We return with part two of What a Drag; A History of Ballroom Culture & Modern Drag. We left off at the end of the 1950’s just as a new era was dawning in the queer community. The Lavender Scare was finally starting to fade as America’s understanding around sexual orientation was VERY slowly evolving. Organizations such as The Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis had stepped away from being secret societies to standing up as open gay and lesbian organizations. The public transition of former war vet Christine Jorgenson had swept the country igniting a long debate around gender identity and gay rights. And on top of these events, the racial tensions of the era and daily feminist uprisings were preparing to explode into the revolution of the 1960s. As if waiting for an introduction, a small protest sparked the first fires of change.
“Strangest and gaudiest of all Harlem spectacles in the ’20s, and still the strangest and gaudiest, is the annual Hamilton Club Lodge Ball at Rockland Palace Casino. I once attended as a guest of A’Lelia Walker. It is the ball where men dress as women and women dress as men… it was fashionable for the intelligentsia and social leaders of both Harlem and the downtown area to occupy boxes at this ball and look down from above at the queerly assorted throng on the dancing floor, males in flowing gowns and feathered headdresses and females in tuxedoes and box-back suits.”