8. Sylvia Rivera

Like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera was a trans woman who was at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots. Born in New York City in 1951, the Latin activist spent most of her time in the city. She had a rough beginning as she was abandoned by her father when she was a baby; her mother died when she was just three, and the grandmother who became her guardian kicked her to the streets when she was eleven, which resulted in Sylvia becoming a child prostitute. Unfortunately, trans prostitution is still common today: when parents kick their children out of the house for being different, many young trans people, especially trans people of color, have nowhere else to turn to feed themselves.

During the first Stonewall Riots, Rivera was a seventeen-year-old drag queen, and was a part of the rioting crowd outside of the Stonewall Inn in West Village. Young and unafraid, she was one of the first people credited with throwing a bottle at the police. The Stonewall Riots ignited the activism in Sylvia and she went on to join the Gay Activists Alliance, working for the cause of passing the New York City Gay Rights Bill. In all of her sassy glory, she made her way up the walls of City Hall in high heels and a dress, and crashed a meeting on the bill that she clearly wasn’t invited to.

Sylvia Rivera knew what it was like to struggle as a trans woman and became a pioneer of trans rights and the safety of others like her. She founded STAR with Marsha P. Johnson to help other trans women so they didn’t end up in a similar place as she did when she was eleven. Though she died at the age of 50 in New York City, her legacy and activism is carried on through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, created in her name.