Monday, August 18, 2014

Musing About These Austin Gender Variant Photos

I've talked about the point more than a few times that Black gender variant people are an intertwined part of the African-American community and not something that just popped up out of thin air in the late 20th-early 21st century . 

Thanks to Max Reddick, I have some more proof of that and some interesting photos to peruse.

The cool part is that these photos were taken at a club in the Lone Star State.

Max sent me a link to a story in the Arts Labor Austin blog by Michael Corcoran dated February 7, 2014.    In it Corcoran discusses finding some photos dated October 7, 1955 while searching for another legendary Austin establishment called Charlie's Playhouse.  

The photos weren't of Charlie's, but possibly of the IL Club which was on East 11th Street    The east side of Austin was predominately African-American at the time but due to gentrification of those historic neighborhoods and the rising cost of living, Austin's African-American population is falling. 

It's interesting to note these photos are of drag artists of that time period performing at a blues club.

Not a big surprise to me, knowing that the Halloween Finnie's Ball in Chicago and elaborate drag balls in New York's Rockland Palace dating back to the Harlem Renaissance were quite popular and drew large crowds during that period.  

The winner of Finnie's Ball was covered in Jet magazine from the 50's through the late 60's-early 70's.  
And just across the Sabine River, New Orleans has had a longtime gender bending reputation and Mardi Gras events that lent themselves to celebrating gender variance .

As I look at these photos I'm curious about the lives of the people in them.  How old were they at the time these photos were taken?  Did they continue to live in the Austin area or move on to cities with larger gender variant populations?

Did their gender variance cross over into transgender territory? 

To see more photographic evidence of gender variant people prior to my arrival on the planet is exciting to me and drives me to want to learn more about this Austin scene and the snapshots taken on this October 7, 1955 night.   It's even more exciting to note that it's in my home state, and these folks share my ethnic background..

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