February 28, 2024 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

(Video) Pro-Palestine Protest at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel

February 28, 2024

February 28, 2024

Protesters were there to protest the arrival of U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi Counter-protesters drove by in a car. @centurycitywestwoodnews Pro-Palestine...

West Hollywood Authorities Seek Public’s Help to Identify Suspect in Assault with Deadly Weapon

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Second Suspect in Assault on Security Ambassador on Santa Monica Boulevard Still at Large Detectives from the Los Angeles County...

Hollywood Royalty to Shine at 96th Oscars: First Wave of Star-Studded Presenter Lineup Unveiled

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Incredible Lineup of Actors and Previous Oscar Winners Announced Executive producer and showrunner Raj Kapoor, along with executive producers Molly...

Vote Smart, Vote Early: Streamlining Your 2024 Presidential Primary Experience in L.A. County

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

Skip the Lines and Save Time – Your Guide to Early Voting Options  In preparation for the upcoming 2024 Presidential...

(Video) Heartfelt candlelight vigils in Westchester and West Hollywood for Nex Benedict

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

The non-binary 16 year old student with Choctaw ancestry died in Owasso, Oklahoma after being beaten by three older high...

Sweet Lady Jane Sparks Hope of Return – Popular Bakery Hints at Reopening Across LA

February 27, 2024

February 27, 2024

After Abrupt Closures, Beloved Bakery Hints at a Comeback, Leaving Fans Intrigued  Sweet Lady Jane, a Los Angeles cake bakery...

30th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards Recognize Outstanding Performances in 2023

February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024

SAG Awards Celebrate Excellence in Motion Pictures and Television The prestigious Screen Actors Guild Awards® celebrated the excellence in motion...

Waymo’s LA Expansion Hits Roadblock: CPUC Temporarily Halts Self-Driving Company’s Plans

February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024

California Public Utilities Commission suspends Waymo’s service expansion for 120 days. California’s Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has put a temporary...

Real Estate Giant Funds LAPD Union Fund to Sway L.A. City Council Election in March

February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024

Santa Monica Company Responsible for LA’s Largest Mass Eviction Gives $400,000 Santa Monica-based Real estate investment trust company Douglas Emmett...

Blockbuster Horror Director James Wan Lists Chic Retreat Above West Hollywood

February 26, 2024

February 26, 2024

Filmmaker Puts His Midcentury Modern Estate on the Market for $4.7 Million Director James Wan, famous for his horror franchises...

39th Independent Spirit Awards Celebrates Independent Cinema in Santa Monica

February 25, 2024

February 25, 2024

Santa Monica Pier Hosts Annual Awards Ceremony Amid Pro-Palestinian Protest The 39th Independent Spirit Awards ceremony, another precursor to the...

U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Consider Landlords’ Challenge to Rent-Control Laws

February 25, 2024

February 25, 2024

New York Landlords’ Bid to Challenge Rent-Control Laws Fails The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a significant property rights...

Silence Surrounding Tragic Death of Nex Benedict Sparks Outrage, While Local Authorities React Belatedly

February 23, 2024

February 23, 2024

International Attention Forces Authorities to Address Non-binary Student’s Death The disturbing death of 16-year-old non-binary student Nex Benedict in Owasso,...

(Video) Baltaire’s DJ Brunch is Ready to Make Your Weekend Fabulous

February 23, 2024

February 23, 2024

Baltaire is America’s Favorite Neighborhood Steakhouse. A Contemporary Restaurant in Brentwood With Classic Genes, Baltaire Is Where to Enjoy Brunch...

Los Angeles Mayor Joins President Biden to Announce $1.2B Student Loan Relief

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

President Biden in a Groundbreaking Move to Alleviate Student Debt Burdens. On February 21, Mayor Karen Bass of Los Angeles...