Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Stefanie Rivera

Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Stefanie Rivera

Prison injustice is a Latina feminist issue. Not only do we make up one of the fastest-growing prison populations in the country, but many of us, particularly trans Latinas, experience an increased level of violence while behind bars.

This week’s #WCW Stefanie Rivera fights fervently for the rights and justice of incarcerated transgender women of color. The New York-based trans Puerto Rican currently works at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project – an organization named after another trans Latina warrior, Sylvia Rivera – and is a founding member of FIERCE, an organization building leadership among LGBTQ youth of color in New York City.

Rivera understands that crushing the patriarchy involves addressing other forms of oppression that intersect with sexism, including racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia and so much more. Here’s how she does that.

MORE: Woman Crush(ing the Patriarchy) Wednesday: Yesika Salgado

You are the director of client services at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP). Can you tell us about SRLP and what your job entails?

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is an organization that supports low-income trans and gender-nonconforming people obtain necessary services like name changes, updating ID documents and healthcare advocacy as well as offering immigrants’ rights and prisoner justice support. We believe that all people should be free to self-determine gender identity and expression without facing harassment, discrimination or violence. As director of client services, I do everything from English-Spanish interpretations, accompanying clients to courtrooms or clinics and offering moral support. A lot of trans and gender-nonconforming people are reluctant to being vulnerable with people they don’t know, so it’s important for them to work with people who they can connect with, people who are also transgender, of color and have shared similar experiences as them. That’s why my position is so necessary, both here at SRLP and other organizations. We need trans people of color in leadership roles, not just volunteering, while that’s important, too. But the people we serve need to know they are being represented and understood at all levels.

Your work centers on mass incarceration and prisoner rights. Why are these issues important to you?

I think we as a community take for granted that, while we do have many struggles, we are on the outside; we have our freedom. It’s important that we are aware of the injustices our brothers and sisters who are locked up in cages experience. It’s out of sight, so we often miss their struggle: the beatings they endure by the hands of correctional officers and inmates; staff that prevents them from having access to hormone treatment or gender-affirming clothing; trans women being forced to shave their heads bald when entering prison. This is dehumanizing, and it’s important that the voices and stories of the unheard are told from outside of those walls.  

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