This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc. There is also a Place Index arranged by City etc. This is still evolving.

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!

15 August 2018

Helen Savage (1955 - ) vicar, archeologist, wine columnist

Part I: Life
Part II: PhD thesis

Mark Savage was born in Barrow, Cumbria, one of three children of a Baptist minister, and was raised in various parts of Lancashire. Despite a happy family home, Mark was thinking “I didn’t understand why I wasn’t a girl” by the start of school.

After graduating from Birmingham University Savage became an archaeologist: He co-directed the first modern, complete excavation of a Roman milecastle – Milecastle 35 at Sewingshields on Hadrian’s Wall.

In his mid-20s he decided to follow his father into the church and became a Church of England (CofE) curate in Heaton, on the outskirts of Newcastle. He completed a theology degree at Durham University, and a masters in adult learning. He became an adult education advisor for the diocese of Newcastle.

He married in 1979, and they had two children. He was ordained in 1983. After ten years of teaching, Savage became the vicar in the parish of St Cuthbert’s in Bedlington, Northumberland.

From 1990 Savage was also the wine writer for the Newcastle Journal. From 1991 he owned a house in France. Being fluent in the language, was able to visit hundreds of small vineyards across the country.

However he still felt that he was living a lie. In his 40s he contacted the Beaumont Society, but quickly realised that he was not a transvestite. He saw doctors at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and was approved for NHS surgery.

Savage also began a PhD on gender dysphoria and Christian theology at the University of Durham, which draws upon the experiences of seven trans Christians who were interviewed over a period of eight months from 2002-3.

In 2004, with the support of the Bishop of Newcastle, Savage stepped down as vicar so that she could transition to Helen. While Helen is not the only trans CofE vicar, the news of her transition became national news and the press camped on her doorstep for a while.

She has stayed with her wife, and her now adult children have stood by her.
“Neither am I the least bit girly, but as a female I just feel so at ease. It fits with the way my brain works, and I now feel grateful for every new day. It may not be easy for those who know and love me, but before I was so bound up in misery and so obsessed. Now I don't have those feelings anymore. I am just getting on with my life."
She is still a CofE priest, and still a wine writer. Helen completed her PhD in 2006. (see discussion in Part II).

While Savage had wanted to return to being a parish vicar, she encountered more problems as a
woman than as a trans person in that some parishes would not take a woman priest, and she wished to remain in the north. Finally in 2015 she took the Moorland group of seven parishes around Hexham in Northumberland, and the Hexham Courant acquired its first ever wine columnist.

She also has become a Master of Wine (one of only 300 or so worldwide). She is a member of both the Association of Wine Educators and the Circle of Wine Writers; she has twice been short-listed for the coveted Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award.

* Not Helen Savage the movie actor/director, nor the Library of Congress classifier, nor the jazz singer.
* Not any of the other writers called Mark Savage
  • Mark Savage. Excavations on Hadrian's Wall at Sewingshields: Interim Report 1979. Peter Robson, 1979.
  • Mark Savage. Master of Wine Study Bursary: Reports on Visits to Italian Wine-Producing Regions, 1983. The Institute of Masters of Wine, 1985.
  • Mark Savage. The Red Wines of Burgundy. Octopus, 1988.
  • Mark Savage & Claude Dovaz. Bourgogne rouge. Gründ, 1988
  • “Vicar quits to change sex”. Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2004. Online.
  • “’Sex Change’ vicar quits parish”. BBC News 22 March 2004.
  • “Anguish of sex change vicar”. The Journal, 22 Mar 2004. Online.
  • Jane Hall interviews Helen Savage. “This is who I am, and I am proud of it”. The Journal, 13 Oct 2005. Online.
  • Helen Savage. Changing Sex?: Transsexuality and Christian Theology. University of Durham PhD Thesis, 2006. Online. Review.
  • Helen Savage. L’Histoire du vin de France. Fetjaine, 2011.
  • “Multi-talented vicar welcomed to Slaley”. Hexham Courant, 22 April 2015. Online.    twitter     WineEducators

Several newspaper articles quote Helen to the effect that there are 5,000 transsexuals in Britain. This is surely a serious under-estimate.

The Hexham Courant mentions that Savage has written a book on music. I was unable to find it.

I have updated my Non-Fiction Books on other topics by trans authors to include Helen Savage.

13 August 2018

Harry Stokes (1799 – 1859) master bricklayer, publican

Stokes was born and raised in Doncaster, the child of a bricklayer. He ran away, some say at age 8, and did an apprenticeship with a bricksetter in Whitby.

He married his first wife in either the Old Parish Church of Sheffield or Sheffield Cathedral in January 1817. Through the 1820s and 1830s they lived in Manchester where he built up a bricklaying firm that specialized in chimney and flue construction. His wife was the company accountant, and at its peak the company employed eight men and an apprentice.

Harry had been sworn in as a Special Constable in 1829 in the 13th division, and acted in that capacity in the first days of the Chartist Riots, 1838.

In April, also 1838, after 22 years of marriage, Harry’s wife approached a lawyer as she wanted a separation. Harry was withholding housekeeping money, getting drunk and ill-treating her.

This was almost 20 years before the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Divorce was governed by ecclesiastical courts and the canon law of the Church of England. In practice only the very wealthy, who could afford a private bill in Parliament, were able to get a divorce. However there was a chance of annulment.

Mrs Stokes also stated, that she accidentally made the discovery of the sex of her husband “as much as two or three years back” but that she had kept the secret till the present time. Harry was then examined by a police surgeon who did certify that he was a woman. This led to stories in the press, gossip and ridicule, and ballads that were composed and sung in the streets.

While no legal proceedings were taken, Harry had several conversations with the deputy constable and was persuaded to give the family home and contents to his wife, but refused to set aside any sum as a provision for her. Harry ceased to be a special constable in that he not present himself to be re-sworn at the annual procession at Manchester’s New Bailey.

A year later Harry met Francis Collins who, initially out of pity, took him on as a lodger in nearby Salford for a couple of years. She was 10 years his senior, a barmaid with an adult son and daughter. They returned to Manchester and established a beer-house under her name. They were assumed to be a couple and Collins took the name of Stokes. Eleven years later they opened a second beer-house under the name of her son.

However Harry in later years fell into decayed circumstances. In October 1859, a body was found in the River Irwell. The corpse was identified as that of Harry Stokes, then aged 60. The stories of 1838 being remembered, two women were deputed to examine the body. They reported back that it was of a “woman”. Again there were various newspaper stories about the “man woman”. Francis Collins Stokes maintained that despite sharing a bed with Stokes for 20 years she did not know that he was a woman.

  • "A Female-Husband". The Manchester Guardian. 11 April 1838:2. Online.
  • "The Woman-Husband". The Manchester Guardian. 14 April 1838: 2. Online.
  • “A Female Husband in Manchester”. The Weekly Dispatch, 15 April 1838: 175. Reprinted in Oram & Turnbull.
  • "A Woman Passing as a Man for Forty Years". The Manchester Examiner. 22 October 1859. Online.   
  • “ ‘Harry’ Stokes, The Man Woman”. Salford Evening News, October 1859. Online.
  • The Lancet: A Journal of British and Foreign Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, Physiology, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Public Health and News, Volume 2, 1859:649-650. Online.
  • Alison Oram & Annmarie Turnbull. The Lesbian History Sourcebook: Love and Sex Between Women in Britain from 1780–1970. Routledge, 2001: 21-3, 26-8.
  • Esther Roper & Eva Gore-Booth. “Harry Stokes – Manchester’s ‘female husband’ “. Warp and Weft,
  • Esther Roper & Eva Gore-Booth. “Harry Stokes – timeline “. Warp and Weft.



Some accounts (Lancet, Salford Evening News) ignore the first wife married in Sheffield and instead tell of a one-day marriage to a widow, Betsy, who kept a beerhouse, but objected that her new husband was a woman and charged him with assault, which led to his spending a month in the New Bailey prison. Warp and Weft think that maybe this was misremembering because of the ballads that were sung in 1838.

02 August 2018

A BBC2 discussion from 4 June 1973 with Della Aleksander

This program was part of a series called Open Door that launched in April 1973.   Championed by the BBC’s director of programmes at the time, David Attenborough, the series provided a platform for marginalised groups to talk about issues affecting them, without any editorial intervention. 

Four trans women were described as the Transex Liberation Group, and were led by Della Aleksander.  The others were Rachel Bowen, Jan Ford and Laura Pralet.   Della was also the founder of GRAIL (Gender Research Association International Liaison), and co-produced this program.

They are joined by two men: Member of Parliament for Pontypool, Leo Abse, who had introduced the private member’s bill to decriminalize homosexuality that had become law in 1967, and Dr Schlicht, a psychiatrist. 

The opening clip is from the comedy program, Are You Being Served?  The same 'joke' was repeated in the movie spin-off from the series.

Note that the pre-ops are referred to as 'transsexuals' and the post-ops as 'sex changes'.   I wonder how much of out jargon today will still be used in 2063 in the same way?   Della several times describes herself and others as 'intersexual', a term which we use much more carefully these days. 

If the video does not play full-screen, click:

29 July 2018

Jackie Starr (1915 – 198?) performer

Jack Starr grew up on a farm in the US Midwest. His parents encouraged his desire to be an actor, and he studied voice, acting and classical ballet. His elder sister was dressing him in female clothing from age five.

By the age of 14 he was doing drag in mob-controlled speakeasies in Chicago: both solo and in the line of chorines. He played the drag circuit in the 1930s, and did a tour of South America, and of Europe. Jackie met a Prince who wanted to take her home.
“I was tempted but I’m glad I didn’t because he was killed in a coup and I’d have been killed too.”
In Washington DC Jackie went out with senators. Later she moved to Greenwich Village, and tried acting and singing. She also did ballet, both as male and as female. She was one of only a few men in the US who could dance en pointe. She was a fill-in for the noted stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, and she also danced as a Rockette at the Radio City Music Hall (and was also married briefly to another

In the late 1930s, Starr was one of the first artists to join the Jewel Box Review. Starr was one of only a few Jewel Box Revue artists to be dating a woman. He married a second woman, and they had a child.

Starr was in the merchant marine during WWII.

Jackie on the cover 
When the Garden of Allah in Seattle opened in late 1946, Starr was quickly signed up as the headliner. By this time Starr was in her mid-30s, and was regarded as past her peak, although she gave class to the show. She stayed for the full ten years of the club’s existence. She could make a striptease last twenty minutes, finishing in a g-string. Walter Winchel, the syndicated columnist called Jackie "the most beautiful man in America".

Bill Scott and his wife, known as Sister Faye, were street preachers, although most donations to their mission went to Faye’s heroin habit. Bill was devastated when she left town without him (she later died in a car accident, while high). Bill was both bisexual and homophobic, and also worked as a trucker.

He was the recoil from a sex-only affair with a gay man, when he found himself in the Garden of Allah and Jackie was on stage. They married. They had a formal wedding and reception, in the home of a friend who played the part of a minister. Performer Skippy LaRue was the maid of honor and a lesbian the best man. They partied till 9am, and afterwards the couple had a big fight.

However the marriage persisted. Jackie, as the woman, ran their daily affairs and the apartment, however sexually she was the top.
Jackie & Bill's wedding

Later Scott also married a woman who was supposed to inherit, with the idea of spending the money on Jackie. The inheritance never happened, and the second wife died. Scott moved back in with Jackie, and they ran a restaurant together.

Towards the end Scott had to have both legs amputated, and Jackie took care of him till he died in the late 1960s.

Jackie lived the last ten years of her life in a mobile home near the Seattle-Tacoma airport. She was as meticulous as ever in her appearance, and when she and her friends went to the Golden Crown drag bar in Seattle, the younger generation of drag performers would crowd around.

  • Don Paulson & and Roger Simpson. An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle. Columbia University Press, 1996: 151-163.
  • Mara Dauphin. “ ‘A Bit of Woman in Every Man’: Creating Queer Community in Female Impersonation”. Valley Humanities Review, Spring 2012. PDF.

Jackie Starr was a pre-eminent female impersonator 1930s-1950s, and yet there is - until now - no web page for her.  Queer Musical Heritage has a page but it only reproduces a few show bills; Lawrence Senelick's The Changing Room says not a word about her; likewise F Michael Moore's Drag! Male and Female Impersonators on Stage, Screen and Television.