The Shoeleather History Project

Stories from Hartford's Grassroots

When Sylvia Came to Town

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 Sylvia Rivera was a Latinx gay and transgender rights activist. Her organizing work took place primarily in New York, where she was a founder of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). With her friend and comrade Marcia P. Johnson, she founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries). Sylvia inspired many in Connecticut, and spoke at Trinity College in 1999.

Twenty years ago, how one viewed Sylvia, Marcia and other trans people said a lot about the “ politics of respectability” vs true liberation. This article from 2018 is reprinted with permission from furbirds queerly (furbirdsqueerly.wordpress.com):

“We fight on and on. We have heard those words over and over from the day I came out to now as an old man. All of our lives we have been fighting for peace, justice, liberation and a new day and new world.

It is October and I fondly remember where I was in 1999. Yes fighting the good fight no matter how small it may seem in the large picture. I can’t really call this down memory lane as that would be a disservice to all of us who fight on now for Transgender rights and the rights for all people to be free.

Many of us remember the fight for Trans rights over the years within the L & G community and shake our heads when these battles still pop up within again. Enjoy this video (below) from Ourstories, our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and all others under the great big umbrella of liberation warriors stories. Enjoy this video of When Sylvia came to town. What a privilege it was to introduce her and to try to help end this nonsense that some in the L & G community were doing.

In another part of the video starting at 2:00:29 Regina Dyton speaks at the Ct. Stonewall Foundation’s exhibition, “Challenging and Changing America: The Struggle for LGBT Civil Rights 1900-1999.” Be sure to take a listen to this valuable lesson of Ourstories.”

When Sylvia Came to Town

It was 1999.

Letters to the editor began appearing in the LGBT news magazine Metroline condemning one of our comrades Mucha Mucha Placer, drag queens and bisexual people in general.  Mucha as we fondly refer to her is revolutionary drag queen, co-chair of the Ct. Coalition for LGBT Civil Rights and damn hard worker for our freedom and liberation. A flurry of letters in support of Ms Placer,  drag queens and the Bi community were sent to the Metroline.

We felt at this time it was the same type of folks, white comfortable class gay men and feminist lesbians who were leading this charge as they had so many times in the past. Members of The Ct. Stonewall Foundation also participated in responding to this hit against the drag community, transgender folks, the Bisexual Community and decided at their next conference to bring Sylvia Rivera to town for a key note speaking engagement. Arrangements were made that the conference was to be held in October right before the opening of the Foundations exhibition, “Challenging and Changing America. The Struggle for LGBT Civil Rights 1900-1999.”

Richard Nelson, one of the Stonewall Foundations educational program directors, gave the opening speech welcoming Ms. Rivera to Hartford and speaking out against the denouncing of Ms. Placer, the drag community and Bi community and our trans sisters and brothers. The conference was attended by over 100 people who applauded Mr. Nelson and Ms. Rivera throughout their talks. We will always remember Ms Rivera and thank her for fighting the good fight for all of us. We miss you Sylvia but carrying on your work whenever and wherever we can and need to.

As we said at that time, no one is going to take ourstories from us or denounce our hardworking comrades or leaders in the fight for liberation of all. We salute Sylvia and all of our foremothers and fathers, we say thank you and we shall always cherish your memories. Here is the video of the Ct. Stonewall Foundation welcoming Sylvia to town:

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Carolyn Gabel, Sylvia Rivera, Richard Nelson

One comment on “When Sylvia Came to Town

  1. furbirdsqueerly
    October 8, 2019

    One little correction. Sylvia spoke at the Ct. Stonewall Congress that was held in October 1999 at Trinity College not at CCSU.

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This entry was posted on October 7, 2019 by in Hartford.

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