She had begun to wear men’s clothing even to work. She helped with the typesetting and layout for the local gay magazine. She moved to San Francisco with her boyfriend. Her parents and siblings were supportive of her identity as a man, and her going-away present was a man’s suit.
In San Francisco Sullivan eventually found a supportive psychiatrist and started taking male hormones in 1978. He changed his name to Lou and was able to grow a beard. He found a job at a sporting goods firm where the manager knew of his past but was not bothered. He had chest reconstruction in 1980, which ended the relationship with the boyfriend.
Louis was a pioneering organizer for female-to-male persons. He was the organizer of San Francisco’s Gay & Lesbian Historical Society.
He identified as an gay trans man, at a time when the medical establishment maintained that no such person could exist, and was rejected by gender clinics on these grounds three times. He had obtained hormones and surgery from doctors not associated with gender clinics. He lobbied the American Psychiatric Association and the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (now known as WPATH, World Professional Association for Transgender Health), to recognize his existence.
He wrote the first guidebook for FTM persons, and also a biography of the San Francisco FTM, Jack Bee Garland. He did peer counseling at San Francisco’s Janus Information Facility, a clearinghouse for information on transgender issues; he was also active in the Golden Gate Girls/Guys (later the Gateway Gender Alliance). He was a frequent contributor to Rupert Raj’s FTM newsletter out of Toronto, Metamorphosis.
In 1986 he finally had genital surgery, but suffered complication afterwards. Also later that year he was diagnosed as HIV+. Aids-phobia cost him his job.
He spent the rest of his life developing support for FTM transsexuals and crossdressers. He founded FTM the first exclusively FTM organization. He is largely responsible for the modern acknowledgment that sexual orientation and gender identity are different things. He was also one of the first to talk about the eroticism of male clothing.
He died of AIDS. “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me that I could not live like a gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one”.
*Not the architect, nor the US Secretary of Health.
- Louis Sullivan. Information for the female to male cross dresser and transsexual. Seattle: Ingersoll Gender Center. 1st Ed Janus Information Facility. 20 pp1980.2nd ed 48 pp 1985. 3rd ed.. iii, 123 pp1990.
- Eli Coleman & Walter O. Bockting. “’Heterosexual’ prior to Sex Reassignment – ‘Homosexual’ Afterwards: A case Study of a Female-to-Male Transsexual”. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. Vol 1(2). 1988 pp69-82
- Louis Sullivan. Male to Female: the Life of Jack Bee Garland. Alyson Publications, Inc. 1990.
- Pat Califia. Sex changes : the politics of transgenderism. San Francisco: Cleis Press 1997. Second edition by Patrick Califia 2003: 186-7.
- Susan Stryker. “Lou Sullivan”. Third International Congress on Sex and Gender. 1998.
- Susan Stryker. "Portrait of a Transfag Drag Hag as a Young Man: The Activist Career of Louis G. Sullivan," in Kate More and Stephen Whittle (eds). Reclaiming Gender: Transsexual Grammars at the Fin de Siecle. London: Cassells, 1999:62-82.
- “Guide to the Louis Graydon Sullivan Papers, 1755-1991 (bulk 1961-1991)”. Online Archive of California. Contains full bibliography. http://content.cdlib.org/view;jsessionid=NcggwsRWO1_ivoF_?docId=tf9199n9v3&chunk.id=bibliography-1.7.8
- FTMi Newsletter: the Lou Sullivan memorial Issue. Issue 58: Spring 2005.
- FTM Newsletter: Special Issue Summer 2007. http://ftmsf.org/LouSullivan.pdf.
Although Lou Sullivan wrote to Ray Blanchard 20 years ago explaining that gay trans men existed, Blanchard is still denying their existence.
Vern & Bonnie Bullough's Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender, 1993, the same book that totally fails to mention Reed Erickson, mentions Sullivan only in the 'transvestism' chapter, page 306, asserts that he was a 'cross dresser' and totally ignores his work for ftm transsexuals, and totally ignores that he was a gay trans man. They know of his death but not of his work.