At Pink Mercury, we are hella queer and pro womxn! When Black History month comes around we don’t talk too much about the queers and gender variant folx that lived important legacies. I had so much fun researching and learning about these figures. They lived very bold lives before fame because they are BOLD. They exemplify what being rooted in love and justice in your path is all about. They faced much adversity and they are inspirational for how they chose/choose to walk in their integrity.
Gladys Bentley, African-American x Bajan American performer from Philadelphia. Gladys grew up knowing she was different. She would try on her brother’s blazers and suits when she was a child. Later should would bring wearing suits to her acts as a featured Cotton Club performer during the Harlem Renaissance.
She was known for her unapologetic lady-loving and her shows, backed by cross-dressing male dancers. She is believed to be one of the first genderfluid performers to gain popularity in the U.S. Her entertainment style was highly acclaimed due to her powerful presence and unique singing abilities.
Should would later be forced to go back into the closet in the 1950’s, an era that did not tolerate such sexual liberalism. She claimed to had married a white woman, something else that was quite taboo (interracial marriage).
Since stonewall, 40 years & counting, she is a figure for abolition and black liberation. Hailing from the south side of Chicago, Miss Major is a a transgender elder and activist with a special space in her heart for trans girls and women of color. Miss Major is a veteran of the stonewall uprising and survivor of Attica prison. She is one of the reasons why we don’t forget the names of the trans women and black x brown queers who were on the frontline during Stonewall. Major doesn’t give a damn about pronouns used for her because she accepts them all within her being. She is a mother and community momma. Her activism spans police brutality, incarceration of trans people, housing, employment, and advocacy for essential services for her children. Til today she is an icon for equity and rights for transpeople of color and gender non-conforming individuals.
Strong, androgynous, and strapped 🔫
50 years later and we are just starting to learn the real history of Stonewall?!! Have you heard of Stormé DeLarverie?! Stormy is a biracial bad ass from New Orleans. According to eye witnesses, it was Stormé’s fight with the police that sparked the Stonewall Uprising.
Stormé was known as the guardian of lesbians in Greenwich village. During her life she worked mostly as security, a singer, volunteer street patrol, and MC. Stormy hosted at both the Apollo Theater and Radio City Music Hall.
She is remembered as a civil rights icon.
"Harlem Renaissance Lesbian Femme Baddy"
Hailing from Baltimore, the formerly known as "Sweet Mama Stringbean", Ethel Waters was a fixture on the southern vaudeville circuit. Her big break came in Philadelphia while working as a maid. She later became known during the Harlem Renaissance for performing at the Cotton Club and performing with her then lover, Ethel Williams. She was one of the few queer Harlem Renaissance acts to make it mainstream.
Many say that she came from the darkness. Her mother was a young rape survivor, and learned how to hustle and provide for her own needs. She was neglected by all the adults that were designated to look after her. She experienced life behind her years. She married by the age of thirteen to an abusive man. Upon leaving him she became a maid in a hotel. Her friends convinced her to sing to a crowd on her 17th birthday, kickstarting her career.
She was the first of her caliber. She was the first black woman to integrate Broadway and the first black person to star on their own TV show.
View my Black Queer Hxrstory video playlist with archived performances and figure resources. If you are into documentaries and commentators, I got you! There are some audio only videos for listening.
For more Black Queer Hxrstory reading: