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!

06 April 2019

Potassa de la Fayette (195? - ) model

Potassa was a star in the early days of New York's Studio 54, 1977-8, where she was noted when on the dance floor, and liked to pick up straight Wall-Street type guys and take them to a balcony for oral sex.

Said to be from Santo Domingo, she was photographed by Andy Warhol – in the nude displaying her more than average male endowment.

She was also in the Salvador Dali set, and was seen with him around town.

It is not recorded what happened to her later.
  • Anthony Haden-Guest. The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night. William Morrow, 1997: 113.
  • Peter Conrad. “Studio 54: heady daze of disco decadence – in pictures”. The Guardian, 14 Mar 2015. Online.
  • Brian Belovitch. Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man. Skyhorse Publishing, 2018: 96.

03 April 2019

Two lives ended in a workhouse 1889-1899

Mary Mudge (1804-1889) dairy maid

In the 1850s Mary Mudge was running a small dairy farm of nine acres and three cows in a village close to Tavistock, Devon. She lived with her sister and also took in lodgers.

By 1871 she was living alone in a cottage on the Duke of Bedford’s estate. By 1881 she was living with a 31-year-old gardener and his family, and was described as an aunt.

In 1885 she was taken sick, and was recommended to the workhouse in Tavistock.

She died there age 85, and as her body was being prepared for burial, was discovered to be male-bodied.
  • “A Man Eighty Five Years in Woman’s Clothes”. Raynold’s Newspaper, 31 March 1889.
  • Peter Stubley. “Mary Mudge: Cross-dressing in the 19th Century”. History Hack, December 18, 2012. Online.

Charley Wilson (1834 - ?) master painter

Catherine Coombs, from Somerset, educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, was married at 16 to a first cousin, 23 years older. He ill-treated her, and she ran away to her brother in West Bromwich. He was a painter and decorator, and helping him she learned the trade.

Twice the husband forced her return. On the third run-away, Coombes bought a suit of boy’s clothes, and took the name Charley Wilson.

Wilson obtained work as a painter and joined the painters’ union.

For 14 years he worked as a painter in Yorkshire.

For 13 years he was a painter in London with the Penninsula and Oriental (P & O) Company : most of the ships of their line bore his handiwork. He worked on the Rome, The Victoria, The Oceana and the Arcadia. The elaborate ornamentation was largely Wilson’s work, done in enamelling – a distinct branch of the painter’s craft.

Wilson was stand-offish with regard to socialising with other men, and in particular avoided coarse and vulgar conversation. He owned a little house near the Victoria Docks, and for 22 years his niece kept house for him, being taken by the neighbours to be his wife.

In July 1896, at the age of 62, Wilson fell from a scaffold, and fractured his ribs. The attending doctor did not notice anything discrepant about his sex. However being unable to work, Wilson fell into destitution and was admitted to the West Ham workhouse. He was put in the male ward but, before the compulsory stripping, requested to see the matron and doctor, and stated: ‘I am a woman”, and then made a statement about her life.

Wilson told the Telegraph reporter that he felt very uncomfortable in the female workhouse uniform.

  • “Stranger than Fiction: Authenticated Story of a Singular Woman’s Life” The Daily Telegrath, 3 November 1897. Online.
  • “A Woman’s Strange Career: Forty-Two Years Disguised in Male Attire”. Kalgoorlie Miner, 10 November 1897. Online.
  • “In Man’s Attire: Catherine Coombs Worked With Men for Years”. Wichita Daily Eagle, Nov 12, 1897.  Online.
  • “Men in Women’s Guise”. Drag: The International Tranvestite Quarterly, 5, 18, 1975: 27. Online
  • Louis Sullivan.  Information for the Female-To-Male Crossdresser and Transsexual, 1985:21. Online

31 March 2019

Thomas Hall (1603–?) soldier, seamstress, servant

Raised with the name Thomasine, Hall was born near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the age of twelve she was sent by her mother to live with an aunt in London.

Hall’s brother probably died in the 1625 expedition to take Cadiz, in alliance with the Dutch against Spain – the first disaster in the reign of the new king Charles Stuart. At the age of twenty-two Hall cut her hair, became Thomas, enlisted as a soldier and served in France where British forces occupied the Île de Ré to assist the Huguenots at the Siege of La Rochelle.

On return to England on 1627, Hall was in Plymouth, became a woman again, and earned a living making bone lace and doing other needlework. She became aware of a ship being made ready to sail to Chesapeake in the Virginia colony, part of the reinforcement of the colonists after the Powhatan reprisals of 1622. It was Thomas who sailed with it, as an indentured servant.

In January 1628*, in Virginia, a John and Jane Tyos of Jamestown and their servant, Thomas Hall, were convicted for receiving stolen goods. A note was made that Thomas had been able to sow a napkin into a bag – a skill rare among male servants.

Shortly after that John Tyos sold Hall to a John Atkins (as one could with an indentured servant) but as a maidservant. It also seems that Hall switched gender in what little private time was available. Atkins took Hall to the tobacco-growing area of Warrosquyoacke (now Isle of Wight County) Virginia.

There were rumours that Hall had had sex with men, and also with at least one woman. As the community became aware, Hall was subjected to a forced body inspection, first by his owner, Atkins, and a few women who declared him to be a man, and this having been declared, by men who concurred. The situation was referred to Warrosquyoacke’s de facto leader Captain Nathanial Bass. As Hall’s ‘male’ organ was non-functional, as he lacked the power to procreate, Bass deemed Hall to be female.

However the others were not happy with that decision, and in 1629 this situation came to the attention of the Council and General Court of Virginia who commanded Hall’s appearance. They accepted Hall’s self-definition that he was ‘a man and a woeman’. They ordered that it be published that Hall 'is a man and a woman', and they dictated his dress: 'hee shall goe Clothed in mans apparell, only his head to bee attired in a Cyse and Croscloth wth an Apron before him'.

*at that time New Years day was 25 March (Lady Day) and so that January was regarded as still 1627.
  • Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. 1983, Carrol & Graf Publishers, Inc. 1994: 71-2
  • Mary Beth Norton. “Searchers Againe Assembled” in Founding Fathers & Mothers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society. Vintage, 1997 :183-202.
  • Elizabeth Reis. Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009: 10-14, 168n35.
  • Holly Hartman. Gender Roles in Colonial America. Western Oregon University, 2015: 14-7. Online.
  • Shana Carroll. “Transgender History in Colonial America”. Medium.Com, Oct 15, 2018. Online.
EN.Wikipedia OutHistory

Hall is reported as being willing to show his male member but pointed out that it was non-functional. He also claimed to have a ‘hole’ which was also examined. Quite possibly he was female with a largish clitoris.  Those who examined him and proclaimed him to be male must have done so simply because he had something approximating a penis.

There is no record of what happened to Hall after the ruling by the Council and General Court of Virginia. Hopefully he completed his indenture, and then moved elsewhere where he was not subject to the ruling about his clothing.

As John Tyos had purchased a male servant, probably from the ship's captain, but then sold her on a maidservant, we wonder if this entailed a financial loss.   One hopes that female servants were just as valuable as male ones, but knowledge of history suggests otherwise.   This aspect is not discussed.

18 March 2019

Eleno de Céspedes (1545–?) surgeon

The child was born in Castile but the initial name is not recorded. The father was Pero Hernández, a Castilian peasant and the mother an African slave. The child inherited her mother’s slave status, and was branded on both sides of her face.

At age twelve, Elena de Céspedes, the owner, died, and the child was freed and given the owner’s name. The new Elena de Céspedes was married at 16, to a stone mason. He left after three months, and she received news that he had died.

However she was pregnant. As she reported later, the childbirth was unusual. During labour, a penis also emerged: “with the force that she applied in labour she broke the skin over the urinary canal, and a head came out”. Céspedes gave away the baby, and had surgery to further reléase the member.

Elano – as he now was – was able to have relations with women. He moved from town to town, working as a tailor, a hosier, a soldier. Finally he lodged with a surgeon, who taught him the trade. He worked in the Hospital de la Corte, and built up a library of 24 medical texts.

Céspedes was known for his affairs with women. In 1586, that is after over twenty years of living as male, he proposed to marry Maria Del Caño. The vicario (archdeacon) of Madrid, suspecting that he was a capon (eunuch), required an examination. The lead examiner was Dr. Francisco Díaz de Alcalá, a prominent urologist, and surgeon to the King. Diaz determined Céspedes’s identity to be male and not hermaphrodite:
“It is true that he has seen Eleno’s genital member, and having touched all around it with his hands and seen it with his eyes, he made the following declaration: That he has his genital member, which is sufficient and perfect, with its testicles formed like any other man. . . . And he thus said and declared that in his opinion Eleno does not bear any resemblance to a hermaphrodite or anything like it”.
The marriage went ahead. However a year later, just after injuries suffered while riding a horse, combined with a bout with cancer, he was arrested and charged in secular court with sodomy and ‘contempt for the sacrament of marriage’.  He explained that there had been changes:
"At present I have only my woman’s nature. The male member that emerged from me has just recently come off in jail, while I was a prisoner in Ocafia. It only now finished falling off, after more than fifteen days. What happened is that before last Christmas I suffered a flow of blood through my woman’s parts and through my rear end, which caused me great pain in my kidneys. I’d hurt myself while riding horseback and the root of my member became weak. The member became spongy and I went cutting it bit by bit, so that I’ve come to be without it. It just finished falling off about fifteen days ago, or a little more, as I’ve said."
Céspedes was examined by midwives who determined that he had a vagina, but was a virgin. The charges were changed to bigamy and the case was transferred to the Inquisition.

Dr. Díaz changed his testimony, now believing that the defendant’s male genitalia had been a deception:
“an art so subtle that it sufficed to fool him by sight and by touch”.
Céspedes asserted that he was a hermaphrodite.
“I never made any pact, explicitly or tacit, with the devil, in order to pose as a man to marry a woman, as is attributed to me. What happens is that many times the world has seen androgynous beings or, in other words, hermaphrodites, who have both sexes. I, too, have been one of these, and at the time I arranged to be married the masculine sex was more prevalent in me; and I was naturally a man and had all that was necessary for a man to marry a woman. And I filed information and eyewitness proof by physicians and surgeons, experts in the art, who looked at me and touched me, and swore under oath that I was a man and could marry a woman, and with this judicial proof I married as a man.”
He insisted that the women whom he had had relations with had no knowledge of his female organs. He was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to two hundred lashes. He was then put to work without pay in the Toledo hospital to use his medical skills, but was obliged to wear female clothing. The hospital administrator complained:
“The presence of Elena de Céspedes has caused great annoyance and embarrassment from the beginning, since many people come to see and be healed by her”.
Thus Céspedes became the first female surgeon in Spain. There would not be another for some centuries afterwards. 

Céspedes was mentioned in Jerónimo de Huerta’s 1599 annotated translation of Pliny’s Natural History (as a transgendered mulatta criminal lesbian) and Antonio de Fuentelapeña’s 1676 El ente dilucidado: Tratado de monstruos y fantasmas.
  • Vern L.,Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993: 94-6. (the Bulloughs never mention that Céspedes was born a slave; refer to him throughout as ‘she’ and refer to the Archdeacon as ‘vicar’. )
  • Israel Burshaton. “Elena alias Eleno”. In Sabrina P. Ramet (ed). Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. Routledge, 1996.: 105- 122.
  • Elizabeth Krimmer. In the company of Men: Cross-Dressed Women Around 1800. Wayne State University Press, 2004: 75.
  • Leila J Rupp. Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women. New York University Press, 2009: 95-6.
  • Sherry Velasco. Lesbians in early modern Spain. Vanderbilt University, 2011: 7, 11, 68-9, 75-8, 81-3.
  • Richard L Kagan & Abigail Dyer. “Sexuality and the Marriage Sacrament: Elena/Eleno de Céspedes“. Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews and Other Heretics. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011: 36-59.
  • Von Christof Rolker. “„I am and have been a hermaphrodite“: Elena/Eleno de Céspedes and the Spanish Inquisition”. Männlich-weiblich-zwischen,  27/11/2016.

ES.Wikipedia    Butch Heroes


So what do we make of this.   His penis was maybe a large clitoris, and was later damaged.  But why would the midwives, having found a vagina, then declare that Céspedes was a virgin?   Elena had previously given birth.

Rolker makes the point: "At the same time, this in my view clearly demonstrates that Elena/Eleno was not ‚accused‘ of hermaphroditism. Rather, hermaphroditism in sixteenth-century Spain (as in medieval France, for that matter) was a defence strategy. Eleno/Elena’s story of first gradually changing from woman to man and later from predominantly male to predominantly female hermaphrodite may be mind-boggling, but given the very real danger of being condemned for sodomy, the story in the end was live-saving."