d. February 19, 2002
Civil rights pioneer Sylvia Rivera was one of the instigators of the Stonewall uprising, an event that helped launch the modern gay rights movement.
"I'm not missing a minute of this, it's the revolution!"
Seventeen-year-old drag queen Sylvia Rivera was in the crowd that gathered outside the Stonewall Inn the night of June 27, 1969, when the Greenwich Village gay bar was raided by the police. Rivera reportedly shouted, "I'm not missing a minute of this, it's the revolution!" As police escorted patrons from the bar, Rivera was one of the first bystanders to throw a bottle.
After Stonewall, Rivera joined the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and worked energetically on its campaign to pass the New York City Gay Rights Bill. She was famously arrested for climbing the walls of City Hall in a dress and high heels to crash a closed-door meeting on the bill. In time, GAA eliminated drag and transvestite concerns from their agenda as they sought to broaden their political base. Years later, Rivera told an interviewer, "When things started getting more mainstream, it was like, `We don't need you no more'." But, she added, "Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned."
Sylvia Rivera (né Ray Rivera Mendosa) was a persistent and vocal advocate for transgender rights. Her activist zeal was fueled by her own struggles to find food, shelter, and safety in the urban streets from the time she left home at the age of ten. In 1970, Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to help homeless youth.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), an organization dedicated to ending poverty and gender identity discrimination, carries on Rivera's work on behalf of marginalized persons.
In 2005, a street in Greenwich Village near the Stonewall Inn was renamed in Sylvia Rivera's honor.