In This Place, a Trans Latina Threw the First Stone for the Liberation of LGBTQ+ Rights

Isaac Vallenilla
 | June 2, 2022

Credit: Nuestro Stories

Every first day of June, the entire world is painted in rainbow colors in celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. While for many it is an opportunity to capitalize on a thriving population that does not have full rights, very few remember what really happened on the night of June 28, 1969.

In one of the routine raids to humiliate and mistreat the LGBTQ+ community, two New York City police officers entered the Stonewall Inn bar, one of the few safe places for hundreds of gays, trans, and lesbians in the city, undercover.

The police detained the bar’s employees and harassed the drag queens. Chaos reigned, and the clients who were not arrested left the site, joining the growing crowd outside who, outraged, refused to flee.

Trans People Fought Back

But for Sylvia Rivera, a trans Latina born to a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother, that night’s violence was the last straw. Along with her friend Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera shouted “Enough is enough!”

Read more: This Puerto Rican Cave Was Once Featured in the Pirates of the Caribbean

It is not known who threw the first stone. Sylvia claimed for years that she threw the second, but one way or another, the LGBTQ+ community fought back for the first time.

The fights, Molotov cocktails, and vandalism continued until 4 a.m. with no deaths. Over the next few nights, gays and lesbians would gather near the Stonewall in Christopher Park.

In This Place, a Trans Latina Threw the First Stone for the Liberation of LGBTQ+ Rights nuestro stories

The Stonewall National Monument

The events at The Stonewall Inn marked the beginning of the struggle for LGBTQI+ rights that will continue to this day. Christopher Park, The Stonewall Inn, and the streets where the events took place will become a National Historic Landmark in 2016 because of their importance to the community.

Sylvia Rivera’s activism continued for many years until her death in 2002. Rivera sought to help members of her community, such as homeless trans youth.  As expected, history tried to erase the footprints of a Latina trans woman, but she and Marsha P. Johnson are forerunners of the transgender movement.

In This Place, a Trans Latina Threw the First Stone for the Liberation of LGBTQ+ Rights nuestro stories

Fun facts:

  • The mob ran New York’s gay bars in ’69, including the Stonewall Inn.
  • Police used a 19th-century masquerade law to arrest people dressed as women. The rule stipulated that a person had to wear at least three items of clothing appropriate to their gender to avoid being arrested for cross-dressing.
  • On the night of the Stonewall riots, police barricaded themselves inside the bar.
  • The Stonewall riots made it clear that the LGBTQ movement had to be loud and visible to demand change. Organizers of the first gay pride parade opted for the slogan “Pride” instead of “Gay Power.”

Location: Christopher Park

Address:  38-64 Christopher St, New York 

Google View 360: Visit the place where the fight for LGBTQ+ rights was born here.×300.png

Isaac Vallenilla is a cinema enthusiast with a Major in Modern languages from La Universidad de Los Andes, Venezuela. He has been working as a proofreader, translator, and educator for 6 years. He currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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