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Critical Dialogues in Latinx StudiesA Reader$
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Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas and Mérida M. Rúa

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479805198

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479805198.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

The Life and Times of Trans Activist Sylvia Rivera

The Life and Times of Trans Activist Sylvia Rivera

(p.241) 18 The Life and Times of Trans Activist Sylvia Rivera
Critical Dialogues in Latinx Studies

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

NYU Press

The Puerto Rican-Venezuelan civil rights activist and Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera is one of the most important global transgender Latinx figures, widely considered a pioneering figure of the LGBTQ movement. However, there are interpretive battles over her legacy and challenges in assessing her sex-radical labor politics. Who was Sylvia Rivera? What does her story tell us about Latinx experience and about queer Latinidad in the United States, specifically about transgender Latinxs, homeless Latinxs, and Latinx sex workers who are civil rights activists? Rivera’s intersectional approach, as manifested in speeches and articles, and her multidimensional commitment to varied social movements including the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, and the Metropolitan Community Church have made her a key referent for contemporary queer politics. I argue that Rivera is a key Intralatina transloca, that is to say, a Latinx trans subject that negotiates the multiple stigmatized meanings of “loca” in Spanish, including effeminate homosexual, madwoman, and sex worker. In this chapter, I document Rivera’s life, analyze debates about her participation at Stonewall, and discuss her powerful 1973 New York City Christopher Street Liberation Day speech. I also analyze her reception and depiction in varied media and historical accounts.

Keywords:   sexuality, transgender, activism, New York City, queer, LGBTQ, Puerto Ricans, intralatinas/os, politics, sex work or prostitution

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