Hawaii’s ‘Glades era’ was glamorous. But it was also the darkest time for LGBTQ+ performers
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii’s modern day laws are fairly progressive in protecting LGTBQ rights.
But there was a dark time in the islands’ history when that wasn’t always the case. That chapter was known as the Glades Era, when drag performers could not walk the streets without fear of being beaten and arrested.
Jerrine Madayag, who entered the drag scene in the late 70s, remembers The Glade Show Lounge as a safe haven.
“Glades was a time of glitz and glamor. That’s basically what it was,” Madayag said.
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“The club’s energy was just so ... it was vibrant. I walked in that club when I was 17 years old. The energy, it was like we were in our own little world in that point because when we went outside of the club, it was different.
Inside the club, Hawaii’s premiere “female impersonators” took the stage in multiple shows a week.
“It’s this huge, huge stage, two stories,” Madayag recalled.
It was the epitome of glamor and fantasy. But outside, the performers were walking targets.
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“Sometimes the police were doing the harassing,” said Connie Florez, a filmmaker in the midst of a nearly 20-year project putting together a documentary on the Glades Era.
“The girls talked about that, how they would get hit on the back of the legs, back of the head with a bully sticks.”
She added: “I have old pictures of signage ... that say ‘no mahus’ allowed in this restaurant, ‘no mahus’ allowed in the pool hall. Remember, this is the time period of civil rights — and yet we have this going on right here in Hawaii within our own indigenous culture of mahus.”
Drag performers faced jail time and hefty fines under Hawaii’s Intent to Deceive Law of 1963.
They were forced to wear a button labeling themselves as a boy and authorities even tried to contain them within specific blocks of Chinatown.
“For mahus, it was like ― you don’t have job security. There’s so much discrimination, you can’t even get an apartment. So a lot of homeless, a lot of prostitution,” Florez said. “It can happen again and history repeats itself and if we don’t teach our generations today what was it will repeat itself again.”
Off-stage, performers were viewed as outcasts of society ― relegated to life on the streets and violent attacks.
“I would say at least three times I was out there, and one of my real good close girlfriends was hit so bad she ended up bleeding, in the hospital with a broken jaw. It was bad,” Madayag said.
The Intent to Deceive law was repealed in 1972. The buttons from that era are now a symbol of past oppression.
“It’s crazy the things we had to avoid, run away from back then,” Madayag said. “We’ve come a long, long, long, long, long way, but we still have a long, long ways to go.”
Florez’s documentary is now in the home stretch of production.
She’s aiming to not only have it air on TV and streaming platforms, but she also wants to integrate it into the education system at universities.
“We have a lot to learn from this mahu community and its important,” Florez said.
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