Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries

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Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) -- later renamed Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries[1]—was a gay, gender non-conforming and transgender street activist organization founded in 1970 by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson,[2] subculturally-famous New York City drag queens of color.[2][3]


Both founders were long-term civil rights activists, and were present during the 1969 Stonewall riots and the intense period of gay organizing that began in the wake of Stonewall.[4]

On August 28, 1970, a sit-in protest at Weinstein Hall of New York University after the administration cancelled planned dances there.[5] Reportedly, The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee, who were organizers of the first Gay Pride Parade, held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, coordinated a series of four dances, to be held at Weinstein Hall as fundraisers for legal, medical and housing services for the gay community.[6] The “Dance-a-Fairs” were booked with the Weinstein Hall Student Governing Association and it was later speculated that administration canceled the later dances because a gay organization was sponsoring the events.[6] The sit-in was held by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Radicalesbians and other activists.[5]

Both Rivera and Johnson were often homeless themselves. When they were able to rent a hotel room or an apartment, they would sneak homeless friends into their rooms - sometimes up to 50 at a time.[3] After the sit ins, Rivera had the idea of forming an organization to provide more permanent housing for homeless people in their community:[7]

STAR was for the street gay people, the street homeless people and anybody that needed help at that time. Marsha and I had always sneaked people into our hotel rooms. Marsha and I decided to get a building. We were trying to get away from the Mafia's control at the bars.

— Sylvia Rivera, 1998 Interview with Leslie Feinberg at Workers World

Early years[edit]

Begun as a caucus of the Gay Liberation Front,[8] STAR was created to advocate on behalf of homeless drag queens and runaways.[2][8] When they had the funds, they created STAR House, a shelter for this population.[3][8] Rivera and Johnson used to hustle the streets in order to keep everyone fed and sheltered, and to keep "their kids" (the runaways they took in) from having to do the same.[3][8]

Initially Rivera wanted Johnson to be the president of STAR, but Johnson declined, saying the offer was flattering, but that someone who thought in a more linear manner, and who was better at long-term planning, would be better for the job.[2]

Later activism by founders[edit]

Johnson was later an activist and organizer with ACT-UP.[2] In 1992, Johnson's body was found in the Hudson River, off the Christopher Street docks, under suspicious circumstances.[4] While Johnson's death was initially dismissed by the police as a suicide, friends, family, and several witnesses believe Johnson was murdered.[9] Pressure from the public has led to the case being reopened.[9]

As the mainstream of the gay community became more assimilationist, Rivera in particular often found herself at odds with New York pride parade organizers and other mainstream LGBT groups that practiced "respectability politics" or who saw drag as misogynist.[8] Despite mainstream opposition, Rivera continued to press for the inclusion of trans, and all gender-nonconforming people, in LGBT organizations and legislation.[3][8] After living in upstate New York for many years, Rivera returned to New York City after Johnson's death, again living for a time at the "gay pier" at Christopher Street docks, and working to organize and support homeless people, especially those with AIDS and substance abuse issues.[8][10]


Following the June 20th, 2000 murder of Amanda Milan, Rivera briefly "resurrected" and renamed STAR on January 6, 2001.[11] After being honoured in Italy, Rivera continued to work to advance the fight for the transgender civil rights bill in New York City and State and to fight for self-determination for all gender non-conformists.[8]

Rivera died of liver cancer in 2002.[10]


In 2013, Untorelli Press published Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle, a collection of historical documents, interviews, and critical analyses relating to STAR.[12]

In an interview in the 2012 documentary, Pay It No Mind: The Life & Times of Marsha P. Johnson, Johnson credits Rivera with founding STAR, and Johnson and friends discuss the work accomplished by the group.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SoundPortraits (July 4, 2001). Update on Remembering Stonewall.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Feature Doc 'Pay It No Mind: The Life & Times of Marsha P. Johnson' Released Online. Watch It". Indiewire. December 26, 2012. Retrieved February 17, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Feinberg, Leslie (September 24, 2006). Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. Workers World Party. "Stonewall combatants Sylvia Rivera and Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson... Both were self-identified drag queens."
  4. ^ a b Feinberg, Leslie (1996) Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 131. ISBN 0-8070-7941-3
  5. ^ a b "Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries". Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  6. ^ a b "An Army of Lovers Cannot Lose: The Occupation of NYU's Weinstein Hall". Researching Greenwich Village History. 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  7. ^ "Leslie Feinberg interviews Sylvia Rivera: 'I'm glad I was in the Stonewall riot'". Worker's World. July 2, 1998. Retrieved 2016-10-05. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Shepard, Benjamin Heim and Ronald Hayduk (2002) From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization. Verso. pp.156-160 ISBN 978-1859-8435-67
  9. ^ a b Jacobs, Shayna (2012-12-16). "DA reopens unsolved 1992 case involving the 'saint of gay life'". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2015-06-15. 
  10. ^ a b Sylvia Rivera's obituary via MCCNY
  11. ^ Rivera, Sylvia (2002). Queens in Exile, the Forgotten Ones. Voices Beyond the Sexual Binary. Los Angeles: Alyson Books. p. 67. 
  12. ^ "Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle". Untorelli Press. 

External links[edit]