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Stormé Delarverie: A Resolute Voice in the Shadows of History



As we observe Black History Month, it's crucial to spotlight the often-overlooked figures who have profoundly shaped our collective journey toward equality and justice. One such trailblazer is Stormé Delarverie, a name that resonates powerfully within the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond. Her story is one of resilience, defiance, and unyielding commitment to the fight against discrimination.


Born on December 24, 1920, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Stormé Delarverie's life was marked by the complexity of her identity. As the daughter of a Black mother and a white father, she navigated a world riddled with racial and gender-based prejudices. Her upbringing in the racially charged environment of the South, followed by a move to California with her family, set the stage for her lifelong crusade against inequality.


Delarverie's artistic journey began in New Orleans, where she discovered her passion for jazz and began singing in clubs at the tender age of 15. Her vocal talent and commanding presence eventually led her to New York City, where she became a central figure in the Jewel Box Revue, a pioneering, racially integrated drag performance troupe. As the only drag king in the show, she challenged gender norms and broke barriers, drawing black and white audiences, even performing at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem.


However, Delarverie's legacy extends far beyond the stage. She is best remembered for her role in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, a pivotal moment in the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement. While accounts vary, Delarverie is often credited with throwing the first punch in response to police brutality, sparking the rebellion. She preferred to describe the event as a "rebellion" or "uprising," eschewing the term "riot" due to its criminal connotations.

Beyond Stonewall, Delarverie's activism continued unabated. In the 1980s and 1990s, she worked as a bouncer in several lesbian bars in New York City, where she was known as the "guardian of lesbians in the Village." Her presence was both protective and empowering as she patrolled the streets, ensuring the safety of her community. Delarverie's contributions were recognized in 2019 when she was posthumously inducted into the National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument.


Stormé Delarverie's impact was not limited to her activism; she also influenced fashion. Her androgynous style and defiance of gender norms inspired many, especially within the LGBTQIA+ community. She lived her truth unapologetically, encouraging others to do the same.


Stormé Delarverie's life journey - as a musician, a drag performer, an activist, and a protector - is a testament to the power of resilience and courage in the face of adversity. Her legacy is a reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and the importance of standing up against discrimination in all its forms. As we celebrate Black History Month, let's honor Stormé Delarverie's indelible contribution to our collective history and the unending fight for justice and equality.​

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