During this Pride season, we remember Stormé DeLarverie. She was a lesbian activist who participated in the Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village and died at 93 in 2014.
This Pride month, we honor her as a courageous fighter and trailblazer of the LGBTQ civil rights movement. Her confrontation with police at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969 helped spark the historic uprising that we are commemorating 50 years of this June.
A New Orleans native, Stormé 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.”
Stormé DeLarverie was someone special, someone truly unique. We can all learn from her brave example.