Stormé DeLarverie is most well known for being the first person to throw a punch a stonewall. Although there is dispute over the validity of this assertion, his contributions to the queer community are indisputable. DeLarverie was a biracial he/him lesbian.* He was an entertainer, protector, and revolutionary. In the 50s and early 60s he traveled the country as a drag king with the Jewel Box Revue, North America’s first racially integrated drag revue. After Stonewall he worked as a bouncer at several lesbian bars in Greenwich Village and was known to patrol the whole area for any “ugliness,” his word for intolerance or abuse. DeLarverie was also a founding member of the Stonewall Veterans Association, and served as vice president for several years.
DeLarverie posing with the Stonewall car.
*Although many sources continue use she/her pronouns, the Stonewall Veterans Association has identified he/him as DeLarverie’s preferred pronouns.
Bayard Rustin was an openly gay leader in the civil rights movement. His career as an activist began at very young age. He grew up in a house where activists like W.E.B. Du Bois and James Weldon Johnson were frequent guests. Rustin was active in the socialist party. He organized freedom rides to protest the unconstitutional segregation of public buses. He is most well known for his collaboration with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Together they founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Although he was officially listed as the second in command, Rustin was the key organizer of the famous 1963 March on Washington. This march drew a quarter of a million people, and was the cite of King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. In the 1970s Rustin focused more of his energy on labor organizing. Although he wasn’t directly involved in the queer liberation movement until the 1980s, he was open about his sexuality throughout the majority of his tenure as an activist.
Although he was open about his sexuality, Rustin was not able to make that choice for himself. He was arrested in 1953 and charged with sodomy. Because his sexuality was made public after the arrest, his contributions to civil rights were primarily behind the scenes as many of his colleagues saw him as a “liability”. Throughout his career as an activist he was silenced, arrested, and beaten. His former partner from 1940, Davis Platt, described how Rustin never “felt any shame or guilt about his homosexuality. That was rare in those days. Rare.”
The P stands for “Pay it no mind”
[CW mention of suicide]
Marsha P Johnson was a black trans activist. She participated in the Stonewall riots, and was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front. Johnson, along with Sylvia Rivera, was a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.). S.T.A.R. was a radical group that advocated for revolution not compromise. S.T.A.R. also operated as a social services organization that provided housing, food, and clothes to gay and trans street youth.
Sylvia Rivera (left) and Marsha P Johnson (right)
Both Johnson and Rivera were seen as radicals by many within the gay liberation movement. Johnson was constantly fighting against exclusion from within the movement, on the basis of her gender, race, and commitment to liberation over acceptance. She remained involved in street activism throughout her life, and was an active member of ACT UP during the height of the AIDS pandemic. On July 6th 1992 Johnson’s body was found in the Hudson River. The police ruled her death a suicide, but those close to her were confident that she had been murdered. There is no evidence that Johnson was ever suicidal, and those close to her cited an increase in harassment shortly before her death. She will be remembered for her kindness and bold conviction, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.