Lost Hero: Sylvia Rivera

レシピ / RECIPE

June is known as Pride Month, when our towns become rainbow with flags and parades. This is because Stonewall riots– the event which lead to gay liberation movement- happened in June 1969.

Central members involved in the riots were transgender people. One of them, Marsha. P. Johnson, who was African-American transgender, is extraordinary famous. There are plenty of films and documentaries about her dramatic life, and in New York there is a park named after her. Her name will hold a special place in the pages of history forever with her smiling photo. She deserves this as she
– fought for the right of transgender people
– resisted the tendency of marginalizing transgender people / drag queen in the LGBT+ movement at that time
– made a shelter for people in socially weak position (such as sex workers) .

Marsha. P. Johnson (Photograph: Netflix)

However, I always wonder why similar spotlight is not on Sylvia Rivera, a friend of Marsha and also fought for the right of LGBT+. Although her life was as dramatic as Marsha, there is even no Japanese Wikipedia page for her (actually, in Japanese, she was only explained in the page of Marsha).

Sylvia Rivera(Credit: Leonard Fink, courtesy LGBT Community Center National History Archive.)

After a long thought, now I feel the answer lies in their characters. Marsha was always smiling, cheerful, and kind. On the other hand, Sylvia was always in-your-face, aggressive, and short-tempered. It was 1969- in the middle of the anti-Vietnam War movement. It was when people wanted public figures to be ‘peaceful’- like Marsha. I guess it was the main reason why ‘aggressive’ Sylvia was bumped to the back.

However, sometimes we have to get angry to change society. Some people condemn Black Live Matters movement that they are too aggressive, but there is time you should show your anger. In Japanese society, we tend to smile to settle things peaceful. But, I want to say, we should get angry more to change our society -even we end up getting hurt by our anger.

I really feel that whenever I see Silvia’s disappointed face when she was rejected by the gay liberation movement – and her peaceful, but empty face when she became old and ‘accepted’ by LGBT+ community (both can be seen on ‘The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson’).

*A postscript: I don’t mean Marsha didn’t get angry (in the Netflix documentary you can see people who know Marsh say so). What I want to say here is sometimes people talk about her with too much emphasis on her ‘peaceful’ image.

[Written by: Chihiro]

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