‘She Literally Walked the Streets of Downtown Manhattan Like a Gay Superhero’

Obit of the week: The New York Times‘ look
at the life of Storme DeLarverie, who just died at age 93.
The headline identifies her as an “early leader in the gay rights
movement,” but that bland summary only scratched the surface of her

Storme DeLarverie, 1920–2014Tall, 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

Ms. DeLarverie had grown up in the South, of mixed race, and spent
part of the first half of her life singing and performing as a
man….For a while she sang in a jazz group and performed in
Europe. Captured on tape at nearly 90, she still sounded smooth
singing “Since I Fell for You.”

There was a long period in Chicago, where, she told friends, she
was a bodyguard for mobsters. From the mid-1950s through the 1960s
Ms. DeLarverie was the M.C. of the Jewel Box Revue, billed as “an
unusual variety show.” She dressed as a man; the rest of the cast
members, all men, dressed as women.

By some accounts, DeLarverie threw the first punch against the
cops in the
Stonewall riot of ’69
, literally striking the blow that began
the modern gay liberation movement. She may have devoted a great
deal of her life to protecting people’s physical security, but that
doesn’t mean she identified with the police. Vice cops raiding gay
bars are attacking people, not defending them; when they tried to
bust the customers at the Stonewall Inn, DeLarverie knew which side
she belonged on. (Besides: The cops were trying to beat the hell
out of her. That’s always clarifying.)

“She literally walked the streets of downtown Manhattan like a
gay superhero,” the owner of a Village lesbian bar told the
Times. I can’t think of a better eulogy than that.

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/RPOBm2

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