Puerto Rican photographer and Visual AIDS member Luis Carle took a photograph of Sylvia Rivera at the Saturday Rally before New York’s Gay Pride in 2000. Rivera is pictured with her partner Julia Murray, on the right, and by fellow activist Christina Hayworth, on the left. The placard at their feet reads “Respect TRANS, PEOPLE/MEN!,” stating Rivera’s lifelong cause of fighting for transgender civil rights.
While Rivera became an outcast from the gay rights movement in the late ’70s and ’80s, she was again embraced in the 1990s as a fundamental figure in the movement. She renewed her activism, speaking widely on the need for transgender people to unite at the forefront of the LGBTQ community. In 1994 she was a keynote speaker at Gay Pride in New York, and in 2000 she was invited to the Millennium March in Italy, where she was acclaimed as the “mother of all gay people.”
Rivera continued the fight and restarted the STAR House in 2001. She worked hard to pass the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act all the way until she died of liver cancer in 2002, just months before it passed, holding her last meeting from her hospital bed.
Sylvia Rivera’s story is one of angst and perseverance. She believed everyone that was oppressed had to stick together. Her story is important in understanding where the cracks began to split between the LGB and T.