April 11, 2021 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

Lil Nas X “Satan Shoes” Controversy

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

Since releasing his controversially queer-positive music video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” gay singer/rapper Lil Nas X has had...

West Hollywood Celebrates National Poetry Month

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

The City of West Hollywood will celebrate National Poetry Month in April with a variety of events and exhibitions honoring...

L.A. Stage Alliance To Cease Operations After Several Companies Exit

April 9, 2021

April 9, 2021

The Los Angeles Stage Alliance (LASA) announced that it would “cease all operations” following the departure of more than 25...

Gender Neutral Potato Head- E.P.I.C Pride Show, April 7th, 2021

April 6, 2021

April 6, 2021

E.P.I.C Pride, Highlighting the latest LGBTQ news in Entertainment, Politics, International affairs, and Culture.  – Gender Neutral Potato Head  –...

James Charles Admits Messaging 16 Year Old Boys

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

YouTube star, makeup artist and Los Angeles resident James Charles issued an apology video entitled “Holding Myself Accountable” admitting to...

Tina Turner Documentary Breaks Records

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

Singer, song writer and gay icon Tina Turner released a documentary on HBO Max as a farewell to her fans...

Trans Los Angeles A Film Full Of Queer Latinx Talent

April 4, 2021

April 4, 2021

Trans Los Angeles is an anthology composed of four short films directed and written by transgender director Kase Peña. Each...

Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower Gets Facelift

April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

The Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard tower gets a fresh coat of paint and a bit of a facelift just in...

Trans Visibility Day Proclamation From President Biden

April 1, 2021

April 1, 2021

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of Trans Visibility Day and the first time a sitting president has ever made a...

Pride Poets’ Corner: Double Dutch Nymph By Féi Hernandez

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

The Pride LA and West Hollywood Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace would like to introduce Féi Hernandez featuring their latest work...

Los Angeles Becomes First No-Kill City For Animal Shelters

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

The City of Los Angeles has become a no-kill city for animal shelters for the first time, thanks to the...

Bisexual Men Have Higher Chance Of Developing Eating Disorders

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

March is Bisexual Health Awareness Month and according to a study done by the University of California San Francisco bisexual...

First Gay Teen Captain America Revealed By Marvel

March 28, 2021

March 28, 2021

Marvel Comics has revealed the first look at a new Captain America who happens to be a gay teen.  The...

Long Beach Rainbow Lifeguard Tower Burned Down

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

Long Beach’s rainbow lifeguard tower, painted by lifeguards in June in honor of Pride month, was destroyed in a fire...

Candlelit Vigil Held For Rayanna Pardo

March 25, 2021

March 25, 2021

A candlelit vigil was held on March 20th for Rayanna Pardo, a trans woman of color who died three days...