Sylvia Ray Rivera was assigned male at birth on July 2, 1951. Hers was a terrible childhood: abandoned by her father as a tiny baby, orphaned as a toddler when her mother took her own life. She started dressing as a girl in elementary school, and for this, she was beaten—and eventually kicked out of the house — by her grandmother.
It wasn’t the last time Sylvia would be subjected to violence. On the streets at age 11, she was forced to work as a child prostitute. The drag queens "adopted" the youngster; the streets raising her.
As a drag queen, sex-worker, and transgender activist, Sylvia experienced a litany of abuse and harm, but never lost sight of who she was or what she believed in. After the Stonewall riots of June 28-July 3,1969, she and Marsha P. Johnson helped found organizations to support gay youth, sex workers, and other marginalized LGBTQIA+ people.
Over the course of her life, she became one of the leading activists for trans rights in New York in the early 1970s, famously saying " I'm tired of living with labels. I just want to be who I am."
A lifetime of hard circumstances cut her days on this earth short, at age 50. But Sylvia’s legend and influence live on to this day; she is considered an icon of the Trans rights movement.