June 3, 2019
Sylvia Rivera was the human embodiment of the Stonewall Riots – the most significant event of LGBTQ history, led by trans women of color. Queer rights pioneers Sylvia and her best friend Marsha P. Johnson lived their lives full of pride. They not only showed us who we could be, but also, who we should be.
Whether it was strolling down Christopher Street adorned with a crown of flowers or a fearless bellow of “Y’all better quiet down!” in front of a booing crowd of thousands of gays and lesbians at the fourth Pride rally, neither Sylvia nor Marsha apologized.
They didn’t apologize when they came out as trans in the 60’s and had to face all the pains of being trans in a world that did not know they existed. They didn’t fold when the police dragged them into the back of police vans for being in a gay club in 1969. No apologies were uttered when they hurled the first brick that night and opened to door to liberation for us all.
The last time I saw Sylvia, she held us so tight, I can still smell her perfume. She embraced us and told us “keep fighting, my babies.” We were a group of queer kids on the pier in New York City trying to keep what little space we had – the same space she had been fighting for, for over 30 years. We lost her a week later. Even in her last breaths she was trying to make a better world for us.
Stonewall is not simply about pushing back but about never giving up a part of yourself. No rule or law or leader is powerful enough to dull our shine. Never hold back the beauty of you. Never apologize and never stop fighting.
“Keep fighting, my babies.”
This post was written by J.D. Melendez, former Public Information Manager.