Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries found STAR House

Share to Pinterest Share to Google+ Share by email

Following the 1969 Stonewall Riots, transgender sex workers Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

STAR started following a sit-in at Weinstein Hall at New York University in 1970. The sit-in was to protest school administrators canceling a dance because it was sponsored by a gay organisation. The sit-in brought together many gay groups, including Gay Liberation Front and Radicalesbians. They were successful in regaining the venue for the dance.

Sylvia and Marsha saw that the needs of street youth and transgender youth were not being taken in account by other early gay groups. They founded STAR to fill this gap.

STAR opened their first STAR House in a parked trailer truck in a Greenwich Village parking lot later that year. It functioned as a shelter and social space for trans sex workers and other LGBT street youth. However, the pair arrived one day to find the trailer was being towed, with as many as 20 youth still sleeping inside.

This experience made them decide to find a more permanent home for STAR House. “Marsha and I decided to get a building,” Rivera told Leslie Feinberg in 1998. “We were trying to get away from the Mafia’s control at the bars. We got a building at 213 Second Avenue.”

Sylvia and Marsha paid the rent on the building by doing street sex work at night. They hoped to use the top floor of the building to teach the youth how to read and write during the daytime.

STAR House was many firsts. It was the first LGBT youth shelter in North America. It was the first trans woman of colour led organisation in the USA. And it was the first trans sex worker labour organisation. STAR later expanded to other cities, before eventually collapsing in the mid-1970s. It has recently been revived in New York City.

More information can be found in Leslie Feinberg’s article in Worker’s World. Additional information can be found on Reina Gossett’s website.