Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

1954 African-American Transwomen

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | March 06, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: African-American, gay history, Trans history, transwomen

In honor of Black History Month, I did research on some of the sexy pin-ups that appeared in 1950s magazines for African American audiences. Found several gems, including these fascinating scans. Source: 1954 Black History As Seen Through Magazines


Another after the jump.


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Chitown Kev | March 6, 2010 4:08 PM

Dr. Brame, this is fantastic!

And, of course, the fact that (presumably) white gays are in these photographs deepens a lot the context even more in ways that ARE relevant to contemporary issues.

Thank you for posting this.

Chitown Kev | March 6, 2010 4:13 PM

Oh, I do want to add a bit about the (apparently) white transwomen in these photos also...

Regan DuCasse | March 6, 2010 4:14 PM

I love this! And after a school teacher was lambasted for including RuPaul in a trio of infamous blacks for Black History Month. I think the teachers have said that it was mockery they were going for by having OJ Simpson and Dennis Rodman in the mix.

But RuPaul IS someone to be applauded and included in the celebration of black lives and accomplishment. First and foremost for essentially succeeding in becoming a hit making recording artist AND model for a major make up company and eyeglass designer. Drag performing is not only high art, but an ancient tradition among performing artists.
Thanks so much Dr. Brame!

And now with the series, RuPaul's Drag Race, a whole other level of visibility is available to other drag performers.

So, to see these vintage photos is a surprise and an important matter of education. These brave folks were living in times that imperiled their freedom, let alone their lives.

I won't forget when another spectacular drag performer was beaten to within an inch of his life (Kevin Aviance), reminding me that the commitment to that art of female illusion is an act of courage unto itself.

A. J. Lopp | March 6, 2010 10:55 PM

Hooray for RuPaul! She's gone so far beyond just wantin' t'get paid!

A. J. Lopp | March 6, 2010 11:01 PM

Hooray for RuPaul! ... 'Nuf sed.

Chitown Kev:

Just curious, why do you assume they're "gays" and not trans women?

These documents are so important since there has long been attempts at erasing/ignoring African-American and Latina trans women from the historical record. These are the populations which have the highest rate of violence and oppression.

Chitown Kev | March 7, 2010 1:06 PM

Gina, I was speaking of the white men in the suits in the photograph, not of the black (and one white...maybe) transwomen.

Wonderful. I love it when documentation belies what some people consider history.

Sarasnavel | March 6, 2010 8:47 PM

As mentioned in "How Sex Changed", Delisa Nelson was sensationalized as the first African American Sex Change in the mid-1960's tabloids, note the story titles in the references.

(the following is from: )

Delisa Newton (born 1934) is an American nurse and jazz vocalist in the American press, most notably in a 1966 issue of Sepia[1]. Born in New Orleans, her mother was of Haitian descent, and her Baptist minister father left when she was three. In a series of tabloid articles in the mid-1960s, Newton described her transition and life, [2] as well as her personal views. [3]

1. ^ Newton D (1966). From Man to Woman. Sepia
2. ^ Newton D (June 20, 1965). My lover beat me. National Insider, p. 4-5.
3. ^ Newton D (July 18, 1965). Why I could never marry a white man! National Insider, p. 17.

Gloria Brame | March 6, 2010 8:55 PM

Kev (and others), I'm so pleased you like. I hope you know I never ever intended any kind of slight or hurt by my first post. *HUG* This and the other were done at the same time, and both are in my album:

Regan, couldn't agree more. Making the real history more visible is IMO our best weapon against today's prudes. The resource link (in the piece above) is DEFINITELY worth visiting for more wondrous images and articles.

Gina, would looove to find more Latina photos/memorabilia. And Asian and other non-white Americans too. Know any good sources?


A. J. Lopp | March 6, 2010 11:09 PM

Circa mid-1950's, this is a continuation of a long tradition ... Langston Hughes writes in his memoir The Big Sea about attending drag balls with both white and black participants in Harlem during the 1920's. Unfortunately, he didn't include any photos.

These are great!

But But But... we've always been told that this is a White Thing, and that Trans are newcomers riding on gay coat-tails...

Must be photoshopped, or it would mean someone's been whitewashing history...

we've always been told that this is a White Thing, and that Trans are newcomers riding on gay coat-tails...

Those are the same people who are too stupid to even realize who rioted at Stonewall, Zoe. If they can't remember that far back, how can we expect them to pull their heads out of their asses and go all the way back to the mid-50s? *sighs*

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | March 7, 2010 7:48 AM

But Bil, in the midst of "The Army McCarthy Hearings," The Berlin airlift, J Edgar Hoover discovering that there *IS* a Mafia in America, the "missle gap" with the Russians and the truth that there were no Black people on televison other than "Amos & Andy" or fine actors portraying servants...These brave people, with no support (even largely from within the queer community of the day) STILL HAD A BALL.(!!!!)

364 days a year they may have suffered, but at least one damn night a year their dreams were their own. I was a party escort to a half dozen "drag queens" of the 1970's two of which have transitioned today. I was proud to be their escort and I would be again. Infinitely gutsier than the closeted majority of those years.

Tough people?, don't even think about it.