Monday, March 01, 2021

Glorious, Glamourous and Gritty: Our Enduring Queer Culture

Gladys Bentley

I think it's safe to say that we need more books written and more documentary films made about LGBTQ community luminaries. The question is who will be motivated and compensated to contribute to the historical record.

In recent years there have been some fine documentaries, such as David France's 2017, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.  A pioneer in the early LGBTQ rights movement, Johnson's death in 1992 was a shock. Was her death an accident, murder or suicide? With queer media in its infancy at the time, her death barely registered a blip with national mainstream news outlets. 

I would love to see a book and/or documentary about jazz performer, Gladys Bentley, who I have previously posted about. Bentley was a rarity in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920's - she was openly lesbian and an early drag king. She tried to get to Broadway but her raunchy performances caused a ruffle with the law and some were shut down. Sadly, later in her life, it seems Bentley was subjected to a form of conversion therapy as a means to 'get straight'.

Thankfully, in the 21st century, our somewhat more robust LGBTQ media presence has provided a platform to discover and champion these nearly forgotten figures from our gay past.

Who would you like to see have their life and career documented?

Gladys Bentley perform on "You Bet Your Life" in May of 1958 with host, Groucho Marx.

Thank-you for reading Stonewall Gazette.
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