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Lesbian Activist Storme DeLarverie Who Threw The First Punch At Stonewall Passes Away At 93‏

Storme
Storme DeLarverie, proud lesbian activist, cross-dresser, and singer who had been reported by witnesses to have thrown the first punch at the 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, one of the first and most assertive members of the modern gay rights movement, died on Saturday in Brooklyn, N.Y.   She was 93.

Ms. DeLarverie was a member of the Stonewall Veterans Association and a regular at the pride parade, but she rarely dwelled on her actions that night. Her role in the movement lasted long after 1969. For decades she was a self-appointed guardian of lesbians in the Village.

In her own words:

“The cops were parading patrons out of the front door of The Stonewall at about two o’ clock in the morning.  I saw this one boy being taken out by three cops, only one in uniform.  Three to one!  I told my pals, ‘I know him!  That’s Williamson, my friend Sonia Jane’s friend.’  Williamson briefly broke loose but they grabbed the back of his jacket and pulled him right down on the cement street.  One of them did a drop kick on him.  Another cop senselessly hit him from the back.  Right after that, a cop said to me:  ‘Move faggot’, thinking that I was a Gay guy.  I said, ‘I will not!  And, don’t you dare touch me.”  With that, the cop shoved me and I instinctively punched him right in his face.  He bled!  He was then dropping to the ground — not me!” 

Ms. DeLarverie had earlier lived at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan for decades. She made her living working security at the Cubby Hole and later for at Henrietta Hudson. But she regarded the whole neighborhood as within her jurisdiction.

Tall, androgynous — 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.”

“I can spot ugly in a minute,” she said in a 2009 interview for Columbia University’s NYC in Focus journalism project. “No people even pull it around me that know me. They’ll just walk away, and that’s a good thing to do because I’ll either pick up the phone or I’ll nail you.”

No immediate family members survive. Ms. DeLarverie before her death had said that she had lived for 25 years with a dancer named Diana, who died in the 1970s, and that Ms. DeLarverie had always carried her photograph.

“She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a gay superhero,” said  Lisa Cannistraci, one of her legal guardians. Cannistraci  “She was not to be messed with by any stretch of the imagination.”

Thnak you Storme we are eternally grateful and may you rest in peace.

Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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2 thoughts on “Lesbian Activist Storme DeLarverie Who Threw The First Punch At Stonewall Passes Away At 93‏”

  1. FACT CHECK: Taking nothing away from her actual accomplishments, I’ve yet to see one “witness” verify this. A 2010 “New York Times” interview reported, emphasis mine: emphasis mine: “SOME writers believe Ms. DeLarverie MAY have been the cross-dressing lesbian whose clubbing by the police was the catalyst for the riots (THE WOMAN HAS NEVER BEEN IDENTIFIED). While others are adamant that Ms. DeLarverie was NOT that woman ….” And demonstrated how the myth apparently got started by Storme herself; all the more painful for me to read having taken care of my late Mother who had Alzheimer’s: “At one point on Sunday, she said she was not struck by the police. At another moment, she said a police officer had hit her from behind.” David Carter, author of the best researched book on Stonewall, wrote that 13 years before the Times article she participated in a symposium about the riots at which she spoke “of escaping the police, not of being taken into custody by them, [saying] that on that night she was outside the bar, ‘quiet, I didn’t say a word to anybody, I was just there to see what was happening’, when a policeman, without provocation, hit her in the eye (‘Stonewall 1969: A Symposium’. June 20, 1997, New York City). DeLarverie is also an African-American woman, and all the witnesses interviewed by the author describe the woman [who some say inspired the crowd to fight back] as Caucasian. Stormé was well known in the local lesbian community at the time of the riots and has remained so ever since, and it is highly improbable that this woman who was seen by hundreds of people could have been a person of note in the community, else she would have been identified at the time or shortly thereafter.” May she rest in peace, and the myth be put to rest, too.

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