When Existence is Resistance

Trans Activism in New York


Image Of The Anti-violence Project Marching On The Nyc Trans Day Of Action For Social And Economic Justice

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In 1970 Sylvia L. Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two participants in the Stonewall uprising the year before, created Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to empower marginalized youth and people of color before the term “transgender” was widely used. 

The first group in the United States to organize explicitly around trans rights and self-determination, STAR emerged from the organizing after Stonewall. Rivera and Johnson sought to create family support structures for other trans youth of color through STAR House on East 2nd Street, the first shelter of its kind in the nation. STAR also called for radical change within the gay liberation movement and society at large.

Protesting discrimination and violence against their bodies, clothing, choice of sexual partners, and other markers of identity and expression, trans activists in STAR, the Queens Liberation Front, and other pioneering New York groups won their first victories in the form of state protections in the early 1970s. They also pushed for inclusion in the gay and women’s liberation movements.

Over the next two decades, trans activists continued to develop their own communities of support. In recent years, an intergenerational group of trans activists renewed a broader push for inclusive language, legal protections, and identity expression, confronting gender binaries and seeking safety, equality, and power. STAR folded in 1973, but its work helped shape trans organizing to this day.

Key Events

Global Year    Local
  1918 New Yorker Jennie June publishes Autobiography of an Androgyne, the first book to chronicle the experiences of someone who might identify as transgender today
  1967 Lee Brewster organizes a drag ball for gay civil rights group Mattachine Society—events first held in the 1920s in Harlem
  1969 Stonewall uprising begins June 28th
  1970 Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) forms Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day March (what would become the LGBTQ pride parade) held in New York City
  1973 Sylvia Rivera ostracized at Gay Liberation Day rally in Washington Square Park; STAR disbands
First Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20 to memorialize lives lost to anti-transgender violence 1999  
  2002 Trans protections added to New York City human rights law for the first time
  2019 New York State legislature passes the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), offering protections to transgender New Yorkers statewide
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