Lee Greer Brewster was born in a log cabin in Honacker, Virginia on April 27, 1943. He spent much of his youth in West Virginia, where his father was a coal miner. In the 1960's, he worked as a file clerk for the Federal Bureau of Investigation until he was fired for being homosexual. He relocated to New York City.
In 1967, Brewster dressed as a woman for the first time. In New York City, Brewster became active in the homophile movement, and later the gay liberation movement.
Brewster was extremely active in organizing. For instance, he spoke at universities across the United States on LGBTQ+ issues. In 1969, he founded the Queens Liberation Front. According to a writeup in DRAG, the broad objective of the Queens Liberation Front was to go "gain the legal right for everyone who desires to crossdress regardless of their sexual orientation or desires." This foundation was financed by gala balls, speaking engagements by Brewster and others, as well as funds from DRAG. The QLF and Brewster financed a successful legal challenge to overturn a New York City ordinance that allowed people to be removed from public places for being homosexual. Brewster also successfully challenged a discriminatory clause in a New York City ordinance that stated men dressed in female attire were not permitted at licensed dances.
Brewster was a savy businessperson, running a variety of ventures including a gay travel service and a mail-order lingerie service. Brewster also opened up a store called Lee's Mardi Gras, which served to offer a discreet place for men and trans* women to shop for women's clothing. The store also supplied some of the costumes for the movies To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything and The Birdcage.
In the late 1960's, Brewster started a magazine called DRAG. The magazine included a variety of articles and resources, including but not limited to: articles on LGBTQ+ history, news, obituaries, editorials, calls for action and personal ads.
Brewster passed away from cancer in 2000 at the age of 57. In his obituary for the New York Times, his friend and coworker, Antoinette Scapinato reflected that "for want of a better phrase, Brewster was really the mother to us all."
Photo from the West Virginia and Regional History Center.
Writing Excerpt from the Lee Greer Brewster exhibit at the WVU Downtown Campus Library.