National Portrait Gallery

Trans Pioneer Sylvia Rivera Honored At National Portrait Gallery In DC

Rivera is the first trans person to have their portrait in the museum's collection.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has installed a portrait of trans activist Sylvia Rivera, the first transgender person in the museum’s collection.

smithsonian sylvia rivera
National Portrait Gallery

A portrait of her (above center) with partner Julia Murray (right) and riend Christina Hayworth now hangs in the gallery’s “Struggle for Justice” exhibition.

Taken by photographer Luis Carle the Saturday before New York’s Pride Parade in 2002, the photo depicts the three women sitting on a stone wall with a sign at their feet reading “Respect Trans People/Men!”

Related: 5 Transgender Pioneers Who Blazed A Trail For The LGBT Community

“The photograph captures a somewhat atypical scene for Pride Weekend,” writes Ana Perry, a former Latino Museum Studies fellow. “Rather than the bustling energy of the parade with crowds and celebration, this captures a moment of tranquil friendship and unity.”

Rivera was a sex worker in New York in the 1960s, and was at the Stonewall riot of 1969. Politicized by the uprising, she began campaigning for a non-discrimination ordinance in New York and co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a support and activist group for homeless trans people, with Marsha P. Johnson.

sylvia rivera

Rivera continued to fight for LGBT rights through the AIDS crisis, and was a seminal figure in the New York queer community until her death in 2002.

h/t: Passport

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.