Honoring the legacy of Stormé DeLarverie and her fight against "ugliness"

Stormé DeLarverie, LGBT activist who played an integral role in the Stonewall rebellion of 1969, has passed away at the age of 93. Her story was chronicled in GO Magazine by Erin M. Drinkwater, the executive director of the Brooklyn Community Pride Center, who believes that the new generation of LGBT youth is too separated from the elders who came before us. Drinkwater writes:

People who celebrate the LGBT movement's victories forget the roles our elders played in making them possible. We, as a community, by failing to care for, protect and befriend our elders, are leading ourselves down a path in which these phenomenal lives and stories will be forgotten. If we forget our own history, we are doomed to repeat it.

So let's take a moment to learn a little bit about Stormé DeLarverie's interesting story and the path she helped to pave for those who have come after her. Born in 1920 on Christmas Eve, Stormé was never issued a birth certificate because she was born to a white father and a black mother at a time when interracial marriage was illegal.

Stormé sang and performed for many years as the only male impersonator in the Jewel Box Revue, a touring company made up of female-impersonating men. Check out these photos of Stormé from the 1950s! 

 

During the 1969 Stonewall rebellion which is known as the starting point of the modern LGBT movement, she was one of the first to take a stand and confront the police. Her bold move sparked others to join in and fight for the rights of LGBT people. Stormé lived in the Village section of Manhattan for decades, nearby the Stonewall Inn.

According to the New York Times, "for decades she was a self-appointed guardian of lesbians in the Village." The article goes on to say:

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.”

Protective of the younger generation of lesbians (and all LGBT people), Stormé was known by many for her use of the word "ugly" to refer to anti-LGBT slurs and harassment. Listen to her speak about "ugliness" (and hear her sing!) in this 2009 interview from Columbia University's NYC in Focus journalism project:

Stonewall Veteran's Wisdom on 'Ugliness' from Kirk Klocke on Vimeo.

Learning about Stormé and honoring her legacy is important as we continue to fight for equality and work to abolish "ugliness" in all its forms.  

Read the full GO Magazine article about Stormé here.                        

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