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 right-hand sidebar. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

12 June 2021

The Hamilton Lodge Ball

Harlem’s Hamilton Lodge, also known as Rockland Palace, was founded by the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, Lodge 710, on 155th street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. It was initially a home for affluent African Americans, and provided political events, banquets, church sermons, lectures and pageants.


From 1869, it sponsored the Masquerade and Civic Ball each February, the fanciest such ball in New York. While transvesting persons attended from the beginning, the gay and trans component blossomed after a new group of organisers took over in 1923.The event was then informally known as the Faggots’ Ball or the Dance of the Fairies. It became the most popular gay event in town, attended by both black and white queers, and also artists and writers. About 800 attended in 1925 and fifteen hundred in 1926. Growing numbers of spectators attended not to dance but just to gawk. Three thousand spectators in 1929 watched two thousand dancers, and in the next few years a total of up to seven thousand spectators and dancers attended.

In 1928 the Committee of Fourteen, a private anti-vice organization that was mainly concerned with prostitution, and mainly in white neighborhoods, employed a black teacher to investigate Harlem’s nightlife. Following her report, Adam Clayton Powell, the pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church fulminated against sexual perversions, and the New York Age published his sermons. Bishop R. C. Lawson, the founder and pastor of Harlem’s Refuge Church of Christ attended the ball with two parishioners. He then offered a sermon titled “The ‘Faggots’ Ball, and What It Means in the Light of the Scriptures”, and drew an overflowing crowd to hear him denounce those at the ball, the spectators as well as the dancers. However the popularity of the Hamilton Lodge Ball continued to increase after their attacks.

All kinds of persons attended the balls: celebrities, socialites, businessmen, prostitutes, bohemians and families. Singer Ethel Waters attended and boasted that the drag queens to whom she lent gowns won prizes. Gay writer Max Ewing wrote in 1930: “all the men who danced . . . were dressed as women, wearing plumes and jewels and decorations of every kind”. The heiress A’Leila Walker and the singer Nora Holt were prominently present that year. Tickets were a dollar cheaper if you were in costume. Two of the daughters of Fred R Moore, the conservative black publisher of the New York Age, had short haircuts before attending and “They were dancing and having a good time, and they would come up to us. We’d say, ‘We’re women, no, no.’ . . . [but] they didn’t know whether we were the real thing or not.”

In early 1931 the New York police were harassing the Pansy Clubs, and later moved to close down the drag balls as well. However, the police - having made their point - backed down and the February 1932 Hamilton Lodge ball was on as usual, although competing events in Times Square and Madison Square Gardens were discontinued.

The ball is featured in two novels about homosexuality of the early 1930s. 

Blair Niles, a middle-aged woman on the Social Register who investigated gay New York, in 1931 wrote: 

“thousands of people crowding a great hall. Three thousand....No, more than that. Some one said there were five thousand, many of them sight-seers, come to look on. There were Harlem people and down-town people. There were celebrities of the stage and the literary world. A rumor went about that Bentrice Lillie was there, and for a moment many eyes focused on the box she was supposed to be occupying. …. Such crowds of people seen now through a haze of smoke—black people and white people and all the intervening combinations, people filling the boxes, leaning over the railings to look down upon those who thronged the floor. People packing the aisles and the stairways. The hall so hot. The air blue-gray, the electric lights showing as in a fog. The sound of many voices blended into one great reverberant voice. A great orchestra playing. The music seeming to come from far off. Figures dancing to that distant music. Throngs of people talking...staring...dancing. An incredible spectacle!

Now the floor being cleared by the police. This was a licensed masquerade party with police protection. All violations of the Penal Code of the State of New York scrupulously avoided. Thus it was the officers of the Law who cleared the floor for the parade of the “fairies,” holding back the crowd, while a long elevated platform was set up in the center of the hall. They held back the crowd, too, while the “fairies” came on in single file, to mount platform and slowly walk its length, pausing now and then to strike attitudes, to stiffen into statuesque poses, to drop curtsies or to execute some syncopated phrase. The crowd surged forward and was again and again pressed back to make room for the paraders.”

Fird & Tyler, in their 1933 novel which was published in Paris, but banned in the UK and the US, wrote:

 “The ball was too large to be rushed at without being swallowed. The negro orchestra on the stage at one end was heard at the other end with the aid of a reproducer. On both sides of the wall a balcony spread laden with people in boxes at tables. Underneath were more tables and more people. The dancefloor was a scene whose celestial flavor and cerulean coloring no angelic painter or nectarish poet has ever conceived.”

The Hamilton Lodge Ball, more than any other ball, was much reported in newspapers such as the Amsterdam News, and the New York Age, Baltimore’s Afro-American, and the Inter-State Tattler. In the 1920s the reports had used negative terms such as ‘subnormal’ and ‘fairies’, but as the attendance went up so did the positivity of the words used. In 1932 a reporter for the New York Age wrote: 

“To one of the largest gatherings that has ever graced this hall [Rockland Palace] came the all-conquering Hamilton Lodge, resplendent in all the panoply of pomp and splendor, to give to Harlemites who stood in wide-eyed astonishment at this lavish display a treat that shall never be forgotten. The usual grand march eclipsed in splendor all heretofore given by them, and women screamed full-throated ovation as the bizarre and the seeming impossible paraded for their approval. . . . [We] say ‘All Hail, Hamilton’.”

Amsterdam News 6 March 1937 

 

In 1938 over 8,000 attended. The police then exerted pressure and threatened a raid. Seventeen AMAB persons were arrested including two laborers, two unemployed men, a dishwasher, a domestic servant, an elevator operator, a counterman, a handyman, an attendant, a clerk, and a nurse, along with a musician, an artist, and an entertainer. More than half were under thirty, and only one was over forty years old.

The Lodge found that securing the necessary permits was no longer possible, and discontinued sponsoring the event.

  • Blair Niles. Strange Brother. H Liveright, 1931: 210-220. Wikipedia.
  • Charles Henri Ford & Parker Tyler. “I Don’t Want to be a Doll” in The Young and Evil.The Obelisk Press, 1933: 151-178. Essay.
  • George Chauncey. Gay New York. Basic Books, 1994: 130, 227–228, 252, 257–264, 266, 294, 295, 296, 332–334.
  • Thaddeus Russell. “The Color of Discipline: Civil Rights and Black Sexuality”. American Quarterly,60,1, 2008.
  • Chad Heap. Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940. The University of Chicago Press, 2009: 91, 94, 261, 265–67, 271–72, 382n62.
  • Anna Lvovsky. Queer Expertise: Urban Policing and the Construction of Public Knowledge about Homosexuality, 1920–1970. PhD thesis, Harvard University, 2015: 39-42, 48-53, 75-81, 96. Online.
  • Oliver Stabbe. “Queens and queers: The rise of drag ball culture in the 1920s”. International Museum of American History, April 11, 2016. Online.
  •  “The Oft-Overlooked ‘Drag Balls’ of Harlem”. Bowery Boogie, June 28th, 2019. Online.

 QueerMusicHeritage             

26 May 2021

Bobbie Spong (191? - 1944) performer, WWII Prisoner of War

Spong was the son of the licencee of the Six Bells, Kings Road, Chelsea. On 7-8th December 1941 he was a private in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps stationed in Singapore. On that day Japanese forces attacked Thailand, Dutch East Indies, the UK colonies of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya. and the US colonies of the Philippines and Hawai’i.

The 60,000 British empire forces in Singapore and Malaya finally surrendered 15 February 1942, what Churchill called "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". Most UK and Australian troops, and later Dutch civilians, were imprisoned in the Selarang Barracks, near to Changi, an existing prison at the east end of Singapore. The Barracks also became referred to as Changi. 850 died in captivity, others were transported to work as forced labour in Japan or on the Thai-Burma railway (which included a bridge over the river Kwai).

Morale was inevitably bad, and the officers encouraged sports and theatricals. One of the first were The Mumming Bees concert parties, and it was at these that Bobbie Spong, who had already made somewhat of a name as a performer, first became well-known. Bobbie impersonated comedienne Beatrice Lillie, film star Marlene Dietrich and female impersonator Douglas Byng. From there Spong branched out into comedy sketches and revues, almost always in female parts. Even the Japanese and Korean guards came to watch. One night her appearance was greeted by a roar of applause that was heard across the island. 

Somehow Spong had managed to bring into the prison camp a full set of female clothing including corsets. He was allowed to grow his hair to a feminine length. Bobbie often stayed in role offstage. In particular she would tour the hospital wards and sing for those too sick to attend the performances. She was so convincing that when she sat on a patient’s bed they would blush and attempt to cover their nakedness. Late in 1943 when Private Spong returned to the Chungkai camp in Thailand from a work-camp up the line, and converted to Bobbie for a show, she was so convincing that the Japanese officers stopped the show and demanded proof of her manhood. Both Japanese and Korean guards often asked Bobbie to give a private performance in their quarters. This she did, graciously accepting fruit and cigarettes, and then would quickly flee back to her own quarters.

On Christmas Day 1943, Bobbie - in a light green and orange frock and hat - was in the hospital to give out cigarettes. Later that day she was at the mock horse races where everybody dressed up the best that they could. She kissed the winners of the races. The day ended with Bobbie under a large tree singing from the Douglas Byng repertoire.

The theatre at Chungkai.  Bobbie sitting front right.


On 29 April 1944 the shows were cancelled because the Japanese had taken all the theatrical paraphernalia for the celebration of the Emperor’s birthday. Bobbie was part of a burlesque football match that was hastily arranged instead.

West London Press, 32/10/1952 p1
Bobbie’s final appearance was in mid-May 1944 at Chungkai camp. Spong then shocked everyone by volunteering for a work detail in Japan because her best friend had been drafted for it. Departure was 8 June. By then Spong had had his hair cut, but managed to pack twenty frocks in his rucksack. 1300 POWs were crammed into an unmarked transport ship. The ship was spotted, torpedoed and sunk by a US submarine - very few survived.

  • “Pledge Renewed”, West London Press,October 31, 1952: 1.
  • Sears Eldredge. “Wonder Bar: Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival in a Second World War POW Hospital Camp” in Gilly Carr & Harold Mytum (eds). Cultural Heritage and Prisoners of War: Creativity Behind Barbed Wire.Routledge, 2012.
  • Sears Eldredge. “ ‘We Girls’: Female Impersonators in Prisoner-of-War Entertainments on the Thailand-Burma Railway”. Popular Entertainment Studies, 5, 1, 2014: 74-99.
  • Sears A Eldredge. “The Uncomparable Bobbie” in Captive Audiences / Captive Performers: Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand-Burma Railway 1942-1945. Macelester College, 2014: 533-8.


18 May 2021

A review of Goiar's The Original Harry Benjamin Syndrome Book

See also:

Charlotte Goiar (1972 - ) HBS activist.

A short history of (Harry) Benjamin Syndrome.

Rose White’s Harry Benjamin Syndrome Review – a review.



  • Charlotte Goiar. The Original Harry Benjamin Syndrome Book. Self published, 2021.

Charlotte Goiar (1972 - ) was raised in Vigo in Galicia, Spain. She was diagnosed by the school psychologist as a trans child at age 7, and from age 16 was on hormonal therapy from the Vigo hospital - the first such patient to be so treated in Vigo. However she met much derision at school from both students and teachers and was unable to complete high school. Since 1991 she has been in psychiatric treatment, and living on welfare. In the early 2000s Goiar proposed the concept of Síndrome de Harry Benjamin (Harry Benjamin Syndrome). She set up www.shb-info.org in 2005. Various HBS websites - some run by other people - ran until 2011. Goiar was still pre-op at this stage. She underwent several years of litigation against Galacian Health Service, until finally in 2015 at age 42 she had completion surgery in Barcelona. She has of course set an important legal precedent for transsexuals in Spain.


Her new book opens with:

A Note to the Reader

The information contained herein has been silenced, obscured and censored by the LGBTQ lobby and allied political groups in power for three decades now. Those few who have tried to expose it have been ridiculed and threatened by these powerful lobbyists. For this reason, the reader is warned that the scientific & social evidence presented here can deeply overturn old beliefs held for a long period of time, which have been publicly promoted by that lobby which does not represent at all the group of patients. (p8)

On p12 Goiar lays out her position:

Today, the term 'transsexualism' is outmoded in its' ability to properly describe the condition.

Research now documents the fact that a neurogenetic basis (neurological, hormonal and genetic/DNA factors) undergird the existence of HBS. The old psychological construct known as “transsexualism” is now passé. Thus, those with HBS are the objective sex of their sex of stated identification.

Recent studies tell us that neurogenetic sex, rather than anatomical genital structures, determines more precisely the actual sex of an individual. Therefore, someone born with HBS is already a member of the "opposite" sex. This overturns the term “transsexualism” because there is no change of sex. Rather, one only does corrective surgery on reproductive structures.

Someone with HBS is already a member of their stated sex biologically, as their neurogenetic sex is of the identified sex by the brain, genetics, prenatal hormones and DNA structures, rather than the external genitalia. Simply put, their neurological sex is opposed to that of their genitals at birth, and they are in need of medical rehabilitation to fix this mismatch.

Therefore, we see that HBS is actually an intersex (Disorder of Sex Development) condition, and the old idea of “transsexualism” becomes outdated. The idea of a neutral and physiological neurological, genetic, hormonal and DNA basis for the conundrum replaces the obsolete idea that “transsexualism” was a psychological disorder.

 

Is HBS a synonym for transsexualism, a sub type thereof or a quite different condition?


Goiar equivocates.

As did her colleague Rose White in her 2010 book, Harry Benjamin Syndrome Review, Goiar is given to taking a quote from another writer about transsexualism and simply substituting “HBS” or “Harry Benjamin Syndrome” where the original said “transsexualism”. Convention says that if you do something like this you should put the substitution in [editorial brackets] to make it clear what you have done. Neither White nor Goiar does so. This of course is dishonest. However it does imply that “HBS” is simply a synonym for ‘transsexualism”.

The most outrageous instance is on p27 where we find:

“Over 70 years of medical research regarding Harry Benjamin Syndrome specify that there is NO evidence whatsoever that any psychological or environmental factors cause Harry Benjamin Syndrome. All of the medical research done to date indicates conclusively that physiological (neurological, genetic, DNA) factors are the sole cause of Harry Benjamin Syndrome.”

Goiar then attaches over 25 doctor and professor names including Richard Green, Zoe Playdon, Russell Reid etc as if they had actually signed such a statement. Whatever this document is or was originally, googling does not bring it up. The closest is an iPetition signed by a few people who are not famous doctors. Perhaps the original said - of course - ‘transsexualism’ not ‘Harry Benjamin Syndrome’ and 60 not 70 years. Laura Amato complained about this deception back in 2007.

In fact Goiar did put out a pamphlet in 2007 that contains the quote and supposed signatures and saying ‘60 years’. This was in many ways an early draft of the current book. In 2009 she wrote a Knol (a short-lived Google publishing feature) in which she specifically claimed that HBS was Benjamin’s Type VI. This of course created a problem in that Benjamin had specified that a Type VI would be exclusively Androphilic, but most trans women who did identify as HBS - far from being Androphilic - had gone through a period of being a husband and father.

In 2009 Goiar revised her estimate of the frequency of HBS and estimated that it is: “an extremely rare condition [1:100,000]”. I pointed out that therefore HBS are only a fraction of 1% of transsexuals. In a pamphlet put out in 2012 she made it clear that the 99%+ of trans persons are not HBS:

“Transsexualism (TS), Gender Identity Disorder (GID), or Gender Dysphoria is a mental condition that consists of the desire to live and to receive acceptance as a member of the opposite sex. Do not confuse this with HBS, as it is not medical. Feelings of malaise or discord with one’s anatomical sex and desires to obtain surgical or hormonal treatment to modify the body to agree with the desired sex usually accompany it (ICD-10 F64.0/ DSM-IV-TR).”

Thus HBS is supposedly something different from Transsexuality.

However in this new book, this is not clarified. When discussing Harry Benjamin, and when discussing medical treatment Goiar is certainly discussing transsexuality in general. The other 99%+ are invisible in this book (unless they/we are to be assumed under the term ‘transgender’).


Is HBS a DSD?


Goiar several times proclaims: “Harry Benjamin Syndrome is a disorder of sex development (DSD)”. She has from the start regarded HBS as an Intersex condition.

Intersex conditions are differentiated from transsexual in that:

  1. intersex conditions can be detected at birth if the doctors look and do the tests.
  2. most intersex activism -- as opposed to trans activists who campaign to make HRT and completion surgery available -- has been directed at getting doctors to not change children until they are old enough to consent, and to establish that many intersex conditions are not necessarily pathological,

There has been a push, mainly from the trans side, to establish Transsexuality and perhaps Transgender also as a type of Intersex. To some extent this is a matter of definition. However simple courtesy says that it is the Intersex activists, not the trans activists, who will continue to decide whether or not trans comes under the Intersex umbrella.

Goiar is sort of arguing that HBS is - or will be soon - detectable in the womb or at birth. See the discussion below.

DSD (disorder of sex development) is a term introduced in the so-called 2006 Consensus statement on management of intersex disorders. The Consensus was produced by medical professionals without input from Intersex activists except for Cheryl Chase/Bo Laurent. While there was a pretence that DSD is to replace the term ‘hermaphrodite’ rather than ‘intersex’, this has not been the case. The term DSD has been taken into use by medical professionals, but rejected by almost all the Intersex organizations. The major objection is the use of the word ‘disorders’ which implies and does lead to pathologization.

As Goiar is seeking for HBS to be considered a form of Intersex, embracing the DSD terminology may not be the best way to go about it.


Is HBS=HSTS?


The Freund-Blanchard-Bailey-Brown theoretical model uses the confusing term Homosexual Transsexual (HSTS) for heterosexual trans women. An HSTS is usually a trans kid telling her parents that she is really a girl from a young age, and who transitions as soon as possible. HSTS is contrasted to ‘autogynephiles’; much HBS commentary also used the term ‘autogynephiles’ for the other, non-HBS transssexuals - although Goiar dies not do so in this book.

So is HBS=HSTS? Many commentators see them as very similar. However HBS and HSTS are two solitudes both not communicating with the other.

Goiar still continues this non-communication.


David Reimer


There is chapter titled John Money, but actually mainly about his patient, the unfortunate David Reimer. Why are HBS persons concerned with Reimer? Reimer was a cis boy, reassigned to female after a bad circumcision that became a penectomy. The reassignment did not take and he grew up to be a heterosexual cis man.

What the Reimer story demonstrates is that it is very difficult to transsex a cis boy. It tells us nothing at all about transvestites, transgenders, transsexuals or HBSers. 

However see below where Goiar actually assumes that HBS was induced into an unfortunate boy who was transsexed in Auschwitz. As Goiar maintains that HBS is genetically determined, why would she think that was even possible? Has she properly thought through her own position?


Arnold Lowman, transgenderist


“Lowman also coined the term 'Transgenderist' and 'Transgenderism' and helped popularize the term 'Transgender' ". (p63)

What can I say? I have previously explained that this is completely wrong, as has Cristan Williams. The claim that Virginia Prince (dead name: Arnold Lowman) coined the term is a disinformation meme that has been definitely refuted but keeps being revived by writers who really want this non-fact to be true.

Virginia Prince was introduced to the term by Ariadne Kane around 1978, and used it in a few articles 1978-9. As she had done with 'transvestite' Prince took an existing word and attempted to restrict it to mean only her own type. It was mainly Leslie Feinberg who wrongly claimed that she had coined it.

Prince could not be transgender because she was transgender-phobic. Almost all types of transgender were prohibited from her groups. Even after Feinberg and IFGE falsely used her name in proclaiming the transgender umbrella, Prince continued to write mean-spirited articles complaining about the umbrellas.


Contemporary History of Harry Benjamin Syndrome


The book includes what Goiar calls a “Contemporary History of Harry Benjamin Syndrome”, but is really a very selective history of transsexualism. She starts as she did when her website was up with Lili Elbe. Surely Lili, a long-time transvestite who in middle-age progressed to surgery is of the 99% of transsexuals who are not HBS, and also - if we are to believe her unreliable autobiography - a person with Multiple Personality Disorder like Walt Heyer.   Surely Dorchen Richter or Toni Ebel would be much better candidates?

“1943 Germany Nazi doctors induce artificial Harry Benjamin Syndrome by hormonal treatment of prisoners. There are two cases very well documented, one in the concentration camp of Auschwitz and Marie-Andrée Schwidenhammer in the camp of Natzweiler-Struthof. Miss Schwidenhammer, now deceased, founded the Association of the Hormonal Patients (AHP) in order to to be able to help the victims of such practices.”(p64)

Really! HBS can be artificiality induced? Is she actually saying that if Schwidenhammer had not been experimented on in a Nazi concentration camp, she would not have become transsexual, and would not have organised to help others? Actually Schwidenhammer helped all trans persons, not just concentration camp victims.

What is most noticeable is the lack of any history of the HBS movement. Its founding in 2005; Goiar’s encounter with Diane Kearny, their split; the initial enthusiasm for the term as it was adopted by such as Laura Amato, Suzan Cooke and TS-Si, the leaving of those and many others within two years because of the disparagements, the homophobia, the transgender phobia; the closing down of the HBS web sites in 2010-11 - as a movement it lasted barely six years.

There is no word of Rose White’s 2010 book, Harry Benjamin Syndrome Review, the only previous book on HBS, which Goiar did endorse when it was published.

There is no word of the HBS pre-cursors, not even the most notable example of Margaret O’Hartigan, and there is no word about the “Classic TS” movement which flourished at about the same time.

Several HBS persons have achieved things well worth noting. Cathryn Platine founded the Maetreum of Cybele Magna Mater in Catskill in upstate New York, wrote a book on transsexual priestesses in the ancient world and organised relief efforts for LGBT victims of hurricane Katrina.  Yasmene Jabar set up the web sites Cafe Trans Arabi and the International Transsexual Sisterhood, the first to help trans women in the middle east, and then expanded to help trans women wherever they are. In 2005 she was involved in the Trans Eastern Conference (TEC) in Istanbul. Alejandra Portatadino worked with LGBT groups and sex workers and was recognized by the Buenos Aires Legislature as one of 20 Argentinian women who ‘broke traditional moulds’. Margaret O’Hartigan received a Spirit of Pride award for ““tireless advocacy for the trans community”. Joanne Proctor worked with OII. Rachel Hosham appealed to the European Court of Human Rights for the right to a corrected birth certificate and did valuable research on the Ewan Forbes case and its impact on Corbett v Corbett.

None of these are mentioned.


Is there a biological signifier?


Most of the world’s population lived under authoritarian governments that would be delighted if the next generation of HBS/transsexual/transgender/queer persons could be identified in the womb and thereby eliminated by compulsory abortions. The number of persons with Down’s syndrome is already significantly down with voluntary abortions alone.

Every now and then there is a supposed breakthrough and a biological signifier is announced. HY-Antigen in 1979, BSTc in 1995. However they are not replicated by other scientists and/or they do not lead to any useful research, and they are forgotten.

While Goiar claims that HBS is congenital, she actually writes “Unlike other intersex conditions, the clinical manifestations of this syndrome are not evident at birth, it becomes evident later … Most diagnoses of HBS occur when the individual is between 15 to 35 years of age”. This despite it resulting from pre-natal events.

So what diagnostic methods does she propose:

--- the pheromone/chemical scent test to determine the true sex of an individual. This test consists of having the patient smell variations of chemical compounds and pheromones in which the neurological response of the brain elicits a sexually dimorphic response to each scent.

--- variations in the length of certain segments of DNA where the genetic code "stutters". That is, a few "letters" of the code repeat themselves in the same order many times. (However this approach suggests that such stutters may be the sites of most common genetic mutations and if one does lead to HBS, it has not been identified.)

Some other suggestions are also pursued, and the word ‘may’ is used a lot. Some of the ideas are certainly worthy of further research, but the total of ideas does not support the conclusion that HBS is different from transsexuality nor that it can be identified in the womb, at birth nor in teenage.

Given what Goiar has to offer, we don’t need to worry about the next generation being aborted.


Conclusion


Some of the more untenable positions of HBS have been left out of this book. Goiar has either accepted advice or has reconsidered.

However it does retain other quirks. Also much of what she writes here, she has published before.

It is a much better book that Rose White’s in 2010, even better written despite Goiar being Spanish.

If you want to read a book advocating HBS, this would be the one.

An interesting exercise would be to read this and Kay Brown’s On the Science of Changing Sex, 2020, at the same time and compare the two. Brown’s book advocates for the Blanchard HSTS theory.

30 April 2021

Tamara Rees (Stevenson) performer, wife, property investor

Part I: Parachutist, soldier, pilot
Part II: performer, wife, property investor

Rees then wandered from job to job, city to city. By 1951 she was in Los Angeles and had consulted a few psychiatrists about her gender quandary. 

Rees then found a “kind and understanding” psychiatrist on Wilshire Boulevard. They wrote to the American Medical Association re treatment for gender issues. 

“Their reply was to state that no legal medical aid of this problem could be obtained in the United States (although there are no legal restrictions against transitions).” (p32)

Later the AMA provided the names of three specialists in Europe, and the first that the psychiatrist wrote to was the endocrinologist, Dr Christian Hamburger in Copenhagen who had just become famous because of his patient, Christine Jorgensen. He advised hormonal treatments, and stated that sex-change surgery was no longer available in Denmark for foreigners since a change in the law. He suggested that they contact Dr. Frederick Hartsuiker in Haarlem in the Netherlands. 

The psychiatrist prescribed female hormones, and also suggested that Rees, Tamara as she was becoming, should also live and dress as female. 

“he also wanted or thought he could prove that with freedom of expression and acceptance that the desire for surgical transition would become less intense, indicating this change of social pattern … I will state that it came as close to giving me the emotional release I was seeking than any other type of therapy attempted up to that time. Together with the hormone therapy plus the present experiment, I felt happier and more at ease but I had told him at the commencement of this experiment that I knew this would not be in total the solution I required. This proved to be quite true.” (p33)

After six months they began corresponding with Dr Hartsuiker. 

“He in turn requested a complete resume of the psychiatric history and tests, together with all physical and biological tests, that had been performed. We complied with this request and late in 1953 we received confirmation that this psychiatrist would be willing to take my case under advisement.” (p33)

In November 1953, Tamara sailed on a Holland American steamship to Rotterdam. She took a train to Haarlem, and quickly had an appointment for the following Monday. Hartsuiker

 “stressed again and again the importance that my choice would be irrevocable, slow and painful and the outcome could never be entirely assured. Upon receiving my assurance that I realized all of this and releasing him from any personal claim, I still felt and requested that such procedure for surgical transition should be carried forth without further delay.” (p34)

A second opinion was obtained from Dr Carp of the Psychiatrische Cliniek in Leiden, and one other, and then, as required by law, the opinion was submitted to a court of magistrates which reviewed the decision, decided it was correct and approval was granted.

The operation (presumably castration) was on 5 January by Dr Nauta in the Diaconessenhuis in Haarlem. On recovery, Tamara went shopping for female clothes, and moved into an apartment that had been rented. The landlady became inquisitive, and Tamara told her the situation: 

“To my surprise I found her very understanding and while she said that she could not put her finger on the exact reasons for her suspicions, she knew that something was not right. I then showed her the letters and other documents from my doctors and attempted to explain the circumstances. This woman accepted me with open arms and agreed to help me in the many little ways which would be necessary to completely reestablish myself. I say now with all sincerity that I owe this woman a debt of gratitude which I can never repay.” (p38)

As required by law Tamara registered with the Aliens Police (Vreemdelingendienst) and afterwards was followed and observed. She was to wait six months for the second stage operation (penectomy). Tamara learned some Dutch, and adjusted to their then lifestyle. With the changes from the female hormones, and given that Tamara was small framed and only 5’4” (1.613m) she was able to pass. She had frequent appointments with Hartsuiker, Nauta and a study group at the University of Leiden. 

In May she was seriously ill, which was attributed to the hormonal regime. After recovery and several weeks of testing, the second operation was arranged. A more experienced surgeon was required, and the services of a professor of medicine who had come to Holland as a refugee from the concentration camps of the previous decade. The surgery was done in a small secluded hospital in early June, and Tamara was 15 days in the hospital afterwards. 

She had also annoyed the Aliens Police who did not know where she was. 

The US Consulate was very “understanding and cooperative” but did not produce a revised passport. Rees also wrote to the US State Department and to her California congressman. Finally, after many months, a temporary passport would be issued for the one trip home to then be surrendered until a legal change as required by the laws of California was effected. Rees’ parents did not understand and wrote bitter letters. Tamara arranged that they should speak to Harry Benjamin during his summer months in San Francisco, but they rejected the offer. 

After receiving a “very disturbing letter” from her parents in November, Tamara took an overdose of sleeping pills and was unconscious for three days. The Aliens Police then arrested her as an attempted suicide, and put her on a ship for New York. Her gender history was supposed to be private, but she discovered that the ship's officers had been told, and they had passed it on to the crew. 

In addition, the US Consul General in Amsterdam had asked the Veterans Administration to make special arrangements. An official there violated privacy and notified the New York Daily News, where the editor was a personal friend. The press were awaiting her arrival, but also a nurse and an official from the Veterans Administration who got her off the ship quickly, and through Customs and took her by staff car to a hospital in Brooklyn. In exchange for a four-article series of stories in her own wording, The Daily News transferred Tamara away from the hospital and other reporters and to the Hotel Commodore in Manhattan (later known as the Grand Hyatt). 

After some days of shopping and writing the articles, Tamara flew to Los Angeles where she was met by the celebrity journalist Florabel Muir who took her nightclubbing, and the next day flew with her to Sacramento to meet her parents, who despite the bitter letters, were now welcoming.

The press were still interested. Tamara struck feminine poses and claimed that her ex-wife’s children had been fathered by someone else. At the end of the year she published a short biography. Back in Los Angeles, she performed in burlesque clubs, and also gave talks to gender-segregated audiences about sex and psychology. In 1955 in Reno she married James Courtland, a makeup artist, and hairdresser for 20th Century Fox. This was regarded as the first transsexual wedding, but lasted only a short time because of his jealousy.

She married again, to Bob Stevenson, and adopted children. Like Jorgensen, she became a patient of
Harry Benjamin who used her as a counseling resource for other transsexuals, and in the early 1960s she was interviewed by Ralph Greenson, psychiatrist to Marilyn Monroe and other stars, who interpreted her as in flight from homosexuality.

The Stevensons lived in Youngstown, Ohio and invested in property a little at a time. In 1975 they owned 4 small homes; in 1995 they owned 32. Bob was apparently very controlling, but they did remain married until the his death in 1997. Tamara then sold all the properties, and moved to Sacramento, California to be close to her sister. Roger the brother of her adopted son Bruce lived with her and became her carer. She fractured a hip in early 2000, and also developed cancer. The pain was so bad that she was on morphine. 

Tamara died at age 76. 

  • Tamara Reese. "Reborn": a factual life story of a transition from male to female. Irene Lipman, PDF.
  • Ralph R. Greenson. “On Homosexuality and Gender identity”. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis. 45, 1964.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 84-5, 90, 133,173, 305n98-102.
  • John Marks. “Information about Robert Rees”. User Trees. https://www.genealogy.com/ftm/m/a/r/Jack-Marks-CA/WEBSITE-0001/UHP-0026.html.
  • Alek Bakker. “In the Shadows of Society: Trans People in the Netherlands in the 1950s”. PRISM, 2020: 154-5, 159, 161. PDF.

Transas City

_____________________________________________

Special thanks to Transas City for the best photographs and for the PDF of Tamara's autobiography.

Tamara spells her surname as ‘Reese’ on her autobiography, but everywhere else the name is spelt ‘Rees’.

In her book Tamara says that she had two operations, in January and then June 1954. This was presumably first castration and then penectomy as was the usual practice prior to Dr Burou in Casablanca inventing penile inversion vaginoplasty. In her autobiography (p43) she writes: “ in early June I underwent my second and most intensive surgery of my transition. I could have stopped here but felt that one further operation would be necessary. … I was still, not to all intent and purposes, fully of the female sex.” So presumably the third operation would have been vaginoplasty, except that she was deported before it could happen. However in 1955 she was assuring her audiences that the operation “enables me to fulfill my physical obligations as a woman”. So part of the story is missing.

Bakker, contrarywise, after claiming that her memoirs “are certainly not factually reliable” without giving details, assumes that she had only one operation in the Netherlands - castration and penectomy combined. In his footnote 42, he writes: “Correspondence between Benjamin and Hartsuiker shows that Rees’s story about having had a second and third genital operation in the Netherlands is not true".

Rees says that she was deported after an assumed suicide attempt. Bakker claims that the police changed their mind about permitting women in transition to dress as women.

Bakker p154 writes: “Rees is considered to be the third American transgender woman after Christine Jorgensen to have received gender confirmation surgery, the second being Charlotte McLeod.” By my count Rees was #6.

John Marks, Tamara’s nephew writes “The plastic surgeon (first of it's kind) worked on Tamera's face. During the operation, a nurse accidently poured alchohol on the open skin on the face and severely ruined the facial tissue. This forced her to go through several skin graphs in order to try and restore the skin to the cheeks and nose.” This is otherwise unknown. I have assumed that this is actually a reference to the 1946 mastoid operation that went wrong. It would be extraordinarily unfortunate for one person to have two separate facial operations go badly wrong.

I have looked for but was unable to find the four-article series of stories that Tamara wrote for the Daily News.

Given that Florabel Muir was a well-known journalist, did she not write about Tamara?  Again I could not find such.

29 April 2021

Tamara Rees (1924-2000) Part I: Parachutist, soldier, pilot

Part I: Parachutist, soldier, pilot

Part II: performer, wife, property investor


Original version: February 2010

Robert Rees was raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Montgomery, Alabama and then Los Angeles.  Rees usually played with the girls and was bullied by the boys, and in high school was a loner, sometimes secretly dressing in his sister’s clothes.   By age 14 Rees was unable to discuss his problems with his parents.  They took him to a psychiatrist to no avail, and his father badly beat him in an attempt to induce conformity.

Rees then ran away with only $3 in his pocket.  He managed to reach his grandparents in Kansas, who took him in and put him in a local school where he was able to advance a grade.   Rees returned to his parents in Summer 1939, by which time they were living in Oakland, California.  To escape from home Rees volunteered for the Civilian Conservation Service, and then the Navy, in both of which he was harassed for not being conventionally masculine.  He was discharged from the Navy as “physically unfit” after a conflict over a loan not repaid.   

In December 1942 Rees enlisted in the US Paratroopers, and underwent their rigorous training - although he was still ridiculed for his demeanour.  While stationed in North Carolina Rees dated and married:

“This girl was cognizant of my desires and the problem in general and was anxious to leave her own home because of family problems. After some discussion with her, it was agreed that we would marry, solely for the benefit of society.”  

He was by now considered an instructor, and promoted to Sergeant.  In Spring 1944 Rees participated in the invasions of Sicily and then Anzio, for which he later received a Bronze Star and a Presidential Unit Citation.  In September 1944 he was part of the jump into the Netherlands to create a bridgehead invasion route into northern Germany and participated in the ensuing fighting, until injured in late January.  

After being repatriated and then discharged, Rees filed for divorce as previously agreed with his wife. In March 1946 Rees developed a mastoid condition, an outgrowth of his war injury.  During surgery one of the facial nerves was severed resulting in facial paralysis and loss of hearing.  This was almost corrected in a second operation a few months later.

In 1947 Rees became a parachute instructor, at first for the Government, and then privately. He also obtained a pilot’s license.  In March 1949, he opened the air show for the all Western States Air Meet, held in Red Bluff, California, and on his 527th jump was injured when his parachute did not open properly.  A week later he was emceeing at a air show outside Sacramento, when his business partner misjudged a jump and died.  Rees then sold the business and never jumped again.  

25 April 2021

The first US Trans Women up to 1966

1966, the date of Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon, and the start of surgeries at John Hopkins and other university clinics is of course the obvious cut-off point.

As in the British list, the criteria for inclusion here are either surgery or living full-time and often both. 



Frances Carrick social transition 1903.

Georgia Black social transition in 1921, and continued so until her death in 1951.

Elsie Marks, the Cobra woman who did a snake act, social transition in the 1920s, was married and lived so until her death in 1946 after being bitten by a rattlesnake.

Carla van Crist social transition 1920s, surgery in Berlin 1929-30.

Mary Baker social transition in 1927, and worked as a waitress, laundress, chorine, nurse. She was also married. However in 1937 she was arrested for making "improper advances" on an undercover policeman in Brooklyn.

193?. Dr Stanley, Chief Surgeon of the California State Prison, St. Quentin, while examining an apparently male prisoner, he discovered that the prisoner had been surgically transformed into a woman.

Clarabelle, the queen of Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill, lived full-time as female in the 1930s. Her story has been lost. She was succeeded by Wilhemena and then Carioca (who later died on an operating table in Calexico) of whom we know even less.

Josephine Montgomery social transition in the 1930s. This went well until she was arrested and convicted of strong-arm robbery in 1950. (Bullough p567)

A woman, who had been born with the name William Richeson, had been married for six years before being outed in 1937. Her husband was completely surprised. (Bullough p567)

Adele Best. Vern Bullough tells us “ Mrs. Adele Best lived as a woman for 54 years with no one the wiser, including apparently, at least according to her own testimony, her three husbands”, but gives no dates. (p567)

Barbara Wilcox had social transition before 1941, surgery 1956

Louise Lawrence social transition 1944.

Hedy Jo Star social transition 1945, surgery 1962.

Caren Ecker social transition 1940s, surgery 1953

Pussy Katt surgery 1945 in Mexico.

Sally Barry had social transition in the 1940s, surgery 1953-8.

Carla Sawyer social transition 1949, surgery 1957?

Christine Jorgensen surgery 1951-2 and 1969, social transition 1952

Charlotte McLeod - surgery and social transition 1953

Dixie MacLane social transition 1953, surgery 1955.

Janet surgery 1953 (Benjamin p137)

Tamara Rees social transition 1952, surgery 1955 in the Netherlands.

Annette Dolan social transition 195?, surgery 1954.

Patricia Morgan social transition mid 1950s, surgery in 1961 with Elmer Belt.

Gayle Sherman sociually transition 1956, surgery late 1960s?

Clara Miller surgery and social transition 1957

The person previously called William O’Connell - surgery 1960 (Benjamin p74-81)

Beverly-Barbara social transition 1958, surgery 1968.

Betty social transition 1961, surgery 1962.

Paula Neilsen surgery 1963.

Abby Sinclair surgery 1963 in Casablanca.

Judy Bowden social transition 1965, surgery 1971.

Harriet/Ava surgery 1965 in Europe, later became a wife. (Benjamin p83)

The unnamed actor whose photograph is in Benjamin’s book. Surgery before 1966.

Phyllis Avon Wilson social transition 1960s, surgery 1966 (the first at Johns Hopkins)

  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. Warner Book, 1966, 1977.
  • Vern Bullough. “Transsexualiism in History”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 4,5, 1975.
  • Leslie Feinberg. Trans Gender Warriors.Beacon Press, 1996.
  • Roberta Perkins. “Famous Trannies” Polare 13, September 2015.


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

And some more whom I missed:

Sophia Gibons social transition by 1860, and continued to her death in 1885.

Mrs Noonan, previously Mrs Clifford and then Mrs Nash - social transition before 1868, and continued through three husbands to her death in 1878.

Peggy Yule social transition at age 15 in 1875, and continued to her death in 1965.

Elizabeth Berger social transition at age 9, and continued until outed at age 57 in 1931.

Frances Anderson social transition before 1890, and continued until death in 1928.

Lucy Hicks Anderson social transition as a child in the 1890s, and continued until death in 1954, despite being outed in the 1940s.

Mrs Cox social transition circa 1950, outed and charged in 1958.

Désirée social transition and marriage in 1960s, murdered by her husband.



23 April 2021

The first known British trans women up to 1964

The corresponding list of British trans men would of course be a lot longer and go back to the 17th century if not earlier. It was of course a lot more difficult for trans women to pass until external hormones became available in the 1940s. Transitions could be only social until the 1950s when male-to-female surgery became available for a few, for those with luck, pluck or the right connections. Yes, some gender surgeries had been done in Germany and the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 1930s, but very very few.

The following list is of trans women who transitioned and would have stayed so if death or arrest by police had not happened. This list does not include stage performers unless living as female full-time offstage, and does not include oscillators. So no Fanny and Stella, nor Gladys Shufflewick, nor Ron Storme.

This is of course a list of those that we know about.   There is probably at least  as many again who were not reported in the press.   John Randell discussed 61 cases in his 1960 MD thesis summarising his first 10 years working with trans persons.   Many of these must have socially transitioned even though they realised that Randell's obduracy would prevent them from being approved for surgery.   We know that he did approve Ina, Terri and Gloria - and there must be others.  Likewise Dr Burou in Casablanca performed over 3,000 operation on trans women from 1956 onwards, but we can name barely 30 of them.   

Lavinia Edwards: social transition 1825.

Mary Mudge: social transition 1850s.

Norma Jackson: social transition 1931.

November1945: an unnamed serving Sergeant (a full-time soldier and not a conscript) assigned to Hamburg was allowed to travel to Denmark for male-to-female surgery, after extensive medical evaluation by the Medical Officer and a psychologist.

Dorothy Medway: social transition 1945, surgery late 1953.

Betty Cowell: social transition 1950, surgery 1951.

X, unnamed Scots woman, having undergone surgery petitioned in 1957 to have her sex corrected on birth certificate etc as Ewan Forbes had done two years earlier, but was refused.

Georgina Turtle: surgery 1957, social transition 1957.

April Ashley: social transition 1956, surgery May 1960.

Ina Barton: social transition 1960, surgeries completed 1962.

Terri Rogers: surgery 1962.

Gloria Greaves: surgery 1964.