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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Bringing Lavender Blues to Aggieland

Author%2C+performer+and+LGBT+activist+Sarah+Kilborne+performed+Lavender+Blues+Thursday+night.
Photo by Photos by Dalia Muayad

Author, performer and LGBT activist Sarah Kilborne performed “Lavender Blues” Thursday night.

While the world was distracted with the prohibition era, a pioneering community of LGBT blues singers merged on the home front.
On Oct. 19 Texas A&M hosted Sarah Kilborne in Rudder Theater performing her show “The Lavender Blues: A Showcase of Queer Music Before World War II”.The show focused on telling the story of the LGBT community and their influence on the blues music world before the first World War. Kilborne sang and danced while her partner Axel Belohoubek accompanied her on the piano. She shared the history of the first male/female impersonators, and shared the stories of how they rose to fame.
Kilborne stated in the showcase that Annie Hindle was the first male impersonator and despite the fact that it was illegal to cross-dress in the 1800s, Hindle quickly became a hit. She also mentioned other LGBT influences such as Julian Eltinge who was female impersonator and creator of his own magazine for women.
Kilborne talked about Gladys Bentley, drag balls and performers like Bessie Smith who influenced people like Billy Holiday and Janis Joplin. She would discuss their history and then sang a song that the artist had either written or performed.
Mark Britton, lab manager for the Cognitive and Cognitive Neuroscience program in the Psychology and Brain Sciences department at A&M, said he was excited to see the turnout of people at the showcase.
“I was impressed to see how many gender-conforming and heterosexual couples here tonight as I did see.” Britton said. “Even as an LGBT person I wasn’t aware of any of these songs. I feel like a lot of history of my people and my cultural group is selectively not taught, you really have to go out of your way to look for it…I went [to the show] partially to connect with part of my cultural heritage that, especially moving from a very gay little college town in Massachusetts down to Texas. So it was heartening to see it here tonight.”
Jabyn Cleere, Blinn Team junior, said she was surprised to learn about the history of queer music and how so much of that information had been left out in talking about the cultural aspect of the pre-World War II era. She said she felt like the show could be enlightening for the students at A&M.
“I think it would just open their eyes I didn’t know much about it and listening to everything she told us about during like WWll and WWI and for that it gives you a different perspective instead of just like textbook this is what happened during the World War, this is what the other side of it was like.”
Kilborne made a video about marriage equality based off of the 1924 song called “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby!” and it received so much praise that she was inspired to make more and that’s where her inspiration for this show came from.
“I’m naturally drawn to music of the 1920s and 1930s and so I dove back in to research more music,” Kilborne said. “Pretty quickly I realized I didn’t need to adapt anything, the music was already there. And I was just stunned by how relevant the music felt to me. You know it’s addressing issues like masculinity and femininity, homosexuality and cross-dressing, and so many things that we today are deeply engrossed in on a national discussion and we are having these debates and conversations about these subjects and we were having them a 100 years ago.”
Kilborne discussed how she had wished that she had known about the music before and how it could have made a real difference in her life.
“That could have made a real difference for me, to hear my story being sung by these amazing women and men: to hear myself, my story in a song, that can make a real impact on people,” Kilborne said.
Kilborne said it is her goal to use this show as a way to encourage and inspire other members of the LGBT community, and to show the history of these talented individuals.
“I want them to know that they are a part of the continuum of history and that their story matters,” Kilborne said. “That they are not alone, people have been in their place for generations and have experienced so much of what they’re going through and there are pioneers in the past that have a great deal to tell us and share with us.”

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  • Taking place in Rudder Theatre, the night featured performances of queer music found pre-WWII.

    Photo by Photos by Dalia Muayad
  • Sarah Kilborne graduated from Yale University with a degree in philosophy. Additional she is the founder of Kiss for Equality campaign.

    Photo by Photo by Dalia Muayad
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