Where’s Stormé DeLarverie’s statue?!
New York has announced that a monument, honoring Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, will be added to the city.
Once again, Stormé DeLarverie has been overlooked. DeLarverie, a Black lesbian, threw the first punch at Stonewall, and started the Stonewall Revolution with a call to arms, ”WHY DON’T YOU DO SOMETHING?!”
On June 28, 1969, a cop hit Stormé DeLarverie on the head with a billy club. When Stormé threw the first punch at Stonewall that night, it was in self-defense. “The cop hit me, and I hit him back,” DeLarverie recounted. She was handcuffed. She was bleeding from the head when she turned to the crowd and hollered, “Why don’t you do something?!” Stormé was dragged into a paddy wagon, and that’s when the scene exploded. That night a revolution began, and it was a lesbian woman of color that threw the first punch and gave the call to arms.
We ask that New York City give Stormé DeLarverie a statue as well. We call upon New York City to honor DeLarverie’s legacy, and acknowledge the contributions lesbians have made throughout history.
Of the monument being erected to honor Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the duo that co-founded S.T.A.R., The Guardian writes, “New York has only five monuments of women but over 150 statues of men. Their goal is to boost the ratio to 50% of women monuments.”
The New York Times writes, that the two new monuments are “part of the city’s effort to fix a glaring gender gap in public art.”
The Guardian quotes, Gillian Branstetter, of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who stated, “We hope this monument is a lasting tribute to two women who devoted themselves to lifesaving change for people throughout their community.”
The Guardian explains,“This new monument, which will cost $750,000, will be in the heart of Greenwich Village, in the Ruth Wittenberg Triangle…”
Stormé DeLarverie, who was born to an African American mother and a white father in the 1920s, performed as a drag king, and was one of several “butch” lesbians that fought against the police on the night of the riots. A victim of police brutality, Stormé was bleeding from the head, where she was struck with a billy club, when she made the brave decision to fight back. To throw the first punch. To say— no more!
We ask that DeLarverie be honored with her own statue in NYC. Furthermore, in advance, please honor Johnson’s legacy with honesty and integrity. Marsha Johnson, also known as Malcolm, was a self-proclaimed gay man and drag queen (and proudly proclaimed himself as such, in documentary footage filmed just 4 days before his death, in June of 1992). Johnson’s own story is currently being drastically revised.
In the article announcing the monuments, The New York Times writes, “Ms. Johnson who was born in 1945, was about 5 when she began to wear dresses… Almost immediately after she graduated from high school in Elizabeth, N.J., she moved to New York City with $15 and a bag of clothes.”
Marsha Johnson was the Ru Paul of his day. It was common to use “he/she” interchangeably with drag performers (and between gay and lesbian people in general), within the gay community (see “Will & Grace”). “Transvestite” was used to describe drag performers and people who ‘cross dressed.’ Again, up until death, Johnson was a proud, self-proclaimed, gay man and drag queen. Conflating “transvestite” with “trans” or “transgender,’ is disingenuous.
In a 1987 interview, Johnson said that in the 1969 riot, he arrived at Stonewall at around “2:00 [that morning],” and that “the riots had already started.” And when he arrived, the Stonewall building “was on fire.” Before heading to the riot, Johnson went to get Rivera who was uptown, asleep on a park bench, at the time.
From his darkest moments, Johnson created light. Out of childhood trauma and homophobia—and later in life, more homophobia, abuse, exploitation and rejection—Johnson fought, in so many ways, to make things better for the next generation. There’s no honor in burying Johnson’s own truth. There’s no integrity in bolstering the current narrative, which seeks to expunge Johnson from manhood (a category which Johnson so proudly proclaimed till death).
Johnson’s legacy must be honored with honesty and accuracy.
That said, since, “New York has only five monuments of women but over 150 statues of men,” Stormé DeLarverie should’ve been considered for her very own monument. Erasing lesbians from history, has sadly become routine in the mainstream. Lesbians are so often revised or erased, that the lesbian community is in a perpetual state of self-defense. We constantly have to fight just to have our heroes acknowledged, at all, let alone have them honored.
Stormé DeLarverie served the lesbian community for decades as a volunteer street patrol worker. She patrolled the lesbian bars to keep what she lovingly referred to as her “baby girls” safe. She was tall, dark, handsome and legally armed. She did this all the way up until she was 80-something-years-old, retiring in the early 2000s.
On June 28, 1969, a cop hit Stormé DeLarverie on the head with a billy club, and she was bleeding from that wound when she threw the first punch and gave the call to arms, “Why don’t you do something?!” She’s been called “the gay Rosa Parks” and is fondly remembered as a “gay superhero.”
Stormé DeLarverie died in her sleep in Brooklyn on May 24, 2014.
Don’t erase her.
Stormé DeLarverie. Say her name.
جوليا ديانا — Julia Diana Robertson, is an award-winning author, and a contributor for Huffington Post and AfterEllen—A first generation Arab-American, who grew up between worlds, and currently resides somewhere in the middle with a bird’s eye view.