E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón H. Rivera-Servera
We thought we were the first Rivera/Johnson blacktino queer duo, but
we are not. Long before we premiered, paraded, and pumped up our
blacktino drag in the ivory tower and down the hallowed halls of North-
western University, transgender and drag queen militants Sylvia Rivera
and Marsha P. Johnson were painting the streets of New York red with
their fierce self-presentation and activism, which includes participa-
tion in the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Both Rivera and Johnson serve as
our blacktino drag mothers, and their friendship and commitment to
social justice for queers of color reflect the “sisterhood” and political
commitments shared by the editors of this volume. Born in 1951 in New
York to a Puerto Rican father and Venezuelan mother, at age eleven
Sylvia Rivera became homeless and lived on the streets, where she
found refuge among drag queens. Despite her social class, she always
served high femme face and chic shawl couture. Her coactivist friend,
black drag queen Marsha P. Johnson, who was born in neighboring New
Jersey in 1944, preferred a more kitsch, but nonetheless fierce look, for
as she says in the film Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. John-
son, she “never, ever, ever [did] drag seriously” because “she didn’t have
the money to do serious drag.” Grounded by their experiences of grow-
ing up as poor, queer, outcasts, in the early 1970s Rivera and Johnson
cofounded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR), an organi-
zation they created to support homeless young drag queens and trans-
gender people. Queer, Latina/o, black, poor—and fierce—these two drag
foremothers’ stories align with the editors’ personal histories, politics,
collaborative spirit, and sartorial signifying.
Two nappy-headed queens—one reared in a shotgun apartment in
an all-black neighborhood in the U.S. South and the other in a roomier
home but no less black neighborhood in the countryside of Puerto
Rico—E. Patrick and Ramón were destined to cross paths in the way
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