Rewriting history

Women don’t get to have women’s history. Sorry laydeez!

Harper’s Bazaar has refused to print a retraction for an article in which Eileen Miles calls lesbian icon, Stormé DeLarverie, “they,” “he,” and “him,” and claims ” ‘He’ was Stormé’s chosen pronoun.”

If “he” was “Stormé’s chosen pronoun,” as Miles claims, the people she was closest to would’ve known. And her circle certainly wouldn’t be running around giving interviews that didn’t reflect her wishes. In fact, the people in her circle are the type of people who would acknowledge that sort of thing—no problem—had it been the case.

Eileen Miles—who identifies as trans, and as “they/them,” and as a lesbian—made a decision to change Stormé’s identity, and the ripple effect of doing so, has only just begun… Morgan Page, a writer at The Nation, who also identifies as trans, recently wrote an article using “he” and “him” and “himself” to describe Stormé DeLarverie, using Miles’ Harper’s Bazaar article to justify doing so.

Why would one writer get to decide that DeLarverie was a man just on her own say-so?

When I wrote to Harper’s Bazaar, politely requesting they print a retraction/apology, I explained that because Stormé only recently died, the New York lesbians who knew and loved her are still here. I explained that a friend of mine—a wonderful lesbian who became Stormé’s legal protector when Stormé grew too unwell to care for herself—has verified who Stormé was many times. They could easily find several accurate interviews she’s given on Stormé. There are plenty of fact-checked articles about Stormé floating around. And Stormé also did a number of interviews while she was alive.

Stormé was a butch lesbian and a professional male impersonator. I also explained to Harper’s Bazaar that as someone who’s done ‘drag’ myself—and ran a show that incorporated various interpretations of drag for many years—I can say that it’d be completely disingenuous for any writer to take that persona (or any other tidbit of my ‘gender deviant’ behavior, for that matter), and proclaim me as “he” and “him” after I die.

But Harper’s doesn’t care.

After some back and forth, Harper’s Bazaar wrote, on Dec 3, to inform me that they can decide to rewrite one of our greatest lesbian sheros as “he” and “him,” and they can do it while stating it’s what Stormé chose. Their response, in full, was, “Julia, We appreciate your letter and take this issue very seriously, but we’re comfortable with the decision the writer made here. Thanks again.” Well… So long as they are comfortable.

As a NY dyke who’s friends with Stormé’s chosen NY fam, I take this very seriously. Harper’s Bazaar doesn’t get to make a decision that involves recreating a lesbian’s identity, postmortem—that involves rewriting lesbian history. It’s not their history to rewrite.

But they’re re-writing it anyway.

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