July 31, 2018
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. In the early morning hours, gay men and lesbians fought back against the police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. After that event, which began in the early morning of June 28,1969, Gay Liberation had joined the lexicon of Women’s Liberation, Black Liberation, and Chicano Liberation.
There are phenomenal lives and stories connected to that night that should not be forgotten or erased. One is that of Stormé DeLarverie—who had been fighting back all her life and fought back that night.
Stormé was involved in forming the Stonewall Veterans Association and was later elected vice president. They often had panels of speakers, and over the decades she was always quick to remind later generations what it was like before Stonewall: Lesbians and gay men could receive a $70 fine for “looking at someone with desire.”
You could be arrested for not wearing a certain number of “gender appropriate articles of clothing.” This meant that lesbians who might be wearing a three-piece suit had to be able to show they were also wearing a bra and stockings. If not, they could be thrown in jail.
Stormé recalled her part in the uprising at a public, videotaped event sponsored by the Stonewall Veterans Association. She started at the beginning: “The cops were parading patrons out of the front door of the Stonewall at about 2 a.m. 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 is 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 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 in the face.”
Four officers then attacked her and handcuffed her in response. When she pointed out that she was cuffed too tightly, one officer hit her head with a billy club. As she was bleeding from the head, she turned to the crowd and shouted, “Why don’t you guys do something?” After a long struggle, she was dragged towards a police van, and that was when everything exploded. Many who were there recall her call to arms.
Stormé was always clear: “It was a rebellion, it was an uprising, it was civil disobedience. It was no damn riot.”
Of course she was correct. Stonewall was not a one-night riot. Thousands of gays and lesbians rose up for six nights. There was organizing during the day and returning to the Stonewall Inn every night for six nights. Out of the uprising grew two activist organizations, the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance, and three gay and lesbian newspapers.
Erasing Black lesbians
Claire Heuchan wrote an article for AfterEllen.com entitled, “We Need to Talk about Misogyny and the LGBT Community’s Erasure of Black Lesbian History.” (See: http://www.afterellen.com/general-news/561237-we-need-to-talk-about-misogyny-and-the-lgbt-communitys-erasure-of-black-lesbian-history )
Heuchan focused in the article on the erasing of Stormé from some of the “official” histories of Stonewall. She was cut from the 1995 and the 2015 “Stonewall” films as well as from many histories of that period—and most recently in a press release by the National Center For Lesbian Rights.
Heuchan pointed out, “Lesbian history is hard to find, Black representation, female representation, and lesbian representation are not always straightforward to find, especially when you are looking for all three at once. Stormé, in all her Black butch magnificence, put herself at extraordinary risk to fight injustice and she deserves to be remembered for it. It was Stormé who led the resistance of homophobic police brutality at the Stonewall Inn.”
Continue reading: https://socialistaction.org/2018/07/31/storme-delarverie-the-lesbian-spark-in-the-stonewall-uprising/ (source)
Thank you for remembering Storme and keeping her story known.