DECEMBER 24: Stormé DeLarverie (1920-2014)

Stormé DeLarverie photographed in the last years of her life

The lesbian legend Stormé DeLarverie was born on this day in 1920. Stormé went down in history on the night of June 28, 1969 when her scuffle with the NYPD incited the Stonewall Riots.

Stormé DeLarverie was born December 24, 1920 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She would later recall suffering from bullying due to the fact that her father was white and her mother was black. She would also recall first realizing that she was a lesbian at age 18. As a teenager she rode horses with the Ringling Brothers Circus, during which she met her partner of over 25 years, a dancer named Diana.

After falling from her horse and suffering an injury, Stormé’s circus career came to an end. She would then tour with The Jewel Box Revue, North America’s very first racially integrated drag troupe, as the troupe’s MC and only drag king performer until 1969. Halfway through that fateful year, she found herself living in New York City and frequenting the Stonewall Inn. The story goes that after the NYPD initiated a surprise raid of the Inn and began attempting to arrest many of the occupants, Stormé began fighting back and screamed at the onlookers while being handcuffed, “Why don’t you guys do something?” One first-hand witness would say that “it was at that moment that the scene became explosive.”

Stormé posing as her drag king persona which she assumed for over 20 yearsStormé posing as her drag king persona which she assumed for over 20 years

Following the Stonewall Riots and the subsequent Gay Rights Movement, Stormé became known as a hero in the NYC lesbian scene. She would work for several years as a bouncer for multiple lesbian bars as well as a leading officer of the Stonewall Veterans’ Association. Stormé also volunteered as a street patrol worker, which gave her the reputation of being the “guardian of lesbians in the Village.” After her partner Diana passed away in 1970, Stormé carried around a photograph of Diana with her at all times. She herself would pass away on May 24, 2014 after suffering a heart attack in her sleep. Her obituary read:

Tall, androgynous and armed — she held a state gun permit — Ms. DeLarverie roamed lower Seventh and Eighth Avenues and points between into her 80s, patrolling the sidewalks and checking in at lesbian bars. She was on the lookout for what she called “ugliness”: any form of intolerance, bullying or abuse of her “baby girls.” … “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.



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