This week, the Smithsonian museum’s National Portrait Gallery announced the first portrait of a transgender individual would be added to its collection. The photograph is of LGBT activist and transgender American Sylvia Rivera, who was most well known for her participation in the Stonewall riots of 1969, an event that revolutionized the gay rights movement.
On June 28, 1969, Rivera and other LGBT community members stood up against police that for years publicly humiliating them, as well as physically and sexually assaulting them. The rioting that took place at the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s West Village neighborhood was followed by several days of demonstrations in New York and sparked the formation of the Gay Liberation Front as well as other gay, lesbian, and bisexual civil rights organizations.
Rivera would go on to co-found the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, or STAR, a liberation group and homeless shelter. The LGBT activist was also instrumental in passing New York’s Sexual Nondiscrimination Act.
The photograph, which was taken by Luis Carle, depicts Rivera (center) at the 2000 Gay Pride Parade in New York City, along withher partner Julia Murray (right) and Christina Haywort. As a Latina who spent much of her life homeless, Rivera was particularly sensitive to the struggles of trans people of color and those living in poverty, according to the website.
Rivera’s portrait was installed in the National Portrait Gallery’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibition at the beginning of October according to an article on MSNBC.
Check out an in depth, captivating interview with Rivera here. And ttake a look at the video below on Rivera’s impact on the LGBTQ movement.