Earlier this year, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery installed a groundbreaking portrait in their ‘Struggle for Justice’ exhibition. Why was it so amazing? The portrait was of Sylvia Rivera who was a forerunner in the fight against gender identity discrimination and is now the first transgender person in the Smithsonian National Portrait Museum’s collection
The photo by Luis Carle was taken the Saturday before the 2000 Gay Pride Parade in New York City and captures a powerful moment as she sits between her partner Julia Murray (right) and friend Christina Hayworth along with a sign that simply reads “Respect Trans”.
Rivera sits in the center of the photograph, between her partner Julia Murray (right) and Christina Hayworth. The three women are shown, hands interlocked, sitting on a stone wall with a sign at their feet that reads “Respect Trans People/Men!” The photograph captures a somewhat atypical scene for Pride Weekend. Rather than the bustling energy of the parade with crowds and celebration, this captures a moment of tranquil friendship and unity.
Sylvia was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, Sylvia was a tireless advocate for all those who have been marginalized and fought hard against the exclusion of transgender people from the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act in New York, and was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of people of color and low-income queers and trans people.
Rivera’s legacy has led to organizations like the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, which “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race.” The SRLP provides much-needed legal services for those who cannot afford representation. This organization is continuing Rivera’s lifelong work to ensure a stable and safe existence for transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming people.
For more information on the exhibit, visit the website and for more on Sylvia Rivera take some time and watch the video below.