In honor of June coming to a close, we celebrate and ardently salute 5 queer Black women who remind us the importance of sexual liberation.

1️⃣. Storme DeLaverie

Pride is a Protest: Honoring Black, Queer Trailblazers
Storme DeLaverie.

This devastatingly dapper drag king and butch lesbian is often credited as the catalyst for the Stonewall Riots. Police raids of gay bars were common across the states in the 1960s, and the first punch is said to have been thrown by Storme DeLaverie in June of 1969.

It is for this reason, and because of this fateful day, that the Pride parade (formerly, march) always falls on the last weekend of June, and the reason for Pride month’s very existence. Consistently sporting a zoot suit, tie, and the occasional fedora, Storme DeLaverie’s career as a drag king will always be one of note.

She was the only “male impersonator” of the Jewel Box Revue, a touring company of “female impersonators” begun in 1939, with a clean-cut style inspired by the Nat King Coles and Dean Martins of the era (and the Chicago mobsters for whom she served as bodyguard). In the wake of an exponential growth in popularity for drag performers, DeLaverie’s legacy serves as a constant reminder that the art of gender nonconformity exists in more than one presentation, and will always be a protest.

2️⃣. Marsha P. Johnson

Pride is a Protest: Honoring Black, Queer Trailblazers
Marsha P. Johnson.

“Darling I want my gay rights NOW,” she demands into the mic beneath her ever- present halo of flowers. Marsha P. Johnson, a prominent AIDs, queer rights activist, drag queen, (and contemporary of DeLaverie’s), is perhaps the most widely understood Stonewall trailblazer when we look back on queer history.

Another Stonewall frontliner, Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson arrived on the premises citing that the place was “already on fire,” and that the raids and riots had already begun. From this moment on, Marsha P. and her best friend Sylvia Rivera (honorable mention) led the series of protests that came to exist as the GayPride Parade we know in the present day.

Tragically, Marsha P. Johnson passed July 6th of 1992 under frighteningly suspicious circumstances, leading to her case later being re-opened and re-investigated citing signs of foul play. The course of her life will forever remind us of the great deal of risk and gumption it takes to live out loud, and how important it is to lead by example in doing so.

3️⃣. Audre Lorde

Pride is a Protest: Honoring Black, Queer Trailblazers
Audre Lorde.

One of the most powerful pieces of literature known to liberatory history is the famed essay entitled Uses of the Erotic (1978) by Audre Lorde. This essay was, to say the least, a description of the ways in which the erotic (in a primal sense) becomes a mode of internal power and eventually, sociopolitical freedom.

Born and raised in Harlem, New York City, Audrey Geraldine Lorde gained prominence writing poetry and political theory from the perspective of a Black lesbian during the 1960s. Frankly, the greatness of her words needs no extra flattery; their depth and value speak for themselves.

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings,” she says. “It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves,” (Lorde, 1978). Audre Lorde forever maintains her place upon the holy grail of freedom fighters, leaving us nothing left to do in response but raise our glasses in solidarity.

4️⃣. bell hooks

 Pride is a Protest: Honoring Black, Queer Trailblazers
bell hooks.

Under the above pen name, Gloria Jean Watkins was the queer, Black author, social critic, theorist, and educator responsible for the ever-profound novel All About Love. This radical analysis and social commentary on love in modern society has cemented itself as required reading for anyone on a journey of self-understanding. The focus of her literature is to discuss the intersections of social and political identity, and to understand how these systems of power affect our everyday lives.

In the 1980s, bell hooks rose to prominence with a new wave of Black intellectual scholars, among the likes of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. bell hooks chooses not to capitalize her name in an effort to shift the attention of her writing toward the content as opposed to the identity of the author. It is inspired by the name of a family matriarch, Bell Blair Hooks.

Author’s note: If you were somehow on TikTok during quarantine and didn’t pick up this book, think about your choices. What were you doing while the rest of us were inside crying and healing…?

5️⃣. adrienne maree brown

Pride is a Protest: Honoring Black, Queer Trailblazers
adrienne maree brown.

Taking after bell hooks, queer, Black writer and social commentator adrienne maree brown (amb) also chooses not to capitalize her name. Inspired by Black feminist forebearers, amb’s literature on sexual freedom takes on Afrofuturist and science fiction perspectives. In her most popular novels, Emergent Strategy (2017), Pleasure Activism (2019), and We Will Not Cancel Us (2020), brown takes after yet another prominent Black writer, Octavia Butler, and infuses the works of aforementioned theorists and educators in her work with regularity.

At the core of her writing is the belief that we as people should be active contributors to the society in which we want to live, and should adopt a collective want for the better as human life continues. From adrienne maree brown, we may come to understand the necessity for reciprocity as human beings, and that the liberation of the few should be perfunctory to that of the masses.

“(I) realize at any moment it is possible to just be in the present, which can be beyond good or bad, which can be that tender fleeting extraordinarily precious thing: life,” (amb, 2014).

Happy Pride! Explore all queer Sensualists.

Read: The burlesque connoisseur’s guide to New York City: Pride edition.

Culture
activism
queer
Autumn Thomas

Autumn Thomas

Author

The Kinky Copywriter (aka, Autumn Thomas) is a performing artist, writer, and active Leatherdyke in New York City. In her natural habitat, she can be found at various downtown Manhattan cafés curating written content for sex workers and sex positive organizations. With a cortado at her side, Autumn remains ever-devoted to the liberation brought by queer, debaucherous freedom, and ardently refuses to shut up about it.


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