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Published in History & Culture

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Published in History & Culture

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Sylvia Rivera: “…don’t even like the label transgender.”

“Sylvia Rivera, the woman who faced child abuse, pushed to the doors of a child prostitute and threw out of The Gay Rights Movement” In her later days, Sylvia Rivera (b. 2 Jul 1951 — d. 19 Feb 2002) called herself half-sister. Her essay she kept herself an optional human who admit that she is neither transgender, nor she was ...

“Sylvia Rivera, the woman who faced child abuse, pushed to the doors of a child prostitute and threw out of The Gay Rights Movement


In her later days, Sylvia Rivera (b. 2 Jul 1951 — d. 19 Feb 2002) called herself half-sister. Her essay she kept herself an optional human who admit that she is neither transgender, nor she was a lesbian. Sylvia wrote in her essay, “Transvestites: Your Half Sisters and Half Brothers of the Revolution” one who dresses in clothes of opposite sex. Here statement does not show any evidence that she was a transgender or lesbian.

I left home at age 10 in 1961. I hustled on 42nd Street. The early 60s was not a good time for drag queens, effeminate boys or boys that wore makeup like we did. Back then we were beat up by the police, by everybody. I didn't really come out as a drag queen until the late 60s when drag queens were arrested, what degradation there was. I remember the first time I got arrested, I wasn't even in full drag. I was walking down the street and the cops just snatched me. People now want to call me a lesbian because I'm with Julia, and I say, “No. I'm just me. I'm not a lesbian.” I'm tired of being labelled. I don't even like the label transgender. I'm tired of living with labels. I just want to be who I am. I am Sylvia Rivera. Ray Rivera left home at the age of 10 to become Sylvia. And that's who I am.”

Marsha and I fought for the liberation of our people.

In a 1981 interview

Her childhood was almost too sad to live like an ordinary girl. Sylvia in her young age soon learned how suicidal mothers behave and why a broken relationship had that ugly end. Her mother committed suicide when she was just three (her father already had left both mother and daughter so early). Thus, the abandoned girl started living on the streets, worked as a sex-worker and met a group of drag queens. The Sylvia name was her welcoming (token) name Marsha had given and Rivera became another drag queen.

Also, The Stonewall Riots protests was occurred in 1960, she claimed that she was the part of it, but Johnson said loud and clear that Sylvia was not the part of the riots. Rivera was a kind of exaggerated her presence at every protest. She was co-founder of the Gay Liberation Front and STAR.
Moreover, her never-ending feelings of poor, orphan, stamp of sex-worker, and living on blood of all time drugs remained till the end of her life. The riots, thousands of Transgender and Gay came out on the streets for the rights of liberty, however, she disliked being herself tagged for the same. Rivera died sudden due to liver cancer.

Sylvia Rivera once pushed out of the “Gay Rights Movements” is now well recognized figure

However, the legacy of Sylvia has registered through many incidents, one of them was on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Riots, a large painted mural depicting Marsha P Johnson and Silvia Rivera in Dallas in 2019. Also, on the Christopher corner, was renamed to Sylvia Rivera Way on Huston Streets.

Read, Barbara Gittings on “How I Discovered The Power Of The Press.” and Marsha P Johnson's poetry, “The Soul

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