Gladys Bently

Homosexuality was clearly part of this world. \”There\’s two things got me puzzled, there\’s two things I don\’t understand,\” moaned blues great Bessie Smith, \”that\’s a mannish-acting woman and a lisping, swishing, womanish-acting man.\” In \”Sissy Blues,\” Ma Rainey complained of her husband\’s infidelity with a homosexual named \”Miss Kate.\” Lucille Bogan, in her \”B.D. Women Blues,\” warned that \”B.D. [bulldagger] women sure is rough; they drink up many a whiskey and they sure can strut their stuff.\” The \”sissies\” and \”bull daggers\” mentioned in the blues were ridiculed for their cross-gender behavior, but neither shunned nor hated. \”Boy in the Boat\” for example, recorded in 1930 by George Hanna, counseled \”When you see two women walking hand in hand, just shake your head and try to understand.\” In fact, the casualness toward sexuality, so common in the blues, sometimes extended to homosexual behavior. In \”Sissy Man Blues,\” a traditional tune recorded by nurnerous male blues singers over the years, the singer demanded \”if you can\’t bring me a woman, bring me a sissy man.\” George Hanna\’s \”Freakish Blues,\” recorded in 1931, is even more explicit about potential sexual fludity. The blues reflected a culture that accepted sexuality, including homosexual behavior and identities, as a natural part of life.

via Gladys Bently.

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