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Stormé DeLarverie: June Portrait of the Month

Stormé DeLarverie, 1999

Singer, male impersonator, and lesbian activist Storme DeLarverie was born in New Orleans in 1920 to an African American mother and white father. She was a pivotal figure in the riots at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in 1969. Although rumors that she threw the first punch cannot be confirmed, her participation in the uprising and her continued activism led her to be recognized as a forceful presence in the modern gay rights movement. DeLarverie started performing as a singer in her late teens. She sang in a jazz group and performed in Europe for a number of years. From the mid-1950s through the 1960s, DeLarverie hosted and performed in a touring variety show called the Jewel Box Revue in which she dressed as a man, and the rest of the cast members, who were all men, dressed as women. In 1987, Michelle Parkerson made a movie titled Storme: The Lady of the Jewel Box. DeLarverie was a self-appointed guardian of lesbians in the Village, working as a bouncer in the 1980s and ‘90s for several lesbian bars; she also patrolled the streets to make sure gay women were not being harassed. In 2012, Brooklyn Pride honored DeLarverie at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, and in April 2014 she was honored by the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and received a Proclamation from New York City Public Advocate Letitia James. DeLarverie was a member of the Stonewall Veterans Association and a regular at New York’s Gay Pride Parade. She died on May 31, 2014 in Brooklyn at the age of 93.