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!

10 October 2018

RT has to go to Arizona to find 3 regretting trans persons

RT (Russia Today) sometimes produces intriguing documentaries well worth thinking about.   This is not one of their best.  They interview three persons, raised as boys, who transitioned to female, and live in Arizona.  Two, Billy Burleigh and the perennial Walt Heyer, have reverted, and the third, Rene Jaz (who continues to present as female) has written a book Don't get on the plane: Why a sex change will ruin your life.  Jaz and Heyer were patients of Dr Biber.

The documentary also includes a brief interview with a sex-change surgeon.   As they actually went to Arizona, the expectation would be that they would interview Drs Toby Meltzer and Ellie Zara Lay, both well regarded surgeons in Scottsdale, Arizona.   However the documentary goes to Belgrade instead to interview Dr Miroslav Djordjevic (or is it recycled footage from another program?).   Again a well-regarded surgeon, but why go to Serbia when making a film about Arizona?

There are several points that can be made.   Nowhere is it stated that the vast majority of trans (97% or so) persons who have surgery are pleased and remain pleased with what they have achieved.  On the other hand Heyer is allowed to spout his dubious statistics claiming that 40% of trans suicides are post-transition.

The infrequency of reversion is demonstrated by the repeated use of the same few persons, in this case Walt Heyer.  Neither the narration nor the final credits say so, but I suspect that the RT film-crew went to Heyer who introduced them to the other two.   Heyer actually says that he was in contact with Billy previously, and in this article  by Heyer discusses Jaz and her book.   Heyer has been in so many programs of this type.


Let us return to Jaz's book,  Don't get on the plane: Why a sex change will ruin your life.   The summary on Amazon contains an enormous clunker:  "medicine is operating in the same ignorance and arrogance as it did when Magnus Hirschfeld killed Einer Wegener (The Danish Girl) with his experimental surgery in 1930".    As we know, but apparently Jaz does not, Lili Elevenes (whose pen name was Lili Elbe) was a patient of the Dresden Doctor Kurt Warnekros, not of the Berlin Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld.   Also Hirschfeld was not a surgeon.  The three trans women who were patients of Hirschfeld, Carla van Crist, Toni Ebel and Dörchen Richter, all survived their operations and two of them lived into the 1960s.  Bad fact checking like this makes one think that the book is not worth reading.

It is important to read one's enemies.   If you are building up to gender surgery, it may be useful to watch this documentary to know what one is not.   There is much diversity among trans women, and you will probably be aware of how different you are from these three.





04 October 2018

Skippy LaRue (1921-2003) sex worker, performer

Skippy LaRue was born in Port Arthur, Texas. His father was a boilermaker and bootlegger; his mother ran a house of prostitution where they all lived. His mother beat him frequently.

He was drinking whiskey from age 5; having sex with boys from age 9. He was expelled from school at age 11 for hustling merchant seamen.

He discovered the whorehouses across the tracks and was introduced to a madam called Evelyn Hardtimes. He lived there a couple of years. He tended bar and did other chores, and when a customer wanted a boy there he was. He was able to charge 50¢, while the girls charged only 25¢. He was also the only one giving fellatio. His customers included judges, lawyers, police, doctors, military, executives.  He was frequently taken as a girl, even in boys clothes. 

He was 18 before he was introduced to the gay scene.

As he grew older Skippy tried straight jobs: retail and delivery. However he kept drifting back into working as female. Skippy (as such) worked a roadhouse serving customers in their cars, and then as a carhop. She went with men but French (oral) only unless they were in the know.

During WWII, LaRue was excused military service because of an ear injury from his mother’s beatings. He moved to Seattle and worked at Boeing for 72¢ a hour, and then on a ferry lunch counter. He met Jackie Starr, first at a party, and then because they lived in the same building.

When Skippy started going to the Garden of Allah, Jackie and others encouraged her to perform, and helped with costumes, makeup and how to a do a gaff.  She sometimes performed as Madame Fifi.

Skippy supplemented the income from performing with running an after-hours bottle club where
Jackie and Skippy, 1946
customers pretended that they had brought their own drinks to get around the licensing laws.

Later Skippy went on the road with Hotcha Hinton and Jackie Starr working carnivals, performing in girlie shows. The other carnies knew what they were, but not the customers. In addition to the show they had a blowoff (sideshow) act where they did a striptease and even, being very confident of their gaffing, they had men pay to touch their genital area.

They were busted in Oxnard, California and had to prove their male sex to the police chief. However word got out, and the chief simply told them to get out of town.

In later years, Skippy lived in a mobile home in south Everett, north of Seattle, and worked at a gay bathhouse in Seattle, where he was known as Seattle’s oldest female impersonator. He kept in touch with others, and when Don Paulson was researching his book on the Garden of Allah, Skippy acted as a major resource.

He died at age 82.
  • Don Paulson & Roger Simpson. An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996: Chp 7.
  • Gary L. Atkins. Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging. University of Washington Press, 2003: 63.
  • Mara Dauphin. " ‘A bit of Woman in Every Man’: Creating Queer Community in Female Impersonation”. Valley Humanities Review, Spring 2012.: 11, 14. Online.
  • Don Paulson. “South End Steam Baths”. Seattle Gay News. Online.
Obituary

Don Paulson and Skippy LaRue photograph collection, 1903-2000

---------------------------

The 1930s were rather different.  On p126 of Paulson & Simpson, Skippy says "a twelve-year-old boy was no different than a a twelve-year-old girl.  At that time, many girls became prostitutes at twelve or thirteen,"

 72¢ a hour does not sound much, but at that time one could rent an apartment for $10 a week.

30 September 2018

William Seymour (184? - ?) cab driver

Seymour was raised with the name of Mary in Taunton, Somerset, with a father who was a land agent for the local nobleman.

At age 14 Seymour was married to an army surgeon, by the name of Honeywell. However the marriage was unbearable and Seymour ran away to London.

There Seymour met a woman who had previously been a farm servant on the estate in Taunton. She was married to a cabman, and with his example Seymour took a haircut and with a ‘judicious use of clothing’ was able to pass as a man, and make a living as a cab driver.

After three years, in 1869, Seymour relocated to Liverpool, where he continued in his trade. By this time he had a wife, Agnes, who would bring his dinner to the cabstand. They were recorded as married in the 1871 census.

In February 1875 Seymour was committed for trial for stealing 30lbs of meat from a butcher on Leece Street Liverpool. In the detective office suspicions were aroused in that Seymour was almost 30, and there was sign neither of a beard nor of the use of a razor. Seymour was persuaded to confess his original gender and was indicted under his male name, his girl name and his married name of Mrs Honeywell. He was found guilty and imprisoned for two months in Walton Jail.

  • “A Woman as a Cabdriver for Ten Years’. The Liverpool Mercury, 13 February 1875. Reprinted in Alison Oram & Annmarie Turnbull. The Lesbian History Sourcebook: Love and Sex Between Women in Britain from 1780–1970. Routledge, 2001: 31-2.
  • Billie-Gina Thomason. “William Seymour: The ‘Female Cabdriver”. Museum of Liverpool, January 2018. Online.
_____________

There is no information of what happened to Seymour after his release from jail.  Hopefully he was able to continue as a cab driver.  

Of course there are some cis men with no apparent beard.

This is a hansom cab from the 1870s. which is possibly what Seymour drove:

25 September 2018

Annotated reading list for English trans history.


Bram Stoker. Famous imposters. Strurgis & Walton, 1910. 

EN.Wikipedia. Yes, that Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. Today we would object to trans persons being included in a book on imposters, but this was 1910. Includes essays on Hannah Snell, La Maupin, Mary Easy, D’Eon and the Bisley Boy/Elizabeth Tudor.

Havelock Ellis. Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Vol 7 Eonism and Other Supplementary Studies. FA Davis 1928. 

Ellis was aware of Hirschfeld’s Die Transvestiten, but disagreed with his terminology. In 1913 Ellis
proposed the term 'sexo-aesthetic inversion' to describe the phenomenon. In 1920 he coined the term eonism, which he derived from the name of a historical figure, Chevalier d'Eon. Ellis explained: “On the psychic side, as I view it, the Eonist is embodying, in an extreme degree, the aesthetic attitude of imitation of, and identification with, the admired object. It is normal for a man to identify himself with the woman he loves. The Eonist carries that identification too far, stimulated by a sensitive and feminine element in himself which is associated with a rather defective virile sexuality on what may be a neurotic basis.” Weirdly ignored in Phyllis Grosskurth’s study of Ellis.

Michael Dillon. Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology. William Heinemann Medical Books, 1946. 

The first book anywhere by a trans person that discusses transsexuality, although it does so as a sub-type of ‘homosexuality’.

Georgina Turtle. Over the Sex Border. Gollancz, 1963. 

Review. The first book anywhere to discuss trans women using the term ‘transexual’. Turtle was a dentist and a mosaic XO/XY transsexual, and thus was generally ignored e,g in Benjamin’s book three years later.

Roger Baker. Drag: a History of Female Impersonation on the Stage. Triton Books, 1968. 

The performivity end of the spectrum. Features tales of impersonators who later transitioned, but also many who did not.

Gilbert Oakley. Sex change and dress deviation. Morntide, 1970. 

Review. The author of the hoax trans biography, Man into Woman, 1964, and several books on self
confidence and psychology. He was also a female impersonator. Offer a typology and concludes: “From his observations, the author is convinced that the transvestite is far happier than the trans-sexual. Life is by no means so complex, so painful, or so embarrassing for them. The future is not obscured by a mist of hopefulness and doubt. The best of two worlds lies within the transvestite's grasp, for he can change from male to 'female' at will. The author concludes, therefore , that the sex-change phenomenon is wholly and completely disastrous, and that medical bodies the world over are seriously at fault in encouraging it in any way when other means of therapy are surely at their disposal to help these unfortunate people." Reaches conclusion similar to Virginia Prince without having heard of her.

Desmond Montmorency. The Drag Scene: The Secrets of Female Impersonators. Luxor Press, 1970. 

Much less scholarly than Roger Baker’s book. The Oakley and the Montmorency book were both published in 1970. Both books are the same size and shape, both are dominantly yellow and both have a partial title but no author on the spine. One is published by Morntide and the other by Luxor. However both Morntide and Luxor give their address as 50 Alexandria Road, London SW19.

Peter Ackroyd. Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag, the History of an Obsession. Simon and Shuster. 1979. 

Review. Ackroyd’s first non-fiction book. While openly gay, he describes himself as an outsider to this subject. “Some transvestites are exclusively fetishistic; they dress, in other words, to obtain some kind of sexual arousal. Psychoanalysts believe this to be the dominant mode of transvestism and, indeed, many transvestites remain fixed at this stage, assuaging their obsessions by frequent or intermittent cross-dressing. But there are other transvestites who move out of the fetishistic stage; they cease to be sexually excited by the act of cross-dressing itself, and go on to a more comprehensive form of feminine ‘passing’.” This book was in the bibliography of almost every book on trans in the 1980s.

George Ives (ed Paul Sieveking). Man Bites Man: The Scrapbook of an Edwardian Eccentric. Penguin Books, 1981. 

The 19th century pioneer gay activist left many press cuttings, including on transvestism,

Kris Kirk with photographs by Ed Heath. Men In Frocks. Gay Men's Press 1984.

Review. Despite its ill-chosen title, this book traces trans history from the 1940s when there was
almost nowhere for trans persons to go, and shows how performance went from being the only option to one of several options. Kirk found many of his interviewees at the London TV/TS Group. My choice for the best English trans history book. "If there is any one lesson to be learned from studying this field it is that the individual is individual. People define themselves and the self-definition must always take priority over the received wisdom. I have met self-defined draq queens whom others would describe as TV either because they enjoy 'passing'; or because they 'dress' so often that it could be seen as a compulsion; or because they wear lingerie, either to turn men on or to make themselves feel sensuous. I have met drag performers who have grown to dislike drag, and men who insist on being called 'cross-dressers' because they dislike what the word 'drag' stands for, and men who wear part-drag in order to create confusion and doubt amongst others, but who would never wear full drag because that would defeat their object. I know self-defined TVs who are gay or bisexual or oscillating, some of them having learned to cross this sexuality barrier through their cross-dressing. I have met TVs who dress like drag queens and drag queens who dress like TVs, and TVs whose cross-dressing has encouraged them to question their 'male role', which in turn has made them examine their idea of 'femininity'. And perhaps most important of all, I have learned how marshy a terrain is the middle ground between our earlier clear-cut distinction between transvestites and transexuals."

Liz Hodgkinson. Bodyshock: The truth about changing sex. Columbus Books, 1987. 

Hodgkinson found her interviewees at SHAFT. Two years before her full-length biography of
Michael Dillon, Michael née Laura, she wrote this overview which features Judy Cousins, Rachael Webb (lorry driver and the first elected trans person in Britain), Michael Dillon, Mark Rees, Adèle Anderson and Stephanie Anne Booth.








Annie Woodhouse. Fantastic Women: Sex, Gender, and Transvestism. Rutgers University Press, 1989. 

Concentrates on the wives of transvestites. She also found interviewees at the London TV?TS Group.

Dave King. The Transvestite and the Transsexual: Public categories and private identities. Avebury, 1993. 

A neglected but quite useful history of both trans persons and the doctors.

Roger Baker. Drag: a History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts.
Cassell, 1994. 

Not an expansion of the 1968 book, as content from that has been removed. A rewrite with a much more positive attitude.







Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending genders: social aspects of cross-dressing and sex-changing. Routledge. 1996. 

Includes two chapters from King’s 1993 book. Also two contributions from Peter Farrer, and chapters by Mark Rees, Roberta Perkins, Phaedra Kelly, Carol Riddell, Rachael Terri Webb and Stephen Whittle. But also Neil Buhrich, Dwight Billings and Thomas Urban, and Janice Raymond.






Peter Farrer. Cross Dressing between the Wars: Selections from London Life, 1923-1933. Karn Publications, 2000. 

Farrer wrote many books analysing trans content in various publications. This is probably the best.

Alison Oram & Annmarie Turnbull. The Lesbian History Sourcebook: Love and Sex Between Women in Britain from 1780–1970. Routledge, 2001. 

Includes 40 pages of source documents on ‘cross-dressing women’. Oram regards them as lesbians, but many seem to be trans men such as Victor Barker, James Allen, Harry Stokes,

Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. Thousand Oaks. 2006. 

The major work from Ekins and King. Some of their conclusions are odd (e,g, their support of Blanchard and Prince) but the book includes history not found anywhere else.

Peter Farrer. Cross Dressing between the Wars: Selections from London Life, Part II 1934-1941. Karn Publications, 2006.


Alison Oram. Her Husband was a Woman!: Women's gender-crossing in modern
British popular culture
. Routledge, 2007. 

Impressive analysis from the newspaper archives 1900-1960. Again Oram regards the persons as lesbians rather than trans men. Includes William Holtam, Victor Barker, Ernest WoodHarold LloydMichael Johnson.




Clare R. Tebbut. Popular and Medical Understanding of Sex Change in 1930s Britain. PhD Thesis, University of Manchester, 2014. 

PDF. A neglected but very useful publication. More detail on Lennox Broster than anywhere else; cover the Charing Cross clinic, the press, glands and hormones and sport. One gripe is that she refers to Norma Jackson only by her male name.

Peter Ackroyd. Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the present day.
Chatto & Windus, 2017.


Review. A history of queer London. Transvestites are discussed from 1394 to The Well of Loneliness in 1928, but not a single one after that, and also no transsexuals at all.






Christine Burns (ed) Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows. Unbound, 2018. 

Review. Burns’ historical chapters keep over-emphasising what the Beaumont Society achieved and minimises what the other groups achieved, but will spread the story.



Gender Variance Who’s Who, 2007-now

This encyclopaedia contains many entries applicable to English trans history, as well as that of the rest of the world.