In October 2022, Mother LaTravious Collins, a Black and Trans activist, poet, songwriter, and playwright, passed away. Mother Latravious founded the Brooklyn Ghost Project (the GHOST Project), a Black, trans-led non-profit focused on providing support and building power in the trans communities of color in NYC.
This blog post offers a round-up of principal materials in our collections for unearthing legacies of New York-based transgender activists of color.
Find more in our guide to LGBTQIA+ collections in the Manuscripts and Archives division or contact Manuscripts & Archives.
Mother LaTravious and the Brooklyn Ghost Project
The Ghost Project is a lifeline for trans and gender-nonconforming communities of color. The organization offers many forms of vital support including housing, emotional, financial, medical, mental health, and more. Their annual events, like the Trans-Giving celebration and Juneteenth Cook-Out, create space for community members to support each other while struggling with gender identity-related issues. The GHOST Project also sustains initiatives designed to collect and distribute life-giving resources like food, wigs, clothing, shoes, makeup, and personal hygiene products for free.
The work of LaTravious and the Ghost Project continues the legacy of Black and Brown trans women like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson—seminal community organizers who spent their lives fighting for safety, recognition, and trans liberation in New York City. These movement luminaries are legendary for the parts they played in the Stonewall Rebellion and the groundbreaking creation of Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR), one of the first documented attempts at support work centering trans and gender-nonconforming people.
LaTravious explains: “In the spirit of Marsha’s legacy, the GHOST Project provides both support and empowerment to members of the transgender community who are struggling to overcome and survive in a world that does not celebrate us. We learned how to care for the community from Marsha, who made this road we walk on every day.”
Still, the legacies of trans women like Marsha, Sylvia, and LaTravious are notoriously difficult to find in library and archival collections. This is due in part to trans people's enduring vulnerability to violence—making it dangerous to leave written records behind —compounded by the tendency of mainstream publishers, editors, and agents to avoid queer narratives and trans authors. As a result, even formally published, culturally significant works— like Leslie Feinberg’s Stone Butch Blues—can be transient and hard to find. It is, therefore, a triumph that The New York Public Library holds one of the most extensive collections of queer and trans activist archives in the world including personal diaries, organizational documents, multimedia, zines, newsletters, photographs, and ephemera and more; all of which have been generously contributed by renowned community-led organizations and activists.
Books, Zines & E-Books
Selected readings on STAR:
- "S.T.A.R." Acción Travesti Callejera Revolucionaria : supervivencia, revuelta y lucha trans antagonista / Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson.
- Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries: Survival, Revolt, and Queer Antagonist Struggle
- The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: “An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail.” New York, NY: Routledge.
- Out of the Closets: Voices of Gay Liberation. 2nd ed. New York: New York University Press.
- The Stonewall Reader / The New York Public Library; foreword by Edmund White; edited with an introduction by Jason Baumann.
Books on Trans Activists & Organizing Legacies:
- Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility edited by Reina Gossett, Eric A. Stanley, and Johanna Burton
- Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue by Leslie Feinberg
- GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins
- Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law by Dean Spade
Want to learn more?
Check out the resource guides below to take an even deeper dive into how the Library can help you unearth stories of queer resistance and communities of the past.
- LGBTQIA+ collections in the Manuscripts and Archives division
- Exploring Black LGBTQ Studies in the Schomburg Center's Archive
- A Guide Honoring the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and LGBTQ History: NYPL Collections