Sylvia Goes to College & STAR Takes Over NYU

“All we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs…. You people run if you want to, but we’re tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them.” Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries’ first pamphlet, 1970

(Sylvia Rivera & Arthur Bell at 1970 New York University Gay Activist Alliance protest. Photo by Diane Daives)

Remember STAR?

Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries holds a special place in New York’s revolutionary & gender self determining political landscape.  Following the Stonewall Rebellion and the first annual Christopher Street Liberation Day March -which held a rally at the Women’s House of Detention where Panther 21 members where being held- Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera formed STAR in order to create a revolutionary organization that started with a political analysis centering gender self determination and homeless trans people of color, most of whom did sex sex work.  Sylvia and Marsha knew it wasn’t enough to convince gay & lesbian political formations to center radical politics *or trans people* or convince revolutionary organizations to center trans people.  It didn’t work.  So they started their own organization out of Gay Activist Alliance sit ins at NYU.

(Marsha P. Johnson hands out flyers for support of gay students at N.Y.U, Diane Daives)

Sylvia Rivera & Marsha P Johnson formed Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries following the Gay Activist Alliance sit in at New York University in 1970. GAA was responding to NYU’s refusal to allow 2 queer dance parties to happen at Weinstein Hall.  Sylvia Rivera and members of the GAA did a lot of organizing of NYU students to demonstrate the importance of solidarity and sharing resources between those who have access to fancy student space and those who do not.  And those that sometimes do and other times do not.

(Protestor at Weinstein Hall demonstration for the rights of gay people on campus)

I’ll be writing about STAR more in the days to come because I draw deep inspiration from Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and its centering of gender self determination and liberation within a context of radical social movement, a center current social justice and movement building organizations all too often fail to hold.  Arthur Bell, a founder of the Gay Activist Alliance and friend of Sylvia Rivera writes about the action below in the first of several Village Voice articles Arthur writes about STAR.  Trigger warning: Arthur Bell fucks up Sylvia’s pronouns in this first article but then gets them right in the rest.


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