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 two search boxes: one at the top left, and one at the right. Enjoy exploring!

30 August 2008

Barbette (1899 - 1973) trapeze artist, female impersonator, aerial choreographer.

Van der Clyde Broodway was born in Texas, probably in Round Rock. He joined the circus at age 14. He became a (male) trapeze and tight rope performer in the Ringling Brothers' Circus and on the Orpheum Circuit.

When one of the Alfaretta Sisters, the World Famous Ariel Queens, died, she had no replacement and Van stepped in.

Thereafter he retained the female guise - this was not an unknown practice in the circus. Barbette started a solo act at the Harlem Opera House in 1919. His combination of female impersonation and trapeze artistry was a great success. He maintained the illusion of femininity until the end of his act when he removed his wig.


In 1923 he took his act to England and France. During an engagement at the London Palladium, he was caught having sex with a man, and never again allowed to work in England. In France he was hailed by the noted writer and artist Jean Cocteau, who gave him a cameo in his film Le Sang d’un Poète, 1930, and had a brief affair with him. The drag-trapeze-artist murderer in Alfred Hitchcock's Murder, 1930 is inspired by Barbette, and is not in the source novel.

Barbette toured Europe and America through the twenties and the thirties until a high wire accident put him into hospital for a year.

A continuing stiffness in his arm prevented a continuance of his career on the trapeze, although he continued as an aerial choreographer and consultant, for example on Till the Clouds Roll By, 1946 and The Big Circus, 1959.

He was also a consultant for Some Like It Hot, 1959.

He committed suicide at the age of 74 after years of chronic pain.

His life was turned into a play, Barbette, 2002 by Bill Lengfelder & David Goodwin.
  • Jean Cocteau. “Le Numéro Barbette” Nouvelle Revue Française. July 1926. Reprinted as Le No Barbette. Paris: Jacques Damase 76 pp 1980. Reprinted in ManRay & Jean Cocteau (translated from the French by Catherine Garo). Barbette. Borderline 1988.
  • LeGrand-Chabrier, "Les Métamorphoses de Barbette," Vu 144 December 17, 1930.
  • Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage. A Triton Book 1968 p216-8.
  • Francis Steegmuller. Cocteau: a Biography. An Atlantic Monthly Press Book. 1970. p364-8 and Appendix XIV 'A Visit to Barbette, 1966'. .
  • Joe E. Jeffreys "Barbette: That Daring Young [Wo]Man on the Flying Trapeze," in Arthur Gerwitz and James J. Kolb (eds) Art, Glitter and Glitz: American Theatre of the 1920s Greenwood Press 1999.
  • David de Alba. “Barbette”. FI Pictorial Tributes Epilogue. http://phantomdragon.com/THELEGEND/epilogue.htm.
  • "Barbette (performer)". Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbette_(performer)

27 August 2008

Lennox Ross Broster (1888 - 1965) pioneering surgeon.

Lennox Broster was the fifth child of eight of a farmer in Molteno, South Africa.  He won a Rhodes Scholarship, and studied medicine at Oxford University.  He met his wife-to-be, Edith, at Oxford.  They later had three daughters. 

Lennox became Head Surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital, London, and later a well-known Harley Street surgeon. He did pioneer research and provided hormonal therapy and surgery for intersex patients, especially those with adreno-genital syndrome (now known as Congenital adrenal hyperplasia), at Charing Cross Hospital in the 1930s and 1940s.

In 1932 he devised an operation which provided heretofore-impossible access to the adrenal gland for removal of tumours.

Broster's work on intersex patients was reported in The News of the World, in 1943, which attracted patients who would now be regarded as transsexual. However there is no evidence that he operated on any such person, and Clifford Allen, the psychiatrist who worked with him, specifically rejected surgical treatment for ‘transvestites’ (the term then in use).

Unlike the other surgeons who operated on intersex and 'transvestite' patients in the 1930s and 1940s, e.g. Harold Gillies, Kurt Warnekros, Ludwig Levy-Lenz, Erwin Gohrbandt, Milosh Kilcka, he did not do just one or two as an experiment, but did several hundred operations over the years.

He later worked with John Randell. Patients included: Mark Weston.

He died in Wimbledon, London, aged 77.

25 August 2008

Mark Weston (1906 - ?) shot-putter and javelin thrower.

Mary Edith Louise Weston was England’s best female shot-putter 1924-1930 and the best javelin thrower in 1927.

In 1936 Mary became Mark after two operations by Lennox Broster at Charing Cross Hospital. Broster said: “Mr. Mark Weston, who was always brought up as a female, is male, and should continue life as such".

Two months later Mark married his close friend, Alberta Bray, in Plymouth.

His younger sibling, became Harry a few years later.

22 August 2008

Liz Eden (1945 - 1986) and John Wojtowicz (1945 - 2006)

Ernest Aron was born in Queens, New York. As Liz Eden she at one time lived in the same rooming house as Holly Woodlawn.

John Wojtowicz, a New Yorker, had a first marriage to Carmen Bifulco from 1967-9. They had two children. He met Liz at a an Italian feast, and married her in a Catholic ceremony in December 1971.

Wojtowicz attempted to rob a Chase Manhattan Bank branch at 450 Ave P, Brooklyn, NY, on August 22, 1972. Wojtowicz held the bank employees hostage, and gave his reason as paying for his lover’s sex change.

Liz was in hospital at the time under her male persona following an overdose of barbiturates, and knew nothing of the plan.

Wojtowicz was sentenced to 20 years in a federal penitentiary, but served only 14. He sold his story to Warner Bros. for $7,500 and 1% of the net profit. He had to sue (from prison) to get it. He gave Liz $2,500 for the operation, which she had in 1973.

The story was filmed in 1975 as Dog Day Afternoon. The transsexual component is quite small. The lover, Leon (=Ernest), who appears for only a few minutes, is presented as a mid-70s gay stereotype, who has been informed by the shrinks that he is a woman trapped in man's body. He does not seem to be too happy with this conclusion. Despite its dubious portrayal of Leon, the film was much applauded as the first film to feature a sympathetic, fully-rounded bisexual (sic) male.

Liz Eden sued Warner Brothers for libel and they settled out-of-court. She moved to Rochester, NY. Liz died in 1986 of Aids-related pneumonia.

Wojtowicz was released in 1987. He lived in Brooklyn on welfare, and was the subject of two documentaries, The Third Memory, 2000, and Based on a True Story, 2005. He died in 2006 of cancer.
  • Liz Eden & John Wojtowicz. Liz Eden (Ernest Aron) Papers. The National Archive of Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender History. The Lesbian & Gay Community Services Center, New York City. 1973-86.
  • Paul Meskil. “An Insider Is Sought in Bank Holdup: FBI Agent Kills Bandit at JFK And 2d Thus is Nabbed”. Daily News Aug 24, 1972. Photo-image online at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Dailynews082472.2.jpg.
  • P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore. "The Boys in the Bank". Life Sept 22, 1972, vol 73 (12).
  • Sidney Lumet (dir). Dog Day Afternoon. Scr: Frank Pierson, from the magazine article by P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore, with Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik, John Cazale as Sal, and Chris Sarandon as Leon Shermer (roughly based on Liz Eden). US 124 mins 1975. Oscar for best screenplay; Sarandon was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Top grossing film of the year. The shooting script is online at: www.awesomefilm.com/script/dog_day_afternoon.txt.
  • John Wojtowicz. “Real Dog Day hero tells his story”. Unpublished article written from prison for the New York Times in 1975, later reprinted in Gay Sunshine: A Journal of Gay Liberation, No. 29/ 30, Summer/Fall, 1976, and then again in Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 31-32. Online at: www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC15folder/RealDogDay.html.
  • Woodlawn, Holly with Copeland, Jeff. A Low Life in High Heels: the Holly Woodlawn Story. New York: Martin's Press xi, 305pp Hb 1991. New York:Harper Perenniel Pb. 1992: 111-2.
  • Pierre Huyghe (dir). The Third Memory. With John Wojtowicz as himself. US 2000. A short documentary re-enacting the “Dog Day Afternoon” bank holdup.
  • Walter Stokman (dir & scr). Based on a True Story. With John Wojtowicz and Sidney Lumet, with photos or clip quotes of Liz Eden, Al Pacino, John Cazale & Chris Sarandon. Netherlands 75 mins 2005.
  • “Dog Day Afternoon”. “John Wojtowicz”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_Day_Afternoon and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wojtowicz.
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Wow, genital surgery for $2,500! It shows how much inflation we have had since.

None of the sources tell me if Liz was a regular visitor to John while he was in prison, which I want to be true as this is one of the great transgendered love stories.

Sidney Lumet has made many great thrillers and crime films, and is known for his social concerns and depictions of minorities, however the gender variant persons in his films are either minor or get killed: a mannish lesbian briefly glimpsed in The Group, 1966, Jack Doroshow (Sabrina) in mufti in The Anderson Tapes, 1971, female impersonator, Gypsy Haake has a cameo in The Morning After, 1986, International Chrysis' character is killed, and the other transies humiliated by Nick Nolte's bad cop in Q & A, 1990.

18 August 2008

Paul Wegman (1944 - 2004) actor, drag performer.


Paul Wegman grew up in Rochester, NY, and initially worked in a carnival.

He first moved to Orlando, Florida  in 1965. In 1966 he worked for a while as a female stripper without being outed, and was also booked for prostitution in a gay bar by police officers who thought that he was a woman.

He became well-known in Orlando as an actor.  He was known for his versatility of roles in straight theater, and who had a second stage career as Miss P.

He worked with Logan Carter in the early ‘70s, and had developed the Miss P persona by the mid-1970s when he moved his act to the Parliament House, a theater in Orlando. In addition to his own act, he emceed the other drag queens, staged an all-male version of A Chorus Line, and presented various gay plays.

Paul died from complications from Aids.

16 August 2008

Dora Ratjen (1918 - 2008) high-jumper, barman.

Gretel Bergmann (1914 - ) had won the German Olympic trials in 1936 in the high-jump, and was expected to be Germany's representative at the Olympic Games. However two weeks before the Games she was was dropped from the team because of 'mediocre performance'. The real reason, of course, was that she was Jewish. She was replaced by Dora Ratjen of the Hitler Youth, an odd woman with a deep voice and who never showered with the other women. The other German representative was Elfriede Kaun.

In the Berlin Olympic Games of that year, Ratjen came fourth. Only three jumpers cleared 1.60m : Kaun, the UK's Dorothy Odam and Hungary's Ibolya Csák (1915 - 2006). All failed 1.62m at the first attempt. At a jump-off, also at 1.62m, Csák was the only one to clear, and became the first Hungarian to win an Olympic Gold.

The irony for the the Nazis was that Bergmann had cleared 1.64m in the trials. And more than that, Csák was also Jewish

In 1938, Ratjen won the European championship in Vienna, beating Csák into second place. However she was later examined by a police doctor after being read at a railway station, and found to have ambiguous genitals. Her European championship was rescinded, as was her permit to compete – on the grounds of violating her amateur status. Csák was awarded the gold.

In 1957, Herman Ratjen, a barman in Hamburg, said that he was Dora Ratjen, that he had been raised as Horst Ratjen, and had lived as a woman for only three years and that the Nazis compelled him to compete as a woman.

----

Bergman emigrated to the US in 1937 and quickly won their national title in high-jumping. She married and became Margaret Lambert. She saw the story of Herman Ratjen in Time in 1966 in a story about the introduction of sex testing. She did not return to Germany until 1999 when a stadium in her home town of Laupheim was renamed in her honour.

Csák later worked at the Hungarian Banknote printing company, but remained an active spectator in Hungarian athletics until her death in 2006.


Herman Ratjen died at the age of 90.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

This case is the one and only of gender imposture in the Olympics. The whole embarrasment of sex-testing rests on this case. However we do not know the details of Ratjen's intersex status. It could be that she is actually entitled to compete as a woman under modern rules. The claim of Herman Ratjen in Hamburg in 1957 to be Dora rests only on his say-so. No journalist seems to have actually checked it out.

The 2009 film Berlin 36 is the story of Gretel Bergmann. There is no character called Ratjen in the cast list.

15 August 2008

Sin Kim Dan (1938 - ) sprinter.

Dan broke the women’s records for 400m and 800m in 1961/2. She was the first woman to run 400m in less than 52 seconds.

In 1963 in Moscow, other female sprinters refused to run against her because she looked like a man.

A South Korean man claimed that she was his son who had disappeared during the war.

She was not in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as North Korea was not in the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Her record was not passed until 1969, and it still holds in Asia.

Obligatory sex-testing for international athletics was introduced in 1966, and for whatever reason, Sin did not compete after that.

14 August 2008

Zdenek Koubkov (1913 - ?) runner, jumper, performer.

Zdenka Koubkova, who worked as a corset fitter, became a runner who set Czechoslovak women's records in the broad jump, high jump, a half-dozen sprint and middle-distance runs.

She broke the women’s world record for the 800-metre dash at the Women's World Games in London in 1934.

A genital examination was ambiguous, and she was stripped of her award and banned from Olympic competitions.

To her humiliation, a nude photograph of her was published in a medical book.

Professor Milosh Kilcka, head of a surgical institute in Podol (now Podil) in Kiev, Ukraine, decided to emphasize Zdenek’s masculinity by means of an operation. The operation was so successful that the Czechoslovakian government officially sanctioned Zdenek’s transfer to masculinity

Zdenek went to New York in 1936 and performed in a Broadway club as a tableau vivant.

12 August 2008

Doris Fish (1952 – 1991) performer

Philip Mills was originally from Sydney, New South Wales, where in 1972 he was in the political drag group, Sylvia and the Synthetics.

In 1976 he moved to San Francisco. At an audition for the rock group, The Tubes, Doris met fellow drag queen, Tippi, and they became roommates. At a come-as-your-favorite-Fellini-character party in 1979 he met Miss X who wasn’t yet serious about doing drag, but by the end of the year the three were performing as Sluts-A-Go-Go.

In 1977 San Francisco gay leaders urged no drag on Gay Freedom Day. Doris and the Sluts and many other drags turned out in force.

Through the 1980s the Sluts appeared in a series of theatrical nightclub spectacles.

In 1986, Doris and Tippi did a weekly cable news show about the gay community, and some viewers complained that she was a negative stereotype.

Her major legacy is the film Vegas In Space, 1991, which she co-wrote and starred in, which is now a classic camp bad movie.

She died from complications from Aids.

Phillip Ford, the straight member of the Sluts, who directed Vegas In Space, also directed the one-act play, Simply Stunning: The Doris Fish Story, 2002.



11 August 2008

Tamara Natanovna Press (1937 - ) and Irina Natanovna Press (1939 - ) sports stars.

The Press sisters were raised in Kharkiv in the Ukraine. They were Jewish and their father had died in the Great Patriotic War.

They studied at the University of Leningrad and were trained at VSS Trud and Dynamo. Tamara excelled in shot put and discus throwing. She won gold and silver medals at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Irina won a gold in hurdling in Rome and a gold in the Pentathlon at Tokyo. Between them they set 26 world records.

They both retired in 1966, which was coincidentally the year that sex testing for athletes was introduced. There were rumours that they were intersex or even men, or that they took male hormones. They remained popular Soviet sporting stars.

Irina joined the KGB and became an officer in the border troops. Tamara became a civil engineer and wrote several books about sport and about civil engineering.


__________________________________________________________

Ukrainians, like Russians and Greeks and most East Europeans, femininize women's surnames usually by adding a vowel, often 'a'. E.g. Putin's wife is Putina. So why is 'Press' not so feminized? Is 'Press' a Ukrainian name?

Julia Yasuda (1943 - ) set theorist, performer.

Yasuda was born with Klinefelter’s Syndrome in Sheng-Yang in Manchukuo, Japanese-occupied Manchuria.

In 1959 he started as an assistant in the radio engineering department of the Musashi Institute of Technology. He got a PhD in mathematics there in 1973.
In the late 1970s he met the photographer, who would become known as Erika Yasuda, at an S&M bar in Tokyo, and became her model and assistant. In 1984 the couple moved to New York where Yasuda became visiting professor at the Courant Institute at New York University, and later professor of mathematics and logic at the University of Maryland.

He also earned a Doctor of Sciences from Nagoya University for his contributions to descriptive set theory.

Erika died in 1987. Yasuda became Julia and moved to New York to work for The American Mathematical Society and The Association For Symbolic Logic.

In 1995 she met Antony Hegarty and began performing with Anthony and the Johnsons. She also produced and managed the group Transisters. In 1996 she was in Rosa von Praunheim’s film Transsexual Menace.

In 1999 she became a female US citizen. She is a participant in Milton Diamond’s study of Klinefelter’s Syndrome.

10 August 2008

Eddie Murphy (1961 - ) comedian, actor.

Murphy was born in Brooklyn, New York. His cop father left the family when Eddie was three, and was killed when he was eight.

He was famous by age 19, when he became a regular on Saturday Night Live (1980-4). His stand-up comedy routines were noted for their homophobia. He achieved Hollywood fame in the 48 Hours films, 1982, 1990, Trading Places,1983, the Beverley Hills Cop films, 1984, 1987, 1994, Coming To America, 1988, the Nutty Professor remakes, 1996, 2000, and voicing the donkey in the three Shrek films, 2001, 2004, 2007.

He played in drag in The Nutty Professor films, where he plays all members of the Klumps family, and both genders again in Norbit, 2007.

He was married to Nicole Mitchell 1993 – 2006 and they had five children.

In 1997 he picked up transy prostitute Atisone Seiuli and she was arrested in his car. Several other Los Angeles transy prostitutes including Karen Dior talked to various publications about encounters with Murphy dating back to the early 1980s.

Some later retracted when approached by Paul Barresi, a porn actor in gay films who became famous when he sold a story to The National Enquirer for $100,000 about having a two-year affair with John Travolta, and was now working for Murphy’s lawyers. Barresi offered money if they retracted.

Candace Watkins tell-all book also disappeared from the internet. Atisone Seiuli died in a mysterious fall from her apartment.

08 August 2008

Candace Watkins (195? - ) sex worker, author.

Candace left home at 16 and became a transy prostitute in Chicago, then New Orleans and then Los Angeles. She also stripped, and performed in porn films. In the early 1980s she was a pioneer as a transsexual dominatrix, then a new porn genre.

She had gender surgery in 1983.


By the late 1990s when the Eddie Murphy scandal broke, she was a mentor to local transsexuals in Los Angeles. Although she had never tricked with Murphy herself she had been hearing tales for years of others doing so. She worked these anecdotes up into a book which she published online as Carnal Candy. She also put several of her friends in touch with The National Enquirer and The Globe which ran stories on Murphy and transsexuals.

When Paul Barresi working for Murphy’s lawyers sought to buy off potential witnesses, he saw Watkins as the focal point who would influence the others. They agreed on $15,000 and she swore a declaration at the lawyers’ office.

After Atisone Seiuli’s death, Candace created a memorial website saying that she had been pushed out of her window.

*Not the mayor in Louisiana.

06 August 2008

Atisone Seiuli (1976–1998) sex worker, performer.

Saoaumaga Atisone Kenneth Seiuli was born to a Mormon family in American Samoa.

She was able to express her femininity as a teenager using the name Shalimar (after the French fragrance). She was cheerleading captain at school, and was Miss American Samoa Island Queen 1993.

By 1996 she had moved to Los Angeles and begun transition as Atisone Seiuli.

She already had one prostitution conviction, when on May 2, 1997 she was caught by police in the vehicle of film star Eddie Murphy, and arrested for violation of a ruling from the previous conviction. Within a few hours this was a media event. The National Enquirer paid her bail in exchange for an exclusive.

This was her career breakthrough. She acted in a pornography film, and became the ‘House Madame’ at the 7969 nightclub where she performed to celebrities as a dominatrix with live snakes.

She was troubled by death threats from Eddie Murphy fans. On April 22, 1998 she was dead, clad in her underwear only, outside her apartment building. The coroner concluded that she had locked herself out of her fifth-floor apartment and fallen while attempting to swing from the building roof to an open window using a towel.

Karen Dior (1967 – 2004) drag-queen actor, theologian.

Geoffrey Gann was born in Ozark, Missouri, the son of Missouri Republican state senator Donald Gann, and raised as a Southern Baptist.

As a teenager he had earned a lot of money selling Mary Kay cosmetics to bored housewives, and at college he had first practiced the act that evolved into Karen Dior.

He moved to Los Angeles in 1988. Offstage he remained a man, but in character as Karen she was called ‘one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood’. She was an early friend of Chi Chi LaRue who introduced her to the porn business, and pioneered her in drag-queen porn. She performed and directed in gay porn, transy porn and mainstream cinema and television, including Xena: Warrior Princess and Veronica’s Closet.

She also acted under the names: Geoff Dior, Rick Van and Geoffrey Karen Dior. She did a few television commercials that emphasized her gender-bending. She also sang with The Johnny Depp Clones, and in 2001 wrote a kiss-and-tell autobiography.

She had had encountered Eddie Murphy in the late 1980s, and spoke up during the scandal in 1997. She was one of those who refused the pressure and bribes from Murphy’s lawyers even though she was ill with AIDS at the time.

As Geoffrey, he became an ordained minister, and earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion.

He died at the age of 37 from hepatitis stemming from AIDS.


04 August 2008

Jeanette Schmid (1924 – 2005) whistler.

Rudolf Schmid was born in Volary, Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic). He was into cross-dressing and singing and dancing from an early age. At the age of 17 he served in the Wehrmacht in Italy until invalided home with typhoid fever.

Like many Sudeten Germans, he fled from Czechoslovakia in 1945, in his case to Munich, where he started a career as a female-impersonator. Using the name Jeanette he was appearing at the Hansa Theatre in Hamburg when he was invited to Tehran by the Shah of Iran and his wife. However in Tehran, his act and costume was too saucy, and he substituted whistling a polka by Johann Strauss and Offenbach’s Barcarole.

The drag whistler under the name Baroness Lips von Lipstrill appeared with Sinatra, Piaf and Dietrich.

Schmid lived for 15 years in Cairo, where he became a woman in 1964, with surgery by Ludwig Levy-Lenz, who had previously worked with Magnus Hirschfeld, and had done the genital surgery on Dörchen Richter in 1932.

Jeanette then moved to Vienna where whistling is an established art.

She was rediscovered in the 1980s by director Andre Heller, and then toured Europe and played Broadway.

Austrian decoration of Merit in Gold, 2004.

She died of the flu.

She can be seen in the documentary film Bellaria - So lange wir leben!, 2002, about a cinema in Vienna which shows old German films.

02 August 2008

Paul Whitehead (1945 - ) artist

Paul was born in Dartford, Kent. He could draw and paint before he started school. He went to Oxford University on an art scholarship, but left when he got work.

He designed his first record cover for Fats Domino in 1967. He became the unofficial designer for Liberty Records, and then was the original Art Director for Time Out magazine. He met the group Genesis through their producer and did the covers of their albums: Trespass, Nursery Cryme & Foxtrot. Other Charisma bands that he did the covers for were Van der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill solo and Lindisfarne. He emigrated to the US and settled in Los Angeles, where he did album covers for Tom Fogerty, and Earth, Wind and Fire.

The Guinness Book of Records credits him with the largest mural in the world. He did the first Drive Through Art Gallery. He has done corporate logos, and for three years was creative services director at the Universal Studios Theme Park. He has written film scripts, and written music.

His feminine doppelganger is Trisha Van Cleef, who is also an artist but who does abstract art. Sometimes Paul and Trisha exhibit their work together.

Susan Faye Cannon (1925 - 1982) historian of science.

Walter Faw Cannon was born in North Carolina to a line of Methodist divines. His father was a former Dean of the Divinity School at Duke University. He escaped to Princeton University at the precocious age of 16. His physics degree was interrupted by war service in the US Navy.

Both at university and in the Navy, he considered himself to be a 'male woman' and was used sexually by 'straight' men. He had a severe stammer, but compensated for this and became a major debater.

Walter did a PhD at Harvard in the history of science, 'On uniformity and progression in early Victorian cosmography', and then held various university teaching positions in the subject.

In the 1950s he had a relationship with a lesbian friend who would screen men for him to see. They planned a marriage so that they could have children, but in the end they did not go through with it.

In 1962, Cannon joined the Smithsonian Institute where he would spend the rest of his professional life. His academic specialty was science in the Victorian period. He was active in poetry groups and his poems were published a few times in anthologies.

In the 1970s he also joined a transvestite social group. His mother died in 1974, and his lesbian friend in 1975. Little by little he changed his dress, first by carrying a purse, and then eventually he was a tall, balding, broad shouldered man in a skirt.

In 1976 Cannon legally changed her name to Susan Faye, and insisted on being called this at work. She was interviewed in May 1977 by The Washington Post and defined herself as a 'male woman'. 'I feel I'm dressing up as a clown when I wear men's clothes'.

Her major book is Science in culture: the Early Victorian Period, 1978, which was published as by Susan Faye Cannon. It won a major prize from the History of Science Society. However, her work situation deteriorated and there was growing pressure to get rid of her. In 1979 she came to a deal with the Smithsonian, and retired.

By now she was taking hormones, and had decided to have a sex-change. However she was 55 years old, had arthritis in her back, trouble with her eyes and stomach problems. She was a chain-smoker and addicted to painkillers. She was declared a recovered alcoholic after a session in a clinic. Susan had gender surgery with Dr Biber, at age 55, but never really recovered. Her intake of painkillers escalated, and a year later she was found dead, probably from overdoses of painkiller.