She became active in the Gay Activist Alliance, where she met Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia felt that GAA was not radical enough, but never actually left the organization. It was Bebe who ensured that Sylvia's dues were paid up.
Scarpi was also in the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, was director of the Queens Liberation Front (QLF), was on the originating board of the National Gay Task Force and was active in planning the fourth Christopher Street Liberation Day (which later became the New York Pride March).
However there were problems with many gay activists:
"You don't have to embrace stereotypes in order to be gay so it was looked at as an anachronistic method of trying to be gay and in the truly liberated society there would be no cross gender identity. You could be a feminine man, but you wouldn't opt to dress and act like a woman." (Cohen p108).In November 1971, the androgynously-dressed Bebe was called to testify before the New York City Council's General Welfare committee. The Gay Activist reported:
" 'Bebe' Scarpi, a transvestite in male attire, gave testimony on the minority group, he pointed out that transvestites used the men's room because they 'd been warned they would be subject to arrest if they entered the ladies room. And even transvestites had to heed the call of nature. Bebe, a student at Queens College, gave what amounted to a short course on the lifestyle and problems of transvestites with such charm, ready wit and intelligence, that even the Councilmen appeared beguiled. … Chairman Sharison seemed unable to comprehend that some transvestites were heterosexual. He wanted to know whether Bebe believed transvestites would be protected by Intro 475. 'Only as a homosexual, not as a transvestite', Bebe explained, and perhaps the councilman would care to enact legislation protecting the transvestite." (Quoted in Cohen p 150)
In 1973 the committee was still blocked in its attempt to pass a bill to ban discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing and public accommodation. To get it passed, an amendment was proposed that nothing in the definition of sexual orientation “shall be construed to bear upon the standards of attire or dress code". Bebe, as QLF director, was put in the uncomfortable position of submitting to this wording or seeing the bill fail.
For the Christopher Street Liberation Day in June 1973, Bebe went to the 82 Club and got the showgirls, in full regalia to march behind an 82 Club banner.
In 1974 Bebe attended a feminist conference where Jill Johnston, mother of two and author of Lesbian Nation, had proposed that mothers neglect to care for male babies. Bebe, from the question line, accused Johnston of being a neo-fascist and dictating to women as well as to men. At this point Bebe was recognized from earlier encounters.
Scarpie was the Editor of Drag Magazine, and an associate for 20 years of Lee Brewster's.
In addition she started a career as a high school teacher. When she was not teaching she worked as a stripper.
"Stripping is such a liberating experience; I would strongly recommend everyone to try it".It was commented that she looked like a middle-class lady. Bebe is the first known trans woman to become a school principal.
"I've never identified myself as transgender. I prefer drag queen. I've always been a 'she' and always will be." (quoted by Lee)
- Don Doodwin et al. "A Time and a Place: Opinion". New York Mattachine Times, December 1971: 1.
- Phil Katz. "Intro 475: Round 2". Gay Activist, 1,8, 1972: 4, 18.
- Bebe Scarpi. "A Tiffany of Weekends". TV-TS Tapestry, 40 1983.
- Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Dutton, 1993. Plume, 1994: 235, 251, 296n11, 298n29, 308n44.
- Jim Clifford, Martin Duberman, Luvenia Pinson, Bebe Scarpi, Martha Shelley & Allen Young. "Reminiscenses of pre-Stonewall Greenwich Village". In Martin Duberman (ed). A Queer World. NYU Press, 1997: 331-340.
- Bebe Scarpinato & Rusty Moore. "Mourning the Loss of Sylvia Rivera, NYC-based Activist". IFGE, via Gain, February 21, 2002. www.ifge.org/news/2002/feb/SylviaRivera.html.
- Hyein Lee. "Culture shock makes us cringe, then change". http://media.www.nyunews.com/media/storage/paper869/news/2007/11/12/Features/Culture.Shock.Makes.Us.Cringe.Then.Change-3094112.shtml Online at: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/transgender-news/tkau8KZ9HYo.
- Cristan Williams. "1974: TERFs and Trans Folk". Ehipassiko, 2012/08/31. www.cristanwilliams.com/b/2012/08/31/1974-radfems-and-trans-folk.
- Stephen L. Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail. Routledge, 2007: 56, 95-6, 108, 109, 115-8, 125, 128, 135, 142, 149-150, 152, 154, 155-6, 160, 180, 196.
- Lillian Faderman. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle. Simon & Shuster, 2015: 262-3.
Bebe you were one of a kind.ReplyDelete
When your mom passed you fought for myself and mama Jean to be able to attend the service. Always an activist.
You will be be missed.
Thank you for sharing so much more of this lovely lady with us. I have known Bebe for over 25 years and she has always been maternal in her nature to me as well as so many. She has advised me on my career in education, employed me in her entrepreneurial times with Tommy, catechized me and setup up a meet with Father Barry at OLMC in Yonkers when I was in doubt and poking around in places I should not have been, and when I became incarcerated and went up top this lady stayed by my side and knowing i would be coming home encouraged me and greeted me when I returned with nothing short of positivity and to continue my fight and live! She has been that Carmelite lady much like St Theresa of Avila that did what needed to be done when St John of the Cross wasn't looking. All true! Strength and love. Let nothing frighten thee or disturb thee. Only God is constant.Delete
I will never forget you my sweet heart. I am sure that there are many with love affairs in friendship like ours. You are a staunch lady, a wonderful Carmelite woman and your placement on this world was certainly for a reason. We know it as WISDOM. I know it as love. I will see and be with you again.
Bebe was an amazing person: activist, educator, entertainer. Bigger than life. We were friends in the days of Queens Liberation Front and Drag Magazine. We had lost touch for many years, and we were able to reconnect 40 years later at her home in the French Quarter, just months before her passing. I will miss my friend and mentor.ReplyDelete
An amazing and truly wonderful person in every way: a pioneer and a friend to all; also a brilliant educator.ReplyDelete
I met Bebe at the beginnings after StonewallReplyDelete
We worked GAA together. One of the most selfless human beings I have ever met.
I will miss my friend. 💦💦🎶🎶🎶🙏🙏🌈