September 27, 2020 The Newspaper Serving LGBT Los Angeles

A War on Cross-Dressing: Los Angeles’ Anti-Masquerading Ordinance of 1889 Targeted the Growing Queer Population of Los Angeles

A little over a hundred years after the City of Los Angeles was founded, the Anti-Masquerading Ordinance of 1889 was enacted to intimidate and discriminate against the growing queer sub-culture. It wasn’t until the mid-1900s that arrests for crossdressing were very common across the nation.

At the turn of the century, the connection between theatrical impersonation and sexual behavior had not yet been made by American audiences. So, the anti-masquerading ordinance was not enforced against entertainers for the first few decades.  For example, the amazing and mysterious female impersonator Julian Eltinge began performing in female attire as a child and first appeared on Broadway in 1904. Eltinge performed throughout Europe and the U.S. on vaudeville circuits throughout the early 1900s. In 1917, he moved to Los Angeles to act in motion pictures and built a house for himself in Silver Lake. As aggressions toward the LGBTQ+ community ramped up. Eltinge maintained an exceptionally masculine profile offstage to combat rumors about his sexual orientation.

Rae Bourbon leaving the Beverly Hills Muncipal Court on Aug. 1, 1956 after arraignment for impersonating a woman. Bourbon denied the impersonation charges and showed the judge a certificate documenting his sex change.

In the 1930s and ‘40s, celebrity female impersonator Rae (Ray) Bourbon headlined various L.A. venues. However, despite his celebrity status, Bourbon was not exempt from the Masquerading law. At his Beverly Hills Municipal Court on Aug. 1, 1956 after arraignment for impersonating a woman, Bourbon denied the impersonation charges and showed the judge a certificate documenting his sex change. While many feared the anti-masquerading law and other hid their homosexuality entirely, some Angelenos celebrated their identities at drag balls, bars and Pershing Square. However, the most effeminate drag styles we usually reserved for indoor venues.

Until the 1960s, LAPD aggressively applied the masquerading ordinance to intimidate and discriminate against queer people. Arrests for crossdressing were common across the nation through the mid-1900s. The City‘s anti-masquerading ordinance was fortified by state laws that further criminalized homosexuality. Enacted in 1915, California State Penal Code 288a made oral sex a felony. Sodomy had been a felony in California since 1850. 

Nathan Hahn was arrested in 1940 for wearing female clothing and refused to wear the male clothing presented to him by detective Holt.
Related Posts

Local L.A. Woman Appearing On Wheel Of Fortune

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

Local Los Angeles woman, Julie Reyes, will be a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in...

“The Mismatch Game” Hosted By Dennis Hensley Is Going To Zoom

September 23, 2020

September 23, 2020

With COVID restrictions affecting several businesses and theater spaces throughout the Los Angeles area many have had to make adjustments. ...

National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network

September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

The National LGBTQ Anti-Poverty Action Network (the Network) launched a new campaign that urges presidential candidates to address issues of...

Helen Albert Farmers’ Market To Reopen

September 20, 2020

September 20, 2020

The City of West Hollywood will reopen the Helen Albert Certified Farmers’ Market at Plummer Park from 9 a.m. to...

Supreme Court Justice & LGBTQ Ally Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dead At 87

September 18, 2020

September 18, 2020

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has passed away on Sept. 18th at the age of 87, the court has...

Ross Victory Standing For Bisexuality

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Los Angeles singer-songwriter and author Ross Victory gives the reader a detailed vision of his life as a bisexual minority...

WeHo Cooling Center At Plummer Park

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

With temperatures expected to rise to more than 90 degrees over the next week, the City of West Hollywood will...

Golden Girls Puppet Parody

September 17, 2020

September 17, 2020

Jonathan Rockefeller, acclaimed American/Australian producer, director, and writer, has announced that 16 new, original episodes of That Golden Girl Show!...

Los Angeles CEO Jeffrey Previte Caught Beating Dog

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

Jeffrey Previte, the CEO of EBI Consulting an environmental consulting firm in Los Angeles, was captured on camera at the...

To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar 25th Anniversary

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

The cult classic “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar” hugely popular in the LGBTQ+ community celebrates its 25th...

Trans Women Will No Longer Be Incarcerated In Men’s Prisons In California

September 12, 2020

September 12, 2020

After passing the state legislature with a vote of  29 in favor and 10 against, Senate Bill 132 is headed...

Love In Action Telethon

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

Love In Action, a telethon to support the LGBTQ+ community during the COVID pandemic will be airing live on Sept.12th...

Rage Nightclub Permanently Closing

September 10, 2020

September 10, 2020

After 37 years Rage nightclub located at the northwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente in West Hollywood...

OUTFEST Announces “Taiwan Program”

September 6, 2020

September 6, 2020

The 2020 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival in partnership with the Ministry of Culture, Taiwan (R.O.C) and Taiwan Academy...

LGBTQ Center Long Beach Fires Executive Director Porter Gilberg

September 6, 2020

September 6, 2020

The Board of Directors of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach announced that it will not renew the employment contract of...