Lesbian Activist Rumored to Have Thrown the First Punch at Stonewall Dies at 93‏

Lesbian Activist Rumored to Have Thrown the First Punch at Stonewall Dies at 93‏

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Photo: Back2Stonewall
Photo: Back2Stonewall

By Will Kohl, Back2Stonewall

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, New York.   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.”

Thank you, Storme. We are eternally grateful and may you rest in peace.

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