This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

12 October 2017

Leynon (192? – 195?) performer

Leynon, from Mexico, was a well-known performer in US female-impersonation nightclubs in the 1950s. When Perry Desmond was hired for a first chance as a performer at New Orleans’ My-O-My Club in 1956, Leynon stepped in to help Desmond with make-up and costume.

Desmond records that she was viciously murdered in a transphobic hate crime in Mexico a few years later.


  • Perry Desmond & Dr. R. L. Hymers. Perry: A Transformed Transsexual. Impact Christian Books. 2004: 31-2.


Queer Music Heritage.





24 September 2017

Hanan Al Tawil حنان الطويل actress (1966 – 2004)

Tareq, born and raised in Egypt, was an actor, but felt wrong in the body, so went to Europe for the operation. On return she took the name Hanan Al Tawil, and announced from the stage that she had become a woman.

She was given a small part in the film Abboud Alal Hodood (Abboud on the Borders), directed by Sharif Arafeh. Arafeh then cast her as a school-teacher in Al Nazer (Headmaster).


She moved to comedy theatre, and to straight drama. In the play Hakim Uyoon (Ophthalmologist) she was cast as a young wife suffering from a negligent husband. Her family were quite accepting of her new self.

Hanan died at age 38, possibly from suicide. She had been frequently mocked and harassed, and took it badly.

El Cinema     IMDB

__________________________________________

IMDB often becomes quite deficient, the further that it moves from Hollywood.   It lists only one film for Hanan: I Want my Right, 2003.  El Cinema list 6 films.

20 September 2017

Jayne Thomas ( 194? – 2002) psychologist

Jay Thomas grew up in a small town in Indiana, and as a teenager was a national swimming champion.

Despite feeling wrong as a boy, Jay married a woman at age 17, however she had great difficulties with her husband’s transsexual inclinations. Thomas moved to the Los Angeles area and worked as a consultant for movie and television productions and as an engineer psychologist for Hughes Industries, an aircraft development company.

A second wife was more supportive of the trans aspects, and they traveled together as two women. Thomas had children with both wives.

When the second wife passed on in 1985, Thomas felt free to transition. Thomas had been working as a consultant at a large Los Angeles banking firm, and was able to continue there as a woman.

Afterwards she gave counseling to other transsexuals, in accordance with the HBIGDA Standards of Care. In 1988 she took a part-time position in the Psychology Department at the Santa Monica College, where she was a well-regarded teacher who shared her background with the students. She also worked part-time at the Los Angeles Mission College.

With Kate Bornstein, Jayne appeared on the Geraldo television program “Who’s Sorry Now” about post-surgical regret. Kate and Jayne were there in contrast as successful and happy transsexuals.

Jayne was a speaker at the first New Women’s Conference in Essex, Massachusetts in 1991: her talk was reprinted in The Journal of Gender Studies.
“I've made the comment on more than one occasion that I'm a hell of a lot more comfortable with the masculine part of myself now, in female form, than I ever was when I was in male form. I couldn't be androgynous as a male. I can now. Because being male doesn't threaten me now”.
Jayne also gave lectures and presentations at other colleges. From this came the VHS tape Gender Identity: Variations of Expression. At one college presentation, after Thomas spoke of her gender history, an Iranian woman said:
"I knew there was something different about you. I knew it! Women don't walk around the way you do. Women aren't as assertive, as bold as you. Women your age wouldn't generally stand here like this and make a presentation."
Jayne’s son, an aspiring thespian had become involved in dance as a form of creative expression. Jayne met his teacher and also took the course, and found it useful in expressing a new gender. She and the teacher wrote this up and it was included in the Gender Blending anthology edited by the Bulloughs and James Elias.

During the spring semester, 2002 Jayne suffered a stroke and went into a coma. Despite medical care, she died a few months afterwards
  • Jayne Thomas. “Putting Gender Issues in Perspective: The Whole You”. Journal of Gender Studies, 14,1,Winter-Spring 1992: 3-19. Online.
  • Kate Bornstein. Gender outlaw: on men, women, and the rest of us. Vintage Book, 1995: 81.
  • Jayne Thomas & Toby Green. Gender Identity: Variationsof Expression. VHS Tape, 1995.
  • Loren M. Wingert, CPA. “Coming Out: Transitioning Successfully On the Job”. Transgender Tapestry, 78, Winter 1996: D3. Online.
  • Jayne Thomas & Annette Cardona. “The Use of Dance/Movement in the Adjustment to a New Gender Role” in Bonnie Bullough, Vern L. Bullough & James Elias. Gender Blending. Prometheus Books, 1997: 405-412.
  • Daniel Harju. “Teacher Fights For Her Life: SMC instructor shared perspectives on human sexuality and personal life experiences”. Corsair, 84, 11, 13 November 2002. Online.
  • Jeffrey S Nevid & Spencer A Rathus. Psychology and the Challenges of Life, Binder Ready Version: Adjustment and Growth. 13th Edition. Wiley, 2016:404-5, 407.

Melanie Yarborough


17 September 2017

Noor Talbi نور طلبي dancer, model, actress (1969 - )

Noureddine Talbi was born in Agadir, and was raised in Hay Mohammedi, outside Casablanca. Talbi was good at languages and also a teenage athlete and won gold medals in the 110 and 440-metre hurdles at the national level, but was more interested in dancing, which was done at first in the family setting, and in imitation of the dance sequences in Egyption films.

Talbi left for Spain at 18, and then France where she found work on the fashion catwalks. Her name was now Noor (shortened from Noureddine, a unisex name that means ‘light’ in Arabic).

Back in Morocco she founded her own fashion brand … but she still wanted to dance. She studied oriental dance under renowned choreographers. Initially she was snubbed, as are all artists initially, and there were rumours about her gender history. However she persisted, and performed at shows, charity galas, weddings.

Her sister acted as her manager – until she got married. Noor has adopted a child. She sent her mother on the Hajj in 2002, and wants to go herself.
“I am a strong believer; I pray five times a day, I am very close to God."
Noor became one of the best known oriental dancers in Morocco. She also dances the kabuki, the hindi, the woolof and the charqi. She can speak French, English, Spanish, Italian and three Arabic dialects: the Moroccan darija, the Lebanese and the Egyptian. She is 1.85m (6'1"), a full 2 metres in heels. She had surgery in Egypt.

She has starred in films, headlined weddings for the rich, and is a regular at big events such as the Marrakech International Film Festival, run after by the paparazzi. She teaches dance in Rabat and Casablanca, and has performed in the US, Australia and Japan.  However she chooses not to work with LGBT activists despite being asked.

However Morocco refuses to reissue her identity card, and state television continues to ban her.
'If I wasn't such a strong woman, religious, humanly and social, another might have killed herself'.

FR.Wikipedia       IMDB

14 September 2017

Sylvia Rivera Part V: Later Years

Part I: beginnings
Part II:  GAA & Weinstein Hall
Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
Part IV:  Other activities to 1973
Part V:  Later years

Sylvia retreated to Tarrytown on the northern edge of New York City where she worked as a food services manager with the Marriott Corporation. With her husband Frank she bought a house, but they lost it after taking up crack.

She was discovered by David Isay for his radio program, Remembering Stonewall which was broadcast on the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in 1989. She was then interviewed by Martin Duberman and featured in his book, Stonewall, as a major participant.

Allyson Allanta, Sylvia, Ivana Valentin at Stonewall 26.
She joined the executive of the Stonewall Veterans Association.


She took it badly when Marsha was found dead in the Hudson River off the West Village Piers in 1992. In 1995 she herself attempted suicide by walking into the river.

From 1997 Sylvia lived at Transy House, the home of Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Godwin (who had been in the earlier S.T.A.R.). She was an alcoholic at this time, but after discussions with Rusty and Chelsea, she went cold turkey. She renewed her political activism, giving speeches concerning the need for unity among trans persons, and their position at the forefront of the GLBT movement.
Sylvia took up with a trans woman Julia Murray, and they became a couple.

She was active in New York’s Metropolitan Community Church, where she became the director at the food pantry.



Lee Brewster died in 2000, and Sylvia wrote an obituary, but none of the gay papers would print it.

Later that year she went to Italy for the Millenium March (the first WorldPride), and was acclaimed as the Mother of all gay people.

In 2001 she revived STAR (this time with T=transgender) and they fought for the New York City Transgender Rights Bill and for a trans-inclusive New York State Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act. They also agitated for justice for Amanda Milan, a trans woman who had been killed on the street 20 June 2000. Sylvia still had to fight with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) who were neglecting trans issues. She was still negotiating with ESPA on her deathbed.

She died in 2002, with Julia at her side, of complications from cancer of the liver at age 50.

In her honor: MCC New York's queer youth shelter is called Sylvia's Place; In 2005, the corner of Christopher and Hudson Streets was renamed Rivera Way; the Sylvia Rivera Law Project is dedicated
"to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence".
*Not known to be related to Birdy Rivera, or René Rivera (Mario Montez).
_____________________________________

Sylvia is included in the 2002 anthology GenderQueer, and this is very appropriate, and in retrospect was timely as she died the same year. She had been on external hormones as a teenager, but discontinued. Unlike Virginia Prince, who also discontinued hormones and abandoned her intention to gain surgery, Sylvia remained positive about those who continued the journey:  In her article she says:
“I thought about having a sex change, but I decided not to. I feel comfortable being who I am. That final journey many of the transwomen and transmen make is a big journey. It’s a big step and and I applaud them, but I don’t think I could ever make that journey. Maybe it comes of my prejudice when so many in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s ran up to the chop shop at Yonkers General. They would get a sex change and a month, maybe six months, later they’d kill themselves because they weren’t ready. Maybe that made me change my mind.”

In 1970-2, Sylvia corrected those who who referred to her as a 'drag queen', and preferred the word ‘transvestite’. However in her essay for GenderQueer, she used ‘drag queen’.  This of course creates some confusion with respect to the 1973 pride march in that the Club 82 performers were drag queens in a very different sense.

Sylvia was lucky in those who wrote about her: Arthur Bell, David Isay, Martin Duberman; and it is the media construction resulting from these three writers that is most of her legend.  So let us return to the question raised in Part I:  was she actually at the first night of the Stonewall riots?  Arthur Bell was in Europe with his lover Arthur Evans that summer, and says nothing about Stonewall in his book, Dancing the Gay Lib Blues, 1971, although he publicized her trial for soliciting signatures on a petition for gay rights, and later her involvement in StarHouse.   It is presumably the fame resulting from this that led David Isay and Martin Duberman to include her in their accounts of Stonewall.   On the other hand the carefully researched book by David Carter and Stephan Cohen conclude that she was not there.   If so, why did she say that she was?    Perhaps she did not want to disappoint them?  In her final writing, the essay in GenderQueer, she carefully says that 'we' (that is street queens) were at Stonewall, but does not say that 'I' was.  If she were not, it was rather bold of her to be on the executive of the  Stonewall Veterans Association.

It does not matter if Sylvia were not at Stonewall.  Her actions as recounted in this series justify her place in history in either case.

I mainly followed Stephan L. Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: 'an Army of Lovers Cannot Fail'.   This is certainly the best book on Sylvia and on New York gay lib in the early 1970s.   I got it from the library, but it is a shame that, being published by Routledge, it is so expensive.   The hardback is US$130/C$167/£110.00; the paperback:  US$43/C$57/£35.
_________________________________________
  • Arthur Bell & Sylvia Rivera. “Chris: Gay Prisoner in Bellevue.” Gay Flames, Nov. 14, 1970: 1, 2, 7. Online.
  • Arthur Bell. “STAR Trek: Transvestites in the street.” Village Voice, July 15, 1971, 1, 46.
  • “March on Albany”. Drag, 1,3, 1971 : 30, 32-3. Online.
  • Arthur Bell. Dancing the Gay Lib Blues: A Year in the Homosexual Liberation Movement. Simon & Schuster, 1971: 60-5, 88, 113-5, 118-120, 122-3, 145-6, 157-8, 176, 191.
  • Sylvia Rivera. “In a World of Darkness.” Come Out 2, No. 7b, Spring/Summer 1971, 17.
  • Sylvia Lee Rivera. “Transvestites: Your Half Sisters and Half Brothers of the Revolution.” Come Out 2, No. 8, Winter 1972, 10.
  • “Drags and TVs Join the March”. Drag, 3,11, 1973: 4-11,44. Online.
  • Rey “Sylvia Lee” Rivera. “The Drag Queen” in Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990 : an Oral History. HarperPerennial, 1992: 187-196.
  • Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Plume, 1994: 20-24, 65-71, 117,122-8, 182-3,,190-3,195-6,198,201,202-3,235-9, 246, 251-5, 259, 262-5, 282, 287, 280, 282, 285n10, 300n40, 308n46, 313n83-4, 314-5n94.
  • David Isay, with photographs by Harvey Wang. Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics and Other American Heroes. New York : W.W. Norton, 1995. Contains a chapter on Sylvia.
  • Leslie Feinberg. Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. Boston: Beacon Press. 1998: 96-7, 106-9.
  • David Isay, with a photograph by Harvey Wang. “Sylvia Rivera”. New York Times Magazine. June 27, 1999. Online.
  • Michael Bronski. “Sylvia Rivera: 1951-2002: No longer on the back of the bumper”. ZMag. April. 2002. https://zcomm.org/zmagazine/sylvia-rivera-1951-2002-by-michael-bronski
  • Sylvia Rivera. “Queens in Exile, The Forgotten Ones”. In Joan Nestle, Clare Howell & Riki Wilchins (eds). GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Alyson Books 297 pp 2002.
  • Dora Francese (dir). Sylvia, rimembri ancora? Scr: Adi Gianuario, with Sylvia Rivera. Italy 21 mins 2001.
  • Bebe Scarpinato & Rusty Moore. “Sylvia Rivera”. Transgender Tapestry, 98, Summer 2002: 34-8. Online.
  • “Sylvia Rae Rivera”. Stonewall Veterans. www.stonewallvets.org/SylviaRivera.htm
  • Paul D Cain. “David Carter: Historian of The Stonewall Riots”. Gay Today, 07/01/04. http://gaytoday.com/interview/070104in.asp.
  • Victoria I. Muñoz. "Fabulous Resistance: Carmen Miranda, Sylvia Rivera, and Queer Latinidad" National Women's Studies Association Conference. 2005.
  • Stephan L. Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: 'an Army of Lovers Cannot Fail'. Routledge, 2008: 2, 8-9, 35-6, 37, 38, 39, 40, 56-8, 89 -92, 93-4, 96, 97-8, 101-7, 108, 109-118, 119, 121-137, 140, 141, 143, 144, 145-6, 148, 152, 153154-9, 161-2, 196, 197, 244n6, 245n19, 255n270

EN.Wikipedia

12 September 2017

Sylvia Rivera Part IV: Other activities to 1973

Part I: beginnings
Part II:  GAA & Weinstein Hall
Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
Part IV:  Other activities to 1973
Part V:  Later years
Young Lords and the Black Panthers
Sylvia was also involved with Puerto Rican and black youth activism, with the Young Lords and the Black Panthers.

While GLF had openly supported The Panthers, had helped them with bail money etc, there was a constant problem with the Panthers’ homophobia. They had been confronted on this issue by GLF at a rally at New Haven on 1 May 1970. Shortly afterwards Panther Huey Newton published an admonishment that militant blacks should acknowledge their insecurities about homosexuality.

The GLF was invited to send a delegation to a Panther convention in Philadelphia, and Sylvia was chosen as part of the delegation. Huey even remembered her from a demonstration in New York.
New York City Council's General Welfare committee
In late 1971, GAA succeeded, after lobbying and protesting, in getting the New York City Council's General Welfare committee to discuss the problems faced by gays and transvestites. GAA equivocated and for a while agreed to the removal of transvestite protections. However it ultimately endorsed them.

Lee Brewster, Bebe, and Sylvia argued transvestites “were being used as scapegoats by the gay movement” seeking to explain its failure to get the asked-for protections.

Sylvia, usually an extemporaneous speaker, had had her face bruised after a confrontation with police at a recent demonstration, wore a conservative dress and her hair in a bun, and read in muted fashion, a statement based on STAR’s platform.

The bill was was not passed even in 1973, when it went forward with the caveat that nothing in the definition of sexual orientation “shall be construed to bear upon the standards of attire or dress code".

There was an impromptu blockade of Brooklyn Bridge, and Sylvia and others were arrested. A few days later, during a protest at City Hall, Sylvia in polyester bell-bottoms, fortified by speedballs and a few drinks, kicked off her heels, and scaled the outside of the building.
Part VI: 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day
At the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD), the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the tensions within the gay movement that would lead to separatisms were becoming apparent.

The CSLD committee, mainly GAA members, attempted a harmonious march and rally by focusing on entertainment and speakers not involved in the city’s infighting.

Of the traditional drag show nightclubs, only Club 82 was left and it was ceding the stage to the emerging glam, glitter and punk scene. However there were still some showgirls left and Bebe Scarpi went and got them to march – in costume. Prominent were International Chrysis and Jean Chandler. Old-style performer Ty Bennett was conveyed in a convertible.
Lee in tiara; Sylvia in jumpsuit


Sylvia, wearing a jumpsuit that had belonged to the now deceased June from StarHouse, and not a listed speaker, pushed her way on to the stage, and gave an impassioned speech for Gay Power:
“They’ve been beaten up and raped. And they have had to spend much of their money in jail to get their self home and to try to get their sex change. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes or to become women of the Women’s Liberation and they write S.T.A.R., not the women’s group. They do not write women. They do not write men. They write S.T.A.R. because we’re trying to do something for them.”
Jean O’Leary of Lesbian Feminist Liberation insisted on an opportunity to reply. She asserted biological sex, and that Sylvia was “a genital male”. She read a statement on behalf of 100 women that read, in part,
"We support the right of every person to dress in the way that she or he wishes. But we are opposed to the exploitation of women by men for entertainment or profit."
She was booed and MC, Vito Russo, the film historian, asked the crowd to let her continue. Lee Brewster, jumped onstage and responded,
"You go to bars because of what drag queens did for you, and these bitches tell us to quit being ourselves!”
The situation was calmed only when performer Bette Midler took to the stage and sang.


All this angry public confrontation left Sylvia in such a state that she attempted suicide.

10 September 2017

Sylvia Rivera Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries


Part I: beginnings
Part II:  GAA & Weinstein Hall
Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
Part IV:  Other activities to 1973
Part V:  Later years

After the demonstration following the eviction from Weinstein Hall, Bubbles, Sylvia, Marsha, Bebe Scarpi, Bambi L’Amour, Andorra and others continued with what became Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) which attempted to provide shelter, food and legal support for street queens.

Their first home was a trailer truck seemingly abandoned in a Greenwich Village outdoor parking area. This was a step up from sleeping in doorways, and a couple of dozen young street transvestites moved in. One morning Sylvia and Marsha were returning with groceries, and found the trailer starting to move. Most of the queens were woken by the noise and movement and quickly jumped out, although one, stoned, was half-way to California when she woke up.

Bubbles knew a Mafia person, well-known in the Village, Michael Umbers, manager of the gay bar, Christopher’s End, operator of various callboy and porno operations and also a friend of future Dog Day Afternoon bank robber, John Wojtowicz. Bubbles spoke to him and for a small deposit the S.T.A.R. commune was able to move into 213 East 2nd Street in November 1970. There was no electricity or plumbing, not even the boiler worked, nor did the toilets. However with help they got the building working and it became StarHouse. This is probably the first communal shelter that explicitly served street transvestites. Sylvia:
“We had a S.T.A.R. House—a place for all of us to sleep. It was only four rooms, and the landlord had turned the electricity off. So we lived there by candle light, a floating bunch of 15 to 25 queens, cramped in those rooms with all our wardrobe. But it worked. We’d cook up these big spaghetti dinners and sometimes we’d have sausage for breakfast, if we were feeling rich” (quoted in Cohen p131-2)
Several of them hustled.
“The contribution of the ones who didn’t make it out into the streets, who wanted something different, was to liberate food from in front of the A&P. . . . So the house was well-supplied, the building’s rent was paid, and everybody in the neighborhood loved StarHouse. They were impressed because they could leave their kids and we’d baby-sit with them. If they were hungry, we fed them. We fed half of the neighborhood because we had an abundance of food the kids liberated. It was a revolutionary thing.” (Cohen p 132-3)
Expenses were supplemented by dances and a bake sale.

S.T.A.R. put out a manifesto:
The oppression against Transvestites of either sex arises from sexist values and this oppression is manifested by heterosexuals and homosexuals of both sexes in the form of exploitation, ridicule, harrassment, beatings, rapes, murders.
Because of this oppression the majority of transvestites are forced into the street and we have formed a strong alliance with our gay sisters and brothers of the street. Who we are a part of and represent we are; a part of the REVOLUTIONARIES armies fighting against the system. 
1. We want the right to self-determination over the use of our bodies; the right to be gay, anytime, anyplace; the right to free physiological change and modification of sex on demand; the right to free dress and adornment.
2. The end to all job discrimination against transvestites of both sexes and gay street people because of attire.
3. The immediate end of all police harrassment and arrest of transvestites and gay street people, and the release of transvestites and gay street people from all prisons and all other political prisoners.
4. The end to all exploitive practices of doctors and psychiatrists who work in the field of transvestism.
5. Transvestites who live as members of the opposite gender should be able to obtain identification of the opposite gender.
6. Transvestites and gay street people and all oppressed people should have free education, health care, clothing, food, transportation, and housing.
7. Transvestites and gay street people should be granted full and equal rights on all levels of society, and full voice in the struggle for liberation of all oppressed people.
8. An end to exploitation and discrimination against transvestites within the homosexual world.
9. We want a revolutionary peoples’ government, where transvestites, street people, women, homosexuals, puerto ricans, indians, and all oppressed people are free, and not fucked over by this government who treat us like the scum of the earth and kills us off like flies, one by one, and throws us into jail to rot. This government who spends millions of dollars to go to the moon, and lets the poor Americans starve to death. 
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
S. T. A. R.
Sylvia continued her concern with the incarcerated. In 1970 over 4,000 boys were held in Riker’s Island, mainly because they could not afford bail. S.T.A.R. publicized what happened when transvestites were arrested, often several times: long waits in remand, beatings by guards, rape, attempted suicide. Street transvestites on the outside joined the Gay Community Prison Committee, organized protests, interviewed prisoners and attempted to provide legal aid. Sylvia and Arthur Bell discovered dancer Chris Thompson who had gone to Bellevue Hospital because of asthma, and was held because of gender deviance. They wrote up her situation in the radical publication Gay Flames.

Other Gay Flames headlines were: “U.S. Justice = Gay is Guilty,” “Street Transvestite Murdered,” “Support Lesbian, Transvestite, & Gay Inmates,” “Killers Go Free While Gays Rot in Jail".

There were prison visits and demonstrations outside prisons – especially the Women’s House of Detention on Greenwich Avenue where the prisoners could talk to passersby, and which was targeted on a weekly basis until it was closed in June 1971. (Testimony by Angela Davis and Andrea Dworkin contributed to its closing).

The national lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, welcomed the S.T.A.R. members, but other lesbian feminists rejected ‘anachronistic’ butch and femme roles. GAA attempted to debunk stereotypes of ‘femme queens’ and ‘butch dykes’ and this undercut transvestite needs and concerns.

Sylvia could be a formidable presence, and could intimidate. Cohen tells of a petite Japanese GLF woman who thought “she was going to die.” She saw Sylvia as a “very angry, very strong Puerto Rican man.” Despite Bob Kohler’s counsel, Sylvia denied holding male privilege and its aggressive misuse.

There were tragedies. One transvestite, June, died after drinking her mixture of methadone and alcohol. In March, Marsha was overwhelmed when her husband, Cantrell, was shot dead by an off-duty cop while out to get money so that they could buy drugs. Sylvia, who had started heroin when in Riker’s Island prison, eventually locked herself in Marsha’s place and went cold turkey during several excruciating days. 

On 14 March 1972 S.T.A.R., QLF, GAA and other groups went to the New York State Capital, Albany to demonstrate for repeal of laws against sodomy, solicitation and impersonation as well as to ask for housing and employment protections. Sylvia and Kate Millet were among the speakers.

Many of the S.T.A.R. members were religious:

“We’d all get together to pray to our saints before we’d go out hustling. A majority of the queens were Latin and we believe in an emotional, spiritualistic religion. We have our own saints: Saint Barbara, the patron saint of homosexuality, St. Michael, the Archangel; La Calidad de Cobre, the Madonna of gold; and Saint Martha, the saint of transformation. St. Martha had once transformed herself into a snake, so to her we’d pray: ‘Please don’t let them see through the mask. Let us pass as women and save us from harm.’ And to the other three we’d kneel before our altar of candles and pray: ‘St. Barbara, St. Michael, La Calidad de Cobre: We know we are doing wrong, but we got to live and we got to survive, so please help us, bring us money tonight, protect us, and keep evil away.’ We kept the sword of St. Barbara at the front door and the sword of St. Michael at the back door to ward off evil. We were watched over.” (Cohen p134)

Feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson wrote an indictment of the Catholic Church which was endorsed by the Daughters of Bilitis. The church was denounced as a “ruthless foe of abortion, sexual law reform, divorce, birth control and human dignity”. This position was supported by S.T.A.R. and Gay Youth, along with GAA, GLF, Mattachine Society, NYU Gay Students’ Liberation, and Radicalesbians.

A Conference of Gay Liberation was held at Rutgers University in New Jersey in March 1971 with forums on sadism, masochism, and leather; bisexuality; and transvestism. Speakers from S.T.A.R., Queens Liberation Front and GAA addressed the inaugural event on transvestism.

In July 1971 Mike Umbers came around about the three months rent that he had not received. Bubbles mumbled something about the cost of repairs. Umbers said that if he didn’t get his money, Bubbles was as good as dead. Sylvia screamed that if he killed her, she would go to the police. Bubbles skipped town soon after, possibly for Florida.

Umbers decided against violence and simply had S.T.A.R. put out on the street for non-payment of rent. Sylvia and the others reversed the improvements and threw the refrigerator out of the back window.

Arthur Bell wrote an article for the Village Voice in July 1971 about StarHouse.
S.T.A.R. “is mainly into whoring and radical politics. Their philosophy is to destroy the system that’s fucking us over. They’re a sub-culture unaccepted within the subculture of transvestism and looked down at in horror by many of the women and men in the homosexual liberation movement. Sylvia and Marsha and Bambi and Andorra with their third world looks and their larger-than-life presences and their cut-the-crap tongues do not ‘fit’ at a GAA meeting. ‘We don’t relate to each other,’ says Sylvia. Marsha says, ‘Why should I go to their dances? No one asks me to dance. I freak them out.’ S.T.A.R. didn’t do too well with the Gay Liberation Front toward the end, either. The S.T.A.R.s relate very well to themselves, and to a certain segment of the ‘live and let live’ street people. But by and large, they’re the great unwanteds.”
Perhaps he said too much about how the inhabitants hustle. Its publication was followed by a flurry of arrests on 42nd St.
Sylvia and Marsha


Sylvia found temporary refuge with friends on 109th Street. Marsha returned to her 211 Eldridge Street apartment that once again became S.T.A.R.’s de facto address.