This page focuses on the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), a group of transvestite activists that was formed in the fall of 1970 by Sylvia Rivera, along with her friend Marsha P. Johnson.
The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries emerged out of anger over the police response to a sit-in at New York University's Weinstein Hall. (The University had refused to allow the Gay Student Liberation to hold two planned dances in the subcellar.) Gay Liberationists abandoned the action after NYU sent in the Tactical Police Force—a move that infuriated the founders of STAR. In their first leaflet, they chided gay activists: "All we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs.... You people run if you want to, but we're tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them."
STAR became the first group in New York City to focus on the needs of street queens—young transvestites who hustled to make a living.
STAR also planned to secure bail money and lawyers for imprisoned transvestites (an organized effort never materialized) and worked to combat the discrimination queens faced within the gay community. STAR members made sure they were a visible presence at gay liberation actions so that the movement wouldn't ignore them or leave them behind.
Although Sylvia Rivera, Marcia Johnson, and other STAR members like Bebe Scarpi had worked hard for groups like the Gay Activists Alliance and the Gay Liberation Front, they found little support from the existing movement. GLFer Bob Kohler helped the group fix up the STAR House, and GLF gave it money for "beer and setups" at its first dance. But when Rivera asked the Gay Activists Alliance to loan its stereo equipment for the dance, the organization declined, with some members making the argument that GAA was "'not in the rental business.'" Even when STAR was at risk of losing its house, GAA refused to loan money to the group.
Tensions between street queens and other gay liberationists predated STAR. Marcia Johnson remembered that at one GAA dance, "...there was not even one gay brother that came over and said hello. They'd say hello, but they'd get away very quick." While some women in the Gay Liberation Front got along well with transvestites, many other lesbian feminists considered drag an embodiment of all "the things that [they were] trying to break free of—high heels, girdles, corsets, stockings...." In fact, Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries was formed in part because of the discrimination street queens had felt within the gay liberation movement. Sylvia Rivera remembered founding STAR "...because my brothers and sisters kept on using us when they needed us, but they weren't treating us fairly. So we wanted to be by ourselves."
The issues that STAR addressed remain prevalent today—a fact highlighted by Rivera's decision to reinstate the group in 2001 after the murder of a transgender sex worker. Although almost all of the original members of STAR have since passed, a number of activists and organizations continue their work to care for queer homeless youth—and to push for full equality for all transgender people.