You know when your (probably) white, male, straight, and cis friend asks you ‘if you could time travel to any time period, where would you go?’ Then proceed to refuse to accept answers such as ‘no where. The present is the best time to be me believe it or not’ or ‘the future’ – if you are a black wlw, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.
Next time this nuisance appears answer: Harlem, 1920s.
- The black lesbian subculture thrived in Harlem and was very influential. For instance, it has been inferred that the “butche/femme” patterns were first found in Harlem and thereafter became an identifiable image in other wlw subcultures.
- Harlem was by no means a homophobia-free zone in the 1920s. Nevertheless, the tolerance was sufficient enough for black lesbians to socialize openly in their own communities, which white lesbians generally couldn’t do. This specific time period and place would probably maximise your personal safety AND dating life.
- The black lesbians even shared dance floors, bars, and nightclubs with the heterosexuals. If this fact seems familiar to you, it may be because you’ve read of them in novels such as Home to Harlem, Strange Brother, The Big Money, and Nigger Heaven – the nightclubs they featured all had counterparts in reality.
- You’ll for once get to outnumber the straights! heterosexuals sometimes quit clubs when they perceived that the gays were taking over.
- Once you find your vintage girlfriend and decide that you want to spend the rest of your life with her, you can marry her! Don’t feel pressured to keep it a secret – invite all your friends and family. Large butch/femme lesbian weddings were of the ordinary. Just make sure you you masculinize one of your first names to receive your wedding license. These licenses were placed on file in the New York City Marriage Bureau and were often common knowledge among Harlem heterosexuals.
- If you are bisexual you may even be treated better by the then ‘LGBTQ community’ than you are today thanks to A’Lelia Walker. Daughter to the first self made female African-American millionaire and a businesswoman, Walker is believed to have been bisexual. Her contemporaries observed that “all the women were crazy about her.” some even believed that the various men she married were merely her beards. Nevertheless, historian Lillian Faderman believes that she had much to do with the “manifest acceptance of bisexuality among the upper classes in Harlem: those who had moral reservations about bisexuality or considered it strange or decadent learnt to pretend a sophistication and suppress their disapproval if they desired Al’Lelia’s goodwill.”
I know that if I can go back I’ll make sure I also get my hair done at one of A’Lelia’s salons. If they are good enough got European princesses, Russian grand dukes, and world-renowned intellectuals, they are certainly good enough for me.
Source: Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers by Lillian Faderman