This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1200 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 is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

29 November 2015

Lili Elvenes, known as Lili Elbe, and the film not of her life

If you are considering a visit to the cinema to see The Danish Girl, please bear the following in mind:

The film is based on a 2000 novel by David Ebershoff.

It is not based on Maurice Rostand's 1933 novel La femme qui était en lui. It is not based on the 1933 Man into Woman: an Authentic Record of a Change of Sex. The true story of the miraculous transformation of the Danish painter, Einar Wegener edited by Neils Hoyer.

Gerda Wegener née Gottlieb was the daughter of a Danish pastor. Ebershoff turned this Danish 'girl' into a California 'girl' !!!!

"Girl" is a very patronising term for women in their late forties.

Lili's post-transition name was Lili Elvenes.

The name "Lili Elbe" was a media construct developed by the pioneering Copenhagen journalist, Louise (Loulou) Lassen.

It is not true that "Lili Elbe" was the first "man into woman". Carla van Crist, Toni Ebel and Dörchen Ritcher had already had transgender surgery before Elevenes arrived in Berlin, and unlike Elvenes had been living fulltime as women before surgery. Also, perhaps because they were patients of Magnus Hirschfeld rather than Kurt Warnekros, they survived. Elbe and van Crist even survived the Second World War. What about a film based on these true pioneers?

There is a new detailed book on Lili Elvenes by Sabine Meyer: Wie Lili zu einem richtigen Mädchen wurde, which I have had no chance to look at yet.

I wrote a 3-part essay on Lili last January (incorporating information from a earlier publication by Meyer):
Part I: Einar Wegener, artist
Part II: Lili Ilse Elvenes, surgery and womanhood
Part III: Lili Elbe, media construct

Lili Elvenes in Copenhagen late 1930

26 November 2015

Alexis Del Lago (1938 - ) costumier, actress, performer

Domingo Blassini Calabaza was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico.

As Alexis Blassini she studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York where she first appeared as female at a ball and won first prize. She further honed her skills as a fabric designer under Pauline Trigère. Alexis became known for her imitations of Marlene Dietrich.

In 1968 she met Jackie Curtis which led to Andy Warhol's Factory, where she was invited to be in one of his films but she declined. In 1972 she was in Jackie's play Amerika Cleopatra.

The next year she was on the cover of Gilles Larrain's book of photographs of interesting New Yorkers.
"We were not drag queens. What kind of limited mentality would think because you put on make-up and glitter that you must be a drag queen? Drag queen is a tiresome, demeaning, low class, vulgar term. We were performing artists. We were into self-expression and individuality. We came from all kinds of backgrounds and every side of life - rich, middle-class, black, white. This was a pansexual group that blossomed in New York City in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It was not about being gay or straight. What mattered was the expression of our selves, our souls, and OUR CLOTHES!"
Alexis was for a while an in-demand designer in Los Angeles, and has five costume and one make-up credits on movies 1978-81.

In 1983 she starred in a camp version of Tennessee Williams called Sweet Blonds of Youth.  The original, Sweet Bird of Youth, features an aging movie star Alexandra Del Lago, and from this point on, Alexis became Alexis Del Lago.   Later that year she was in the stage show Les Girls in New York with Jayne County, Holly Woodlawn and International Chrysis.

From 1986-2002 Alexis had an antique shop, The Gilded Lily.

Recently she has played in the television series, Transparent.
  • Gilles Larrain. Idols. New York: Links, 1973.
  • Jayne County & Rupert Smith. Man Enough to Be a Woman. London: Serpent's Tail, 1995: 150.
  • "Queen of Feathers" in Stephen Glass. "California Dreaming: Stephen Class's LA to Z". Los Angeles Magazine, 43,12, Dec 1998: 118.
  • Holly Brubach,. Girlfriend: Men, Women, and Drag. Random House, 1999: 128-132.
  • Craig B. Highberger. Superstar in a Housedress: The Life and Legend of Jackie Curtis. Chamberlain Bros. 2005: 9, 53, 87-90, 229.
  • James St James. "Meet the Legendary and Reclusive Alexis Del Lago". The Wow Report, September 1, 2011.
  • Craig Calman (dir) Caprice, with Alexis Del Lago. US 12 mins 2010.

23 November 2015

Peter Stirling (1936–) shoe retailer

Jean Webb was raised in Melbourne. She was in the Women's Royal Australian Air Force, and afterwards worked in shoe retailing, and in both had a number of crushes on and from women – one of whom later said to her:
"like it or not, you are more male than female" (p62).
However Jean desired to be normal, she married a man, became Mrs Dent and had a daughter, although she was uncomfortable with the female sexual role.

She explained all this to a psychiatrist who accused her of being a fantasist. A later doctor referred her to Dr Nuffield who was much more sympathetic. However he said to her:
"Why don't you just dress yourself in men's clothes?"
Jean did not relate to this suggestion.
“Don't you feel like a man?'
“How do I know? How does a man feel? I certainly do know that a change of clothes will not change what I feel.”
“You have never thought that perhaps you should have been born a boy?”
“Oh yes, I've thought that all right”. (p85-6).
So Dr Nuffield advised that she travel to the UK, as appropriate specialists were not then found in Australia - although he did not provide a referral. He did provide the address of Guys Hospital, London, and as an alternative, that of Professor Hamburger in Copenhagen.

Jean left in December 1962 leaving her daughter with her mother. In London, she found a flat and a job in shoe retailing. She was able to talk herself into becoming a patient at the Endocrine Clinic, Guy’s Hospital, London, where her primary contact was social worker Margaret Branch.

A psychiatrist, Dr Marks evaluated her and concluded, as Jean phrased it:
"He also explained that as far as he could ascertain from the facts he had I must have grown up with a rather masculine outlook, particularly when my independence and aggressiveness were taken into account, for my history showed a distinct inclination to lead rather than to follow" (p109).
A physical examination led to a rather different conclusion. She was told her that her chromosomes were 47 XXY, and she was becoming more male and that if she had waited another couple of years, she would not have been able to have a child. They explained that this extra chromosome altered her hormones and caused non-lesbian women to fall for her. They proposed surgery and hormones to turn her into a man, but they would not start doing this until she was divorced from her husband.

An ironic event in September 1965 was that she was arrested on Westminster Bridge by two police constables who assumed that she was a man in drag, an assumption quickly dropped when they arrived at the well-lit Canon Row Police Station.

After a long wait, during which she worked as a bus conductor and a store detective, in December 1967 and early 1968, her divorce became final, she had her hysterectomy, started taking male hormones, started wearing male clothes. He took the name 'Peter' which his mother had said would have been his name if born male.

The hospital arranged for a national insurance card, medical card and tax form in his new name, and also arranged for the Australian High Commission to issue a new passport, but the High Commission informed them that birth certificates were never altered. Mrs Branch commented:
“[This] I think is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! It's a pity you weren't British, there would be no hassle here.” (p203).
Peter married co-worker Jennifer in an Anglican Church.

In January 1970 Guy's Hospital hosted an international convention, and Peter agreed to be interviewed by a panel of doctors.
“'Don't you get a thrill wearing men's clothes?' 
“Not at all', I replied. ….
'What dugs did you take during that time?'
'Yes, narcotics, hash, that type of thing.'
'I've never taken drugs, except for my fags.'
'Never!' came the surprised remark.” (p224)
Peter worked mainly in shoe retailing after transition, rising to branch manager.

In 1974 Peter returned to Australia with his wife and started to reconnect to his original family, especially his mother and daughter. Again he mainly worked in shoe retailing.

One problem was that when he renewed his passport, “they stamped 'F' for female on my new passport right beside a picture of my bearded face”. (p249) This took months to sort out, and again Peter had to call on the assistance of staff at Guy's Hospital.

* not the biochemist, nor the lawyer, nor the golfer
  • Peter Stirling. So Different: an Extraordinary Autobiography. Sydney: Simon & Schuster 256pp 1989.
  • Joe Berger. "This man gave birth to a 7-lb. baby girl!" Weekly World News, 26 Sep 1989: 3. GoogleBooks

Apart from Peter's autobiography, I could find no discussion of him except for the article in Weekly World News which is obviously based on his book. As he is apparently the first Australian surgical FTM, in fact the first Australian to have transgender surgery (Carlotta and a few others did so in 1972), and the first Australian to get a revised passport, I am surprised that there is no mention of Peter at FTMAustralia, Gender Centre or at OII Australia.

The Australian doctor in 1961 advised that there were no suitable specialists in Australia. An Endocrine Society of Australia had been founded in 1958. Perhaps Dr Nuffield was not aware of it, or perhaps he was aware that they had no members dealing with gender variance. Here is a history of the ESA.

A journey to Dr Hamburger in Copenhagen would have been futile in that the Danish Parliament had reacted to the Jorgensen affair by restricting sex-change operations to Danish nationals, as Charlotte McLeod had found in 1953.

“He also explained that as far as he could ascertain from the facts he had I must have grown up with a rather masculine outlook, particularly when my independence and aggressiveness were taken into account, for my history showed a distinct inclination to lead rather than to follow". Not disagreeing with the path that Jean/Peter took, but the reasons in this quote are not at all reasons to pursue a change of gender. Throughout the time that Jean was in London and attending the Clinic at Guy's, second wave feminism was building. Independence, aggressiveness and an inclination to lead were becoming valued traits in the women's movement.

Jean arrived in England in December 1962, and achieved a divorce in December 1967. It is not explained on what grounds. Five years was the period of separation to obtain a contested divorce following the 1969 Divorce Reform Act. It was not grounds under the 1937 Matrimonial Causes Act, which was until then in effect. Mrs Dent surely could not apply for divorce on grounds of desertion as she was the deserter. History of divorce in England.

Margaret Branch's comment re the Australians refusing to reissue a birth certificate is in retrospect quite ironic as she made it in 1968, only a short while before the start of the Corbett v Corbett trial which would close the reissue of UK birth certificates for transsexuals and some intersex persons until 2004.

Social Worker Margaret Branch apparently helped a lot of transsexuals in the 1960s and 1970s and has an amazing life story of her own. One of her relatives is working on a biography, but very little has been published.

There is no mention in Stirling's book of any of the prominent transsexuals in either the UK or in Australia. The lack of mention of Corbett v Corbett is particularly germane as he was in London as it happened.

A medical postscript confirms that Jean/Peter was born with a female-phenotype “Kleinfelters type syndrome”. It is often assumed that all Kleinfelters persons are male, and that therefore persons like Peter Stirling do not exist. There are alternate opinions – obviously as such persons do exist. The odd thing is that Peter is never mentioned in the discussion. Here is a recent article in OII Australia on female XXY persons, which yet again does not mention Peter.

17 November 2015

Le Carrousel and Madame Arthur: Part III: 1962 and after

 Massacres in Paris:  52BCE, 845, 1572, 1792, 1871, 1942, 1961, 2015.   Again Paris will survive.

Paris' motto: Fluctuat nec mergitur  (tossed but not sunk)


Part I: before 1945. 75, rue des Martyres et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine
Part II: 1945 – 1961 40, rue du Colisée  et Juan-les-Pins
Part III: 1962 and after, 22, rue Vavin, and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45

Part III: 1962 and after, 22, rue Vavin (map) and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45 (map)

Le Carrousel reopened less than a year later at 22, rue Vavin, which is a prestigious address between Montparnasse and the Jardin de Luxembourg, but it was a smaller place and with an orchestra of only four musicians.

Police regulations were less enforced, and artists were allowed to mingle with the customers. There was no longer space for organized acts such as had been done before. There were now several numbers interrupted by dancing, but no finale. The costumes were less impressive, and striptease acts were introduced, and eventually became the majority of the program. This approach was successful, but 15 years later it was becoming tired.

Madame Arthur, Amsterdam by Jon Lister
In 1961 Monsieur Marcel had opened a Madame Arthur at Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45 in Amsterdam.  Rita del Ora and Capucine were among the performers who went from Paris to Amsterdam, but local talent such as Colette Berends were also recruited.

Oudjman also opened a lesbian/FTM cabaret, Elle et Lui, next door on rue Vavin, where even the waiters dressed as men, and women stripped for a female audience. They had a common backstage with Le CarrouselLe Carrousel artists appeared at Elle et Lui , but rarely the opposite, except that star male impersonator Micky Mercer played both clubs

The general practice was that a performer started at Madame Arthur where Madame Germaine made the selection, and only the best performers moved on to the Le Carrousel. An exception was Manon (Jacquie Sarduy) who worked at Madame Arthur from 1959, but had a bad reputation at Le Carrousel, and did not work there until meeting Monsieur Marcel personally in 1969.  Exceptions were also made for foreign performers who arrived with a reputation.

The exchange of artists between Madame Arthur and Le Carrousel, and the proximity of Elle et Lui, enabled a community that shared advice and support, and exchanged addresses of doctors and electrolysists. Hormones were available in pharmacies without a prescription at that time. Although of course there were also jealousies and rivalries among the performers.

They also shared information with some customers: Renée Richards visited Le Carrousel in the mid 1960s and requested to speak with Bambi:
"She was touched, but she played her role without apology and with a clear sense of style. When I explained that I wanted to have the operation, she didn't bat an eyelash in spite of my unpromising appearance. On the contrary, she was supportive. After looking me up and down she commented that my body seemed plastic enough to accept the change and provide me with an acceptable vehicle in which to live out my life as a woman. This was encouraging since she had been through the experience and her word stood for something. At least I felt that I was talking to someone who knew some­thing. She provided me with the names of people who could provide the hormones for the long process of chemical prepara­tion necessary before surgery could be possible. She stressed the necessity of electrolysis ... . Finally, she confirmed that the necessary surgery was being done regularly at a facility in Casa­blanca. Our conversation lasted for about twenty minutes and was packed with information. I was left with the feeling that it was all within reach, that it could be done if I wanted it badly enough." (Second Serve: 148)
Le Carrousel also toured five continents, bringing an inconceivable example to countries where transgender surgery was not at all available.

Coccinelle, Bambi and Capucine were in various French and Italian movies in the 1960s, most noticably Alessandro Blasetti's Europa di notte, 1959, which includes a segment of Coccinelle performing at Le Carrousel.

Europa di notte led to Le Carrousel being invited to do a Japanese tour in 1963, and again in 1964 and 1965. The discussions in the Japanese media where the performers were referred to as "buru boi" (blue boys) led to a break with traditional Japanese female impersonation, kabuki and gei boi, and Japanese Buru boi started taking hormones and considering surgery. The atmosphere is captured in Taiwanese author Wu Jiwen's "Rose is the past tense of rise" where Seikei, working as a gei boi in an Osaka bar, sees the Carrousel show and then visits a member of the troupe in her hotel room where she is given Dr Burou's card, and commits to gender transformation.

Unfortunately in 1966 Sonne Teal and four other members of the Le Carrousel Japanese tour died in a freak accident flying over Mount Fujiyama.

In the 1970s international stars such as Rogéria (who had met Coccinelle when she was on tour in Rio de Janeiro) and Yeda Brown were contracted to appear at Le Carrousel.

Le Carrousel closed in 1985 when Marcel Oudjman retired.

Madame Arthur closed as such in 1994, but re-opened under different management. It shared the address with Le Divan du Monde, which features world music. A recent listing for Madame Arthur from ParisInfo was “Spectacle de transformistes (Mylène Farmer, Betty Boop...) dîner-spectacle à 20h30 = 85€, 125€ et 195€ (boissons comprises) spectacle seul : 36€ (avec une consommation)”. It has recently closed, and the entrance is covered with fly-posting and grafitti.

The original Carrousel de Paris at 40, rue Pierre Fontaine is still in business, although may be closing soon.

40, rue du Colisée is now a jeweller's.

22, rue Vavin is now a real estate agency.

Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45, Amsterdam is now the Heineken Music Hall.

Bambi writes: On ne peut nommer tout le monde. Je n’y parviens même pas dans mon livre «Carrousel, ou J’inventais ma Vie 3». A partial list of the performers is:

Coccinelle (Jacqueline Dufresnoy), April Ashley, Bambi (Marie-Pierre Pruvot), Peki d'Oslo (Amanda Lear), Guilda, Sonne Teal, Holly White, Rogéria, Les Lee, Zaza, Bettina, Rita del Oro, Capucine, Fetiche, Dolly, Caprice, Karina, Miriame, Wanda Paris, Hulla, Fifi Pervenche, Violetta, Rubis, Kiki Moustic, Zarah, Pussy Katt, Dominot, Yeda Brown, Colette Berends, Poppy Cooper, Tommy Osborne, Tobi Marsh, Manon (Jacquie Sarduy), Chery Parker, Gina Ginn, Ricky Renée, Barbara Buick, Chantal Chambord, Wanda, Claude Carol, Lucrèce, Lola Chanel, Zambella, Tanya, Rita del Ora, Micky Mercer, Nanny (Aaïcha Bergamin), Wanda Paris, Fifi Pervenche.

Major films featuring Le Carrousel/Madame Arthur performers:
  • Vittorio Sala (dir). Costa Azzurra. With Alberto Sordi as Alberto, and Bambi in one of the four tales. Italy/France 84 mins 1959.
  • Federico Fellini (dir) La Dolce Vita. With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg and Dominot.  Italy/France 174 mins 1960.
  • Alessandro Blasetti (dir) Europa di notte, 1959, which includes a segment of Coccinelle performing at Le Carrousel.  Italy/France 102 mins 1962. 
  • Vittorio Sala (dir).  I don giovanni della Costa Azzurra.  With Curd Jurgens, Coccinelle and  Capucine.  Italy 98 mins 1962.  
  • Norman Panama (dir).  The Road to Hong Kong.   With Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins and an uncredited cameo by April Ashley.    UK 91 mins 1962
  • Mino Loy (dir). 90 notti in giro per il mondo. Scr: Guido Castaldo & Nico Rienzi, narrated by Nico Rienzi, documenting Bambi’s show, amongst others. Italy 88 mins 1963. 
  • Antonio Margheriti (dir)  Il pelo nel mondo.   With Coccinelle.  Italy 1964.   
  • Enrique carreras (dir)  Los viciosos. With Coccinelle. Argentina  1964. 
  • Day of a stripper.   With Bambi.  US 1964.
  • Jacques Baratier (dir).  La Poupée. With Sonne Teal as Marion Moren / La Poupée.  Italy/France 95 mins 1962.   
  • Pedro Olea (dir)    Días de viejo color.  With Coccinelle.  Spain 1968.
  • Adolfo Arrieta (dir).  Les intrigues de Sylvia Couski.  With Hélène Hazéra, Jacquie Sarduy.  France 90 mins 1975.
  • Adolfo Arrieta (dir).  Tam Tam. with Jacquie Sarduy.  France 85 mins 1976.
  • José Jara (dir).  El Transexual. With Eva Robin's, Yeda Brown.  Inspired by the story of Lorena Capelli who died of peritonitis after an illegal sex change (the only kind in Spain at that time). Spain 1977. 
  • Michiel van Erp (dir).  I Am a Woman Now.  With April Ashley, Marie-Pierre Pruvot, Colette Berends, Jean Lessenich, Corinne van Tongerloo. Netherlands 80 mins 2011. 
  • Clara Vuillermoz (dir).  Le sexe de mon identité.   With Bambi, Maxime Foerster.  France  52 mins 2012.
  • Sébastien Lifshitz (dir).  Bambi.  With Bambi.  France 58 mins 2013.   

The incidents recounted by Kirk (England) and McLelland (Japan) are not found in either Foerster or Bambi.

Accounts of the 1966 air crash usually mention Sonne Teale, but I could not find the names of the others.

The teenage me got to Paris in 1964 on a school trip. However at that time, I had never heard of Le Carrousel or Madame Arthur, and for some reason the teachers did not suggest it. Perhaps just as well in that I don't think that I could have afforded a visit.

15 November 2015

IOS Rainbow List 2015

The 2015 Independent on Sunday Rainbow List of 101 UK LGBT persons who made a difference is just published.

Previous IOS lists:  2014  2013 

The count of Trans/Intersex/non-binary/etc persons is up to 30 from last years 18.  Persons include:

1.  Riley Carter Millington, actor playing Kyle in Eastenders on BBC1. 

2.  Sarah Graham, intersex advocate

5.  Dawn Rachel Vago & Holly Greenberry, co-directors of Intersex UK.

8. Jack Monroe, chef, author and non-binary campaigner, announced this year that is trans.

11.  Rebecca Root, actor in Boy Meets Girl on BBC2.

17.   Annie Wallace, actor playing trans teacher in Hollyoaks on Channels 4.   Previously a consultant for Hayley Cropper character on Coronation Street.

20 Jay Stewart, co-founder of Gendered Intelligence.

23.  Juno Roche, co-founder of Trans Workers UK and Trans Teachers Network.

26.  Payton Quinn, non-binary activist and comedian.   One of those behind petition complaining about Germaine Greer at Cardiff University.

29.  Jay Hayes-Light, director of UK Intersex Organisation.  

34.  Munrie Bergdorf, DJ and trans advocate.

38.  Sabah Choudrey, trans activist of Pakistani descent, youth worker with Gendered Intelligence, co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton.

40.  Charlie Craggs, founder Nail Transphobia.

44.   Jacqui Gavin, senior civil servant and vice chair of a:gender.

48. Lewis Hancox, appeared in Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer 3 years ago, and is involved in My Trans Story, also on Channel 4.

50. Fox Fisher, co-creator of Trans Pride Brighton and My Genderation documentaries, and an acting course for trans students at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

53.  Bethany Black, actor and comedian, appeared in Russell T Davies’ Cucumber, Banana and Tofu, and will be in Doctor Who.

60.  Emily Brothers, Labour Parliamentary candidate, also disability rights campaigner.

63.  Joe Holliday, raised as a girl because of birth defect, now male, author of She’s a Boy

68.  Ayla Holdom, RAF officer, search and rescue pilot.

70. Laurie Penny, genderqueer journalist and author.

71.  James Dawson, best selling young-adult author, whose This Book is Gay shortly to be placed in every primary and secondary school, has started to transition.

73.  Juliet Jacques, writer released her memoir, TransWIKIPEDIA

74.  James Morton, Scottish Transgender Alliance. 

79. Stephanie Hirst, DJ, returned to radio on BBC Radia Manchester.

81.  Helen Belcher, founder of Trans Media Watch.

87.  Jake Graf, film-maker, 1st trans man on cover of QX magazine.

89.  Jane Fae, journalist.  GVWW

90.  Jess Coal, UK Trans Info. 

96. CN Lester, musician, co-founder Queer Youth Network.

Long Time Champions:


Caroline Cossey/Tula  GVWW    Wikipedia  

Boy George     GVWW    Wikipedia 

Roz Kaveney  GVWW Wikipedia 

Paul O’Grady/Lily Savage   GVWW WIKIPEDIA

Alice Purnell   GVWW

Mark Rees     GVWW  

Stephen Whittle   WIKIPEDIA

Ones to Watch: 

Ellen Murray of Northern Ireland’s Gender Jam

intersex campaigner Elizabeth Jo Roberts

Jess Bradley of Action for Trans Health

Alec Scott Rook, the founder of Trans Men Support & Advice UK

12 November 2015

Le Carrousel and Madame Arthur: Part II: 1945 – 1961

Part I: before 1945. 75, rue des Martyres et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine
Part II: 1945 – 1961 40, rue du Colisée  et Juan-les-Pins
Part III: 1962 and after, 22, rue Vavin, and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45

Part II: 1945 – 1961 40, rue du Colisée (map) et Juan-les-Pins (map)

After 1945 Floridor and Marcel Oudjman converted the former Divan Japonais into a nightclub. They named it Madame Arthur after the song that Yvette Guilbert (who had recently died) had sung there. They were co-owners: the arrangement was a tontine, and when Floridor, who acted as host there, as he had at Binocle, died after a few months, Oudjman became the sole owner.

The clientele at the bar seemed to be gay, but it was otherwise in the salon. The show was so popular that it was put on five times from 23.00 till dawn. At this time the performers were 1930s style travestis who parodied women but did not openly identify as such, and arrived and left dressed as men.

The new host, Loulou, was a former priest who had abandoned his orders. He had an oratory in his apartment, and lived for 55 years with his lover, Hulla, who performed at the club. Loulou was also an award winning poet.

The first star was Maslova, a former ballet dancer, who at first performed under the name "Madame Arthur". He dominated the show for nearly 30 years. Other performers were Wanda Paris and Fifi Pervenche.
Oudjman was known at the club as Monsieur Marcel. He found a remarkable woman in Germaine Cartan, cohabited with her, put her in charge at Madame Arthur, but they never formally married. Coccinelle later wrote:
"There was also the manager, Madame Germaine who, at that time, impressed me greatly. Tall, red-haired, still very bécébégé with strict tailoring and hair pulled back, I must admit it really did not look comfortable! In fact, it was only a facade, as I would discover later, when she invited me on several occasions to the sumptuous villa she and her husband owned in Sainte-Maxime. However, at Madame Arthur, she could be harsh, but in private, she proved simple, charming, generous." (Coccinelle par Coccinelle:51)
Encouraged by the success of Madame Arthur, Marcel took over Le Carrousel, in October 1947, and moved it to 40, rue du Colisée, near the Champs-Elysée, initially in the basement. The proximity to the Palais de L'Elysée was considered scandalous at the time. The decor was luxurious but intimate, and circular in the style of ancient theatres. Zambelli, Maxi and Mado were the initial stars.

An early visitor, in March 1948, was the US playwright Tennessee Williams who enthused about the 'most beautiful male whores' but ignored the travestis.

An association of neighbouring businesses initiated legal action and actually forced Le Carrousel to close, but M. Marcel was able to get around this, and when he re-opened in 1951, it was on the street floor.

It should be mentioned that the nightclub was not strictly legal. In 1907, Paris Prefect of Police Louis Lépine had signed an order prohibiting transvestism outside of the Sunday, Monday, Mardi Gras and Thursday of Mid-Lent except with special permanent permission, and banned drag shows at dances and places where alcohol is sold. However these rules were only intermittently enforced.

1947 – 1961 were the years of "Le Grande Carrousel", when the nightclub was one of the most expensive clubs in Paris. April Ashley described the club:
“Through the foyer, through the Long Bar, to the tables and chairs for about a hundred. The Interior was Parisian red plush and gilt, with a small stage and band at one end.” (Odyssey: 50)
There were 14 different shows, one each year, changed in January. They consisted of tableaux, and ended with a grand finale with singing and feathers. Micky Mercer was the token male impersonator. There were also intermissions when heterosexual dancing was encouraged.

In 1949, the Prefect of Police Roger Léonard signed an order that men were not allowed to dance with each other in public places. All contact between artists and the public was prohibited by the police: only special customers like Maria Callas, Josephine Baker and Marlene Dietrich had permission to go backstage to congratulate the artists.

In 1951 Coccinelle, aged 20, presented herself to Madame Germaine at Madame Arthur, and a year later she was a star at Le Carrousel. Press agentry spread the canard that Coccinelle was really a cis woman, which resulted in the rejoinder that "A woman as beautiful as Coccinelle can only be a man". Her looks were compared to those of Brigitte Bardot who was breaking into a film career at the same time.

Coccinelle was part of one of the earliest Carrousel tours – to the Casino de la Corniche, 9 km outside Algiers in 1952, where the future Bambi was in the audience. Just over a year later, Christmas 1953, Bambi debuted at Madame Arthur.

The programmes at Le Carrousel usually included a head shot of the performer's male persona in the corner of the glamour photograph – even for Coccinelle and Bambi.

Coccinelle and Bambi were the first of a new type of performer, in that for them performance was a way to achieve womanhood, a womanhood that was continued offstage.

Similar performers began to arrive from other countries such as Pussy Katt (the first surgical transsexual in the US);  Aaicha Bergamin from Amsterdam who was known as Nanny; and the Tunisian Dominot who used her earnings to pay for studies at the Comedie Francaise.

It became the practice that performers either purchased or made their own costumes in that the club-supplied ones were not so good. Some boosted their income by having a sugar daddy or by earning a percentage when they took customers to other bars after hours.

Old-style performers, transformistes, still arrived – that is those who changed to male clothing off-stage and were not working towards a sex change. Even these performers were different from those of the 1930s, many of whom had done what the English called 'cod drag', that is exaggeration and playing for laughs. The new performers aimed for glamour.

One of the transformistes was Les Lee, who arrived from Quebec in 1954. He was later able to translate when artists arrived who did not speak French.

Coccinelle with US comedian Bob Hope
1954 was also the year that, under Police duress, Le Carrousel was closed for three months, and even Madame Arthur was banned from permitting 'men' wearing female clothes. This was following the French defeat by the Vietnamese at Dien Bien Phu, right-wing and anti-Semitic abuse aimed at and an attempted assassination of the new Jewish Prime Minister, Pierre Mendès France, and turmoil over the North African colonies.

Madame Germaine sent Bambi to star in a Le Carrousel tour of Algeria during the closure, and this time it was Nana in the audience. Nana, like Bambi, moved to Paris, and worked in cabaret, but never at Madame Arthur nor at Le Carrousel.

Poppy Cooper, who did not transition to womanhood until the 1970s, was one of the British performers who had been in soldiers-in-skirts revues after World War II which had run their course. Cooper found employment at Le Carrousel by the mid 1950s and was taken to be an old-style performer. She commented:
"There was more freedom there and you could go out onto the streets in drag if you wanted to, or go out with men to a restaurant after the show. …. French, Belgiums, Germans – they loved the travesti. The English seem different." (Kirk: 31)
Another such British performer was Dolly/Tommy Osborne who commented:
"I liked Paris, but I wasn't too happy in the show. I was a singer and I used to go out there and belt out the numbers big and loud and forget about being in drag, but most of the audience was there purely for the sensation of seeing boys with tits. The boys were all incredibly beautiful. But they just couldn't do anything, bless them." (Kirk: 31)
Toni April (April Ashley) arrived in 1956, and Peki d'Oslo (Amanda Lear) in 1958. Toni described the back stage:
“The dressing-room was divided in half by a row of back-to-back dressing-tables. On one side were the stars like Coccinelle and Bambi and on the other the polloi: two rows of narcissists transported in mirrors. Fortunately for my savoir-faire as well as my amour-popre I was seated with the stars, who were to instruct me in the techniques of make-up and presentation.” (Odyssey: 53)
Only Coccinelle and Bambi addressed the patron as 'Marcel' rather than 'Monsieur Marcel' until Toni started doing so also.

In 1956 Coccinelle had found out about female hormones after meeting trans activist Marie André Schwidenhammer by chance on a train, and then in 1958 she was approached by Jenny, Dr Georges Burou's first transgender patient. Later that year Coccinelle also became a patient of Dr Burou.

Toni & Bambi at Juan-les-Pins

Oudjman opened another Le Carrousel in Juan-les-Pins on the Côte d'Azur between Nice and Cannes. Toni and Bambi were to be seen in the best places on the Côte d'Azur so that people would say “It can't be true – surely they're girls" and then attend the show.

Over the next few years several of Monsieur Marcel's performers followed Coccinelle to Dr Burou's clinic in Casablanca, although Coccinelle was selective in whom she gave the details to.  Bambi, April Ashley, Amanda Lear and Capucine are the best known of those who went.

By the late 1950s there was already a gay bar in Osaka, Japan named Carrousel in homage to the Parisian nightclub. The performer Karūseru Maki named herself from the Osaka bar. (Karūseru = Carrousel)

In 1959 Salvador Dalí came and wanted to paint Toni in her half-way state, which she declined. He did become a long-term friend of Peki/Amanda.

However problems were building at 40, rue du Colisée. Initially it was the basement and then the street floor of a block of offices. However these had now been turned into flats, and the new residents objected to the noise and tone of the club. Oudjman also went to court to object to the police regulations that made his business illegal, and he won the case. However the lease was not renewed, and he was forced to close Le Carrousel 31 December 1961.

Both EN.Wikipedia and FR.Wikipedia have an article on Le Divan du Monde which is the name of the nightclub that is now at 75, rue des Martyrs. While they discuss Saint-Flour Musette, Brasserie des Martyrs and Divan Japonais, they are completely silent about Madame Arthur, both the song and the club. "In 1901, the Divan became the Théâtre de la Comédie Mondaine. It was later replaced by an erotic theatre. In 1994, it was reopened as Le Divan du Monde."

The FR.Wikipedia article on Le Carrousel has no mention of Marcel Oudjman (under any spelling), nor of Madame Arthur as a nightclub, and of course no link to its own article on Le Divan du Monde.

The list of notable pieds-noir on the EN.Wikipedia page and on the FR.Wikipedia page does not include Marcel Oudjman, Bambi or Nana.

Neither the EN.Wikipedia nor the FR.Wikipedia pages on Juan-les-Pins mention that Le Carrousel had a branch there.

The Casino de la Corniche is infamous in retrospect for the bombing on 9 June 1957 which killed the band leader, Lucien Seror, known as Lucky Starway, the heart-throb of the Bab el Oued. Eight or ten others were killed and eighty-five wounded, many with loss of limbs. This and the resulting pied noir ratonnade were major events in the second phase of the Battle of Algiers 1956-7.

1961 was not an easy year in Paris.  The Algerian Independence War was drawing to a close, and Algeria became independent in 1962.   A particularly savage event was the October Paris Massacre directed by police chief Maurice Papon.   A peaceful, but unauthorized, demonstration by Algerians was attacked by the police.  Some Algerians were beaten unconscious and then thrown into the river Seine to drown; others were killed within the courtyard of the Paris police headquarters.   The death toll is estimated as over 200.   Papon had earlier been active in deporting French Jews to German concentration camp during the occupation.   Also in 1961, Papon was personally awarded the Légion d'honneur by President Charles de Gaulle. 

Bob Hope visited Le Carrousel de Paris.   In Juan-des-Pins he took Toni April out to breakfast.   However apparently he did not recognise her on the set of Road to Hong Kong, 1962.

10 November 2015

Le Carrousel and Madame Arthur: Bibliography

Part I: before 1945. 75, rue des Martyres et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine
Part II: 1945 – 1961. 40, rue du Colisée  et Juan-les-Pins
Part III: 1962 and after.  22, rue Vavin, and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45

For photographs of the performers, the best site is Queer Music Heritage.
  • E Carlton Winford. Femme Mimics. Winford Company, 1954. Online.
  • "Les Boys of Paris". She: The Man's Picture Magazine, 1, 11, December 1957: 22-5. Online
  • Alessandro Blasetti (dir) Europa di notte. With Coccinelle. Italy/France 201 mins 1959,
  • " 'French fooler' Bambi". Femme Mimics, 1, 6, 1963.
  • "Dutch Treat". Boys will be Girls, 1,2, 1963. Online.
  • "Merry Madhouse ... le Carrousel". Female Mimics, 8, 1967. Online
  • Roger Baker. Drag: A History of Female Impersonation on the Stage. Triton Books, 1968: 190-1.
  • Jacques-Louis Delpal. Les travestis. Éditions Jacques Chénot, 1970: 135-7.
  • Barbara Buick. L’Eiquette. La Jeune Parque, 1971.
  • "Amsterdam's Mme Arthur's". Drag, 4, 13, 1973.
  • Tennessee Williams edited by Donald Windham. Tennessee Williams' Letters to Donald Windham, 1940-1965. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977: entry for 9 March 1948, p212.
  • Duncan Fallowell & April Ashley. April Ashley's Odyssey. Jonathan Cape, 1982: 49-72, 79-80, 91-6.
  • Renée Richards & John Ames. Second Serve: The Renée Richards Story. Stein and Day, 1983: 148.
  • Kris Kirk with photographs by Ed Heath. Men In Frocks. London: Gay Men's Press 1984: 29-31. Review
  • Coccinelle. Coccinelle. Filipachi, 1991.
  • Lawrence Senelick. The Changing Room, Sex, Drag and Theatre. Routledge, 2000: 389-90, 392.
  • Wu Jiwen translated by Fran Martin, “Rose is the Past Tense of Rise,” in Angelwings: Contemporary Queer Fiction from Taiwan. University of Hawaii Press, 2003: 221-245
  • Mark McLelland. Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age. Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, 2005: 111-6. 109
  • Martin Pénet. "L'expression homosexuelle dans les chansons françaises de l'entre-deux-guerres: entre dérision et ambiguïté". Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 4, 53-4, 2006: 106-127. Online.
  • Maxime Foerster. "Paris et l'âge d'or de la culture cabaret transgenre". Chp 4 in Histoire des transsexuels en France. H&O éditions, 2006:69-84.
  • Maxime Foerster. "On the History of Transsexuals in France". In Cantal Zabus & David Coad (eds) Transgender Experience: Place, Ethnicity, and Visibility. Routledge, 2013.
  • Bambi. "Cabaret". In Karine Espineira, Arnaud Alessandrin & Maud-Yeuse Thomas (eds). La Transyclopédie : tout savoir sur les transidentités. Paris: Des Ailes sur un tracteur, 2012.
  • Marie-Pierre Pruvot. J'inventais ma vie Tome 2 : Madame Arthur. Ex aequo, 2013.
  • Marie-Pierre Pruvot. J'inventais ma vie Tome 3 : La Carrousel Ex aequo, 2013.      CarrouseldeParis       FR.Wikipedia(Le Carrousel)     QMH(Le Carrousel)     QMH(Madame Arthur)    QMH(Madame Arthur – Amsterdam)    EN.Wikipedia(Le Divan du Monde)     GayHexagon(Madame Arthur)

QMH=Queer Music Heritage

08 November 2015

Le Carrousel and Madame Arthur: Part I: before 1945.

Part I: before 1945. 75, rue des Martyres et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine
Part II: 1945 – 1961. 40, rue du Colisée  et Juan-les-Pins
Part III: 1962 and after.  22, rue Vavin, and Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45

75, rue des Martyres (map) et 40, rue Pierre Fontaine (map)

In 1861 the ballroom Sant-Flour Musette at 75, rue des Martyres, Paris was turned into the Brasserie des Martyrs which was patronized by the poet Charles Baudelaire. In 1871 it became the concert-café Divan Japonais. The painters Toulouse-Lautrec and later Pablo Picasso were frequent visitors, and the cabaret singer Yvette Guilbert became famous there, where she was sketched by Toulouse-Lautrec. One of her best known songs was "Madame Arthur" (a name that would later become that of the nightclub). In 1901 it became the Théâtre de la Comédie Mondaine.

In the 1920s and 1930s Parisian travestis were found at La Petite Chaumière, 2, rue Berthe beneath Sacré-Coeur, (run by Monsieur Tagada and where one could find Zigouigoui) and at Chez Bob et Jean where one could find the transformiste Jean D'Albret, and of course at the balls at "Magic City", 188, rue de l'Université, that were photographed by Brassaï in 1933.

The nightclub Chez Josephine, at 40, rue Pierre Fontaine, near the Moulin Rouge, was founded in 1926 by Giuseppe Pepito Abatino, a Sicilian former stone mason who passed himself off as a count, for his wife, the US dancer, Josephine Baker, and some years later the nightclub was renamed Carrousel de Paris. Through the 1930s it was a fashionable restaurant-nightclub and the likes of Baker, her sometime lover Violette Morris, Jean Cocteau, Colette, and later Edith Piaf were frequently seen there.

For masculine women there was the Monocle on Edgar-Quinet Boulevard in Montparnasse, and from 1938 Chez Frede (which managed to stay open during the German occupation).

Also in 1938 there was the club Le Binocle (named in homage to the Monocle), down a bleak alley close to the Moulin Rouge. Marcel Oudjman (sometimes Ouissmann or Wutsman), a Jewish pied noir from Algeria, was the owner; Floridor was the host; Zambelli was the featured performer. Le Binocle was known for its black musicians and female dancers, but the men preferred to dance together. Every month there was a big transvestite night when contestants dressed according to an announced theme: la Belle Epoque, 1880, and so on.  A jury, chaired by the popular singer, Mistinguett, elected the most beautiful transvestite, to acclaim from the audience. However the police closed the club after a year and a half, in the austerity period that preceded the coming war.

Oudjman survived the war working as a bartender.  He managed to avoid the mass roundups and deportation of Jews from Paris, especially that of 16-17 July 1942.


Part of this information is from Jacques-Louis Delpal's Les travestis, 1970, which is quoted in Foerster's Histoire des transsexuels en France. Apparently Delpal's book was quickly banned (see the FR.Wikipedia page). The book was translated into Spanish, but no other language, and has become a rarity. Foerster describes his book as "well informed but curious".

There are inconsistencies. Foerster quotes Delpal on Le Binocle but Delpal does not mention Oudjman by name. Foerster simply says that Oudjman arrived in Paris before the war and worked as a barman. Which raises questions about how he ended up as the owner of Madame Arthur as we will see in Part II. However Bambi (2012) specifies that he was the owner of Le Binocle.

Other Madame Arthurs:
  • There was Madame Arthur(Modesto Mangas), the major Spanish female impersonator during Franco's dictatorship.
  • Eduardo Gion made a documentary about Modesto Mangas in 2011 called Madame Arthur.
  • There was a 1967 Spanish film called Madame Arthur, directed by Carlos Serrano..
  • The Italian musical-comedy film, Totò di notte n. 1, 1962 lists a Madame Arthur as an actor (this is probably Modesto Mangas)
  • There was a male-run lesbian bar in Montréal called Chez Madame Arthur at 2170 rue Bishop, in the 1970s. There was a call for a boycott in 1974.  It is probably the bar featured in Marie-Claire Blais' 1978 novel Les nuits de l'Underground
  • There is a band called Madame Arthur
  • There is a play by Isabelle Sojfer, Le voyage de Madame Arthur, which features Yvette Guilbert. Trailer
  • Aaïcha Bergamin ran a short-lived club in Amsterdam in the 1980s.

The song by Yvette Guilbert (1865 - 1944) IMDB.
Madame Arthur est une femme
Qui fit parler, parler, parler, parler d'elle longtemps,
Sans journaux, sans rien, sans réclame
Elle eut une foule d'amants,
Chacun voulait être aimé d'elle,
Chacun la courtisait, pourquoi ?
C'est que sans être vraiment belle,
Elle avait un je ne sais quoi !
(Madame Arthur is a woman
That one talks  talks, talks, talks, talks about for a long time,
Without newspapers, without anything, without advertising
She had many lovers,
Everyone wanted to be her friend,
Everyone courting her, why?
It's that without being really beautiful,
She had a special something!)

Full text    YouTube

06 November 2015

Aaïcha Bergamin (1932 – 2014) performer, sex worker, drug smuggler

Leonhard Meisjes was raised in Amsterdam with three sisters.

At age 19 Leonhard was sent to a psychiatric hospital after being found by mother in bed with a Jamaican dancer, but escaped and fled to Paris, where, known as Nanny, she found work as a performer in Le Carrousel, and elsewhere. She became known for her Marlene Dietrich impersonation.

After more wandering in Nice, Berlin and Antwerp, Aaïcha returned to Amsterdam, acquired black-market female hormones and made a living as a prostitute, despite police harassment. They would confiscate the clothes that she was wearing, even underwear, even trousers without a fly, on the grounds that such clothes were forbidden to men, and send her home naked. She had repeatedly to buy replacement clothing and to pay fines.

Nanny had confirmation surgery in 1972.
“Veel later zag ik foto's van een dergelijke operatie. Ze joegen me de stuipen op het lijf.” (Much later I saw pictures of such an operation. They filled me with fear.)
She closed up after the first operation in Amsterdam, and was operated on again in England two years later. She then changed her name to Aaïcha Bergamin.

She went on to marry four times, the last, when she was in her 60s, the husband being a Moroccan 42 years younger.

She worked in De Wallen, Amsterdam's red-light area, but initially the police refused to let her hire a window, despite her anatomy, in that she was registered as a man. After several appearances in court, she was examined by a sexologist, Dr Van Emde Boas who said:
“Wat ze van tevoren had, gaat ons niet aan. Ik raad u aan deze mevrouw als vrouw te beschouwen.” (What she was before, does not concern us. I advise you regard this lady as a woman.)
With this and her passport finally changed, the vice squad finally left her alone to practice her profession. She became the first trans madam in the city.

Later she opened a club, initially called the Bar Oporto, but then Madame Arthur, at de Warmoesstraat 131 at the corner of de  St. Annastraat ( map), where she repeated her Marlene Dietrich act. But after two years the building was demolished.

A Chilean trans woman, who had danced in her club, fixed it for her to smuggle cocaine from Brazil.
“De eerste keer smokkelde ik zes kilo. Dat ging goed, dus ik vroeg of ik wat meer kon meenemen, want ik kreeg per kilo betaald. Twee jaar lang landde ik om de paar maanden op Schiphol met 45 kilo coke. Ik had een peperdure nertsmantel aan, zo een waarin Wilhelmina heeft gelopen. Dan loop je niet direct in de armen van de douane.” (The first time I smuggled six kilos. That went well, so I asked if I could bring some more because I got paid per kilo. For two years I landed every few months at Schiphol with 45 kilos of cocaine. I had an expensive mink coat on, such as [Princess] Wilhelmina would wear. Then I walked directly into the arms of customs.)
Aaïcha spent five years in prison.

Afterwards she lived in her parents' home in Amsterdam Oud-West. In 1991 she published her autobiography, Aaïcha: het bizarre conflict van een als man geboren vrouw.

She died age 82 of lung cancer, and was buried anonymously. However trans activists raised funds to buy her a tombstone.


 "Much later I saw pictures of such an operation. They filled me with fear."  Just as well that Aaïchadid not go to Dr Burou.  April Ashley tells us that he showed such photographs of previous patients as part of deciding whether a prospective patient was serious.

Do not confuse Aaïcha's Madame Arthur with that of  the same name, also in Amsterdam but at Korte Leidsedwarsstraat nr. 45 whuch was opened in 1961 by Marcel Oudjman, the owner of the Paris Madame Arthur and Le Carrousel.

04 November 2015

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 12 November 1954

There were years when the police harassed and even arrested those 'cross-dressed' at New York's National Variety Artists' Carnival and Costume Ball.   At the other times the Ball winners were noted in the straight press.

02 November 2015

Daya Rani (1959 – 2015) electoral candidate

Daya was born and has always lived in Dasna, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. She lived with other kinnars in a shared bungalow.

Although illiterate, in 2004, 2009 and 2014 Daya Rani contested the Ghaziabad Lok Sabha constituency in the General Election as an independent. In 2007 she ran for the Uttar Pradesh assembly. She stressed her gender identity:
"Why are people with me? Because other politicians fill their homes and cupboards. And I have no children, husband, wife or heirs. Whatever family I have is these people and I live off these people and I will fight for these people with the politicians who have not delivered on their promises."
However in 2014 the District Magistrate cancelled her nomination.

On the morning of 4 July 2015, Daya Rani was found dead in her room. She had been shot through a hole cut in the wire mesh over her window, and the gun fired as a train passed so as not to be heard.

Two days later the police arrested Waris and one other at the Ghaziabad bus stand, and found a country-made pistol and a knife. The accused had the idea that by murdering Rani, they could obtain her wealth, said to be 1,00,00,000 rupees or more. In addition, Waris, was married to Rani's niece, Geeta, against Rani's wishes. Later Rani had provided accommodation for Geeta and her child, but not for Waris.

31 October 2015

In the news …

Tara Hudson, Bristol, convicted of assault and sentenced to 12 weeks imprisonment, was sent to a men’s prison until there was a kerfuffle in the press and in Parliament, and then she was transferred to a women’s prison.   The article in Pink News says:  “Current policy states that a Gender Recognition Certificate is required for trans prisoners to be placed in the correct prison for their gender, which Ms Hudson did not have despite living full-time as female for six years.”

So what happened to the New Prison Guidelines of November 2011?
"An establishment must permit prisoners who consider themselves transsexual and wish to begin gender reassignment to live permanently in their acquired gender …
the prisoner is considered to have the protected characteristic of gender reassignment for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and must not be discriminated against or harassed because of this …
Establishments must put in place measures to manage the risk of transphobic harassment and transphobic hate crime …”
This was reported in Pink News and elsewhere.   Up to that date convicted trans persons were avoiding prison sentences because there was no safe place to put them, and the Daily Mail was having conniptions about this.

Why does Pink News no longer remember the New Prison Guidelines?  Likewise The Guardian, and every other news source.  Did the Conservative Government quietly abolish the New Prison Guidelines, and if so why does no news source tell us so?

Sandra MacDougall is back in the news.  MacDougall, who had been with the army in Northern Ireland, was featured in several newspapers in 2002 when her transition was not going very well, and she was suffering abuse from people in the small town in Ayrshire where she lived.  Lynn Conway included Sandra in an article, still available, on transsexual regrets along with Renée Richards, Danielle Berry and Charles Kane.  I was uncomfortable about this article in that I feel that any more-trans-than-thou game is very sterile.   It is for the more successful transsexuals (such as Lynn) to help and advise the less successful rather than to tell them not to consider transition.

This month Sandra, now 63, is in the news in that her pension has been suspended because she does not have a Gender Recognition Certificate and has not reached the male retirement age.  

Context: The pension age in the UK used to be 60 for women and 65 for men.   This was ruled discriminatory, and the female retirement age is gradually being raised to parity with the male.   This will be achieved in 2018, and then both male and female retirement ages will rise together to 66 by 2020.   There are many women in the UK now in their late 50s or early 60s who had been expecting to retire at 60 and now have to work until 66.

Sandra finds herself in the middle of this transition.   If she were a few years younger she would have had to wait until age 65 or 66 irrespective of gender history.

Sandra did not obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate.   I can sympathise.   The Gender Recognition Panel have shown themselves to be quite perverse in their demands.   In my case they initially demanded that I divorce the husband that I married after transition.  There were however two reasons to persevere with them: to obtain a pension at 60, and to marry in the UK.    The former does not apply for any trans woman born 1955 or later; and the latter no longer applies of course since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 (except in Northern Ireland).

It appears that it would also be useful to have a GRC if you end up in prison (see above).  

For those who did persevere, the GRP not only issued their GRC but also liaised with National Insurance to change one’s name and gender in the pension database, and many of us got our pension at age 60 with no problem.

Another context is that the current government, David Cameron’s Conservative Party, affectionately known as the Nasty Party, has been attacking the working poor and those on benefits so that they can reduce taxes for the better off.   There have been many stories in the press about disabled persons who can hardly walk, who are ruled ‘fit to work’.   Some of these died of their disability shortly afterwards (the shock of losing benefits can hardly have helped), and others were driven to suicide.

In this context it is easy to think that managers have been instructed to look for women aged under 65 drawing a pension whose paperwork is not up to snuff.  I expect others, in addition to Sandra, will be found soon.

28 October 2015

Bebe Scarpinato (1951 - ) activist, teacher, performer

In the early 1970s, Bebe Scarpi(nato) had graduated from Queens College, New York (which she denied choosing for its name) where she'd founded a Gay Community organization.

She became active in the Gay Activist Alliance, where she met Sylvia Rivera. Sylvia felt that GAA was not radical enough, but never actually left the organization. It was Bebe who ensured that Sylvia's dues were paid up.

Scarpi was also in the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, was director of the Queens Liberation Front (QLF), was on the originating board of the National Gay Task Force and was active in planning the fourth Christopher Street Liberation Day (which later became the New York Pride March).

However there were problems with many gay activists:
"You don't have to embrace stereotypes in order to be gay so it was looked at as an anachronistic method of trying to be gay and in the truly liberated society there would be no cross gender identity. You could be a feminine man, but you wouldn't opt to dress and act like a woman." (Cohen p108).
In November 1971, the androgynously-dressed Bebe was called to testify before the New York City Council's General Welfare committee. The Gay Activist reported:
" 'Bebe' Scarpi, a transvestite in male attire, gave testimony on the minority group, he pointed out that transvestites used the men's room because they 'd been warned they would be subject to arrest if they entered the ladies room. And even transvestites had to heed the call of nature. Bebe, a student at Queens College, gave what amounted to a short course on the lifestyle and problems of transvestites with such charm, ready wit and intelligence, that even the Councilmen appeared beguiled. … Chairman Sharison seemed unable to comprehend that some transvestites were heterosexual. He wanted to know whether Bebe believed transvestites would be protected by Intro 475. 'Only as a homosexual, not as a transvestite', Bebe explained, and perhaps the councilman would care to enact legislation protecting the transvestite." (Quoted in Cohen p 150)
At a third hearing in December, policemen were posted outside the ladies rooms to prevent 'transvestites' from using them. Bebe, definitely not androgynous that day, asked the policeman what he was doing, and then went in and did her business. On the way out she commented to the policeman that he had not checked her. The New York Mattachine Times complained that transvestites were jeopardizing the bill with their restroom behavior.

In 1973 the committee was still blocked in its attempt to pass a bill to ban discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing and public accommodation. To get it passed, an amendment was proposed that nothing in the definition of sexual orientation “shall be construed to bear upon the standards of attire or dress code". Bebe, as QLF director, was put in the uncomfortable position of submitting to this wording or seeing the bill fail.
Cohen p 135

For the Christopher Street Liberation Day in June 1973, Bebe went to the 82 Club and got the showgirls, in full regalia to march behind an 82 Club banner.

In 1974 Bebe attended a feminist conference where Jill Johnston, mother of two and author of Lesbian Nation, had proposed that mothers neglect to care for male babies. Bebe, from the question line, accused Johnston of being a neo-fascist and dictating to women as well as to men. At this point Bebe was recognized from earlier encounters.

Scarpie was the Editor of Drag Magazine, and an associate for 20 years of Lee Brewster's.
In addition she started a career as a high school teacher. When she was not teaching she worked as a stripper.
"Stripping is such a liberating experience; I would strongly recommend everyone to try it".
It was commented that she looked like a middle-class lady. Bebe is the first known trans woman to become a school principal.
"I've never identified myself as transgender. I prefer drag queen. I've always been a 'she' and always will be." (quoted by Lee)

25 October 2015

Nadine Chilianu (197?–) professor of literature, translator, journalist, activist

Chilianu studied Romance literature at the Moldovan State University in the capital Chișinău, and became a professor of Romanian literature.

Upon starting transition as Nadine, she was forced out. She retrained in business and administration, and since has been working as a journalist and translator (Russian-Romanian).

She also became an activist for trans rights in Moldova. In 2008 she won scarce funding to organize a transgender social, support and advocacy group from the local LGBT rights organization.

In 2009 she went to the state registry office, which insisted on proof of surgery before issuing revised documents, pointing out the obvious that discrepant documents prevent travel and that few Moldovans could afford transgender surgery. She presented a letter from her clinic showing that her hormone levels were now those of a female, and when that was insufficient fought her way to the top of the bureaucracy demanding either new documents or a written refusal that she could take to the European Court of Human Rights. She won new documents for herself, but with the proviso that she was the only person that they would do this for.

It took three more years until the Court of Appeals ruled that the state registry office had to do it for all trans persons who could demonstrate hormonal changes, although the agency announced that it would appeal.

Nadine is also working with doctors to educate them about transgender medicine.

Robyn McCutcheon, who had met Nadine in Romania, arranged an online fund-raising that raised enough for Nadine to have surgery with Dr. Sanguan Kunaporn in Phuket, Thailand.
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