Butch lesbian trailblazer Nancy Valverde, dies at 92

Nancy Valverde
Nancy Valverde. Image: Los Angeles LGBT Centre

Chicana lesbian, activist and gender-nonconformist Nancy Valverde died at her Los Angeles home on Monday. She was 92.

In the 1950s, Valverde was was routinely arrested for violating L.A.’s ‘masquerading’ laws.

These laws were commonly used by law enforcement to to target drag queens, transgender people and butch lesbians.

She was detained multiple times at Lincoln Heights jail in a section known as the Daddy Tank.

The Daddy Tank was a private wing where transgender men and butch lesbians were held

However, at the age of 17 she was credited with helping overturn masquerading laws.

During one stint in jail,  Valverde enlisted the help of a clerk at the L.A. County Law Library to search for rulings that showed wearing men’s clothing was a crime.

After proving that it was legally not a crime, Valverde was never arrested again.

Valverde went on to start her own Barber shop and lived with the same woman for 25 years, raising four children together.

Nancy Valverde
Nancy Valverde. Image: Los Angeles LGBT Centre

Los Angeles LGBT Centre honours Nancy Valverde

“Valverde, an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, was celebrated as a beacon of light and a relentless advocate for equality and justice,” the Los Angeles LGBT Center said in a statement.

“Valverde’s journey as an activist began at the age of 17 when she bravely confronted the systems of prejudice in Los Angeles by unapologetically embracing her authentic identity. A fixture in L.A.’s queer community since the 1950s, she faced routine harassment and arrest by police for wearing men’s clothing in public. Arrested dozens of times under the city ordinance of “masquerading,” which targeted individuals for clothing associated with a different gender, Valverde remained steadfast in her refusal to conform.”

“They wanted me to be someone else,” she recounted in the PBS documentary L.A.: A Queer History.

“I could not be someone else. This is me.”

“Despite the challenges, Valverde became a respected figure in Los Angeles. She built connections within her local community and provided haircuts at her barbershop. Affectionately known as “Nancy from East Side Clover,” she left an indelible mark on the city.”

“Valverde’s legacy continued as she joined the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Services department upon moving to Triangle Square, the nation’s first LGBTQ+-friendly affordable housing for older adults.

“Last year, the city honored her with the designation of “Cooper Do-nuts/Nancy Valverde Square” at the intersection of 2nd St. and Main St. in downtown Los Angeles.

“Cooper Do-nuts, a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals in the 1950s, was the site of one of the earliest LGBTQ+ uprisings in the country.”

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Sarah Davison
Sarah Davison

After working in print and radio, Sarah has joined the team at QNews to expand their coverage into South Australia. Sarah has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and a Masters in Journalism, Media, and Communications. Get in touch: sarah@qnews.com.au

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