Stormé DeLarverie, 24 December 1920 – 24 May 2014
An interview with lesbian Stonewall veteran Stormé DeLarverie
The conversation turned to the night in June of 1969 at the Stonewall Inn where she made history. Quite a few friends, writers and historians over the years have identified her as the tough cross dressing lesbian who was clubbed by the NYPD, which evoked enough indignation and anger to spur the crowd to action. She was identified as the Stonewall Lesbian in Charles Kaiser’s book The Gay Metropolis, and her scuffle with the police has been mentioned a few times in passing by The New York Times in the past couple of decades. Then in the January 2008 issue of Curve Magazine she identified herself as the Stonewall Lesbian in a detailed interview with writerPatrick Hinds, an excerpt of which is below:
”[The officer] then yelled, ‘I said, move along, faggot.’ I think he thought I was a boy. When I refused, he raised his nightstick and clubbed me in the face.” It was then that the crowd surged and started attacking the police with whatever they could find, she said.
I asked my last question hesitantly. “Have you heard of the Stonewall Lesbian? The woman who was clubbed outside the bar but was never identified?” DeLarverie nodded, rubbing her chin in the place where she received 14 stitches after the beating. “Yes,” she said quietly. “They were talking about me.”
And then, almost as an afterthought, I asked, “Why did you never come forward to take credit for what you did?”
She thought for a couple of seconds before she answered, “Because it was never anybody’s business.”
I asked her if she still remembered that night. She answered in the affirmative. After the cop hit her on the head, she socked him with her fist. “I hit him,” she said. “He was bleeding.”
Photo: Sam Bassett
Le Journal de Montreal, October 1977, front page coverage of police raids on gay bars Truxx and Le Mystique.
About two thousand of Montreal’s gay community took to the streets and jammed downtown Ste. Catherine Street very early on Sunday morning shouting “fascist dogs” and “gestapo” at motorcycle police who were called to clear the area. The focus of the anger was the brutal “morality squad” raids early Saturday morning at Truxx and Le Mystique, two gay bars. Police barged in wielding machine guns and bullet-proof vests as they arrested 144 men for being in a “bawdy house” or for “gross indecency” — common charges for anyone who was thought to be gay.
Those raids capped two years of nearly constant police harassment and raids which had begun as a campaign to “clean up” the city in preparation for the 1976 Olympics. But with this latest raid, the gay community fought back in what was later dubbed, “Quebec’s Stonewall.” Also different this time, gays and lesbians had the news media’s support. By the end of the year, the Parti Québéois adopted Bill 88 which ensured that sexual orientation would be covered under the province’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which prohibited all forms of discrimination. However, the change failed to have much of an appreciable affect, and police raids would continue until Montreal’s “other” Stonewall rebellion in 1990 following a riotous raid of a loft party.
Storme DeLaverie, singer/entertainer/activist
During the 1950s and ’60s he toured the black theater circuit as the only drag king of the Jewel Box Revue, America’s first racially integrated female impersonation show.
He was in the Stonewall Inn the night of June 27, 1969, and fought back against police helping to spark the Stonewall riots.
In the 1980s and ’90s Stormé worked as a bouncer for several lesbian bars in New York City.
Stormé is featured in the documentary Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box.
Art + Positive, Stonewall 20th Anniversary sticker, 1990.