This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Almost a thousand persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing - especially in the year-end summaries (see links in right sidebar.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc. In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There are also a search boxes at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

20 October 2014

Karine Espineira (1967 - ) activist, author.

Espineira was born in Santiago, Chile, with a Chilean father and a French mother. After the US-backed Pinochet coup in September 1973, they fled to France.

In 1987 Espineira was involved in a serious road accident and expected to die, and ended up needing over 30 operations over several years.

From 1988 to 1992 Espineira did a degree at the University of Grenoble in letters and communication, and started a doctorate at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, but dropped out to deal with personal issues.

As Karine she went to Paris and became involved with the Association du Syndrome de Benjamin that had just been founded by Tom Reucher, Diane Potiron, Hugues Cariou and others. Another participant was Maud-Yeuse Thomas who became Karine's life partner. Karine started psychiatric interviews as part of the official French transition protocol, but as Tom Reucher as done earlier, she was repelled by the excessive pathologization, and by the surgical failures. She did keep seeing a psychiatrist on the official team, but negotiated hormones, and in 1998 has surgery with Dr Michel Seghers in Brussels. She was able to obtain a changed Chilean birth certificate.

Karine and Maud-Yeuse joined the anti-essentialist, anti-psychiatry, queer-theory group organized by University of Lille sociologist, Marie-Hélène Bourcier, and also LesboTrans.

In 2001 Karine and Maud-Yeuse moved to Marseille and became a social activist. In 2008 Karine published La transidentité: de l'espace médiatique à l'espace public. In 2012 Karine, Maud-Yeuse and Arnaud Alessandrin published La Transyclopedie: Tout Savoir Sur Les Transidentites, a history-cum-encyclopedia of transgender in France. In 2014 Karine obtained a PhD at the University of Nice – Sophia Antipolis in Information Science and Communication.
Blog    Amazon.FR     WorldCat

Présentation de la transyclopédie : extrait by QueerDays

17 October 2014

Erika Ervin (1977–) paralegal, personal trainer, model, actress

Ervin was raised in California by a tall family of Dutch-German descent. By age 14 Ervin was 5"9'/1.75m, and finally grew to 6"8'/2.03m. Ervin's mother was a nurse who died from AIDS after an accidental needle-prick.

After working in a law office for six years, Ervin transitioned as Erika in 2004, but was rejected by her family. Erika's first boyfriend introduced her to fitness training and she studied with the National Academy of Sports Medicine to become a personal trainer. She also did session wrestling with men.
Erika appeared in the documentary Trans/Formed in 2007, and therefore technically outed herself.

A fitness client introduced her to the world of Amazons, and this led to international tours as Amazon Eve. In Australia in 2009 she was discovered by the magazine Zoo Weekly, and featured in the November edition. In Japan she became known as Babezilla. This resulted in modeling work for Harper's Bazaar and in fashion shows in Milan, and in 2011 Amazon Eve became the Guinness World Record World's Tallest Professional Model.

She started acting, but mainly was offered parts as aliens or monsters because of her size. There were rumors about her gender, and she was fired from a television show. However the Daily Mail ran an article on Amazon Eve merely about the difficulties that tall women have finding men, and how she had finally found a 6"4'/1.93m boyfriend.

Amazon Eve had a small part in the pilot of the sitcom Family Tools (the remake of White Van Man), and a regular part in the supernatural drama Hemlock Grove, where the cast found out that she was trans. Swedish actor Bill Skarsgård was very supportive and encouraged her to come out, which she did on Sweden's TV3 in 2013.

The producers of American Horror Story: Freak Show thought that it would be too difficult to find a 7 foot/2 meter woman so they posted a casting notice for a male actor. “I auditioned for the part as a guy. ... I slicked back my hair, no makeup, flannel shirt, bound my breasts, dropped my voice, and walked in — and nailed it.” The producers were delighted when they found that indeed they had a woman for the role, and renamed the character to Erika's performance name: Amazon Eve.

Ericka campaigns to end child abuse, and for LGBT rights and for those who suffer from AIDS.
IMDB   EN.WIKIPEDIA   Website   Guinness

15 October 2014

Toni F. (190? - ?)

An early German trans woman who is unrecorded except for her attempt in the late 1920’s to change a birth certificate from male to female. Toni's application was denied on the grounds she was biologically male although she wore female clothing, looked completely female and thought of herself as female.
  • A. Marcus & E Webers (eds). Zeitschrift fűr sexual Wissenschaft. XVI (1929-30): 45.  Cited in Vern L. Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. University of Philadelphia Press 1993: 275n7.

Bullough gives Toni’s name as “Toni Claus Hans F. Den Antrag”  which seems to be a conflation of her female name, her male name and the German word ‘Antrag’ which means 'application'.  DE.Wikipedia does not feature any persons at all with the surname Den Antrag. 

10 October 2014

Anderson Toone (1958–) drag king, performer, musician.

Annie Toone ran away at 16 and played drums and harmonica in New York, and then at 19 in San Francisco for blues legend Mike Bloomfield and beat poet Bob Kaufman.

At 21, she moved to New York, and in partnership with Jordy Mark performed the review Sex & Drag & Rock n Role at the 1st Women's One World (WOW) Festival. They sang as both men and women, switching gender onstage. This led to meetings with Adele Bertei and Kathy Rey and the founding of postpunk group The Bloods, an all-butch cross-dressed band. The Bloods, along with Jayne County and Phranc, were the only out queer acts in New York at that time. Adele and Toone, as men in tuxedos, performed as dancers at CBGBs and other New York clubs. They opened for The Clash, and played with Richard Hell and most of the 1980s New Wave musicians. After a European tour, they played at the 2nd WOW Festival. In 1982 The Bloods fell apart while in Amsterdam.

Toone formed Idiotsavant with German drummer Leroi Pink who also passed as a man, and they were much featured in the European press for their gender play. The Dutch magazine Homologie ran a comic strip for two years based on Toone in real life. In 1985 Toone moved to London and was in Chain Reaction with Della Disgrace, Sophie Moorcock and Billy Goodfellow. They mainly performed genderfuck for lesbian audiences. Toone was then in the Well-Oiled Sisters. In 1990 Toone was featured in The Observer, and described as a cross-dressing gender bender, trans and a top.

By 1992 Toone was in San Francisco, with a band called The Bucktooth Varmints, and singing dyke-a-billy songs from a passing perspective. In late 1993 Toone and Elvis Herselvis (Leigh Crow) began working together. In 1995 he was featured in a SF Weekly cover story on drag kings, and produced an all-drag Queer Ole Opry. Leigh Crow and Toone were the first drag kings to appear at Wigstock and Trannyshack, and also at the first FTM Conference of the Americas. In 1996 the all-drag musical Hillbillies on the Moon, starring Toone and Leigh Crow, opened in San Francisco, and was featured on the cover of the San Francisco Bay Times.

In 1996 Toone taught himself web coding and created the Toone in Space, and later Madkats, "where drag is king". The Drag King Book, 1998, acknowledged Toone as a founding father, but does not otherwise feature him.

In 2001 he created the trans-art website, and the first version of The Drag King Timeline. He acted as Drag Dad to Carlos & Ken Las Vegas who invited him into the Las Vegas chapter of the Imperial Court. He wrote for and was features editor of Kingdom magazine, where he notably wrote a profile of singer Gladys Bentley, and later an overview of what he dubbed the SF dragcore. In 2002 he gave the keynote address at the International Drag King Extravaganza (IDKE) conference.

In 2003 Toone, after years of contemplation, decided to medically transition. His first name Anderson contains the German 'anders' for different, and is the Swedish form of Andrew which means manly.

In New York in 2004 Anderson performed as the Very Reverend Buck Shot, store-front preacher of the Gospel of Transensual Love. In 2007 he was featured in the film Riot Acts, a documentary about trans music, and presented and performed at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta.
  • Yvonne Roberts. "A whip away from plain old vanilla". The Observer, 5 August 1990.
  • Amy Linn. "Drag King: Sometimes girls will be boys". SF Weekly, 27 September 1995.
  • Del Lagrace Volcano & Judith Halberstam. The Drag King Book. London: Serpent's Tail, 1999: 7, 22.
  • Jacob Anderson Minahull. "Genre Fluid Performer Marches To Own Toone". San Francisco Bay Times, July 12, 2007.
  • Diane Torr & Stephen J. Bottoms. Sex, Drag, and Male Roles: Investigating Gender As Performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010: 27, 66, 67, 129.
  • Kate Davy. Lady Dicks and Lesbian Brothers: Staging the Unimaginable at the WOW Café Theatre. University of Michigan Press, 2011: viii, 17, 18, 27, 35, 52, 61, 66, 67, 71, 178, 185, 187, 204, 210.
IMDB   SoundCloud   QueerMusicHeritage

The IMDB entry for Anderson Toone is dreadfully deficient.  In addition to appearing in Riot Acts, Toone:
  • did part of the soundtrack for Lizzie Borden’s Born in Flames, 1983
  • did the soundtrack for Michelle Baughan’s Jake’s Progress, 1987
  • with the Well-Oiled Sisters appeared in Channel Four’s Stand on your Man, 1990 (on women in country music)
  • The Sisters performed music for and appeared in the BBC comedy Came Out, It Rained, Went Back In Again, also 1990.
  • contributed to the soundtrack of Channel Four’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow, 1994 (the 25th anniversary of Stonewall).

07 October 2014

Kerstin Thieme (1909 – 2001) composer. music teacher

Karl Thieme was born and raised in the Erzgebirge, on the border between Saxony and Czechoslovakia. He studied music and composition at the Hochschule für Musik in Leipzig with Hermann Grabner. He became a music teacher in Leipzig. His first major success was Variations on a Theme by Hindemith for large orchestra, 1934.

During the Second World War he was conscripted into the German army and became a prisoner of war in Italy.

From 1946-8 Thieme worked at Leipziger Rundfunk, but then decided to relocate himself outside the Soviet zone of occupation.

In 1950 he found work teaching music at a Nuremberg secondary school, and later taught at the Nuremberg Conservatory and then the Friedrich-Alexander Universität. He composed for the Nuremberg International Organ Week. An important work was Canticum Hope for soprano solo and mixed choir, 1973.

Thieme retired in 1974, and as Kerstin completed transitioned two years later. Kerstin kept Fanny Mendelssohn competition. Her Requiem was premiered in 1998.
composing. In 1989 she was awarded the composition prize at the

Kerstin died at age 92 in Stuttgart.
  • Antje Olivier & Sevgi Braun: Komponistinnen aus 800 Jahren. [800 years of women composers] Sequentia, Kamen 1996: 412.
DE.WIKIPEDIA    List of works

04 October 2014

Grayce Baxter (1966 – 1992) sex worker, murdered.

Grayce Baxter from British Columbia completed transition in 1985 at a clinic in the US. Her parents had understood her gender dyssonance, and helped with the arrangements.

Grayce moved to Toronto in 1988, nominally to find a computer job, but known to many as Candace, she soon became a successful call girl with a roster of 100 clients. She specialized as a dominatrix. She acquired an expensive lake-front condo filled with fine antiques, a BMW, and designer clothing, and told her parents that she had become an executive in computing. However she always carried a stun gun and a can of mace when working. In December 1992 she had sent plane tickets to her parents to arrive for Christmas.

On 7 December Grayce worked a stag party with another prostitute and left after midnight. At 2 am she received a call at the number in her advertisement in Now weekly. The caller was 23-year-old Patrick Johnson, from Abbotsford, BC, a weightlifter and a part-time guard at Toronto's Don Jail. They agreed $200 for a 45-minute encounter. However Johnson had difficulty performing, and when his time was up, be became enraged. Grayce attempted to spray him with mace, but he overwhelmed her and choked her to death. He then cut her body into pieces, put them into garbage bags and dumped then in the apartment garbage bins.

Two days later Baxter's BMW was found. Mr & Mrs Baxter arrived in Toronto to meet a double shock of finding out how their daughter made her living combined with the fact that she was missing. Johnson pawned her diamond ring and Rolex on Dec. 21 for $1,650. The police tracked him from his cellphone records.

After it was mentioned in the press that Baxter had been born male, Johnson wrote a six-page letter to the Toronto Sun in which he admitted having seen Baxter on the night in question. He described himself as a “big, tough weightlifter, the womanizer, the loudmouth and joker” and insisted: : “I want to let the guys at the Don know I never knew she was once a he ... so quit the jokes”.  Charged with first-degree murder, Johnson opted to plead guilty to second degree on the eve of his trial. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but could apply for parole after a decade.

After nine years in a BC prison, he was granted day parole on condition that he stay away from sex workers. However he did not, and was returned to prison. In 2004 he had another chance, but was seen by the police as a prostitute entered his car. A third attempt at parole lasted two and a half years, but ended in June 2013 when a girlfriend reported him for alcohol abuse and attending to sex workers. However he took full responsibility for Baxter's murder, and has found Aboriginal spirituality. In 2014 he was released on parole a fourth time.

No trace of Grayce's body was ever found.
Mirha-Soleil Ross takes issue with the fact that the Transgender Day of Remembrance includes Grayce in that she was a passing woman and murdered by a john who did not know that she was trans.

01 October 2014

Charl Marais (1958 - 2013) teacher, bookkeeper, activist.

Marais was born and raised in Cape Town, in a religious family. As both parents worked, the child lived, until the age of ten, with other family members, and was sexually abused by an uncle.
"I knew that I was a girl because I looked like all the other girls, but why did that make me sad? … The most permanent thought and feeling in me almost all of my life was this feeling of just going though the motions. Medication was the only thing that could bring me out of this feeling of wanting to die and possibly commit suicide."
When in hospital having the appendix removed, a friend suggested that to Marais that she was a lesbian. She knew that she had had crushes on girls but thought that "this was wrong as it's not Christian". At this time, 'lesbian' was the only concept that she had encountered that approximated her feelings.

Marais qualified as a teacher, but did not feel suited to the profession,  and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1978. The uncle who had abused her came to visit and Mrs Marais applied for a court order to keep him away. The lawyer who was assisting met Marais, and straight-away asked: "Have you ever considered having a sex change?". This set her thinking.

Marais obtained a teacher's post in a small school of 50 children in Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape.
"I met a girl there, and it was like an instant attraction for both of us. The sex-change thing didn't yet sit well with me because it was impossible, So we went with the lesbian thing."
In 1981 Marais moved back to Cape Town and found work at a newspaper. When the girlfriend arrived she was pregnant, which led to their breaking up.

In the mid-1980s Charl Marais discovered the Cape Town group, Phoenix, which was a Virginia Prince type group of mainly married cross-dressers. Charl was welcomed to their meetings and parties, and made a fuss of as he was their only female-to-male member, and also their only coloured member (this was still the apartheid era). One of the members was transsexual and told Charl about gender surgeries, and that operations were being done in Durban by Dr Derk Crichton.

In 1992 Charl had a hysterectomy and an ovarectomy, and was able to change the name on his ID card (but not the gender code embedded in the ID number).

One girlfriend left because he didn't have phalloplasty, even though he couldn't afford it. Another committed suicide.

From 2002 Charl worked as a bookkeeper.

After the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act 2003, he applied again to change his ID number but each person he saw demanded different documentation. In 2009 he tried again armed with letters from a psychiatrist, psychologist and two GPs, and the Department of Home Affairs lost his application form. He tried again in June 2010, and this time was successful.

He became involved with Gender DynamiX, South Africa's major transgender organization, and for some years was their bookkeeper and newsletter editor. In 2010 he was a co-editor and contributor to Trans: Transgender Life Stories from South Africa.

He died at age 55 after a period of illness.

27 September 2014

Martine Cuypers (1970–) lecturer.

Cuypers studied Classics at Leiden University and gained a PhD there in 1997, and then worked as a lecturer and research fellow in Hamburg, Leiden, Groningen, Chicago and Washington D.C. before joining Trinity College, Dublin in 2005 as lecturer in Greek.

She was Chair of Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) from 2010.

In February 2011 the Irish Sun featured the "world exclusive" revelation of Dr Cuypers gender history on its front page, "Trinity's Sex Swap Prof" as if it were news.
  • Annette Harder & Martine Cuypers. Beginning from Apollo: studies in Apollonius Rhodius and the Argonautic tradition. Leuven, Belgium: Peeters, 2005.
  • James Joseph Clauss & Martine Cuypers. A Companion to Hellenistic Literature. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.
  • "Trinity's Sex Swap Prof". The Irish Sun, 2 February 2011.
  • "Irish Tabloid outs trans woman",, February 3rd, 2011.
  • Dr Martine Cuypers. "TENI wins Parade Award at Dublin Pride". Transgender Equality Network Ireland, 02 Jul 2012.

24 September 2014

Mirha-Soleil Ross (1969–) sex-worker, activist, performer, filmmaker, broadcaster

Ross was raised in a poor francophone family on the south shore of Montréal with lots of cats and dogs, an illiterate but resourceful father in construction work and a Métis mother.
"In the mid '80s, when I was about 16 years old, I watched a TV documentary about fur that included footage of animals caught in snares and leg-hold traps. It changed my life forever. I was so traumatized by what I witnessed that the next day I ran to an anti-fur protest. That's when I met a whole bunch of animal rights activists. I had lots of questions; they had good answers and by 6pm that same night, I had stopped eating meat, stopped wearing leather, and was eager to learn and do a whole lot more."
She settled in Toronto, and made a living as a sex worker.
"...from the early to mid-1990s, there were a bunch of us who had visions of transsexual and transgender spaces – of a parallel trans culture – operating independently of the queer community. … I was hoping that we, as a community, could develop a sense of ourselves that wouldn't be narrowly framed through a queer lens or bogged down in lesbian cultural references. … But unfortunately, this has been a complete failure. Those trans cultural spaces we attempted to create throughout the 1990s have all either disappeared or been absorbed by the lesbian-transgender community."
"But my main request is for transgender activists to stop their sinister appropriation of the abuse and violence that transsexual and transvestite prostitutes endure on every continent. … Trans activists use their deaths as fuel in their crusade for 'transgender rights'. Their campaigns have everything to do with supporting their own political agendas … but absolutely nothing to do with improving the the working conditions or lives of transsexual and transgender prostitutes. The most shameful of this type of political appropriation is the 'Transgender Day of Remembrance'."
From 1993-5 Mirha-Soleil worked with Xanthra Mackay to publish GenderTrash, a political and arts magazine for trans people. From 1995 and for five years, she conducted educational workshops for Toronto social service and health care agencies, and served as a consultant for researchers into trans experience.

In 1996 and for four years she hosted a weekly animal rights radio show on CUIT FM, and was also involved in other radio shows on topics such as lesbian sexuality and disability, AIDS, and transsexuals and immigration.

In 1997 she took up with and became the life partner of film-maker and animal-rights activist, Mark Karbusicky.

Also that year and for three years she, Mark, Xanthra and others ran Counting Past 2, a trans arts festival. And she developed the first publicly funded social services program for low-income and street trans people, Meal-Trans, which included a weekly vegan meal drop-in. She was appalled when, after she left, Meal-Trans started serving meat.

Mirha-Soleil has worked to raise consciousness of animals’ rights in the queer communities, and of prostitutes' rights in the animal rights community.

In 2000 Mirha-Soleil and Mark made a film G-SprOuT (not in IMDB) about love between vegans contrasted with factory farming which has been shown at over 25 queer and other film festivals.
Mirha-Soleil was Grand Marshall of the 2001 Toronto Pride Parade, and was able to place animal liberation activists at the front of the parade.

In 2001 Mirha-Soleil developed her performance piece, Yapping Out Loud: Contagious Thought from an Unrepentant Whore, which drew parallels between animal rights and prostitutes' rights. Later it was presented at the first Transgender Theater Festival in New York. 

Mark unexpectedly committed suicide in 2007, and was later memorialised in a documentary by Mike Hoolboom.

Mirha-Soleil continues to agitate on behalf of sex workers, transsexuals, non-human animals, Canada’s missing and murdered aboriginal women, and much more.
  • Viviane K. Namaste. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000: 41-2, 44-6, 57, 58, 62, 66, 178-9, 239, 274n2, 280n33, 285.
  • Mirha-Soleil Ross interviewed by Heze. "No White Gloves on Mirha-Soleil Ross". Trade: Queer Things. Autumn 2003.
  • Mirha-Soleil Ross interviewed by Claudette Vaughan. Satya Oct 2003.
  • Viviane K. Namaste. "Interview with Mirha-Soleil Ross". Chp 7 in Sex Change, Social Change: 86-102.
  • Viviane K. Namaste. Sex Change, Social Change: Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism. Women's Press, 2005: 44, 53, 54-7, 82-5, 86-102.
  • Thomas Waugh. The Romance of Transgression: Queer Sexualities, Nations, Cinéma. Carleton University Press, 2006: 159, 330, 343, 345, 353, 394.
  • Mike Hoolboom (dir). Mark. With Mark Karbusicky & Mirha-Soleil Ross. Canada 70 mins 2009.
  • Chaos McKenzie. "Mark, Mike Hoolboom's difficult documentary". Xtra, Apr 21, 2010.
  • Darryl B. Hill. Trans Toronto: An Oral History. NY: William Rodney Press, 2012: 28, 35, 151, 169.
  • Mirha-Soleil Ross interviewed by Claudette Vaughan. "Queer Rights/Animal Rights. Straight talking". Animal Liberation Front, no date.
  • Mirha-Soleil Ross. Gut-Busting Ass-Erupting and Immoderately Whorish Compilation Tape. VHS.
  • Dan Irving & Rupert Raj (eds). Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader. Women's Press, 2014: 108.

19 September 2014

Trans women in the New York Correctional System

Daniel Genis recently finished a 10-year prison sentence.   He has written about his experience for The Concourse: "A Gentleman's Guide To Sex In Prison".    There are two references to trans women:

"There are many transsexuals (still called "shemales" in the system), especially in the maxes, for some reason. Some truly look like women, and as a consequence they are well taken care of by their admirers. Others just look like men with breast implants. There was one called Grandma who was quite a fright, but apparently had customers anyway, because his dentures came out. The old-timers call these guys 'lizards' and have nothing to do with them, but the younger guys who grew up with Will and Grace and so forth are more easygoing about it.

It was my understanding that if you declared yourself to be out upon arrival at the clearinghouse called Downstate, they'd send you somewhere safe (unless you yourself were not actually very safe, according to your record). I spent two years in a place like that, called Groveland Correctional Facility. It was a beautiful campus of a prison with a huge gay population. They had to cut the bushes down to discourage some of the activities taking place around them. There were even competing gay gangs. The most established one was led by Becky, who had been in for 35 years and who, it was said, had cut out his lover's heart back when he, Becky, was a teenage girl in a boy's body. "

17 September 2014

Owain mab Urien (50? - 595) prince.

It seems that Urien, king of Rheged (later known as Strathclyde), a 6th century kingdom on the border of what is now England and Scotland, arranged for his son, Owain to go to Glasgow to court Teneu, daughter of Lot/Loth/Lleuddun, king of Gododdin (later known as Lothian) in order to bring about a dynastic alliance.

While Gododdin was a traditional Celtic kingdom under the spiritual guidance of druids, Teneu was tempted by the alternate reality of the Christian missionaries. Possibly Teneu became devoted to the Virgin Mary and hoped to emulate her by having a virgin birth. Teneu became pregnant, but Owain and Teneu declined to marry.

The three mediaeval accounts differ in the details, but both the Fragmentary Life and the Breviarium aberdonense claim that Owain transvested in order to gain access to Teneu. Ardrey points out that this makes no sense in that Teneu was not in a convent or in purdah. He argues that Teneu found that Owain was trans, but the retellings introduced a pragmatic reason for his cross-dressing. On his side he was not interested in marriage to a woman.

Teneu was sent away to Culross where she was sheltered by Serf, who also helped to raise the child who was named Mungo (dear one) but later became known as Kentigern (head chief).

Serf, Teneu and Kentigern all became saints in the Christian Church. Teneu and Mungo are the patron saints of Glasgow.

A legendary version of Owain appears in Chrétien de Troyes's Yvain, the Knight of the Lion and the Welsh Romance Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain.
  • Anon. Fragmentary Life of St Kentigern. MS Cotton Titus, xix.f.76-80. Before 1164.
  • Jocelin of Furness. Vita Kentigern. 1185
  • Anon. Breviarium aberdonense. 1507
  • Adam Ardrey,. Finding Merlin: The Truth Behind the Legend of the Great Arthurian Mage. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2008: Chp 4 – Signs and Portents.
EN.WIKIPEDIA (Owain, Mungo, Teneu, Serf)

Mungo and Serf are in Wikipedia as Saint Mungo and Saint Serf, but St Teneu is there simply as Teneu.

12 September 2014

A re-reading of Leslie Feinberg's Transgender Warriors.

I have already written about Leslie Feinberg’s life.

There are two editions of this book, both Beacon Press, 1996: Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to RuPaul (hardback) and Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (paperback). It is the former that I have in front of me, which makes no mention of Rodman, now best known for his bromance with Kim Jong-un, so neither will I.

The book was published by Beacon Press, Boston, owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association, which had been out of favour with trans people after publishing both Janice Raymond and Mary Daly.

The book title uses 'transgender' and in the preface, Feinberg proclaims: "The word I prefer to use to describe myself is transgender". Transgender, not transgendered. In more recent years this distinction has become heated, and as I re-started the book I hoped that ze was anticipating the then future resolution, however as the book proceeds, transgendered is used more. Ze also uses transgender as a noun as well as an adjective – a practice that is nowadays disputed. Ze does the same with intersexual.

Feinberg frequently uses the term bigender (bi-gender) which is popular with the FPE/Tri-Ess people but does not mention the joke form also popular with them: big-ender.

Two paragraphs below we find the mission statement of the book: "I asked many self-identified transgender activists who are named or pictured in this book who they believed were included under the umbrella term. Those polled named: transsexuals, transgenders, transvestites, transgenderists, bigenders, drag queens, drag kings, cross-dressers, masculine women, feminine men, intersexuals, androgynes, cross-genders, shape-shifters, passing women, passing men, gender-benders, gender blenders, bearded women and women bodybuilders who have crossed the line of what is considered socially acceptable for a female body." If a similar list were put together today, it would of course include gender queer and non-binary. The list sort of fits with the last chapter which is a portrait gallery, where there is a woman bodybuilder and a bearded woman performer. But I cannot but think that the vast majority of bearded women and female bodybuilders would object to being located under transgender. However the real issue here is inclusiveness: the dabblers and the part-timers along with the committed.

The tone changes dramatically in the next paragraph. "But the word transgender is increasingly being used in a more specific way as well. The term transgenderist was first introduced into the English language by trans warrior Virginia Prince. Virginia told me, ‘I coined the noun transgenderist in 1987 or ’88. There had to be some name for people like myself who trans the gender barrier’ “. This claim is factually incorrect. I have already written extensively on this, and so I will not repeat the detail here, other than to mention that this endorsement by Feinberg strengthened the myth that Prince had coined the term, and led to very heated refusals of the term transgender, and thus undermined Feinberg's mission. This is my most negative comment about Feinberg's book.

There is no further mention of Prince except for a photograph in the end portrait gallery of her, Ariadne Kane and Maxine Miller attending church at Fantasia Fair. (For some reason the photograph has been flipped left-to-right – see the original in Mariette Pathy Allen's Transformations.)

On the next page, Feinberg comments: "the word trans is being used increasingly by the gender community as a term uniting the entire coalition". Memory of course always deceives, and in retrospect I was surprised to find this in 1996. There is no mention at all of the older forms of trans: tranny or transy.

Twice, pages 7 and 123, there are photographs of arrests being made at the National Variety Artists Ball, Halloween 1962. This was the night before the gathering at Susanna Valenti's Chevalier D’Eon Resort that became a major event in Prince's organizing. Neither the irony of this nor the Chevalier D’Eon Resort gathering are mentioned.

Feinberg has a chapter on the North American Two-Spirit tradition, but without the criticism of the gay male writers such as Walter Williams who regarded Two-spirit as gay rather than trans that we find for example in Pat Califia's Sex Changes. Ze has a whole chapter on Joan of Arc arguing for Joan as transgender. Personally I do not buy that argument, but Feinberg's chapter is one of the best arguments for Joan being so. Ze adds other female-born warriors (in the conventional sense) and monarchs to the chapter: Catalina de Erauso, Angélique Brûlon (Liberté), Nzinga Mbandi, Qiu Jin, Franklin Thompson. However ze also adds the Albanian sworn virgin of Rapsha who was a farmer.

Some of the persons featured are more thought of as gay or feminists. While Feinberg argues for Joan of Arc being transgender, ze merely presents Luisa Capetillo, Assotta Saint, Quentin Crisp, Craig Hickman as being so. Charles Stuart, the young pretender to the British throne is also included despite being a thorough reactionary with no sympathy at all for anything queer.

Page 86 is a full page photograph of a man in an expensive suit working on a 1920s car. The person is Violet Morris and Feinberg comments: "Morris sued the French Federation of Feminine Sports for 100,000 francs for withdrawing her license to wear trousers". Morris is someone that I intend to write about, but to do so properly takes time. Feinberg does not mention that Morris, an all-round athlete, used the excuse of fitting into a racing car to have her breasts removed. Licences to wear trousers were issued by the  Préfecture de Police, but Morris never bothered to apply for one. Morris was rejected for the 1928 and 1936 Olympics on grounds of being too masculine, but was a special guest at the Berlin Olympics. She was accused of being a collaborator and assassinated by the French Resistance in 1944. Several books, none of them translated into English, argue whether or not she was a Gestapiste.

RuPaul, Joan of Arc's partner in the book title, appears very briefly on pages 96-7, but there is only a photograph and the best known quotes from RuPaul's book, such as "You're born naked and the rest is drag". There is nothing about RuPaul's life or career, and no anticipation to the recent brouhaha (but see below on drag queens in general).

On the next page is a call for gay-trans solidarity: "I understand that many heterosexual transsexual and transgender people have been justly angered by a lifetime of accusations that their sex-change and or gender expression is merely a result of being ashamed to admit that they are gay. No one wants the identity they are willing to live for – or to die for – to be invalidated or misunderstood. But while not all lesbian, gay, and bi people face trans oppression, all trans people experience anti-gay bigotry. To the bigots and bashers, all trans expression is 'queer'. Distancing ourselves from the lesbian, gay, and bi movement will not make us safer."

On page 115, ze writes about drag performance: "I've heard women criticize drag queens for 'mocking women's oppression' by imitating femininity to an extreme, just as I've been told that I am imitating men. Feminists are justifiably angry at women's oppression – so am I! I believe, however, that those who denounce drag queens aim their criticism at the wrong people. This misunderstanding doesn't take gender oppression into account. … There is a difference between the drag population and masculine men doing cruel female impersonations. The Bohemian Grove, for example, is an elite United States club for wealthy powerful men that features comedy cross-dressing performances. Many times the burlesque comedy of cross-dressed masculine men is as anti-drag as it is anti-woman. In fact it's really only drag performance when it's transgender people who are facing the footlights. Many times drag performance calls for skilled impersonations of a famous individual like Diana Ross or Judy Garland, but the essence of drag performance is not impersonation of the opposite sex. It is the cultural presentation of an oppressed gender expression."

Like most books, Transgender Warriors, was a product of its time, the mid-1990s. However it was a book needed at that time, and many of the issues within are still being argued over. A re-reading is certainly fruitful.

09 September 2014

Bet Power (1950 - ) archivist, activist

Of Polish descent, Power was born and raised in Chicago. Power's father, a sailor taught the child, who already thought of himself as a boy, carpentry, baseball, bowling, billiards and poker. He played sports with his elder brother's friends without being outed as a girl.

At age 6 he witnessed a women pedestrian killed in a car accident. His mother started abusing him, attacking her husband and mutilating herself. At 13 Power was obliged to wear a dress for confirmation, and after that for church and the Catholic all-girls school.

Power became a street kid who did alcohol and other drugs. By 16 he passed well enough to get into leather bars and drag-show clubs. He marched for civil rights and ran from the police riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. He was part of the Workers World Party.

He went to a therapist and fell in love with her, but she was homophobic, and rejected him with prescriptions of antidepressants and antipsychotics. She urged Power's mother to have him committed. He was diagnosed as having a "narcissistic personality disturbance with anxiety and recurring panic attacks". He managed to avoid taking the compulsory pills, and started talking about a boyfriend. Six weeks after this he was released. He became an activist in the anti-psychiatry movement.

In 1972 he found a butch lesbian psychologist who told him that he was a butch, that he did not need therapy and should get involved at the Lesbian Feminist Center. There he found support to get off drugs, lose the 50 pounds he had gained from the prescription drugs, and to eat vegetarian. He was grateful but did not really think that he fitted in. The Chicago Lesbian Feminist Center housed the New Alexandria Lesbian Library (NALL) and Power became a volunteer there. He also had his first lovers and completed an MA in comparative literature and sociocultural processes, and got a job as a proof reader with a magazine publisher.

In 1977 the Chicago Lesbian Feminist Center closed and Power rescued the books and magazines from the NALL. He broke with his bio-family in 1979. They denied all the abuse, and Power had not only made it up, he was also queer. He, his lover, and the NALL collection moved to Huntington, and later Northampton, Massachusetts. He got a job in an ad agency in Hartford. Connecticut.

Lovers came and went. Bet drank heavily in "dyke, gay and trannie bars". In 1982 he tried to stop drinking. In 1983 he kicked in the bedroom window of an ex-lover, and was briefly in jail. He went to an alcoholism counselor, and also did a past-life regression with a psychic counselor. He was told that he had always, in every past life been a man, and in his previous life had been a Japanese scientist who was executed for treason after helping the US develop the atom bomb. He admitted his alcoholism and started going to Alcoholics Anonymous. He also came out both as trans and as into Sado-Masochism.

In 1986 the NALL received a letter from Louis Sullivan containing his pioneering Information for the Female-to-Male Crossdresser and Transsexual. Bet finished reading it in two hours. It gave him a vocabulary to describe himself, and now he knew that he was not the only FTM transsexual. He contacted Louis, and a few weeks later flew to San Francisco to meet him. They wrote and phoned each other frequently until Lou's early death in 1991. By then Bet had met his wife and his job was going well, and he did not feel that he could move to San Francisco to continue Lou's work.

He was no longer involved in the lesbian community. They were uncomfortable with his maleness, and also with the fact that he directed a monthly support group for lesbian, bi and trans into S/M. He decided that the NALL collection was not just a lesbian collection, and renamed it as the Sexual Minorities Archives.

He visited a gender counselor to decide if he wanted to medically transition, as his wife was encouraging him to do. Despite knowing only one FTM crossdresser in all of New England, in 1992 he founded, on his forty-second birthday, the East Coast Female-to-Male Group (ECFTMG). It grew slowly but eventually was able to split into separate groups in the major New England cities.

He settled as being non-hormonal and non-operative. Despite some employment discrimination, he has managed to achieve creative director—vice president positions in advertising and marketing. His wife left him for a cis man in 1995.

In 2007 Power was diagnosed with granulomatosis polyangiitis, and now needs surgery every six months to keep breathing. He has not worked since. He is living on disability.

The house that contains the Sexual Minorities Archives is rented, and the owner wishes to sell. Power does not have the money to buy it, but has organized a fundraising campaign.

He is also contemplating a legal name change to Ben.
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05 September 2014

Brigitte Boréale (1963–) broadcaster, sports journalist.

Brigitte is a presenter, journalist and television actress on Pink TV, the French gay channel, where she does sports programs.

She has had a few small parts in films. In July 2011, her daughter Morgane appeared on the reality television program Secret Story, where her secret was that "Mon père s'appelle Brigitte".

02 September 2014

Synthia China-Blast (1974 - ) convicted of murder

Luis Morales grew up in the South Bronx where she always felt that she was a girl. Her sister helped her with underwear and makeup.

She was selling crack at age 13. At 16 a squatter-house burned down with six deaths, and Morales was accused of starting the fire. On remand Morales was sent to Riker's Island jail. After she had been raped a couple of times, a member of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation gang offered her protection in exchange for regular sex. After two years on remand, a witness recanted, and Morales was released.

However the Latin Kings now regarded her as a neophyte member. She was ordered to report to a gang member in the Bronx:
“He knew I was a gender bender, and he was putting me through it. Then he forced me to be involved with him sexually. Nobody knew. But any time he wanted me to do something, I’d have to do it. I hated him.”
In her own time she dressed more and more as female, and spent time at Escuelita, a gay club in Manhattan.

1993 was a dramatic period of internal power struggle and murders within the Latin Kings that would lead to mass arrests.

A 13-year-old girl from Harlem, Ebony Williams, ran away from home again, but was found at her sister's in Coney Island, close to where Carlos Franco, also of the Latin Kings, lived. Ebony returned home, but then ran away again the same day, August 21. The night of the next day a slashed, battered and burning body of a teenage girl was found beneath a highway overpass in the Bronx. It would be two weeks before the body was identified as Ebony Williams. A police informer who was involved in the crime, named Luis Morales and Carlos Franco as the perpetrators.

There are two accounts of what happened. The first is by journalist Esther Haynes, whose account is the only detailed account available:
[Morales] "says someone from the gang paged her and told her to report immediately: 'I had to take off my makeup, pick up my van, and go clean up an apartment in the Bronx'. In her haste, she left her skirt on. 'When I got there, there was blood all over the floor. I don’t know if I was just stupid or I’d seen a lot of The A-Team, but I just started cutting off the bloody carpet and put it in plastic bags. The body was already in a box,' Synthia says. She claims that she and a few other jittery gang members then dropped the box off in a Bronx underpass and later set it on fire." Morales hid in the "trannie-friendly" Skyway motel in Jersey City for a few days, until her mother persuaded her to turn herself in.
The other account is the New York Daily News reporting on the trial:
"Morales, 22, and Franco, 24, appeared unmoved as Bronx Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus sentenced them to 25 years to life for the 1993 slaying. Bronx Prosecutor William Hrabsky said the two held the girl captive in a Hunts Point apartment, Morales raping her and repeatedly slashing her body. Franco was charged with killing the girl after breaking her neck. 'The suffering that this poor child went through is beyond belief and puts this crime in the category of monstrous and barbarous,' Hrabsky said. Investigators said the men shoved Ebony's body into a box and dumped it on the Sheridan Expressway at E. 165th St., where it was set on fire. They later bragged about the crime to friends, many of whom testified against them."
However Morales was convicted of murder and manslaughter, but not of rape. She commented:
"They had to switch their story in the trial because how do you tell the jury that he had on a dress and then he was raping a girl? I’ve never had sex with a female in my life.”
She was sentenced to 25 years to life, and returned to Riker's Island, where she legally changed her name to Synthia China-Blast. As a female Synthia had sex with some of the most notorious murderers and rapists in the New York prison system. In 1999 she was put on low-level female hormones, which have given her small breasts. However she was refused the higher level dosage that some other prisoners are on in that she did not have an official prescription before incarceration. She is suing for medical treatment up to and including genital surgery.

In 2002 Synthia was transferred to Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York. The next year she attempted but failed to castrate herself, and then took up with the 35-year-old then virgin copycat serial killer Eddie Seda, and in effect became his wife. In 2004, after she was transferred to Wende Correctional Facility, she sent a letter to the New York Daily News as by the Zodiac Killer’s Wife, in which she said:
“If I was a real woman I could bring about little future serial killers to terrorize NYC like my husband did. How [New Yorkers] would of loathed the Zodiac Children”.
In 2014 the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) focused on Synthia China-Blast as part of its project of ending the practice of isolating trans prisoners in solitary. The SRLP asked Laverne Cox to read a letter from Synthia China-Blast on video, but did not share details with her about the murder of Ebony Williams. When apprised of the details, Laverne Cox, asked for the video to be removed.
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The murder of Ebony Williams is of course monstrous and barbarous.   However there is a possibility that a wrong person is being punished for it, which makes the crime even worse.

As with several accounts of inmates, we do not have all the facts.   The account in New York Magazine by Esther Haynes is the only one to go into details.

Gallus Mag, Laverne Cox and Parker Molloy all say that Synthia China-Blast was convicted of rape.   This is not correct.   She was convicted of murder and manslaughter, but not rape.   Her prison sex life has been in the female role, and she claims (plausibly) that she has never had sex with a woman.   I am inclined to accept this.

Synthia’s 2004 Zodiac Killer’s Wife letter was of course a stupid thing to do.

There was a third person at the murder, the police informer.   We really need to know about this person who would seem to be escaping his own guilt by blaming another.   We are told nothing about him except the simple fact of his existence.   Nor are we told anything about Carlos Franco, except his guilt.

The Wikipedia article on the Latin Kings tells us that from June 1993 to February 1994 there was an internal power struggle within the Latin Kings in New York.  7 Latin Kings were murdered, and afterwards the police were able to charge 20 major members with murder and racketeering.   Ebony Williams’ murder in August 1993 falls right within this period.    No journalist has bothered to explain if there is a connection.

If we go with the account by Esther Haynes, Morales was a bottom level functionary in the Latin Kings who did not dare to refuse an order.   Cleaning up after the murder makes Morales an accessory, and disposing of the body is also a crime.   However no motive was cited as to why Morales wanted to murder Ebony Williams, and the silence about just what the police informer actually did makes the conviction of Morales a very unsafe conviction.

Gallus Mag, Laverne Cox and Parker Molloy all have such faith in the patriarchal justice system that they do not consider that Synthia China-Blast may be a victim also.  Even the SRLP seems to consider her conviction a safe conviction, and are only concerned about the extra punishment of being 23 hours a day in solitary.

If Synthia China-Blast’s guilt is only that of being an accessory, and an accessory under duress at that, then her sentence is certainly excessive.

If Synthia China-Blast were in the UK, she would be in a women’s prison under the 2011 New Prison Guidelines.   If she is guilty only of being an accessory, then she is no danger in a women’s prison.   Even if she were guilty of the murder, there are equally violent women in women’s prisons, and the system is able to manage them.

Gallus Mag seems to be obsessed that a male-bodied person convicted of rape must not be allowed to have his/her penis and testosterone removed (=genital surgery).  See also Sandy-Jo Battista.   This is a very strange position.