It's October and it is LatinX LGBT history month and that's a great opportunity to reflect on our collective history. While they’ve been at the forefront of nearly every queer movement, Latinx, Afro-Latinxs and indigenous people of color have long been marginalized—even erased—from our history.
We must pay honor to whom honor is due. Though far from complete, below is a small selection of some BIG queer Latinx individuals, whose contributions and achievements should be remembered.
Sylvia Rivera, 1951-2002 Sylvia Rivera is the ultimate LGBTQ+ icon. She blazed a trail as a transgender and civil rights activist, earning the title “Mother of the Movement” for her monumental role in leading the 1969 Stonewall riots and subsequent protests. Coming from Puerto Rican and Venezuelan roots, Rivera's impact stretched beyond her era through outspoken social justice work. Alongside Marsha P. Johnson, a fellow gay liberation activist, she co-founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) to support queer youth and sex workers.
Christina Hayworth, 1940s- Christina Hayworth (pictured above on the left, with Sylvia Rivera on the right), a pioneering openly trans woman in Puerto Rico, also left an indelible mark. Not only was she a Colonel in the U.S. Army and a Vietnam War veteran, but she also founded the LGBT pride parade in Puerto Rico in 2003. Present during the Stonewall Riots, Hayworth became a Latin American ambassador for the Stonewall Riots Veteran Association (SVA). An iconic photograph in 2015 featuring Hayworth and Sylvia Rivera became the first portrait of trans Americans displayed in the Smithsonian Museum.
Holly Woodlawn, 1948-2009 Holly Woodlawn, another trans woman born in Puerto Rico, made waves as well. A figure in Andy Warhol films, including Trash and Women in Revolt (1971), she propelled into the national spotlight. Not only did she star in films, but she also authored a memoir, A Low Life in High Heels (1991). Her estate's contributions led to the creation of the Holly Woodlawn Memorial Fund for Transgender Youth in L.A.
Angie Xtravaganza, 1964-1993 The ballroom scene owes a lot to Latinx trailblazers, including Angie Xtravaganza, a prominent figure in the community. The House of Xtravaganza, led by Angie, was featured in the iconic documentary Paris Is Burning. This documentary also introduced other influential personalities like Venus Xtravaganza and Madonna’s “Vogue” dancers Luis Camacho and José Gutiérrez, inspiring the FX hit series Pose. Angie Xtravaganza, as the youngest of the legendary mothers, propelled her group to be the city’s premier Latina house.
José Julio Sarria, 1922–2013 Jose Julio Sarria, a political activist, a drag performer, and a World War II veteran, showcased immense bravery. After serving in Germany during the war, Sarria, instead of becoming a teacher as initially planned, fell in love with drag performances. In the early 1960s, during a time when San Francisco’s political environment grappled with its gay community, Sarria made history by becoming the first openly gay person to run for public office, vying for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Additionally, Sarria founded the International Court System, now a massive association of charitable organizations primarily dedicated to fundraising for gay causes. They have over 65 chapters in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, making it one of the largest LGBTQ organizations in the world.