History of Gender Identity and Gender Expression in Central PA
Early Years: Impersonation
In post Civil War America, as interstate travel expanded due to railroad construction, much of the comedic routines of music
halls branched out into traveling groups or solo performers. Many of them female impersonators, who gained national and regional attention. One of the most famous being Julian Etlinge (1881 1941). From the start female impersonation was about entertainment, however over time it and the people doing it changed.
From the world of female impersonation, drag and cross dressing started to develop. One of the earliest references to the existence of widespread cross dressing among male groups in the United States dates from 1871; it describes restaurants in Philadelphia that were frequented by men dressed in women’s attire.
One of the better known performers was T.C. Jones (1920 1971), who performed with The Jewel Box Revue, on Broadway and solo tours, was born in Scranton, PA. Starting in the 1950s Jones performed comedic routines as a female across the nation. Countless
Newspaper cultural reviewers described him as the best female impersonator at the time. Another performer from Pennsylvania
who worked as a member of The Jewel Box Revue was Benedict A. “Wesley” Trautwein , using the stage name Francis Parker. After departing the Revue, he moved back to Harrisburg and continued preforming at local bars and clubs, such as The Neptune Lounge.
Increasingly, the female impersonator began to be associated with the queer community, although not all who included impersonation in their acts were part of the community. As female impersonation started to lose its popularity the focus of gender expression shifted to cross dressing and drag performance and these communities and individuals started to come together, especially after the early
years of the Gay Liberation Movement.
T.C. Jones is the greatest female impersonator I have seen and heard since Julian Etlinge . . ." LA Times
His mimicry is feminine rather than effeminate . . ." Daily Variety