Friday, February 13, 2009

Great Gay Loves: A Valentine's Week Celebration! Gladys Bentley's Same-Gender Marriage... in the 1920s!

If you're jonesing for some Friday the 13th silly spookiness, check out this first!

And if you're already grooving on tomorrow's celebration of Valentine's Day, read on...

Gladys Bentley Headlining during the Harlem Renaissance

How cool was this woman? She was 250 pounds of passion and raunchy musicality, who dressed as a man on and off stage and eventually ran her own club in Harlem. (She even sometimes performed as "Bobby Minton!")

In the early 1930s she starred at Harlem's' Ubangi Club, backed up by a stage-full (some reports say up to 250) men in drag!

She was an out lesbian, a Queer gender-non-conformist, who wowed audiences with her voice and talent, and had a string of glamorous girlfriends... She even told a gossip columnist at the time that she had taken her white female lover to New Jersey, where they had been married!

I love that Gladys was brave enough, and loved herself enough, to live her life as herself!

It's a great gift, that we should all love ourselves enough to be honest about who we are and who we love - and not just for Valentine's Day, but for every day.

So here's a shout out of love for Gladys Bentley, a hero of the Harlem Renaissance!

You can go here to listen (for free) to Gladys' recording of "Worried Blues!"

There's a great "Profile In Courage" on Gladys, in celebration of National Black History Month, here.

And more on her life, here, at

Sadly, later in her life, during the McCarthy Era witch hunts targeting Gay men and Lesbians, Gladys dressed in women's clothes once more and married a man, renouncing her previous "ways." But I like to think of the passionate trailblazer that she was in Harlem, and how brave she was then.

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