Updated: Oct 9, 2020
This Cancer season, we’d like to explore the birth chart of Sylvia Rivera, one of the most prominent and impactful activists for the rights of trans and queer people in the twentieth century. Rivera was dedicated in particular to making what was then known as the gay liberation movement as intersectional as possible: she fought hard for black, brown, trans, and gender nonconforming folks to be not just included in the movement, but at the forefront, recognized for their leadership in activism to protect the rights of all queer people.
Rivera’s sun is at nine degrees of Cancer, in an exact conjunction to the planet Uranus. As a planet, Uranus is associated with instability, upheaval and revolution, and with the sun—the signifier of life force and identity—sitting so close to Uranus, this instability is a primary motivator for the unfolding of Rivera’s life path. Unfortunately, instability did play an incredibly prominent, challenging role in Rivera’s life. A rising Taurus, Rivera has her sun/Uranus conjunction in the third house of communication, neighborhood, and early childhood, while the sun rules the fourth house of home, parents and family. In her early childhood, Rivera lost both of her parents, and went to live with a grandmother, who disapproved of her grandchild’s gender-bending behavior. As an adult, Rivera would self-identify as a drag queen, and began wearing makeup when she was in fourth grade. Due to the tension at home with her grandmother, Rivera began living on the streets at the age of eleven, doing sex work to survive. She was taken in by a community of drag queens, who gave her the name she would use for the rest of her life: Sylvia.
Rivera’s challenging childhood experience led her to be a passionate advocate for the protection and rights of queer youth. As an adult, Rivera was friends and colleagues with Marsha P. Johnson, and together the two founded STAR, or the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, an advocacy and service organization that provided assistance to queer, homeless youth. This work epitomizes the significations of Rivera’s Cancer sun in the third house: her soul’s purpose shines through in the Cancerian work she does to nurture and care for vulnerable youth, a group associated with the third house. The sun conjunction to Uranus highlights the necessity for Rivera to not only experience instability in her own life, but to work with other young people who experience similar instability and upheaval.
Rivera’s role in supporting, uplifting, and fighting for communities of queer youth was central to her life’s purpose. In 2000, she went to the Millennium March for queer rights in Italy, where she was lauded for being the “mother of all gay people.” This role of motherhood is reflected in her birth chart: Venus, the rule of her ascendant, is located in Leo, Rivera’s fourth house of parenting and foundations, in a close conjunction to Pluto. Like the moon, Venus is a nurturing, relationship-oriented planet, and in the fourth house often leads people to take on the role of mother. In the sign of Leo, Venus wants recognition and adoration for embodying all parts of the self, and indeed, Rivera’s courageous commitment to making sure not only she but all those who came after her could safely express their gender and sexual identities was an integral component of her care-taking. Although Rivera never had any children herself, her role in supporting, uplifting, and fighting for vulnerable queer youth was central to her life’s purpose. Through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an organization dedicated to providing legal services to low-income people of color who are trans, gender non-conforming or intersex, Rivera’s legacy of providing care, support, and protection for her community lives on.