Two years before her death, Stonewall veteran Sylvia Rivera served as muse for a photography series captured by Valerie Shaff. The black-and-white images feature the outspoken activist dolled up with razor-thin eyebrows, a bold lip, and wind-strewn hair on a makeshift encampment near the Hudson River. A nearly 50-year-old Rivera was living there in protest of the mostly gay- and lesbian-focused organizations and community groups at the time — particularly, The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center (then known as the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center Inc.), which was mere city blocks away.
Rivera contended that the mainstream LGBTQ+ organizations were ignoring the needs of local homeless youth and transgender people. For her, the LGBTQ+ nonprofit industrial complex had grown into something far different from the initiatives she’d spearheaded throughout her lifetime.