Thanks Janelle, those are all excellent points, and I can't argue with anything you've said. I agree with you in a sense it's a little pedantic to insist she isn't transgender, especially because a previous post of mine was titled "A Transgender Spy in King Louis' Court" and I seemed to have no problem applying that label to a woman who could not possibly have used it to describe herself because she died 150 years before the term was coined. I would never insist Ms Rivera be removed from the ranks of transgender women. That's not the hill I want to die on.

My interest in writing this post started to grow when I read an article about her which mentioned her ambivalence with her own gender identity. I am a transgender woman myself, and at 46, behind the times with the new terminology. People have often asked me if I'm not really gender fluid or non-binary. But those are new terms which came up after I'd already decided on the term transgender to identify myself. I wanted to point out we all have the right to call ourselves by our preferred terms. Her life was gloriously messy and also playful and I wanted to have a little fun with the ways in which she thought of herself, which shifted and grew over time.

I certainly don't want anyone's takeaway from this piece to be "Sylvia Rivera wasn't REALLY transgender". Thanks for reading the piece, and for replying so thoughtfully, I really appreciate it and it means a lot to me.

Written by

Transgender data scientist and parent to two children.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store