If This Be Sin: Gladys Bentley And The Performance Of Identity

by Moira Mahoney Church


Known for her improvisational risqué lyrics and tailored white tuxedo, Gladys Bentley was one of the most notorious figures of the 1930s. Situated in the pansy and lesbian craze of the 1920s and 30s, Bentley’s career was part of a broader trend that favored gender-queer performers due to their exotic appeal. Despite being more transgressive than most, Bentley has ultimately faded from society’s collective memory.

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