Stonewall 50: How the Long Lesbian Fight for Space and Identity Took an Anti-Transgender Turn – The Daily Beast

So the story or popular mythology goes, a butch lesbian may have thrown the first brick at Stonewall by urging patrons to resist arrest. But lesbians weren’t just present that famous night—they were absolutely instrumental in the 50-year period of LGBTQ activism that followed.

Joan Nestle, the 79-year-old co-founder of the Lesbian Herstory Archives, remembers standing outside the Stonewall Inn the night after the raid, struck by the grittiness of the West Village crowd in contrast to the more buttoned-up, polite “homophile” pickets that had been taking place throughout the 1960s.

“[Stonewall] was a sexualized site. It was in the streets that we acted out our erotic lives,” said Nestle. “Queer sex is a political motivator, and it was clearly evident in the streets of the Village that night.”

Bars like Stonewall were hardly the public face the burgeoning gay rights movement of the time wanted. The gay bars, Nestle explains, were home to “street people”—the deviants and perverts, the trans women and the butch and femme dykes that were chastised by respectable lesbians for playing out what was seen as kinky sex roles through their gender expressions.

That included Stormé DeLarverie, a well-known butch bouncer who spent decades guarding the doors of the city’s gay bars. “Stormé was a tall, broad person who was a protector,” said Nestle. “She always carried a gun. She was wonderful with femme women. When she hugged you, you felt so safe.”

When asked if Stormé was transgender, as some now believe, Nestle said it wasn’t so simple as that. “The word we used at that time was ‘passing woman.’ She passed as a man,” said Nestle. “Stormé was biracial and always fought against being put into boxes. Race and gender were fluid things for her; she didn’t want to commit to either.”

Following Stonewall, lesbian and bi women activists grasped the mantle—and quickly branched off into their own groups.

Kay Tobin Lahusen and Brenda Howard were instrumental in the Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activist Alliance, two groups that organized protests throughout 1970; Howard has been nicknamed the “Mother of Pride” for her work organizing the Christopher Street Liberation Day, which became the first annual Pride event.

That same year, Rubyfruit Jungle author Rita Mae Brown and other members of the group Radicallesbians took over the stage at the 1970 Congress to Unite Women, reading from the first known lesbian feminist statement, titled “The Woman-Identified Woman.”

Brown had recently been fired from the National Organization for Women after then-president Betty Friedan referred to rising lesbian visibility as “the lavender menace;” the activists wore T-shirts reclaiming the phrase.

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