Early Recording of Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera Discovered

A gay history podcaster has discovered an early recording of transgender icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson.

Brian Ferree, an archival researcher for the podcast Making Gay History, found the recording in the Brooklyn basement of New York’s Lesbian Herstory Archives labelled “STAR.” The 1970 recording is an interview for “listener-supported radio” WBAI-FM.

The “STAR” label refers to “Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries,” a group founded by the two women.

“[The tape] reminded me of how young everyone was then,” Ferree said on the podcast episode. “I think the Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera that I’ve grown accustomed to, they were older by the time… [of] the film that I’ve seen of them, the video that I’ve seen of them, the recording that I’ve listened to from them. They had more time under their belt. This, it was like they were freshly arrived in New York and just letting it all out.”

Rivera and Johnson, 19 and 25 respectively, discuss New York, their identities, and their activism in the interview with Lisa Cowen.

“My grandmother completely freaked out for a number of years until she recently has to be satisfied that I’m…going to be my way,” Rivera says in the interview. “And now she calls me Sylvia. I’m her dear granddaughter… Society keeps on saying, ‘You can’t do this because it isn’t your role.’ Who is to tell who what role we’re supposed to take?”