Born in 1920 New Orleans, Stormé DeLarverie was a biracial lesbian without a birth certificate (because interracial marriage was illegal) who went on to become a brilliant drag king and a queer legend. She was racially abused a lot in her youth and when she realised she was also gay, she moved, fearing that she’d be murdered if she stayed in the South.
From 1939, DeLarverie sang jazz with big bands and then, between 1955 and 1969, performed as a ‘male impersonator’ (or drag king, as it is now known). She became so popular that she circulated in crowds that included the likes of Dinah Washington and Billie Holiday. Then, in 1969, Stonewall happened. There is much debate about exactly what happened at this historic uprising – who was there? Who threw the first punch? Stormé DeLarverie was definitely there and, though no one knows who threw the first punch, “it’s rumoured that she did, and she said she did” (Cannistraci).
Sadly, not long after Stonewall, DeLarverie’s girlfriend of 25 years passed away, and she gave up entertaining altogether. She became a bouncer at several lesbian and gay bars in the Village in New York, though she preferred to call herself a “babysitter” of her people. She gained a reputation for beginning to roam the streets on the lookout for what she called “ugliness”: intolerance or abuse of the lesbians in the Village. In possession of a state gun permit, DeLarverie carried out this style of protection, armed, well into her 80s. As well as this, she continued to sing at charity events and fundraisers, particularly for victims of violence and domestic abuse.
Stormé DeLarverie is an image of queer resilience and power, holding the safety of her community as her top priority, one that she worked to ensure until her death in 2014, at the old age of 93.
Read More – Drag Herstory: A Drag King’s Journey From Cabaret Legend to Iconic Activist
https://www.them.us/story/drag-king-cabaret-legend-activist-storme-delarverie (Quote and Image Source)
Storme DeLarverie, Early Leader in the Gay Rights Movement, Dies at 93 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/30/nyregion/storme-delarverie-early-leader-in-the-gay-rights-movement-dies-at-93.html (Quote Source)