Smithsonian Adds Transgender ‘Sex Worker’ to Civil Rights Exhibit

The taxpayer-funded Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery has added a photo of a transgender sex worker to its “Struggle for Justice” civil rights exhibit.

The photograph depicts Sylvia Rivera–described as having been a “trans woman sex worker”–along with her partner Julie Murray and activist Christina Hayworth. The photograph was taken at a rally prior to the 2000 Gay Pride Parade in New York City.

“A forerunner in the fight against gender identity discrimination, Sylvia Rivera worked the dicey Times Square district as a trans woman sex worker after she was cast out by family as a teenager,” says the description of the photo posted in the Gallery. “She was there in 1969 at the turning point of the modern LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) struggle for equal rights, when patrons of the Stonewall Inn violently rebuffed a police raid.

“Politicized by this experience, Rivera campaigned with the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) in urging the city to enact a nondiscrimination ordinance,” the description says. “However, facing racism and discrimination as a Latina transgender by the mainly white male GAA leadership, she began to work with homeless teenagers, co-founding the militant group and shelter STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries).