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

Obit of the week: The New York Timeslook back 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 turns out only to scratch the surface of her life:

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 girls."

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.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Okay, the fact that someone's gay, some say,
    "how could they live that way?",
    To me, it all comes down to choice, why fight?
    It's just a waste of time,
    Get hip, there's nothin' you can do,
    Why should that bother you,
    For decency, you fight,
    But who is really right?

    Regress, no way!

  • Dweebston||

    The prototypical Sally Shears, by the sound of it.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    "she held a state gun permit"

    How did she pull *that* off? I'm told it's tough to get such permits in NY, even if you *didn't* throw the first punch at the cops in the Stonewall Riot.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    Political connections help, and by the time she applied for one she was probably a media and political darling.

  • ||

    Tall, androgynous and armed—she held a state gun permit

    A NYS unrestricted pistol permit that is issued by a judge outside of NYC is meaningless in the city. So she would have had to have an unrestricted permit that was issued inside the city, and those are notoriously impossible to get (you have to be Robert DeNiro to get one, essentially, or be so connected it doesn't even matter). So either she got one in some incredible way, or the story's author doesn't know what they're talking about. From the sound of this lady's personality, I wouldn't be surprised if she just said she had one and people didn't question it. Which would be awesome.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

  • Dweebston||

    A sexually androgynous black woman who punched a cop... what does she need with one of those penis compensation devices?

  • fish||

    A sexually androgynous black woman.....

    I don't know....those look like "man hands" to me!

  • Brett L||

    Danger Zone!

  • ||

    LANAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    My sister in law has one.

  • ||

    Is she a Hasidim diamond merchant?

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    No. That would make her successful. She is a complete fuck up.

    She got it because of this.

  • ||

    I'm honestly surprised they got a judge to issue it even for that. The city judges are notorious for basically ruling that there's no situation that is dangerous enough to warrant issuing one to someone who isn't famous or connected. My joke about the Hasidim diamond merchants is actually related to this, in that even the permits issued to them are often still restricted to them carrying only when actually transporting diamonds and no time else. So if some punk jumps you for your diamonds, but you aren't actually transporting them right now, you aren't supposed to be armed. Brilliant!

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    The fucked up part of this is that she isn't even remotely responsible or mature enough to own a firearm.

    I wouldn't trust her to babysit my kid's pet goldfish for more that 5 minutes at a time.

    An interesting aside to that story: The FBI wouldn't do shit in that situation, and all they were going to do was deport him back to Canada. Then, Carmen Ortiz caught wind of it, and tried to score a bunch of political points on it as part of the "war on women".

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Cont'

    So, instead of handling it quietly like we wanted, she threw the fucking book at him and held a giant press conference.

    Classy lady.

  • ||

    Of course she did. It's what scumbag prosecutors do. She doesn't give a fuck about your sister-in-law.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "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."

    Isn't somebody gonna denounce that as a violation of the NAP?

    Stickin' up for yourself is the beginning of all libertarianism.

    NAP or no NAP.

  • Brett L||

    Cops showing up at a business without the owner's invitation is pretty much a guaranteed violation of the NAP.

  • fish||

    Yeah....thank god the cops showed up to break up "Chicks with Dicks" film night....because that was the absolute last remnant of "criminal" activity in New York at the time.

    I hope her punch landed squarely!

  • ||

    I hope her punch landed squarely!

    If hers didn't, everyone else's did. The cops ended up retreating into the bar and barricaded themselves in. Of course the rioters just ripped up a parking meter and used it as a battering ram.

    This description is a little bland compared to first person accounts, but covers the basics.

    DeLarverie shows up, unnamed, in the fourth paragraph, and there is sadly no mention of drag queens pummeling police with shoes.

    News at the time was both glibly dismissive and a little proud: Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Are Stinging Mad

  • ||

    If you ever get filthy rich, I hope you buy some old mansion with a name and rename it Homo Nest.

  • ||

    I know the perfect place. If it's still for sale, this would make a great Homo Nest.

  • Agammamon||

    What is that, a B&B? Way to be stereotypical Power.

  • Irish||

    "We've had all we can take from the Gestapo," the spokesman, or spokeswoman, continued. "We're putting our foot down once and for all." The foot wore a spiked heel. According to reports, the Stonewall Inn, a two-story structure with a sand painted brick and opaque glass facade, was a mecca for the homosexual element in the village who wanted nothing but a private little place where they could congregate, drink, dance and do whatever little girls do when they get together.

    Wow, that's some horribly patronizing bullshit right there.

  • ||

    Yeah, but if you imagine it being read in a Mid-Atlantic accent by some impeccably dressed Don Draper-looking guy, it becomes awesome.

  • fish||

    Yeah, but if you imagine it being read in a Mid-Atlantic accent by some impeccably dressed Don Draper-looking guy, it becomes awesome.

    I think the term you were looking for is "fabulous".

  • ||

    Wow, that's some horribly patronizing bullshit right there.

    Yeah, organizations like GLAAD make a lot more sense when you read some of the documents from the time.

  • ||

    That's a great story, btw. I'd heard of the Stonewall Inn riot, but never really read about it.

  • ||

    As a Californian I should point out that The Black Cat Tavern riots in Los Angeles predate the Stonewall Riots by two years and caused the formation of The Advocate, a gay rights organization called PRIDE, and the Metropolitan Community Church.

    On the night of New Year's 1967, several plain-clothes police officers infiltrated the Black Cat Tavern. After arresting several patrons for kissing as they celebrated the occasion, the undercover police officers began beating several of the patrons and ultimately arrested thirteen patrons and three bartenders. This created a riot in the immediate area that expanded to include the bar across Sanborn Avenue called New Faces where officers knocked down the owner (a woman) and beat two bartenders unconscious.

    But you know, it didn't happen in NY so it's not the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    I did not know that. There is still a restaurant/bar there called the Black Cat. Is it the same place, or just a nod to history?

  • Rhywun||

    As a New Yorker, I can confirm that we don't care what happens in California :)

  • ||

    EDG: Same place. It's an LA County historic site since 2008, but it hasn't been a gay bar since 2012. I've heard they have pictures up from the riot, but haven't been.

    Rhywun: And that's why nobody's ever heard of the Mattachine Society (LA) and the Daughters of Bilitis (SF) which became the first gay rights groups decades before Stonewall.

  • Jesse Walker||

    But you know, it didn't happen in NY so it's not the start of the modern gay liberation movement.

    The beginning of a "modern" era is always an arbitrary line.

  • Jesse Walker||

    And that's why nobody's ever heard of the Mattachine Society

    I think Mattachine is pretty well-known, as such things go.

  • ||

    I think Mattachine is pretty well-known, as such things go.

    I think that's mostly due to the recent death of Frank Kameney who co-founded the DC chapter in the early '60s and led pickets against the whitehouse.

    The beginning of a "modern" era is always an arbitrary line.

    Agreed, and that's the one that popular imagination crystallized around. It wasn't a knock against your usage, just a bit of coastal rivalry.

  • Warren's Strapon||

    Isn't somebody gonna denounce that as a violation of the NAP?

    No, because it isn't one. When you're surrounded by a bunch of threatening thugs with a history of violence, they're the aggressors.

    I'm guessing the cops didn't show up with flowers and cake.

  • Bob1||

    Semi-related, but the NAP is stupid. Rights do not exist.

    Arguments based off the NAP only work if the people you are trying to convince accept it. Most people don't. Even Rothbard realized this. For a new Liberty is filled with utilitarian arguments.

    "Taxation is theft" is not a valid argument. People don't care if a policy adheres to your moral code or not. They care about what policies create the greatest material prosperity.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Typical libertarian glorification of vigilantism and negation of the rule of law.

    For a magazine called reason...

  • Warren's Strapon||

    Goody, I was about to start drinking anyway.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Oh, is it Saturday already?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Its 12:30 and I'm gonna' pour me a vodka.

  • ||

    I'm having a bourbon, but I did wait until 3:00.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I'm going to start out with Negro Modelo and see where the day takes me. Good pool beer.

  • fish||

    Negro Modelo

    Racist?

    (ducks and scurries away!)

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    I have it on good authority that Mexicans can't be racist.

  • Irish||

    Tall, 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 girls."

    I don't understand why she didn't leave that up tot he police officers, who are the only people we can trust with firearms.

    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.

    Oh.

    This is my kind of woman. Pissed off, armed, and not attracted to me due to her lesbianism.

  • ||

    I...I hate to break it to you, Irish, but it's not lesbianism that causes women not to be attracted to you. It's your tail. You know, you should have had that removed.

  • Irish||

    Any woman not interested in me is clearly a lesbian.

    There's no other reasonable explanation.

  • ||

    Lesbianism rates in Chicago are a shocking 100%?

  • ||

    And no one does the "that's not a tail!" joke. Son, I am disappoint.

  • Agammamon||

    It doesn't matter.

    'That's not a tail!'

    'I don't care, its still sprouted from your arse.'

  • Irish||

    Jesus, Jesse, I haven't hit on every woman in Chicago so I have no way of knowing that.

    There are only about 1.5 million women left in this city to hit on, so by the time I'm about 93 I think we'll have our answer.

  • ||

    Have you tried insulting them? I hear chicks love that. And if that doesn't work, I dunno, maybe try hitting them?

  • Irish||

    You can't just insult them. A neg isn't just any old insult. It needs to be an insult that could be disguised as a compliment, so that their tiny girl brains short circuit and they immediately sleep with you.

    For some reason, walking up to girls and saying 'You're lucky I'm in to fat chicks' hasn't been successful. I'm sure it will work eventually.

  • Brett L||

    Try it on the bulimics.

  • ||

    How close are you to a representative sample?

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "Any woman not interested in me is clearly a lesbian."

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA-fL5VXZHM&feature=kp

  • The Late P Brooks||

    GENIUS!

    Third, the U.S. economy is still depressed — and in a depressed economy many of the supposed costs of compliance with energy regulations aren’t costs at all. In particular, building new, low-emission power plants would employ both workers and capital that would otherwise be sitting idle, and would, if anything, give the U.S. economy a boost.

    Krugabe; devaluing the Nobel, one column at a time.

  • Irish||

    I'm impressed that Krugman managed to win a Nobel in economics despite never having heard of opportunity costs.

  • MJGreen||

    Building a whole new power plant to comply with new regulations isn't a cost at all!

  • Irish||

    Higher energy costs from less efficient production is just God's way of putting capital to work!

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Remember, we have a $17 trillion economy right now, and it’s going to grow over time. So what the Chamber of Commerce is actually saying is that we can take dramatic steps on climate — steps that would transform international negotiations, setting the stage for global action — while reducing our incomes by only one-fifth of 1 percent. That’s cheap!

    So cheap, we can't afford not to do it.

    "Our incomes" indeed.

  • Irish||

    Remember, we have a $17 trillion economy right now, and it’s going to grow over time.

    "Not if I have anything to say about it!" - Barack Obama

  • robc||

    West 6th IPA

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    Now that I'm thinking about it, whatever happened to Q Lazzarus?

  • TheSpiteHouse||

    Good question...

  • Daily Beatings||

    ... like a gay superhero

    So she was like Shore Leave or Aquaman?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement