It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was a civil rights disobedience – it wasn’t no damn riot.
— Stormé DeLarverie
This Women’s History Month, we celebrate the life of Stormé DeLarverie, and although recounts of Stonewall are uncertain of whether Stormé threw the first punch, she was extremely influential in fighting for LGBTQIA+ rights throughout her life. Stormé was born in the 1920s; at the time, her mother was a Black servant in the home of her white father; the two eventually married and moved to California.
Stormé was the Master of Ceremonies for Jewel Box Revenue, a group of 25 men and Stormé which entailed a gender-bending performance where Stormé presented as a cisgender man in the first integrated drag show in the U.S. in the 1940s. Stormé was a butch lesbian who fought fiercely for the rights of all individuals. While living in New York City, Stormé became a motherly figure within the LGBTQIA+ community, being sure to handle any “ugly” she saw. She used the term ugly to define bullying, abuse, or intolerance of people within the LGBTQIA+ community. This fearlessness afforded Stormé the nickname of being the “Rosa Parks of the gay community” (Windy City Times, 2014). Throughout her life, Stormé was also a bouncer at Cubby Hole’s bar in New York, where she worked until she was 85. For Stormé, this was not a movement but fighting for a lifestyle where everyone could live their life freely as they wanted to.
In the New York Times obituary remembering Stormé, one of her legal guardians, Mrs. Cannistraci exclaimed, “She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero; she was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.” We hope to emulate the same fierceness that Stormé had throughout her lifetime in our work supporting survivors and ending sexual violence against all individuals.
Brownworth, V. (2015). The Herstory Pride Archives: why recording our lesbian history is important. Curve (San Francisco, Calif.), 25(3), 16–.
HELLER, M. (2020). The “First Punch” at Stonewall: Counteridentification Butch Acts. In Queering Drag: Redefining the Discourse of Gender-Bending (pp. 115-151). Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Indiana University Press. doi:10.2307/j.ctvtv93wm.8
Iconic activist storme DeLaverie passes away. (2014, Jun 04). Windy City Times Retrieved from http://flagship.luc.edu/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/newspapers/iconic-activist-storme-delaverie-passes-away/docview/1538315297/se-2?accountid=12163
Written by Sarah Brennan, Activism and Volunteer Coordinator
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