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!

18 September 2019

A Chronology of trans persons in modelling and fashion: Part I: to 2000

Part I: to 2000
Part II: 21st century

1889

L.S., a fashion model in Paris, In 1909. Aged 20, she was engaged to be married and was bothered by apparent tumours in her labia majora and attended the Hôpital Beaujon. A biopsy of the tumours resulted in them being identified as testicles. The doctors then decided that she was a 'true male', that is a masculine pseudo hermaphrodite. She was informed that her feminine 'genital aspiration', that is her engagement to her fiancé, was an act of homosexuality.

1950

Michel-Marie Poulian worked as a model in Paris, in addition to painting portraits and doing stained-glass windows for churches.

1955

Charlotte McLeod did modelling in New York and New Orleans.

1959-62

Noted Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm went to Paris and shot Jacquie Sarduy, Nana and other trans women. These were later published as  Les Amies De Place Blanche, 1983.

1960

After completion surgery in Casabalanca, April Ashley returned to England, and was able to build a career as a model; clothed, in underwear and nude. This led to a very small part in the film The Road to Hong Kong. Until November 1961 when she was outed in the Sunday People.


1964

Holly Woodlawn was briefly employed as an in-house model at Saks Fifth Avenue, new York.

1965

A person we know only as ‘Queen Elizabeth’ got a job in Davison’s department store in Atlanta as a model. One day the boss walked in as she was changing and saw her penis. She was immediately fired.

1966

Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon tells us of Betty/Suzanne who after surgery worked as a fashion model.

1970

Les Lee, performer at Le Carrousel, designed and modelled a collection of women's clothes with some success, such that the models union was able to persuade the French Government to pass a law forbidding female impersonators from working as models.

Georgia Ziadie was working as a model in New York when she met Lord Colin Campbell, married him a week later, and they were divorced the next year.

1971

Rachel Harlow, following her lead role in The Queen, 1968, and her subsequent triumph at the Cannes International Film Festival, had become the hostess at a Philadelphia nightclub named with her own name. There were also interviews, endorsements, modeling jobs and television appearances.




1974

Andy Warhol recruited models from the new transy bar Gilded Grape for his Ladies and Gentlemen (The Drag Queen Paintings) series. They were paid $50 and Andy took polaroids. They were not shown as such in the US, but in September 1975 were exhibited in Italy.

1975

Tracy Norman attended a modeling event at the Pierre Hotel in New York in 1975. There she was discovered by renowned photographer Irving Penn and booked for Vogue Italia a few days later. She was quickly featured in major advertising campaigns, Ultra Sheen and Avon Cosmetics. Clairol put her face on their dark-auburn hair dye no 512, launched that year.

1976

After the end of her public affair with John B Kelly, brother of movie-star and princess Grace Kelly, businessman and on the Philadelphia Council, Rachel Harlow dropped out of the night-life business and the gay subculture. She did continue to work as a model in New York, but avoided publicity.

1977

Potassa de la Fayette, model and star on the dance floor at Studio 54.

Robertina Manganaro was a model for the avant-garde artist, Enrico Baj.

1979

Diane Delia worked in New York as a model for Avon Cosmetics.

1980

Lauren Foster had started working as a model in Johannesburg and then Paris regularly in magazines and advertisements. However she was disqualified from the Miss South Africa Pageant. Her big break was in 1980 when she was hired by and was featured Vogue to do a 6-page fashion editorial. She was outed by the tabloid Scope, when another model sold the story, which resulted in ignorant press attention.






Essense Magazine booked Tracy Norman again for several sessions in 1980. During the last session, the hair dresser's assistant, who was from the same part of New Jersey and had been asking around trying to figure out who Tracy was, spoke to the editor, Susan Taylor, who stopped the shoot. Nobody said anything. However Tracy was never paid for the last shoot, and the pictures were never used. Work in New York dried up. There was a rumor that Taylor threatened to sue Zoli, the agency for false advertising, but the agency did not know either. Eventually a friend confirmed that her secret had gone around quickly, but still no-one said so directly.

1981

Caroline Cossey (Tula) was noted in Smirnoff Vodka’s “Well They Said Anything Could Happen” advertisement in 1981 that shows her water-skiing behind the Loch Ness Monster. She was a Page Three Girl for The Sun. This led to a small part in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, 1981, and an associated article in Playboy. This led to her being outed as trans, and as a consequence lost most of her modelling contracts.

1982

Tracy Norman, seeking work in Paris, got a phone call for another model, who had returned to New York. She was offered the gig, but delayed it for two weeks while she slimmed down to a French size 6. This led to a six-month contract with Balenciaga.

1984

in New York, the new fashion sensation was the openly transgender Teri Toye, who had moved to New York from Iowa to study fashion. She was offered modeling work, especially for the cult fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, but also for Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Circulate magazine dedicated six pages to Lauren Foster.

Tracy Norman returned to Newark in 1984, and signed with the Grace del Marco Agency. However after a few months she was featured in an Ultra Sheen cosmetics ad, and then she was remembered. Again work dried up.

Roberta Close in Rio was becoming famous as a model and actress.

1985

Valerie Taylor, in stealth, was working as a model in Los Angeles.

Leslie Townsend, in stealth, was working as a model in Houston.

1988

Noor Talbi found work in Paris on the fashion catwalks at age 19, before she returned to Morroco and became a renowned dance.

1993

Robertina Manganaro, encouraged by her rich husband to become a stilista, opened a studio in Paris, using her title-by marriage Comtessa.

1994

Alessandro di Sanzo, who had played a trans teenager in the films Mery per sempre, 1989. and Ragazzi fuori, 1990, was hired by the Rome fashion designer Egon von Furstenberg to walk the catwalk in a bridal dress. The Church took umbrage as she was a known transsexual.

Storme Aerison posed as a supermodel and claimed to be the sister of real supermodel Kathy Ireland. Photographers and others gave her their services in exchange for a percentage of a calendar that she said that she was producing.

1996

Estelle Asmodelle was the face of the Supermodel Agency in Australia; she was their spokesman and main model during 1996-2000.

1998

Claudia Charriez, then age 16, was already modelling.

1999

Sophia Lamar modelled for Levi’s and others.

Lee Si-Yeon first made a name as a male model, and was known for a feminine appearance and wearing women's clothing on the catwalk – the first model to do so in South Korea. Later she decided to transition, which was completed in 2007.

Before becoming the host on Taiwan's Eastern TV Auction Channel, Li Jing had worked as a model.

2000

Amanda Lepore worked extensively with photographer David LaChapelle advertising Armani and MTV. Swatch released a ‘Time tranny’ watch with her features.

Robertina Manganaro, stilista, had her first show at the Milan Pret-a-porter, which cost her a million francs of the family money.

14 September 2019

Tracey Gayle Norman (1951 - ) model

Original version: April 2014

Tracy Norman was raised in Newark, New Jersey. Father thought that his child was too effeminate and made a desultory attempt at teaching boxing. He moved out when Tracy was 6; the mother worked multiple jobs to support her two children.

The first in her family to graduate high school, Tracy, on the same day, told her mother that she was a woman, and was accepted. A few months later. Tracy met a old-school friend who had started transition. She answered questions and gave Tracy some birth-control pills.

In trans clubs, Third World and Up the Down Stairs, she was told of a doctor who prescribed to trans women, and soon she was not just being taken as female, but was being noted for her beauty. This was at the same time as Lottie and Crystal LaBeija founded the House of Labeija with a ball at the Up the Down Stairs.

A friend of Tracy who helped her with make-up, worked in the fashion industry and knew where fashion shows were being held. He taught her what to say at the door, that she was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which let her stand in the back row. Thus she attended a modeling event at the Pierre Hotel in New York in 1975. She noticed a group of black models and followed them in, making sure that she was the last person.  There she was discovered by renowned photographer Irving Penn and booked for Vogue Italia a few days later.

One of the other models, Peggy Dillard, was nice to her, while the others shunned the newcomer. Dillard revealed many years later that, as she had spent years DJ-ing at a gay disco, and had friends who had transitioned, she was able to read the newcomer. Tracy was paid $3,000 – more than she had ever had before. Penn referred her to an agency, Zoli. Some weeks later, Penn received a phone call from Condé Nast magazine, passing on the rumor that Norman was not born female. Penn dismissed it out of hand as ridiculous. A make-up artist approached her during a break and said that he knew what was going on with her. He also said ‘Don’t worry, I think you’re beautiful. Just be natural.’ He also told the photographer Anthony Barboza, who replied that if that were the case, the magazine must know. Apparently it went no further and Tracy was rehired by the same magazine six months later.

Tracy was similar in appearance to the rising black model Beverly Johnson, and quickly was featured in major advertising campaigns, Ultra Sheen and Avon Cosmetics. Clairol put her face on their dark-auburn hair dye no 512, launched that year.


Essense Magazine booked her again for several sessions in 1980. During the last session, the hair dresser's assistant, who was from the same part of New Jersey and had been asking around trying to figure out who Tracy was, spoke to the editor, Susan Taylor, who stopped the shoot. Nobody said anything. However Tracy was never paid for the last shoot, and the pictures were never used. Work in New York dried up. There was a rumor that Taylor threatened to sue Zoli, the agency for false advertising, but the agency did not know either. Eventually a friend confirmed that her secret had gone around quickly, but still no-one said so directly.

By 1982, Tracy had given up her apartment, and moved back in with her mother. A friend was already working in Paris, and another suggested that they go there. Tracy used her sister’s birth certificate to get a passport. In Paris the three friends shared hotel rooms. One day Tracy got a phone call for another model, who had returned to New York. She was offered the gig, but delayed it for two weeks while she slimmed down to a French size 6. This led to a six-month contract with Balenciaga.

The UltraSheen ad
Next she tried Milan, but work was slow there too. She returned to Newark in 1984, and signed with the Grace del Marco Agency. However after a few months she was featured in an Ultra Sheen cosmetics ad, and then she was remembered.  Again work dried up even though this was the year that openly trans model Teri Toye was being feted, and trans model Lauren Foster regained her career after being outed a few years earlier.

One thing went right. Tracey dated a straight male office worker from Long Island. He did not mind when she told him that she was trans, and they had a three-year relationship.

Tracy found work in shoe retailing, but again word got out and people came to stare through the window. She then took work at Show Center, a burlesque peep show in Times Square that featured trans women, but behind glass so that the customers could not touch. She was able to earn over $1,000 a day there, and stayed three years. This led to her involvement in the voguing balls, first as an observer, and then as a member of the House of Africa. She used her modelling experience and trained her team to walk like professionals, rather than the flamboyant style that the other houses affected. Her personal trademark was to walk in just jeans and t-shirt. She would take a white handkerchief and wipe her face in front of the judges to show that she was wearing no make-up – and the was met by applause. She became mother to the house, and was elected to the Ballroom Hall of Fame in 2001.

In the 1990s Tracey had encountered her father who was driving a bus that she was on. “I was like, ‘Daddy, it’s me.’ He was shocked to see me.” Later he was diagnosed with cancer, and she visited him in hospital. “He saw that I have done something very exciting with my life. I think he was proud of me at that point. He was more accepting.”

Later Tracey worked again in shoe retailing – for the up-market Peter Fox Shoes, and for a while was a manager.
Tracey in 2016


In December 2015, New York Magazine/The Cut ran a cover story reminding readers that Tracey, now 63, was the first black trans model. This led to Clairol welcoming her back as the face of its new “Color As Real As You Are” campaign.
  • Meekaprodigy. "Paris Is Burning Tea (Harlem Ballroom Scene)" Lipstick Alley, 03-26-
  • "Tracy Africa" The Luna show#100. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGWhRQSzqzkhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvCKxygj0vM
  • Jada Yuan & Aaron Wong. "The First Black Trans Model had her Face on a Box of Clairol". New York Magazine/The Cut, 14 December, 2015. Online.
  • Carly Stern. "The 'first black transgender model' reveals how her high-flying fashion career, posing for the likes of Vogue and Clairol, crumbled after her gender identity was exposed". Daily Mail, 17 Dec 2015. Online
  • Jada Yuan. "Susan Taylor Says She Wouldn’t Have Outed Tracey Africa". New York Magazine/The Cut, Dec 27, 2015. Online.
  • Jada Yuan. "Tracey Africa Norman Is Back As the Face of Clairol".  The Cut, August 2016. Online.
  • Hermione Hoby. "How Tracey Norman, America’s first black trans model, returned to the limelight". The Guardian, 21 Aug 2016. Online.
  • Yada Yuan. "Trans Models Will Cover Harper’s Bazaar for the First Time". New York Magazine/The Cut, Sept 19, 2016. Online.
  • Elspeth H Brown. Work! A Queer History of Modeling. Duke University Press, 2019: 2-4, 13, 263-5, 267, 270-2. 
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Tracy or Tracey? She changed the spelling in the early 1990s.

After the December 2015 article in New York Magazine/The Cut, JadaYuan, the author, was finally able to get feedback from Susan Taylor, the editor at Essense who had supervised Tracey’s last shoot in 1980. Not surprisingly Taylor remembers things differently: “I always suspected she was genetically male. I accepted her as she presented herself, as an exquisitely beautiful black woman. Now, this is 40 years later, but I think someone that she went to school with in Newark told me that they knew her as a boy. I think.” … “And we sought to hire her into the ‘80s and she was not available. I just learned that a few days ago.”






31 August 2019

John Coulter (1834 - 1884) servant, labourer

John Coulter was a man of definite masculine appearance with good muscular development.

At the age of twenty-one he was working as a man-servant on a farm near Dungannon in County Tyrone. In this position he courted his master’s daughter, and was successful in marrying her.

From 1872 he worked for the Belfast Harbour Commissioners as a labourer. In 1878 his wife started living apart from him because of his dissipated habits.

He died from injuries caused by falling down a flight of stairs, and was discovered to be female bodied.

His wife returned to bury him.

The story was written up in The Lancet.

*not the Irish surgeon-apothecary who became famous for working on whaling ships in the 1820s and 1830s.

“Extraordinary Personation case”  The Lancet, Feb 2, 1884: 229.  Online.
Havelock Ellis. Sexual Inversion. In Studies In The Psychology Of Sex. Random House. 1936: 246

29 August 2019

Alfred H Read (187?-?) minister.

An elderly Congregational minister, the Rev. Arthur Read was featured in the press in the late 1920s when he was captured as the supposed female ghost that had been haunting the lanes around the village of Curry-Rivel, near Taunton in Somerset for a few years.

Villagers had reported seeing a large female ghost, usually veiled, who hung around after dark.  One day in 1927, Read was recognized by the local postman as the supposed ghost. This story quickly went around the village. Later that evening, a visitor staying at the King-William Inn, reported that he had just seen the lady in question. Two men took bicycles and caught up with her near Stoney Lane. The two did not then know the Rev Read, but Mr Woodrow, a leading member of the Congregational Chapel, had followed and immediately identified his minister.

Read bumped into one of the three men the next morning in the village and gave a partial excuse. He followed up by issuing a handbill, “Talks by the Masquerader”, inviting the public to hear his explanation. There would be separate meetings for men and women, and boys and girls under 16 would not be admitted. However the only meetings held were in the nearby village of Drayton.

Alfred’s explanation was that he had cross-dressed , usually when his wife was away, to see if men were so immoral that they would flirt with a strange woman. Without the knowledge of his wife, he had acquired female garments from items to be sold at rummage sales.
'It was difficult, for my height was against me. But by pressing a hat down tight on my head and stooping as much as possible, I seemed shorter.'  
In this guise, Alfred went many places, in the country and in the city. To his surprise and satisfaction, no one gave him any trouble.
“Only once did an immoral man molest me. That was at a far-away seaside resort. I sat on the sea front, and all at once I felt a man leering at me. It was a terrible feeling, and I moved away quickly.” 
He was therefore very impressed by the high moral standard of English manhood.

He referred himself to the Somerset Congregational Union, where he promised to stick to preaching.

His congregation released a statement:
“We do hereby place on record our unqualified conviction that such behaviour was not due to any moral laxity, but is the result of a nervous disorder induced by anxiety and over work. Further, we record our gratitude to God for our pastor's long and arduous ministry and affirm that our church has been most happy and successful during his four years as our leader. We have found him a helpful preacher and devoted friend and pastor, recklessly spending his strength in bringing the church through great difficulties to a place of honour in the community and the union.”
However Rev Read resigned his pastorate at the end of November 1927. He is still remembered for his efforts in raising 1,000 guineas which was used to reconstruct and renovate church buildings in the village.



  • “A Minister’s Masquerade”, Western Morning News, 19 Sep 1927: 4
  • C. J. Bulliet. Venus Castina: Famous Female Impersonators Celestial and Human. Covici 308 pp 1928. Bonanza Books. 1956: 248-9.
  • Dr Beachcombing. “Transvestite Vicar Ghost in Interwar England”. Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, May 4, 2016. Online.
  • Paul Gallagher. “The Woman In Black: The Strange Story of a Crossdressing Ghost”. Dangerous Minds, 04.06.2017. Online.
  • Laura Linham. “Somerset's most unusual ghost story...a vicar who walked the streets as a woman”. Somerset Live, 18 Feb 2018. Online.


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1,000 guineas would be almost £65,000 today.

Bulliet gives Read's first name as Arthur, not Alfred.

If his intention was to discover how women are treated by men, he could have started by asking his wife and other female members of the congregation. However that was probably just an excuse.