, but you will remember her extraordinary story and the legacy she has left behind for marginalized members of the gay community. This is the story of a life rooted in activism–whether she knew it all along or not–the story of one woman simply trying to live her life authentically.

This is the incredible life story of LGBTQ icon Sylvia Rivera.

Born into intolerance.

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Given the name Ray Rivera Mendosa and assigned male upon her birth in the Bronx, New York, on July 2nd, 1951, Sylvia was soon abandoned by her father. By the time she was three, her mother committed suicide and Rivera was left her grandmother. The activist was raised in a household where her abuela disapproved strongly of Rivera’s darker skin tone and feminine behavior. 

A rising resistor

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Sylvia was forced into the margins of society because of her refusal to conform to gender norms. At the time, the term “transgender” wasn’t commonly known–people choosing to shun conventional gender norms were simply referred to as drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals, or simply “queers.” Still, Sylvia refused to hide and openly wore makeup in the 4th grade, leaving her to be bullied both in school and at home. At the age of ten, Sylvia had had enough and chose to run away from home.

Life on the Streets

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She made her home on 42nd street, taking on the role of a sex work in order to survive and getting taken in by a family of trans women who taught her how to get by. Life was difficult–to say the least–for a queer gender-nonconforming person of color, especially one still a child. Her time on 42nd street would later influence her activism for the marginalized members of the gay community.

Meeting Marsha P. Johnson

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Then one day something happened that would change Sylvia’s life forever. She was simply trying to drum up some business when she spotted Marsha P. Johnson–a gorgeous older Black trans woman who took Sylvia out for dinner, showed her how to apply her makeup and gave her tips for getting by on the streets. The two quickly became friends and remained so for the rest of their lives.

Riotting in the Streets And Sparking Change

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On June 28th, 1969, violent confrontations broke out between police and gay rights activists outside of the Stonewall Inn–a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The police had been in the process of raiding when patrons started to fight back, giving rise to an international gay rights movement.

The Beginning of What’s to Come

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Where does Sylvia fit into the Stonewall Riots? It is rumored that she threw the first brick. Just seventeen years old at the time, Sylvia was with Marsha when the riots started and is credited with one of the most famous quotes from the event: “I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution!” 

What Happens Next

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After Stonewall, Sylvia became part of the emerging gay rights movement–albeit at a time when transgender people were not particularly welcomed. Her role in gay history eventually resulted in her being one of the first people to highlight that the movement itself needed to be more inclusive. 

To Boldly Go

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Despite the adversity Sylvia would repeatedly face, she continued to get involved however she could, using her outsider status to help make a change. She was bold and brave, willing to go to great lengths to ensure her message was received–including being willing to get arrested even though she was a transgender woman of color and would face unimaginable difficulties in prison.

A Daring Escapade

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At one point when New York City Council was debating a gay rights bill, Sylvia tried to climb into a window (in a dress and heels) to have her say. She was subsequently arrested yet still earned the title of “the Rosa Parks of the Modern Transgender Movement” for all of her efforts.

Activism and Adversity

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Sylvia was also an early member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), however, these groups were largely made up of gay white males who, seeking wider acceptance, started to distance themselves from important transgender issues Sylvia wanted to address.

Being “Other”

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Sylvia began to feel shunned in the gay liberation circles. Her multiple marginalized identities created a sense of Otherness that made the community see her as dangerous.

The Sit-In that Started it All

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In 1970 the GAA was using Weinstein Hall at NYU to host “Dance-a-Fair” fundraisers for services in the gay community. There was much controversy from the NYU administration which eventually led to a sit-in for five days and ended with New York City’s Tactical Police Squad ordering the occupiers out. Sylvia refused and had to be carried out by police.

A STAR is Born

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As a result Sylvia, with the help of Marsha P. Johnson, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and opened a shelter for homeless transgender youth.

A Spark of Hope

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Shortly after forming STAR, Sylvia heard of an uprising being led by the Young Lords–a revolutionary Puerto Rican group–against police brutality. Sylvia, along with other members of STAR, marched alongside the Young Lords in Spanish Harlem. Sylvia was happily surprised by the respect they were shown by the Young Lords and was quick to join them in solidarity, starting a Gay and Lesbian Caucus that worked within the group.

More Challenges

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STAR House, unfortunately, received no help from the gay community, forcing Sylvia to work the streets in order to keep the youth under her wing off of them. Despite her best efforts to provide a home for marginalized transgender youth, Sylvia was evicted from the derelict building that was STAR House.

One Last Hurrah

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Once more Sylvia found herself fighting against gay activists in order to be heard. She forced her audience to listen as she described the abuse her people endured whilst simultaneously chastising the activists for their abandonment. Sadly, this would be the last of her involvement for decades as she slipped away into a quiet life in Tarrytown.

Well-Deserved Recognition

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In 1984, despite past feelings of antipathy from the GAA and the GLF, Sylvia was “rediscovered” and awarded a place of honor in the New York City gay pride march to acknowledge the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. She reported feeling like she’d been taken off the shelf and dusted, but nevertheless, she was seen by those she’d spent her life fighting for.

The End of an Era

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In 1992, Marsha P. Johnson passed away, causing Sylvia’s life to go off the rails. Once again without a roof over her head, Sylvia lived near Greenwich Village on an abandoned pier. Eventually, she quit drinking and rejoined the movement, even trying to restart STAR in 2001. Unfortunately, though, Sylvia died of liver cancer a year later at the age of 50, continuing to advocate even from her deathbed.

Her Legacy Lives On

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Sylvia died much in the way that she lived–fighting for what she believed in. Her memory lives on through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project that “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.”

A Life to Remember

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Long before Harvey Milk and Caitlyn Jenner made headlines for LGBTQ rights movements and transgender activism, there was Sylvia Rivera, occupying a unique place in LGBTQ history and working tirelessly for justice and civil rights. Her courage will never be forgotten.

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Sports Illustrated Featured Valentina Sampaio As Their First Trans Model And The Images Are Stunning

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Sports Illustrated Featured Valentina Sampaio As Their First Trans Model And The Images Are Stunning

She might be listed as part of Sports Illustrated’s 2020 “rookies, but Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio is hardly one herself. In 2017, the model made waves when she became the first trans woman to appear on the cover of Vogue Paris. With appearances on the catwalks of Victoria Secret and appearances for L’Oréal, she’s been breaking barriers ever since.

Now, three years after making her first big splash, the Brazilian model is making waves for Sports Illustrated.

Joining the likes of models such as Tyra Banks, Christie Brinkley and Heidi Klum, Sampaio’s feature on Sports Illustrated makes for another first. As a transwoman, she became the first trans model to appear in its pages and spoke out in an open essay on what it means to be part of the brand.

“Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing. Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging,” Sampaio wrote. “I recognize that I am one of the fortunate ones, and my intention is to honor that as best I can.”

Reflecting on her humble beginnings in a fishing village in northern Brazil, Sampaio explained that she intends to use her growing platform to fight for trans rights.

Writing about the beauty of her home country, Sampaio explained that its lovely visuals are darkened by a backdrop of brutal crimes against the transgender community. “I was born trans in a remote, humble fishing village in northern Brazil. Brazil is a beautiful country, but it also hosts the highest number of violent crimes and murders against the trans community in the world—three times that of the U.S,” she wrote. In a previous interview with Vogue, Sampaio highlighted that in 2019, 129 transgender people had been murdered in Brazil.

“What unites us as humans is that we all share the common desire to be accepted and loved for who we are,” Sampaio wrote in the essay. “Thank you SI for seeing and respecting me as I truly am. For understanding that more than anything, I am human. Thank you for supporting me in continuing to spread a message of love, compassion, and unity for ALL.”

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LGBTQ+ Swimwear To Rock This Summer If You’re Sick Of Being Constrained To One Look

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LGBTQ+ Swimwear To Rock This Summer If You’re Sick Of Being Constrained To One Look

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There’s nothing like trying on bathing suits in a fluorescent-lit fitting room to make you feel self-conscious about your body. But for trans women the task of finding swimsuits that make them feel comfortable and beautiful, the task of finding beachwear can be especially hard. Especially because as of today, none of the major swimwear brands cater to them.

We dug around for cute swimwear for transwomen to rock in the summer because we should all feel beautiful in our swim and enjoy the summer waves.

Outplay

Outplay describes itself as a company “without gender but a lot of heart.” The swimsuit brand works to go against dictated fashion rules and strive for comfort and the representation of diversity. Their line of swimsuits includes full coverage tops, mid-drift tops, bikinis, shorts, and jammers.

Rebirth Garments

Designed and made by hand by, Sky Cubacub (self-described nonbinary queer and disabled Filipinx human from Chicago, IL) the swimsuits offered from this line are perfect for beachgoers looking to ditch gender norms.

Danae

This Amsterdam-based company offers sleek, chest-flattening swimsuits that are made specifically for trans men and also offers clothing for people of different genders. According to the site, they also make ballet slips that contain a special elastane to hide sex as comfortably and effectively as possible.

TomboyX

Colorful and breathable these outfits by Tomboyx have antibacterial cloth and are eco-friendly. They’re apparently not just for swimming either, with wicking material, they can also be also worn while exercising.

Beefcakes Swimwear

These androgynous one-piece swimsuits are marketed as being ethically and sustainably made in USA as well as owned by LGBTQ creators. Their styles are super adorable while also keeping away from gender-conforming aesthetics.

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