Gay Parenting… It’s Not ‘Unnatural’ After All

“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”

— Sigmund Freud —

One of the things that infuriate me most as a member of the LGBT community, is the ill-informed argument from zealots that ‘homosexuality’ is unnatural. So, it was positive to read that staff at Wingham Wildlife Park, in the UK, recently reported how Jumbs and Kermit — a Gay penguin couple (yes, I know! How cute!) — are turning out to be perfect parents.

Okay, for some that may be a lot of information to consume in one go… Gay Penguins? Parents? But stay with me.

It all happened when staff at the wildlife sanctuary had to step in after penguin mother, Isobel, was forced to leave her egg because the father, Hurricane, refused to help her incubate it. The two male Humboldt penguins, Jumbs and Kermit, were given the egg, which hatched a month ago.

Park owner Tony Binskin said: “These two have so far proven to be two of the best penguin parents we have had yet.

Jumbs and Kermit became a pair in 2012. Mr Binskin said that while it was lovely to see two of their birds pair up, it also meant that they were left with not two but four birds unable to reproduce.

The Humboldt penguin specie is declining in numbers, and the park brought in two new males for breeding. But each time Isobel lays an egg, her partner Hurricane refuses to sit on it.

Mr Binskin’s wife Jackie said Hurricane was a “very inconsiderate partner who is happy to get Isobel pregnant“, then “seems to think that his job is done.

An egg from the pair was given to Jumbs and Kermit last year, but failed to hatch. When Isobel laid another egg in March, and again was forced to leave because Hurricane was not stepping up to fulfil his responsibilities, the second abandoned egg was given to Jumbs and Kermit. It hatched on 12 April.

There have been previous reports of exclusive male-to-male pairings among penguins, and some have reared chicks. Mr Binskin said: “Whilst pair bonding often results in no result other than eliminating those two animals from the breeding population of that species, in captivity it can have greatly positive effects.

We are still very much starting our breeding efforts with this species, and this is only our second year of breeding, but having such good surrogate parents available should we need them is a huge bonus for us.”

So much for homosexuality being ‘unnatural’… or posing a threat to so-called traditional ‘family values’. If anything, Hurricane should take a page from the parenting book of Jumbs and Kermit: It’s all about love and commitment… That’s the clue that sticks a family together, right?

The truth is, research shows that LGBT parents might just be better at raising children than their heterosexual counterparts. Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist who researches Gay and Lesbian parenting, recently said that because Gays and Lesbians rarely become parents by accident (compared with an almost 50 per cent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals), they tend to tend to be more motivated and more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents. Golberg added: “That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.

Research also indicates that children of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures. However, children of gay parents have one advantage over those children who are raised by heterosexual parents: they show a greater degree of open-mindedness, tolerance and role modelling unbiased relationships. Not only are that, studies have shown that Gay and Lesbian parents are more open to providing homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system.

In a study, published in 2007 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 46 adults who had at least one gay parent. Twenty-eight of them spontaneously offered that they felt more open-minded and empathetic than people not raised in their situation.

The researchers wrote: “These individuals feel like their perspectives on family, on gender, on sexuality have largely been enhanced by growing up with gay parents.

One 33-year-old man with a lesbian mother said: “I feel I’m a more open, well-rounded person for having been raised in a non-traditional family, and I think those that know me would agree. My mum opened me up to the positive impact of differences in people.”

Brian Powell, a sociologist at Indiana University and author of Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family says that if same-sex marriage has any disadvantage for children in any way, it has nothing to do with their parent’s gender and everything to do with society’s reaction toward the families. He added: “Imagine being a child living in a state with two parents in which, legally, only one parent is allowed to be their parent. In that situation, the family is not seen as authentic or real by others. That would be the disadvantage.

In her research, Abbie Goldberg has found that many children of Gay and Lesbian parents say that more acceptance of gay and lesbian families, not less, would help solve this problem.

In another study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Goldberg interviewed a group of 49 teenagers and young adults with gay parents and found that not one of them rejected the right of Gays and Lesbians to marry. Most cited legal benefits as well as social acceptance.

One of the study’s subjects, a 23-year-old man raised by a lesbian couple, said: “I was just talking about this with a couple of friends and just was in tears thinking about how different my childhood might have been had same-sex marriage been legalized 25 years ago. The cultural, legal status of same-sex couples impacts the family narratives of same-sex families — how we see ourselves in relation to the larger culture, whether we see ourselves as accepted or outsiders.

Same-sex pairing is not uncommon among pengiuns © National Geographic

Same-sex pairing is not uncommon among pengiuns © National Geographic


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Images: Open Source Editorial
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


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Israel — An Oasis For LGBT People In The Middle East

“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”

— Albert Einstein —

The past couple of months the global Jewish community witnessed in horror how the rest of the world hopscotched in its love-hate relationship with Israel. Sadly and alarmingly, biased criticism of Israel’s defence against Hamas’ underhand, persistent and relentless attacks on the people of Israel has led to the rise of widespread anti-Semitism across the globe.

Not surprisingly, as a result I’ve asked myself this question: “What would life be like if I found myself in a situation where both homophobia and anti-Semitism were used to discriminate against me?” The potential brutality of such a scenario is too upsetting to even think about… images of Hitler’s concentration and death camps, where homosexuals were worked to death, quickly flash through my mind.

Given how quickly people (Joe Public and politicians alike) are swayed to engage in flag-waving politics and to display uncomfortable levels hatred and extremism, the possibility for the Israeli and Jewish LGBT community to be trapped in such a double-whammy is perhaps not so farfetched.

Geographically, Israel shares its borders with Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, the Gaza Strip and Egypt on the southwest.

LGBT rights in most of its neighbouring countries pales in comparison to Israel. A 2007 poll by Pew Research Centre suggested that 79 per cent of Lebanese believe “homosexuality should be rejected”, as opposed to 18 per cent who believe “homosexuality should be accepted.” In April 2013, Lebanon’s interior minister of the interim government, Marwan Charbel, said: “Lebanon is opposed to homosexuality, and according to Lebanese law it is a criminal offense.”

In Syria, same-sex relationships are illegal and those found guilty of having homosexual relationships can serve up to three years in jail. A report by the Austrian Centre for Country of Origin and Asylum Research and Documentation, in 2009, noted that homosexuality in Syria carries a social stigma that may result in torture and even death.

lgbt-muslim_1

An Egyptian sexologist, Heba Kotb estimates that 10 to 12 per cent of the Egyptian population is homosexual and yet according to Pew Research Centre 95 per cent of Egyptians believe that homosexuality is unacceptable. While homosexuality (and same-sex relationships) is not specifically outlawed, under Egyptian morality laws punishment can be up to 17 years in prison with or without hard labour.

According to a 2010 compendium of laws against homosexuality produced by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex Association (ILGA), the decriminalization of homosexuality in the Palestinian territories is patchwork.

In the Palestinian Hamas-controlled Gaza Territories, same-sex relationships between men are punishable with up to 10 years in prison. In fact, Hamas’ exact position on homosexuality is ambiguous. In September 2011, Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar, declared homosexuality punishable by death when has said: “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”

In the Jordanian-controlled Palestinian West Bank, same-sex acts were decriminalized in 1951 and remain so to this day. In 1951, the Jordanian Criminal Code was revised in order to legalize private, adult, non-commercial, and consensual sodomy, with the age of consent set at 16. Same-sex marriages, or more limited civil unions, are not legally recognized and there is no public effort in Jordan to modify these laws. Nonetheless, there is a growing level of tolerance and visibility in certain artistic or chic-cosmopolitan parts of Jordan, especially in Amman. Recent reports suggest that a new wave of younger LGBT people are coming out of the closet and are becoming more visible in the country, working to establish a vibrant LGBT community of filmmakers, journalists, writers, artists and other young professionals.

Israel on the other hand was the first Middle Eastern country to recognize unregistered cohabitation between same-sex couples. Although same-sex marriages are not performed in the country, Israel recognizes same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, also making it the first and only country in the Middle East to do so. Same-sex couples are allowed to jointly adopt after a court decision in 2008. Israel’s Supreme Court also grants gays family rights including inheritance and survivors’ benefits.

Earlier this week, the Israeli government announced that it will now allow Jews to immigrate to Israel with their non-Jewish same-sex spouses. In a directive publicised on Tuesday 12 August, Israeli Interior Minister Gideon Saar told immigration authorities not to differentiate between married gay and straight couples.

An Israeli gay couple walk with their daughter in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: UPI

An Israeli gay couple walk with their daughter in the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Photo: UPI

Gays and lesbians also serve openly in the military and an increasing number of gay recruits do full military service, often in combat units. Unit 8200, one of the largest units in the Israeli army, is well-known for the large number of openly LGBT soldiers serving in it.

Treatment for Gender Dysphoria in Israel can be paid for using the country’s public health insurance system if a patient receives approval by the Committee for Sex Reassignment. In 2013, the IDF announced they would, for the first time, allow a transgender woman to serve in the army as a female soldier.

The city of Tel Aviv recognizes unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, as family units and grants them discounts for municipal services. Under the bylaw, unmarried couples qualify for the same discounts on day care and the use of swimming pools, sports facilities, and other city-sponsored activities that married couples enjoy.

Tel Aviv has frequently been referred to as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, famous for its annual Pride Parade and gay beach, earning it the nicknames “the gay capital of the Middle East” or the “Manhattan of the Middle East.” The city also boasts one of only a handful of monuments dedicated to the LGBT victims who were persecuted by Nazis during World War II.

It’s not difficult to recognise that Israel is a LGBT rights frontier in the Middle East. In fact, Israel’s critics seem to quickly forget that it is the only country in the Middle East that has stood up for human rights, particularly those of women and gays, time and time again.

Those same critics will tell me that writing an article about Israel’s noble LGBT rights record at a time when Gazans are in the midst of one of the most violent defence attacks engulfing their narrow and over-populated strip of land, is ‘pinkwashing’ the Palestinian conflict.

I agree to some extent… what I’ve said so far can easily be misconstrued as a public relations campaign marketing Israel as a LGBT haven in the Middle East, while conveniently glossing over Israel’s human rights record in Palestine.

If that is how my words come across then it is unintentional… and let’s not use this argumentative rhetoric to deviate from the facts.

pride-israel

As a country who does not have a centuries-old history of wars, imperialism and world domination like many European countries do, Israel, in its short existence, is learning quickly to live up to the higher standards the rest of the world is holding it to… Unfortunately it’s a learning curve that hasn’t come without conflict, war and the loss of lives. Still, Israel is an eager scholar and its treatment of the LGBT community proves my point. It is not only setting an example in the Middle East, but also for the rest of the world. Yes, some of Israel’s policies and conduct may not be perfect (in some cases it may even be questionable), but I am yet to see a country with a perfect track record in treating all of its citizens and neighbouring countries with respect and equality. Such a place (and such a government) does not exist.

Thankfully, what does exist is a place where Israeli and Jewish LGBT people can feel safe (a lot more than what can be said about some cities in ‘civilised’ Europe), while being surrounded by neighbouring countries who do not share the same values of freedom, tolerance and equality. Without a doubt, these are values that must be respected and protected, because the alternative — a world where men and women are tortured, brutalised and murdered because of their sexuality, religion and nationality — is unthinkable.

As a humanist and an activist, like countless Israelis and Jews around the world, I want to see lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. I have always believed that LGBT people are active agents of change and that if one of us is in chains then none of us are free… whether heterosexual, LGBT, Jewish, Christian, Muslim or of any other religion.

I know this much is true: The Middle East would’ve been far more unkind to LGBT people if it had not been for Israel’s influence… albeit in some instances simply because of Israel’s liberal presence. It is with this conviction  — that Israel wants to do better than what it already is and it wants to affect change — that I support any conversation that will help bring peace, safety and equality to all the people of the Middle East.

*** This article was republished by Jewish News – the UKs largest online Jewish newspaper. You can view its publication here:


Credits.
Images: Open Source Editorial & Francois Lubbe (Main Article Image)
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


A Dad’s Unexpected Advice To His Gay Son

When Sir Ian McKellen — co-founder of the UK charity, Stonewall — took to the stage on Trafalgar Square, introducing the headline act, Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst, as part of the Pride in London 2014 celebrations, he spoke about a 91 year old man in wheelchair who insisted on being at the parade… despite the rain. Sir Ian also mentioned a 78 year old man who specially came from Iceland to celebrate Pride with the rest of the 300,000+ supporters that showed up in London.

These are the pioneers of LGBT rights and there are plenty of them who are often forgotten — believers who never gave up in their fight for equality. These men and women have fantastic stories that serve as an inspiration and a source of wisdom for the younger LGBT generation enjoying so much more freedom, safety and acceptance than ever before in the history of the global LGBT community.

As part of the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots — the pivotal moment when the Gay Rights Movement was born , in 1969, when gay protesters clashed with police in New York — StoryCorps has launched an initiative, called OutLoud, to preserve the stories of LGBT people.

In the spirit of Pride and in the spirit of remembering the stories of the men and women who came before us, I want to share one of the stories StoryCorps recently archived:

During the 1950s Patrick Haggerty, now 70, lived as a teenager in rural Washington. Patrick decided to perform in a school play. On the day of the performance, Patrick’s brother took him to school. On their way there, he started covering his face with glitter — to his brother’s horror. Patrick’s brother dropped him off at school and then immediately called their father.

Dad, I think you better get up there,” his brother said. “This is not going to look good.

Charles Edward Haggerty, their father, who was a dairy farmer, showed up at the school in dirty farming jeans and boots. When Patrick saw his dad in the halls, he ran away to hide from him.

It wasn’t because of what I was wearing,” Patrick says. “It was because of what he was wearing.

After the play, in the car on their way home, Patrick’s father called him out on his attempt to hide: “I was walking down the hall this morning, and I saw a kid that looked a lot like you ducking around the hall to avoid his dad. But I know it wasn’t you, ’cause you would never do that to your dad.

Patrick wanted to melt way into the car seat out of embarrassment, but finally exclaimed: “Well, Dad, did you have to wear your cow-crap jeans to my assembly?

His father replied: “Look, everybody knows I’m a dairy farmer. This is who I am. Now, how ’bout you? When you’re an adult, who are you gonna go out with at night?

Now, I’m gonna tell you something today,” his father continued “and you might not know what to think of it now, but you’re gonna remember when you’re a full-grown man: Don’t sneak. Because if you sneak, like you did today, it means you think you’re doing the wrong thing. And if you run around spending your whole life thinking that you’re doing the wrong thing, then you’ll ruin your immortal soul.”

Recalling his father’s words, Patrick says that out of all the things a father in 1959 could have told his gay son, his father told him to be proud of who he was and not to sneak.

Patrick added: “He knew where I was headed. And he knew that making me feel bad about it in any way was the wrong thing to do. I had the patron saint of dads for sissies, and no, I didn’t know at the time, but I know it now.

**  The original story was published online by NPR. To listen to a recording or Patrick’s story, follow this link: **

Patrick Haggerty in 1959 © NPR, courtesy of Patrick Haggerty

Patrick Haggerty in 1959 © NPR, courtesy of Patrick Haggerty


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Images: Open Source Editorial & Francois Lubbe (Main article Image)
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes


Russian Oligarch Hosts Secret Anti-Gay Meeting In Vienna

“Humor brings insight and tolerance. Irony brings a deeper and less friendly understanding.”

~ Agnes Repplier ~

Earlier this year, at the Sochi Winter Olympics, in Russia, there was some poetic justice when the 5th and final snowflake-like Olympic Circle failed to open during the opening ceremony. For me and many of my LGBT friends it was a symbolic moment, highlighting the cry for help from the Russian LGBT community for international support against Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law.

Since the introduction of this infamous anti-gay propaganda law in June 2013, the country has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of violent attacks (some resulting in torture and even death) on members of its LGBT community, while those protesting the legislation have found themselves often targeted by police brutality and arrest.

In the run up to the Winter Olympics, the LGBT activist group All Out called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to stop the Games from taking place in Sochi and to ensure that future Olympic host countries do not have similar discriminatory laws on their books.

All Out presented the IOC with a global petition signed by 322,000 members of the group and another 41,000 All Out members sent the IOC personal messages raising their concerns. Shortly after receiving the petition, the head of the IOC spoke out against Russia’s anti-gay law and assured the LGBT community that this new law will not impact fans and athletes attending the Games — which was not exactly the assurance All Out and the international LGBT community asked for.

Brian Ellner, a board member of Athlete Ally — a group working to end homophobia and transphobia in sports — commented at the time by saying: “Today’s IOC statements are troubling on many levels. First, despite continued ‘assurances’ from the Russians the IOC itself remains confused as to whether these anti-LGBT propaganda laws will be enforced against athletes and fans.”

He added that while the safety of athletes and fans was important “we are also seeking a clear condemnation of the propaganda laws from the IOC. After the games are long gone the Russian LGBT community will still be living under these cruel laws and it’s time for the IOC and the world to voice loud and clear condemnation as a matter of human rights and fundamental fairness.”

Olympic Circles Fail to Open at Sochi 2014. © Unknown

Olympic Circles Fail to Open at Sochi 2014. © Unknown

Responding to the petition and the IOC’s request for Russia to clarify its position in terms of implementing these laws, Dmitry Kozak, the Russian deputy prime minister who oversaw the Olympics said: “Please do not touch the kids,” echoing what Russian President Vladimir Putin simply said earlier: “Just leave kids alone, please”, implying that LGBT people are paedophiles.

We all know how that story ended… The Winter Olympics were hosted in Sochi regardless and the IOC has not yet clarified their position in terms of choosing future host countries having to no discriminatory laws including protecting all human rights…

As for Russia? Russian leaders maintain that the country is not homophobic, despite the fact that violence against Russian LGBT people are now at its worst with many seeking to leave the country in fear of their safety. They remain defiant, by claiming that their only goal with this draconian law is to safeguard youth, by prohibiting the airing of so-called ‘gay propaganda’ around minors…

History has taught us time and again that seemingly ‘innocent’ laws are usually just the beginning of backward political ideations hidden behind a diplomatic smokescreen sugar-coated hogwash… Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law is no exception.

Today, it transpired that despite Russia’s empty promises, this past weekend, a secret meeting was held in Vienna to discuss ways to rid Europe of the ‘satanic gay lobby’. The meeting was attended by a host of far-right MPs and ultra-conservative Eurasian ideologists and was held literally across the road from where the Life Ball — one of the biggest AIDS charity events in the world — was hosted inside Vienna City Hall the very same night.

This year, the winner of Eurovision 2014, Conchita Wurst stole the show at Life Ball when hoots of approval, applause and whistles greeted the Austrian bearded drag queen dressed in figure-hugging silver lame, as she belted out her winning torch song Rise Like a Phoenix.

I cannot help but to see the irony here: In the build-up to the Eurovision Song Contest’s Finale, activists from Eastern European countries, including Russia, Armenia and Belarus, have blasted Conchita as an example of the West’s ‘decadence’ and branded the Eurovision contest as a ‘hotbed of sodomy’.

After her Eurovision victory, when asked if she had anything to say to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Conchita said: “I don’t know if he is watching this now, but if so, I’ll say it: ‘We’re unstoppable.'”

Cochita Wurzt at Life Ball, 2014.  © Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images Europe

Cochita Wurzt at Life Ball, 2014. © Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images Europe

Yet, this weekend, while guests at the Life Ball celebrated life and raised money to support HIV/AIDS victims, on the other side of the street the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeew and his Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation held an ominous meeting attended by nationalists and Christian fundamentalists from Russia and the West… I cannot imagine a greater contrast between two worlds. It’s like an invisible Berlin Wall divided the streets of Vienna.

The meeting was an invitation only and guests included the chief Russian ideologist of the Eurasian movement Alexander Dugin, the nationalist painter Ilja Glasunow, and MPs from far right parties including the Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. A star guest was Alexander Dugin, a Russian political scientist and Eurasia ideologist who believes in Russian supremacy and authoritarianism, and wants to see a ‘conservative revolution’ across Europe.

According to Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, who confirmed the event took place from two independent sources, the meeting was hosted at Vienna’s Palais Liechtenstein under conditions of extreme secrecy.

The newspaper’s sources said that as well as discussing the ‘gay lobby’ the topic of fighting liberalism in Europe was also high on the agenda at the secret meeting. However, the official theme of the event was to mark the historic Vienna congress, which settled issues following the Napoleonic Wars and French revolutionary wars, 200 years ago.

Russian oligarchy, far-right politicians, secret meetings, the ‘gay lobby’ (what does that even mean?)… Do we have reason to be concerned?

Sadly, I think we do.

I for one don’t like scaremongering, but I also detest the inconvenience and irritation of ‘hindsight’.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if anything, the fact that the IOC allowed the Winter Olympics to continue in Sochi this year — despite Putin’s blatant homophobic and human rights abuses — carried startling (if not frightening) resemblances to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which took place amidst Hitler’s crackdown on the European Jewish community…

Back then, the world turned a blind eye and in the horrifying aftermath of the Holocaust said ‘We did not know.’

LGBT people are the only minority group in the world who find themselves in the awful juxtaposition that rights that are given to us with one hand are taken away by another… This leaves all of us in a treacherous position… one we may not want to think about, but nonetheless one we cannot ignore.

The only way we can prevent history from repeating itself is by reminding the world — those who still scoff at us and those who don’t want to believe us — how complacency, ignorance and inaction often (if not always) have dire consequences…

…something to think about as we gear up to celebrate Gay Pride this year…

LGBT Russian Youth After Being Attacked By Anti-Gay Militants  ©

LGBT Russian Youth After Being Attacked By Anti-Gay Militants ©

Stormé DeLarverie — Drag King, LGBT Icon and Activist Dies At 93

“If Gay and Lesbian people are given civil rights, soon everyone will want them”

― James Howe, Totally Joe ―

Stormé DeLarverie — pronounced STORM-ee… rather appropriate for a name that is synonymous with the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City and a life dedicated to fighting for LGBT equality. Ms. DeLarverie has been revered as the Gay Community’s Rosa Parks. She was a pioneer of the modern-day LGBT Civil Rights Movement — a fierce woman who stood up for our community throughout her life.

Some writers believe Ms. DeLarverie may have been the cross-dressing lesbian whose clubbing by the police at the Stonewall Inn during the summer of 1969, sparked the riots The woman has never been identified.

Others are adamant that Ms. DeLarverie was not that woman. However, no one disputes that she was there, and no one doubts that the woman who had been fighting back all her life, fought back fiercely in the summer of 1969. In an interview with the New York Times, in 2010, Stormé DeLarverie recalled that a police officer had hit her from behind. “I don’t know what he hit me with. He hit me from behind, the coward.”

Storme DeLarverie, the lady who appears to be a gentleman, NYC, 1961, by Diane Arbus

Storme DeLarverie, the lady who appears to be a gentleman, NYC, 1961, by Diane Arbus

She added: “A cop said to me, ‘Move faggot’, thinking that 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 right in his face. He bled! He was then dropping to the ground — not me!”

Two weeks after the Stonewall uprising, DeLarverie was a part of the official formation of the Stonewall Veteran’s Association on July 11, 1969. She rose through the ranks and eventually become the organization’s Vice President, and yet, sadly, those who are familiar with her dedication to the LGBT struggle are dwindling. The young members of the LGBT community, those in their 20s and 30s, have never heard of her.

Even more heart-breaking is the fact that this historical figure languished the last years of her life with little support from the LGBT community, being impoverished, with no family and few friends. In 2009, a social services group, the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged (JASA), was appointed her legal guardian by a judge. In March 2010, she was hospitalized after she was found disoriented and dehydrated at the Chelsea Hotel, her home for decades.

Storme DeLarverie at Brooklyn Gay Parade line-up with 1969 “Stonewall Car” © Williamson Henderson

Storme DeLarverie at Brooklyn Gay Parade line-up with 1969 “Stonewall Car” © Williamson Henderson

Born to a white father and black mother, in New Orleans on December 24, 1920, DeLarverie toured the fringe theatre circuit during the 50s and 60s as the only drag king in the popular drag performance group, Jewel Box Revue. The group regularly played the Apollo in Harlem and comprised of a dozen drag queens and DeLarverie, as King Stormé. The Jewel Box Revue was America’s first racially integrated female impersonation show.

Her friends believe that, in her younger days, she worked for the mob in Chicago. Once in New York, she was known to carry a straight-edge razor in her sock and her friends reminisce that while some merely walked to and from the gay and lesbian bars in the Village, she patrolled.

In the 1980s and ’90s Stormé worked as a bouncer for several lesbian bars in New York City. In 1987 Michelle Parkerson made the film Stormé: The Lady of the Jewel Box, which was screened on June 7, 2012, when the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture honoured Storme DeLarverie for her work within the LGBT community. One month before her death, on April 24, 2014, DeLarverie was honoured alongside Edie Windsor by the Brooklyn Community Pride Centre for her bravery, love, and fearlessness within the LGBT community.

Ms. DeLarverie passed away peacefully in her sleep on the morning of Saturday, May 24, 2014, in a nursing home in Brooklyn. Her death is a powerful reminder of the difficulties faced by elderly LGBT people, who are often estranged from their families and loved ones, living alone an incapable of giving themselves adequate care. It highlights the reason why LGBT seniors have special needs and I worry that someday I might be in the same position.

Yet, I cannot help but wonder: when New York’s LGBT community crowd 5th Avenue this year to celebrate Pride, will they know that six miles away in a care home, a frail old lady — ridden from her memories, her sanity and those who once were precious to her — died alone. She is the same woman who once was the cross-dressing M.C. of a group of drag performers… a fiercely protective (and pistol-packing) bouncer in the city’s lesbian bars… her contributions to the Gay Civil Rights Movement were monumental.

She is one of the reasons why toady we can celebrate and march in Pride.

Her name is Stormé DeLarverie. Lest we forget. May she rest in peace.

Storme DeLarverie in 2011 © Sam Bassett

Storme DeLarverie in 2011 © Sam Bassett


Credits.
Images: Open Source Editorial or as Credited
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes