Talk:Sylvia Rivera

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He/She[edit]

Is it considered appropriate to refer to the subject of this article as "she" instead of "he?" What are the qualifications for being refered to as a female on wikipedia? Should actual surgery be required, or should anyone be allowed to ask that their gender related pronouns be changed? 69.207.233.236 04:01, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Sylvia Rivera identified as a woman her entire adult life. My understanding is that a subject's gender identity is respected. (For reference, a number of transgender people today choose not to undergo surgery. As opposed to being "pre-op," they may refer to themselves as "non-op") -Danspalding 07:22, 28 February 2007 (UTC)

Regardless, I think we should refer to her as a "he" until such time as that identity was adopted. He was his parents' son, after all, and again, I think it is disingenuous to suggest otherwise. I believe this is a legitimate point and should not be dismissed as a consequence of the desires of those who troll this entry. He/she was a drag queen, and I think we ought to at least say as much, lest we be guilty of SERIOUS revisionism. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.90.114.207 (talk) 06:36, 28 June 2008 (UTC)

i disagree and perhaps you should ask yourself why your so insecure about your gender that you need to force your opinions onto someone who has no way of challenging you and has no way of consenting - sylivia rivera X-mass (talk) 01:26, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

Referring to transgender women as he is extremely disrespectful. One should always use someone's preferred pronouns, no matter what state their anatomy is in. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 23.16.91.232 (talk) 05:08, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

Just "Sylvia"?[edit]

I noticed that in many places in the article, Sylvia Rivera was referred to only as "Sylvia." I changed that to "Rivera" to put it into encyclopedic format ("wikifying"). But is there a good reason for her to be referred to as only "Sylvia"? -Danspalding 19:05, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Stonewall controversy[edit]

User:88.122.12.140 added the following on 16 October:

She is often described as a veteran of the Stonewall Riots - the protest against homophobic abuse that, in the minds of many, birthed the modern LGBT rights movement. Some credit her with being the first to strike back at the police and spark the riots. In fact, there is no evidence that Sylvia Rivera was at the Stonewall either the first night of the riots or any of the subsequent nights that week. No contemporary account of the Stonewall rebellion makes any mention of either Sylvia Rivera or Rey Rivera (her birth name, which Martin Duberman misspells throughout his book).
None of the very few photographs of Stonewall participants includes Sylvia Rivera. And several months after the riots, in an interview she gave to a gay 'zine, Sylvia Rivera made no mention of any involvement in the riots. Nor does David Carter make any mention of Sylvia Rivera in his book, "Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution," the only book-length account of the riots.

I am going to do some revising on this page and add citations. This criticism needs to be sourced, or else it's original research, not to mention not neutral. Jokestress 03:33, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

David Carter is the main proponent of the theory that Sylvia Rivera was not present at Stonewall. Carter's viewpoint has been strongly criticized by Benjamin Shepard in his piece “Sylvia and Sylvia’s Children: A Battle for a Queer Public Space”, included in That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, edited by Mattilda, aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore. (Brooklyn: Soft Skull Press, 2004. 97-112. ISBN 1932360565) This discussion is worthy of inclusion in the Wikipedia article and is covered in some of the references I added (articles by Gan and Retzloff).--Mgdelarosa (talk) 08:48, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Sylvia Rivera was not at the Stonewall riots. This is a further example of how Trans people want to revise, rewrite, and just lie about things that did not happen at all such as Sylvia Rivera actually being at Stonewall. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.185.240.139 (talk) 01:27, 7 December 2009 (UTC)

This is pure unadulterated transphobia. But it shouldn't be removed as it is part of our history, having straight acting homosexuals try to write us out of history, just as they trying to do with Sylvia. If someone else wrote about how lesbians were re-writing feminist history their would be screams of 'homophobia', yet is it fine to abuse others in the ways you were abused yourself? X-mass (talk) 01:38, 1 September 2010 (UTC)

I have noticed that Trans people seem to LOVE to rewrite the history of gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals of both genders to include themselves.

They did this with Stonewall. People who actually were at Stonewall during the riots have said how Sylvia Rivera was never there and how contrary to the rewriting of history by trans people there were no drag queens or TG people there the first night the riots happened.

That's blatantly false. The police often brought people into the bathroom to check their genitals because there were so many trans people there and they needed ground on which to arrest them. In many accounts of stonewall, people of colour were also excluded, but it was a very diverse crowd in there. Trans people are written out of histories, not shoehorned into them. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 23.16.91.232 (talk) 06:46, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

In fact, there is no evidence that Sylvia Rivera was at the Stonewall either the first night of the riots or any of the subsequent nights that week. No contemporary account of the Stonewall rebellion makes any mention of either Sylvia Rivera or Rey Rivera. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 72.78.246.35 (talk) 06:03, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Sylvia Rivera-Murray[edit]

From a caption in 2000:

Sylvia Rivera-Murray celebrates as she is released from police custody after being arrested as part of the Soulforce act of civil disobedience, Tuesday November 14, 2000. Rivera-Murray took part in the 1969 Stonewall Bar Riots a nd has been arrested over 25 times since while standing for the rights of GLBT people. [1]

Can't find a published source that uses this, though. Jokestress 04:19, 22 November 2006 (UTC)

Julia Murray was Rivera's life partner. See Sylvia Rivera Talk at LGMNY, 2001.--Mgdelarosa (talk) 08:50, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Latina identity[edit]

I am adding content and three academic references regarding Sylvia Rivera's Puerto Rican and Venezuelan background. It is distressing that in the entire article this was never mentioned.--Mgdelarosa (talk) 07:19, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Well, I added five academic references on her Latina identity.--Mgdelarosa (talk) 08:42, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Ethnicity out of lead[edit]

I moved it to the life section. --Tom 14:51, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

I edited the first paragraph of the life section to make it read better, and also added some additional information and two references.--Mgdelarosa (talk) 17:53, 14 February 2009 (UTC)

Drag queen or transgender woman?[edit]

Is Sylvia Rivera a drag queen or a transgender woman or both? Can a person be both? I'm sorry I don't mean to be insulting but I don't understand. Thank you. 173.49.70.205 (talk) 15:55, 29 August 2015 (UTC)

It's a good question. The situation is complicated by the fact that Rivera is no longer alive to speak for herself, and that the definitions of these terms have been changing rapidly, and have changed multiple times since she died.
If you just google or look at social media, it is confusing because people who never knew Rivera have been describing her online based on their opinion of Rivera's presentation in a few popular photos, rather than the words Rivera used to self-identify. Part of this confusion comes from recent media portrayals (see RuPaul's Drag Race) of drag as something only done as stage performance, whereas street queens like Rivera and Johnson weren't primarily stage performers; they just dressed like that. While Rivera was alive, I never heard of Rivera calling herself a woman; doing research for this article to make sure nothing had happened that I was unaware of, I read and watched everything I could find where Rivera speaks for herself. Rivera always self-identified as a queen, a street queen, a gay man, or something similar. And yes, all of these things at once.
The "she/her" pronouns most used for Rivera (and that Rivera used for most gay males and other street queens) are part of the vernacular used by the gay community and gay culture in that era. It was a subcultural identifier. For older members of the community (Rivera's still-living peers), they still are.
The word "transgender" only came into popular usage during the last few years of Rivera's life, and when she added "transgender" to the STAR resurrection, "transgender" referred to all gender non-conforming people. She saw herself as a gender-nonconforming person. This is different from the current populer trend in seeing "trans" as only referring to those who identify as the "opposite" sex (though that definition is far from universal; some use a very broad umbrella that still includes all gnc people as trans). If it seems complicated, it is. Please take the time to watch the videos where Rivera speaks for herself. Especially the long interview in Sylvia at the Pier. - CorbieV 16:26, 29 August 2015 (UTC)
Sylvia Rivera does refer to herself as transgender several times in her Bitch on Wheels speech, which can be found here. Everything else about Corbie's explanation is excellent, but just wanted to correct that. It get's complicated as common language and the way a person talks about herself can change a lot over time. Rab V (talk) 11:07, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes, but as a "transgender person". - CorbieV 17:24, 22 September 2015 (UTC)
That's right. Rab V (talk) 21:00, 23 September 2015 (UTC)
Hmm. On the basis of the above, I suggest tweaking "was an American drag queen, gay liberation and transgender activist" to "was an American gay liberation and transgender activist and self-identified [drag/street] queen [and transgender person]" (with or without the bits in brackets, and with or without the order of "...activist..." and "...queen..." switched). Given how complicated the question of her identity is, I think it would help to be up-front about the fact that our description of her as a "drag queen" is [also] her self-identification. -sche (talk) 21:35, 24 September 2015 (UTC)
Mixed thoughts on this. For WP as a whole, does putting "self-identified" in the lead of one person's bio and not everyone's imply we don't let all subjects of WP bios self-identify? I think it's useful to have in the article somewhere, of course, and the lead should be a bit of a tl;dr for the whole article, but we can't summarize everything there. I think in other articles where there's only a brief mention of a person, where their identity is actually relevant, and there is some controversy about their identity, yes, including "self-identified" makes sense (especially when that content is as prone to IP reversions as some of these bios are).
But the lead also has to be well-written and flow well. I'll look it over again, but I'm not sure the above would really be an improvement. I mean, we don't do "gender" sections for most people, but I felt we had to here as so many who try to revert sourced content in this and related articles seem to only care about Rivera's gender identity. As for the word "transgender," Rivera is on record as not much liking the word as a self-description. My personal opinion, but I believe this is backed up by the sources, is that Rivera used the term almost exclusively as an organizing tool, and only used it to self-identify as gnc when, say, asked to speak specifically at a transgender event. The main reason I don't think "transgender" should be prioritized here is that the meaning of the word has changed rather profoundly since Rivera used it.
I'm fine with the opening sentence the way it is, but if additional editors think, "was an American gay liberation and transgender activist and self-identified drag queen." is an improvement, I could live with it. But, we already have a whole bunch of direct quotes where Rivera refers to herself as a queen. IMHO that already makes the "self-identified" part abundantly clear. - CorbieV 17:21, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
When you say Rivera didn't much like the word transgender, are you referencing her Queens in Exile speech? The one that goes "People now want to call me a lesbian because I’m with Julia, and I say, “No. I’m just me. I’m not a lesbian.” I’m tired of being labeled. I don’t even like the label transgender. I’m tired of living with labels. I just want to be who I am. I am Sylvia Rivera. Ray Rivera left home at the age of 10 to become Sylvia. And that’s who I am. I will be 50 years old this coming Monday. I don’t need the operation to find my identity. I have found my niche, and I’m happy and content with it. I take my hormones. I’m living the way Sylvia wants to live. I’m not living in the straight world; I’m not living in the gay world; I’m just living in my own world with Julia and my friends." The speech sounds like it is about tired of being labeled in general, including with terms like lesbian and gay. She emphasizes the word transgender to show how over all labels she is, since at this point she was talking a lot about trans rights and already been airing her frustrations with gay and lesbian community. Seeing as wikipedia is here to describe her, it seems impossible to avoid labels in general, but I think it is OK to point out labels she used and explain that she also expressed dislike for them at one point.
Agree though that the self-identified bit seems unnecessary. I think what could be helpful though is somewhere in the article a clarification on the different meaning drag queen had back then than it does now; most people now hear drag and assume a stage performance. I think this could be done with a quote by her or Marsha talking about queens. Rab V (talk) 20:42, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
There are numerous quotes in the article where Rivera talks about being a queen. Which additional ones do you think would improve the article? - CorbieV 22:41, 25 September 2015 (UTC)
Rab, the quotes on "gay girl" as because it's a phrase with a particular meaning (femme young gay guy) which is different from a literal read of the words, gay girl (which could mean "lesbian"). Again, it's subculture slang. - CorbieV 22:35, 26 September 2015 (UTC)
Oh, I didn't see the quotes as indicating it is slang, though it could be understood to be literal as well. Either way, I spent a little bit of time trying to find a quote that would disambiguate the way drag queen is used here. Didn't find exactly what I wanted, but thought this quote was also good for explaining the way Sylvia saw her own gender and desired way of presenting in the world. "Transvestites are homosexual men and women who dress in clothes of the opposite sex. Male transvestites dress and live as women. Half sisters like myself are women with the minds of women trapped in male bodies." From her essay Transvestites: Your Half Sisters And Half Brothers Of The Revolution. I think the quote is good though too since the article right now mentions her using the term half sister without explaining what that meant. Rab V (talk) 09:47, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
(undent) Well, someone who's been dead for over ten years can't really comment on how the meanings of the words have changed in the last decade. :) We already have that essay cited in the footnotes for Rivera's definition of transvestite as, in her usage, a specifically gay thing. I considered putting in a longer quote from that essay, but that's one of the very early ones ('71) in Untorelli that I have some questions about, as there are some rather internally contradictory bits in it, and I'm not sure how much it's fair to pull from it. Again, MOS:Gender says we got not with early statements but more recent ones, so I think it's more appropriate for footnote material; perhaps we could add a quote to the cite on 'half sister' that's already there. I'm looking at the essay now and need to make sure I'm not confusing it with a very similar one. - CorbieV 15:55, 27 September 2015 (UTC)
OK, the opening paragraphs in that version of that piece make more sense, but I am still questioning the editorial work on it. There was another version of that where the terms Rivera was defining/inventing were in a list of bullet points. The bullet point list is the one where some of the terms were defined differently, and had internal contradictions. I'm trying to find that list, as, IIRC, the bullet point version was on a flyer handed out at a demo. But I don't know whether the flyer or this piece was written first. - CorbieV 16:40, 27 September 2015 (UTC)

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