Fierce

Fierce – 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

@onearchives/Instagram

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

@kim.terrell/Instagram

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

@queeringpodcast/Instagram

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

@docmiggz/Instagram

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

@alturiorg/Instagram

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

@endemolshinepride/Instagram

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

@belencorrea_arg/Instagram

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

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

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

@theoreticalgirls/Instagram

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

@thetribetheatreco/Instagram

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”

@eiric_yoga/Instagram

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

@audrelordeproject/Instagram

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

@nyclgbtsites/Instagram

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

@violenttherapy/Instagram

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

@alrodchenko/Instagram

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

@m.poultryface/Instagram

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

@luanarainbow/Instagram

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

@theebillyporter/Instagram

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

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

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

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

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.

Recommend this story by clicking the share button below! 

Anyclip – Here’s What My White Husband Has Learned About The Latino Culture One Day At A Time

Things That Matter

Anyclip – Here’s What My White Husband Has Learned About The Latino Culture One Day At A Time

My husband and I have been married for a little over three years now and he is still learning so much about myself and what it means to be Latino. I’m not talking about me having a big Cuban family all stationed in Miami (3-0-5 ??) or the fact that the best jokes in Netflix’s “One Day At A Time” are in Spanish. I’m talking about the little things that to me have always been a normal part of life. This is what has continuously caught him off guard…

If you ask him, I’m already turning into my abuela because of the things he is finding out, which to me is a compliment. Here are just a few of the things that he is starting to understand about our future together.

1. Seasoning your beans is hard AF but abuela makes it look easy.

gifnik.com

No matter how many times I try or how many techniques I use, my bean always turn out bland AF. This wouldn’t have been a problem if he didn’t have my abuela’s frijoles negro because now he has a reference point as to what beans are supposed to taste like. Though, he doesn’t cook so my bland beans will have to do.

2. That whole personal space thing is a white construct.

View this post on Instagram

I missed my hot mess buddy!

A post shared by Jorge (@cantstayput) on

One of the first things he realized about being married to a Latino is that all that personal space he once had is gone. I even go into the bathroom to talk to him when he’s in the shower because that’s ?? how ?? I ?? was ?? raised. ??

3. Family obligations cannot and will not be avoided.

Even if it means that you have to spend $800 to travel 3,000 miles back home for a weekend for your nephew’s first birthday, there is no getting out of family events. #BasedOnTrueEvents

4. My family raised me to be super eco-friendly (and very frugal).

The first time my husband saw me washing a Ziploc bag he asked if we had run out and that he could get some from the store. My response: “But, like, why do you want to waste money like that?”

5. Selena was and will always be La Reina.

anything-for-selenaaas / Tumblr

I know. I know. How did he not know this before is what you’re thinking, right? But you can’t hold it against him. I don’t think Selena had a very big following in West Virginia. There was no way he could have known that she is more relevant now than ever. Not to mention that she still wins Latin Billboard awards and I play her music nonstop.

6. My abuela’s obsession with reusing containers has been passed down.

After he came down from the initial shock of thinking that I left the sour cream in the Tupperware cabinet overnight, he made a joke about me becoming my abuela. I’ve never been so proud.

7. Calling a loved one “gordo” is not offensive.

View this post on Instagram

@f_uanteik #migordo #iloveyou #happiness #happynights

A post shared by Maka (@makare.92) on

Because, you know, someone calling you “my little fatty” is not okay. Imagine his shock when he heard a family member call me “gordito” in front of him. He was shook.

8. Every chore I do is just an excuse to put on Celia Cruz and dance.

mitú

Sure, I can cook in silence but nothing makes my time in the kitchen more enjoyable than some “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” or “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” blaring in the background. Plus, he is starting to learn some of her greatest hits.

9. Seventy-five percent of Latino cooking is just making that sabor.

To quote my husband: “Oh. So ropa vieja is like making pot roast then you make the flavor (sofrito). Yeah. White people are too lazy to make all that flavor.”

10. Being extra and loud is just in our blood.

I still have that trophy on our desk in the living room and he has mentioned moving it a couple times. Then I stubbed my toe, fall to the floor in tears, and he remembers why it is so prominently displayed.

11. Hot Cheetos are life.

He didn’t know they were so versatile but he’s not upset that we get to eat them all the time.

READ: 14 Things That Happen When A Gringo Marries Into A Latino Family

AnyClip – A Valedictorian Wasn’t Allowed To Give A Speech Because He’s Gay, So J.Lo Came To His Hometown To Bring His Noise

Entertainment

AnyClip – A Valedictorian Wasn’t Allowed To Give A Speech Because He’s Gay, So J.Lo Came To His Hometown To Bring His Noise

J.Lo has a long history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and she’s not slowing down any time soon. Just last week, the Puerto Rican superstar took the time to lend her support to 18-year-old gay-identified Nat Werth. She heard that Werth was silenced from speaking on his experience as a gay teenager and denied his right to give a valedictorian speech. Lopez was shocked.

Werth worked hard to graduate from Sheboygan Lutheran High School at the very top of his class. While he didn’t give the speech he was entitled to, his courage has certainly sparked several opportunities to empower the LGBTQ+ community since then.

J.Lo is on her #ItsMyPartyTour, and, apparently, everyone is welcome.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
Credit: @NewNowNext / Twitter

She invited Werth to the Milwaukee concert and arranged to meet with him backstage. She wanted to make sure that he felt some support for being out, open, and courageous enough to share in a vulnerable place.

The fact that Werth even wanted to open up about a painful, personal experience to an audience that is likely unreceptive is courageous.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
Credit: @JLo / Twitter

Werth decided to take the staged opportunity to talk about his experience of being gay at the Christian school and to offer his understanding of the Biblical passages that are often used by homophobes to condemn homosexuality. 

The school refused to let him give the speech.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
Credit: @JLo / Twitter

He let them know that he was willing to cut the parts they didn’t like, knowing it was a controversial move on his part, but one worth taking. The school ultimately told him that, given his “track record,” they couldn’t trust him to stick to the script. Let us remind you his track record landed him a valedictorian title.

The salutatorian gave the speech instead, but Werth was honored with an even bigger stage.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
Credit: @mkepride / Twitter

PrideFest Milwaukee honored him with its 2019 Valor Award and gave him an opportunity to finally deliver that speech. He started by telling the crowd, “I came out to my family on my 18th birthday. I knew that being forced out of my home was a very real possibility. I knew that my parents did not approve of gay people but I also knew they needed to know the truth in order to overcome their prejudice.”

“At church, I was taught that there was something wrong with me and that I had to change in order for God to accept me,” he told a [now, sobbing] crowd.

“I took it upon myself to examine the six passages in the Bible that talk about homosexuality. It quickly became clear that God, in fact, does not hate gay people,” he announced to a round of applause. Werth laughed off an “Amen,” in response. 

Werth is also meeting with the Department of Public Instruction to correct Lutheran High’s discrimination towards its LGBT students.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
@JLo / Twitter

Since the time of Werth’s graduation and his speech at PrideFest, he’s been getting to work on some policy changes. He informed the crowd that, “the Wisconsin School Choice Program allocates vouchers to students who qualify for financial aid in private institutions. Sheboygan Lutheran participates in this program. It is important to know that School Choice requires participating schools to follow certain guidelines, which include nondiscrimination, the option to take religion classes and the opportunity for students to speak with the board of directors if they would like, all of which Lutheran does not do.”

“No child should be taught by their school that they have to hate themselves to love themselves,” Werth concluded.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
@JLo / Twitter

We know that J.Lo–a GLAAD Vanguard Award recipient, is in absolute agreement. Werth had to endure his own school teaching him that the essence of what allows him to love is wrong. The “Free Mom Hugs” signs at Pride make us all weep, but seeing this mami taking the time to give this wronged young man a hug is breaking our hearts into a million pieces and glueing it all back together. ❤️

J.Lo also made sure to tweet out her support for both Werth, and the entire gay community.

asg_AEadoneCTMB5NFN92Fart_BCewWAtpY2QDKR872F1562618917904-40NewNowNextimg_5e2f6e227e64d
@JLo / Twitter

J.Lo is “always standing with” Werth, and what a beautiful way to graduate high school. Werth himself said that meeting J.Lo was “absolutely an amazing experience he will never forget,” Today anchor Carson Daly reported.

READ: Receiving High Praise, J.Lo Uses Gender Neutral Pronouns To Describe Her Sister’s Second Child