Things That Matter

Ahead of Her Time: The Incredible Life of Sylvia Rivera

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. Orphaned at three and homeless by ten, Sylvia Rivera likely never anticipated that she would one day become an icon for the LGBTQ community. No, at the age of ten Sylvia was simply trying to survive on the tough and unrelenting streets of New York in the 1960s. 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.

The Early Years

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Born Ray Rivera Mendosa in the Bronx, New York, on July 2nd, 1951, Sylvia was abandoned by her father at birth; her mother committed suicide when Sylvia was three. This left her grandmother to raise her, despite abuela’s disapproval of her darker skin tone and feminine behavior. 

Going Against the Grain

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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

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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.

Riot in the Streets

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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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‘Fuller House’ Actor And Certified Daddy Juan Pablo Di Pace Comes Out And Yasss

Culture

‘Fuller House’ Actor And Certified Daddy Juan Pablo Di Pace Comes Out And Yasss

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Argentinian actor Juan Pablo Di Pace recently came out in a TEDx video recorded in March. The video was released in late June giving Di Pace’s coming out story a special place in the 2019 Pride Month calendar. Social media erupted in applause and praise for the actor living his truth after so much time hiding in the closet.

Juan Pablo Di Pace came out of the closet as a gay man and is already living it up.

That’s right. Di Pace was living it up in Madrid during pride not long after the video of his talk coming out of the closet was publish. Honestly, it is something everyone should be celebrating. Someone being able to live their life fully is something that some people will never be able to understand. There is an attitude of in the Latino community that tries to shun and silence the LGBTQ+ community. Seeing a prominent member of the Latino community sharing his coming out story is such a positive example for younger people struggling to come out.

Di Pace’s coming out via a TEDx is one of the greatest moments of Pride Month 2019.

Not only did Di Pace come out of the closet, but his story about coming out and learning who he is is also very relatable to most members of the LGBTQ+ community. It wasn’t like he figured out that he was different. It had to be told to him.

“My mother says that I came out of her womb with a paper and pencil in my hand and that I used to draw until I fell asleep, which is why I had very few friends. But, actually, the truth is that, unlike most of the boys in my class, I preferred to play with girls. I was more comfortable. They were more fun,” Di Pace told the audience at his TEDx talk. “So, I didn’t think anything of it, right? Until I heard a word that I had never heard before. It started like a thunder that got closer and louder to me as it exploded like egg in my face: marícon, faggot. Well, I didn’t really understand that word at first but the word was here to stay for years. A little know book, as you might know as the Bible, starts with, ‘In the beginning, was the word and the word was made flesh and it dwelt among us.’ So, after failed attempts to fight against this word and try to make friends, my only option was to make friends with white sheets of paper. Paper would not shout or kick me. Paper was kind and on paper everything and anything was possible, just like in the movies.”

The moment of being made to feel and know that you are different from everyone else is something most people deal with at the beginning of coming out. It is a harsh, and some times dangerous, moment that starts the process of coming out and learning who you are as a person.

Fans of the actor showered him with praise and love for coming out.

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Coming out, no matter how old you are or how successful you are, is a terrifying experience. You have to be prepared for people to shun you. You need to be ready for people to speak down to you. It is not an easy or fun process for a lot of people.

The emotional reception to Di Pace’s coming is filled with love and appreciation.

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This is something the Di Pace should be so proud of. It is so important for people to come out of the closet. By coming out of the closet, you force others around you to confront their own ideas of the LGBTQ+ community. When people know someone personally who is LGBTQ+, they tend to become more accepting of the community allowing for more people to come out in a safer environment.

You are with your chosen family now, Juan.

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All people in the LGBTQ+ community understand the importance of a chosen family. Even if your family accepts you, it is important to have a chosen family. It is a way to learn what it means to be gay and how to live life open in a world that can sometimes be really cruel. Your family will want to help but it is hard for your mom and dad to teach about LGBTQ+ culture.

Congratulations on coming out Juan. Sending lots of love.

READ: Grab The Tissues! These Latinas Told Us Their Coming Out Stories And We Have Been Sobbing In Pride

AOC Went To A Drag Show And It Is The Most Beautiful Moment Captured On Social Media

Things That Matter

AOC Went To A Drag Show And It Is The Most Beautiful Moment Captured On Social Media

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a champion of the people and the biggest villain according to Republicans. Whenever AOC does anything, conservatives have a lot to say about it. AOC’s latest outing to a drag club in New York City is the latest moment of celebration.

Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez proves that Pride is not just one month but all year long.

“You are special. You are beautiful. You are accepted and let’s give a big round of applause for our artist,” AOC tells the crowd as they go wild for her.

All the performers who had a chance took their photo with the most recognizable Congresswoman currently serving.

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“Activist & politician @ocasio2018 was @bartschlandfolliestonight & we all couldn’t have been more thrilled! I felt ultra #patriotic performing my #patriotact for this special audience that was chanting her initials,” Dirty Martini wrote on Instagram. “Fight that good fight for what this country deep down is really about- equality, liberty & peace! ❤️🇺🇸❤️🇺🇸❤️🇺🇸”

The drag queens and kings could feel themselves becoming more and more patriotic.

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“Equality and social justice for all with a dash of showgirl❤️
AOC @ocasio2018 in the house at the @bartschlandfollies last night! I admittedly was majorly fan girling!!!! One of the most present and beautiful audiences I’ve experienced to date, they were screaming her initials as she cheered us on front and center all night, even telling us all how much we were loved and welcome and accepted when Joey arias invited her on stage,” Marcy Richardson wrote on Instagram. “And I just thought, man, what a reason to actually feel patriotic this weekend. She’s not afraid to be here with us. ALL of us. You give us all hope❤️❤️
#alexandriaocasiocortez #bartschland #bartschlandfollies #aoc #mckittrickhotel #happyfourth

It’s fair to say that AOC had a great time with the performers and her allyship with the LGBTQ+ community is unquestionable.

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“The inspiring and formidable @ocasio2018 attended the @bartschland Follies show @themckittrick last night in NYC. She brought hope to the room and showed us 🇺🇸 future! Her choice words, ‘Be who you are. You are beautiful. You are accepted.’ 🏳️‍🌈,” Murray Hill wrote on Instagram. “In this pix, I’m saying, ‘I’m standing next to a future president!’ The 2nd pix, I’m thanking her for her work, speaking out, and fighting the good fight. #aoc #4thofjuly #resist #showbiz

AOC’s actions since taking office show that she is an unapologetic LGBTQ+ rights activist.

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The Congresswoman from New York was there for Queens Pride despite a cold that she was battling. She explained that she just couldn’t let her exquisite crushed velvet suit hide during the pride celebrations.

She is here to support the LGBTQ+ community no matter what she is doing, like just attending pride.

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Honestly, just look at how excited she is to be out and about among the LGBTQ+ community at Pride. AOC has set herself apart from other members of Congress with her unapologetic fight for the LGBTQ+ community.

She even made an impassioned speech for LGBTQ+ rights in a post-marriage equality world that has energized the community.

AOC is fighting a fight so many don’t realize needs to be fought. The fight to make PrEP free to the public is one that more people need to get behind. The U.S. taxpayers paid for the research that created Truvada, a daily pill with a 99 percent success rate in preventing the transmission of HIV. Gilead, the pharmaceutical company selling Truvada is selling it back to the people who funded the research at $2,000 a month because of a patent. The price point is forcing many people vulnerable to the disease unprotected and risking lives needlessly.

Oh, and she is a major “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fan so we hope to see her at more drag shows in the future.

Credit: @AOC / Twitter

Thank you for standing up for our community, AOC.

READ: Pabllo Vittar Is The Superstar Brazilian Drag Queen The World Has Come To Love Because Of Their Unapologetic Persona

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