BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls by SD Holman

Although it’s never really left completely, butch identity is making a glorious comeback. Mia Jagpal and Telus Storyhive presents this documentary video about SD Holman and the making of her groundbreaking, gorgeous, photographic book, BUTCH: Not Like the Other Girls.

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Gladys Bentley, Butch Harlem Renaissance Blues Singer

bentley in suitGladys Bentley AKA Bobbie Bentley, 1907 – 1960, USA. (Biography from the Butch Lesbians Coloring Book series)
Gladys Bentley was a renowned blues singer during the 1920s and 30s, a pianist and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance. Gladys played piano in gay male speakeasies, often sang about sissies and bulldaggers, and was a notorious flirt with the women in the audience. Resplendent in her signature white tuxedo and top hat given to her by the writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten, James Wilson writes that she was “Differing from the traditional male impersonator, or drag king, in the popular theater, Gladys Bentley did not try to ‘pass’ as a man, nor did she playfully try to deceive her audience into believing she was biologically male. Instead, she exerted a ‘black female masculinity’ that troubled the distinctions between black and white and masculine and feminine”. The Afro American (1936) described her stage act this way: “Prancing about in her cream-colored full-dress suit, her hair closely chopped and slicked down into a pompadour, Miss Bentley (whom many mistake for a man) delivers her prize number ‘Nothing Now Perplexes Like the Sexes, Because When You See Them Switch, You Can’t Tell Which is Which.’ In 1931, she scandalously married her white girlfriend in a civil ceremony in New Jersey. After the Great Depression, the social climate changed. By the time she had moved to LA in 1937 to watch over her mother, she was required to get special permits to dress in men’s clothing. Bentley told Ebony Magazine back in the ‘50s. “It seems I was born different. At least, I always thought so…From the time I can remember anything, even as I was toddling, I never wanted a man to touch me. Soon, I began to feel more comfortable in boys’ clothes than in dresses.” The U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities investigated Bentley as a subversive because of her marriage to a white woman. Under pressure from the conservative McCarthy movement, Gladys started wearing dresses, was possibly forced to take estrogen, and eventually, somewhat unconvincingly, renounced her lesbianism.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY
Aquino, Eloisa. Gladys Bentley: Life and Times of Butch Dykes. Montréal: B & D Press. 2010.
Doyle, JD. “Gladys Bentley”. Queer Music Heritage. http://www.queermusicheritage.com/bentley1.html.
Wilson, James F. Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 2011.

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Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein Throw a Holiday Potluck

We did it; we submitted our little short to the Frameline Film Festival! Hopefully, you’ll see the gang on the big screen this summer during Pride week.

We got to thinking, what if Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein threw a holiday potluck, inviting a dreamy guest list of dykes from the 20s and 30s (plus a guest appearance by a snoozing Ernest Hemingway)? Presenting…. The Butch Lesbians of the 20s, 30, and 40s Christmas Special featuring butchly butches from the Butch Lesbians of the 20s 30s and 40s Coloring Book

The other editor of the butch coloring book, Jon Macy, came up with the idea of a three-minute holiday video from our favorite butches, and I bossily decided that it needed to be a potluck, because I love to cook and I love to eat. We drew up our potluck guest-list, I wrote the script, and it snowballed into an eight-minute party,

BEHIND THE SCENES

We needed torsos of our guests for the party to look visually cohesive, and wanted to include several femmes, so the drawings of our fearless lesbians are taken from actual photographs of them, not from the coloring book. The parlour set in the background is Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein’s actual living room at 27 rue de Fleurus in the 6th arrondissement of Paris on the Left Bank of Paris. The large country home in the beginning is their rented country home in Bilignin, Ain, in the Rhône-Alpes region of France.

Stein-Gertrude Continue reading

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Butch Lesbians of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s Coloring Book Sneak Peek!

lotte

Here is a sneak peek of a page from the upcoming book, Butch Lesbians of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s Coloring Book!

Lotte Hahm, 1890 – 1967, Germany. Drawn by Avery Cassell
Lotte Hahm was queer before queer existed. She owned and ran the Damenclub Violetta, a women’s only club in Berlin, Germany with over 400 members, that was hugely popular in the 1930s. She hosted such shindigs as “Calling-Card Ladies’ Ball” (Damenball mit Saalpost), “Dance Roulette” (Roulette-Tanz), steamboat trips, and fashion shows for butches and transvestites. Damenclub Violetta had regular butch nights, “A special feature of this club is the group of transvestites, the women who prefer to dress in men’s clothes. We organize so-called ‘transvestite evenings’ here programmatically.” The demarcation between butch and transvestite identities in Berlin in the 1930s is unclear by today’s definitions. Marti Lybeck in Desiring Emancipation: New Women and Homosexuality in Germany, 1890–1933 identifies Lotte’s playful, erotic female masculinity as a forbearer of today’s gender fluid queer identity, and details the rivalry and backstabbing between the more conventional, hegemonic lesbian movement in Germany and Lotte’s sexy, rambunctious, gender diverse activism. Lotte identified as a butch and as a transvestite, and in 1929 founded a mixed gender transvestite social group called d’Eon. Lotte was not only Damenclub Violetta’s flamboyant, accordion playing, tuxedo-clad butch owner, but she was also a prominent gay rights activist. In 1933, she was imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis after being charged for being in possession of communist propaganda material and seduction of a minor by her friend’s grandfather. The material that was forbidden by the Nazis was the lesbian magazine “Die Freundin” (The female-friend.) She was released from Moringen Concentration Camp in 1938, opened another nightclub in 1945, and continued in her efforts to promote gay rights and human rights until her death at age 81 in 1967.
Desiring Emancipation: New Women and Homosexuality in Germany, 1890–1933, Marti M. Lybeck
Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880 1945, Clayton J. Whisnant, and Virile (2016)
Vamps and Wild Violets. Sexuality, Desire and Eroticism in the Magazines of Homosexual Women in 1920s Berlin, Heike Schader (2004)

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The LGBT Resistance Fighters of WWI and II Coloring Book – Coming Soon!

Resistance Cover v1.2

The LGBT Resistance Fighters of WWI and II Coloring Book is my newest project. Once the printer has the Butch Lesbians of the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s Coloring Book, I’ll start in on this one. From Stacked Deck Press and the creators of Butch Lesbians of the 20s 30s and 40s Coloring Book, comes LGBT Resistance Fighters of WWI and II Coloring Book (edited by Avery Cassell, Diane Kanzler, and Jon Macy) Publication date will be before the midterm elections.

It was a world of dictatorial power, and the forcible suppression of opposition. Underground resistance and anti-fascist struggles drew unsung heroes from ordinary bisexuals, transsexuals*, gays, and lesbians in the rise of a powerful state. They were our queer anti-fascists bravely fighting to end authoritarian regimes.

The cover resistor is musician, Wilhelm Heckmann. With illustrations by the talented Tara Madison Avery, Avery Cassell, Tyler Cohen, Swaz Jaffre, Diane Kanzler, Dorian Katz, Jon Macy, and Ajuan Mance. Biographies by Avery Garland Cassell.

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