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Gladys Bentley
(12 August 1907 - 18 January 1960) U.S.A.

Gladys Bentley

Entertainer

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Flamboyant singer Gladys was once described as the person the term "cross dressing" was invented for, who often entertained dressed in a tuxedo and top hat, and who married her white lesbian lover in a ceremony.

Bently left Pennsylvania at 16 to take part in the Harlem Renaissance and come out as a "bulldager." At around 250 pounds, she was larger than life. Bently played at rent parties, nightclubs and speakeasies around Harlem and became famous for her risque parodies of show tunes. She made no effort to hide her sexuality.

Gladys Bentley built her singing career billed as a black, lesbian, cross-dressing wonder in the 1920s and 1930s. During the Prohibition era, Bentley's performances at Harlem's gay speakeasies - usually backed by a chorus line of drag queens, with Bentley donning her trademark white coat and tails - were infamous.

An open lesbian for most of her life and throughout her career, Bentley claimed to have been "cured" of her homosexuality as the McCarthy era began; she married a man (though he later would deny the marriage ever officially took place), studied to be a minister, and wrote an essay for Ebony magazine called "I Am a Woman Again". Gladys Bentley died of pneumonia in 1960; she was fifty-two.

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Source: http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/

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