Sylvia Rivera: A Voice for Marginalized People in the LGBTQ+ Rights Movement

Sylvia Rivera was part of a movement to fight for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people in the United States from the 1960s to the 1990s. She particularly wanted to ensure that the rights of transgender people and LGBTQ+ people of colour were represented in the movement. 

There are two videos to choose from to learn about Sylvia Rivera.

The first one is better for younger kids, the second one will appeal to older kids. Feel free to watch one, or both!

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to test your understanding by taking the quiz!

High school students or any student who wants to dig deeper, continue your study with one of the advanced learning projects located at the end of this learning block!

Take A Deeper Dive!


My Community

As a transgender person of colour, Sylvia struggled to find community early in her life. She created her own community within the gay rights movement and co-founded the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). 

What does your community look like? Who makes you feel safe, seen, and supported? 

Create a collage of your community. You will need:

  • A large piece of paper or bristol board, any colour
  • A glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Pictures (photos, magazine cut-outs, pictures printed from the computer)
  • Optional: markers or coloured pencils

Your community might include people you know in real life or authors, community leaders, bloggers, etc., that you feel represent your community. You can use markers, pencils, photographs, cut out pictures from magazines, or print from the internet to create a work of art that represents your community.

Save your artwork to your portfolio.

Create a Protest Poster

What issue do you feel strongly about? Imagine you are preparing to participate in a march or demonstration. Create a poster with a slogan that gives a voice to your idea and may inspire others to join your cause.

You will need:

  • A large piece of paper or bristol board
  • A pencil
  • Markers or coloured pencils

Keep these ideas in mind when creating a poster:

  • Be brief
  • Use large letters
  • Use bright colours that contrast well with your paper
  • Use a symbol or simple picture for added interest

Save your poster to your portfolio.

Write a Journal Entry

Imagine you are an activist participating in demonstrations for your cause. How would you feel? Brave? Scared? Exhilarated? Tired?

Write a journal entry as if you have just returned home from a protest march. How many people were there? Where did you march? What was your goal?

Save your entry to your portfolio.


Write an “I Am Me” poem

Listen to author Jazz Jennings read her book I Am Jazz (in English with Spanish subtitles).

Watch the Willow Smith video I Am Me. 

Think about what makes you special. How are you different from everyone else? How are you the same? Watch this video on how to create an acrostic poem and then create one using your own name. Choose something special or unique about yourself for each line.

Here’s an example using the name Sylvia Rivera:

  • Special
  • Yearning for equality
  • Loving
  • Valiant
  • Inspiring
  • Advocate 
  • Rights
  • Insist
  • Very committed
  • Energy
  • Rebel
  • Activist

Save your poem in your portfolio.

Advanced Projects

Choose at least one.

Disclosure Documentary

To learn more about transgender stereotypes through the lens of film and television, teens may be interested in the new documentary Disclosure, available on Netflix.

Why I Made Disclosure | The Story Behind The Netflix Documentary

You can also watch a discussion with Laverne Cox (executive producer of Disclosure) and Sam Feder (director) on why they made Disclosure.

Create a Video or Podcast Interview

For teens, listen to this podcast to hear an interview with Sylvia Rivera from 1989 on the Making Gay History podcast, Episode 1, Sylvia Rivera (this podcast contains coarse language and may not be suitable for younger learners).

Create an interview with an actual expert or person who identifies as LGBTQ+ or who works as an ally. Ask the person five questions about the topic. Dive deep and think like a journalist. Get to the root of the story.

If you do not have someone you can interview, you could write the script for a fictional interview. If you could meet Sylvia, what would you ask her? Maybe you’d like to interview another important person in the LGBTQ+ movement, past or present?

Add this video to your portfolio.

Recreate a Moment in History

Sylvia Rivera was part of the LGBTQ+ movement for equal rights. Capture a significant event from her life story in a short play or monologue. Include all of the important details. Your goal is to transport your reader, or watcher, to that moment and help them get a window into that exciting or impactful moment. 

Think about:

  • Why this moment matters, to Sylvia and the broader LGBTQ+ community
  • What you want your reader/watcher to remember or understand
  • How to convey the power of the message

Write your script, and then cast and perform (or video record) your play or monologue.

For tips on writing your first play, check out this article

Upload the script or the video to your portfolio.


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