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Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR)

Queens Banding Together
Queens Banding Together

Marsha P. Johnson handing out flyers in support of gay students at New York University, 1970. Photograph by Diana Davies.
NYPL, Manuscripts and Archives Division, Diana Davies Papers. Copyright Diana Davies.
Digital ID: 1582220
The Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance attracted the attention of transvestites and transsexuals, as well as gays and lesbians. Transvestites and transsexuals were a particularly vulnerable group. In addition to social oppression and the constant threat of violence, transvestism itself was illegal in New York. Pioneering drag queens such as Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson — both veterans of the Stonewall Riots — were active on the front lines of both GLF and GAA. They also started their own organization: Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR).

Sylvia and Marsha were deeply concerned about the dangers faced by their fellow transvestites, who were often forced to pursue prostitution to support themselves. As STAR, they created a collective and shelter for transgender people. The first shelter, which they started in an abandoned tractor trailer, went mythically awry when the owner recovered the trailer and drove off with the queens inside. STAR then moved on to renovate a burned-out building on the Lower East Side. The queens banded together as a collective — sharing food, money, and their lives.

Although the collective and STAR were short lived, Sylvia and Marsha continued their activism, and their dramatic lives became major symbols for the radicalism of this period. Their efforts paved the way for later transgender activists, such as Lee Brewster, a former Mattachine member, who created the Queens Liberation Front later in 1970 and ran Lee's Mardi Gras, the premier drag emporium in New York City, for decades. The Queens Liberation Front successfully fought the anti-transvestism laws in New York, which were struck down in 1971.


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