A living legend is no longer with us. Stormé DeLarverie, a lesbian activist who participated in the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village, died Saturday in Brooklyn. She was 93.
Although DeLarverie passed away peacefully in her sleep, she will be remembered always as a courageous fighter and trailblazer of the LGBT civil rights movement. Her confrontation with police at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 helped spark the historic uprising that we now commemorate every year with Pride. For that reason, she became widely known as the Rosa Parks of gay rights.
A New Orleans native, DeLarverie was born in 1920 to a black mother and a white father. As a biracial lesbian growing up in the South, she faced more than her share of adversity. As Lisa Cannistraci, her longtime friend and legal guardian, told the Associated Press, “[she was born into adversity and lived in adversity her whole life.”
In the 1950s and 1960s, DeLarverie was part of a traveling drag show, The Jewel Box Revue, in which she performed as a male impersonator. There are a number of photos of her from this period: rocking a tuxedo, looking dapper in a flannel suit, or brooding like a bad boi in a leather jacket. And inside those flamboyant clothes was a hero with a heart of gold.
“She was not someone who tolerated injustice, though she faced it on an almost daily basis throughout much of her life,” said Peter C. Frank, co-founder of the Bronx LGBTQ Center. “Stormé was a black lesbian who often presented as a black man, although she could easily have passed for a white woman–she chose not to do so. Her love of people made Stormé an advocate, and she stood up to all injustice whenever she encountered or heard about it.”
We can all learn from her brave example.
DeLarverie’s funeral service is scheduled for Thursday, May 29 at Greenwich Village Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker Street, from 7pm to 9pm.
You can help defray the costs of her final arrangements by donating to the Give Forward fundraiser: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/g6r4/storme-a-celebration-of-life