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 November 2019

Kubrà (1912 - ?) Iran's first surgical gender confirmation

In the late 1920s the police in Garrus in Iranian Azerbaijan became aware of a young person with a non-standard gender. The person was referred to as “Kubrà, son of Tahir Sultan”, although Kubrà is a female name.

Kubrà was sent to Tehran, where the Police Health Office referred her to the state hospital. Kubrà was demanding that her male organs be surgically removed and her female ones be completed or she would kill herself. The doctors considered her a “khilqat-i ‘ajib” (wondrous creation) in that she had both male and female organs. While her body was considered to be predominantly male, in her feeling she was predominantly feminine, and her sexual "lust" was female.

A team of doctors led by Dr Khal‘atbari granted her desire, and she was operated on 24 October 1930. A report in the daily newspaper Ittila‘at reported that Kubrà was recovering well and was very happy. “This event is a wondrous story that speaks to Iran’s medical progress and the advance of its surgical capabilities”. It congratulated the hospital for having such specialised doctors.

  •  Afsaneh Najmabadi. Professing Selves: Transsexuality and Same-Sex Desire in Contemporary Iran. Duke University Press, 2014: 41.

Unlike so many others at that time, Kubrà's sense of being female was allowed to override the masculine predominance of her body.

11 November 2019

The GG Knickerbocker P T Barnum Room

Part I: The Gilded Grape
Part II: The GG Knickerbocker Barnum Room

The Knickerbocker Hotel

The Knickerbocker Hotel  1466 Broadway at 42nd Street, opened in 1906 – two years after the first NY subway line, the IRT, reached Times Square. It was "a Fifth Avenue Hotel at Broadway prices" - $3.25 a day (<1% of today’s rates). 
It was owned by John Jacob Astor IV until he went down with the Titanic in 1912. Legend has it that the martini drink was invented at the Knickerbocker and named after the house bartender. World-famous tenor Enrico Caruso and his family lived in the hotel (until his death in 1921). 
After that the hotel was closed and converted to commercial use. The same building was reopened as the Hotel Knickerbocker in 2015.  However in-between, the brand name Knickerbocker was free for others to use, and in the 1960s the name was taken by a down-market hotel located at 128 West 45th Street.

The Peppermint Lounge

The ground floor premises at128 West 45th Street had been licensed on numerous occasions since 1934. Over the years there had been numerous arrests of gay men, and citations for disorderly premises and Administrative Code violations. The NY State Liquor Authority had stated that no renewal was to be issued for 1959 until a bona fide buyer took over. It was then rented to 128 Restaurant Inc, and the owners of record were Ralph Saggesse and Orlando Grippo. In reality they were employed by Sam Konwiser who ran businesses for Johnny Biello, a capo in the Genovese crime family.

The Peppermint Lounge opened in 1958. It had a lengthy mahogany bar running along one side, lots of mirrors and a dance floor at the back, a capacity of just 178 people. There was a back door into the Knickerbocker Hotel Lobby. Johnson et al describe the hotel at that time: it “rented as many rooms by the hour as they did to the luckless out-of-towners, the unemployed and those only a week away from living on the streets”.

 The Peppermint Lounge was mainly a gay bar. The major dance craze 1960-1 was the Twist. Much to the surprise of Johnny Biello, this became associated with the Peppermint Lounge, and celebrities, especially Hollywood stars, flocked there to do the dance, and to be photographed doing it. The house band was Joey Dee and the Starlighters. Jackie Kennedy arranged for a temporary ‘Peppermint Lounge’ in the White House. A sister club was opened in Miami Beach. Gays and lesbians liked the dance because it did not necessarily require a partner, and if dancing with a same-sex partner when the police raided, one could spin around to face a partner of the other gender. It is said that (female) go-go dancing (alone on a raised platform for others to watch) originated at the Peppermint Lounge.


Proprietor Ralph Saggesse appeared as a contestant on the popular television program What's My Line? 

  • Greg Garrison (dir) Hey, Lets Twist, with Joey Dee and the Starlighters. US BW mono 79 mins 1961. IMDB. EN.Wikipedia. A fictionalized story of the Peppermint Lounge, partially filmed there.
The Ronnettes made their professional debut at the Peppermint Lounge.


  • The Starlighters. “Peppermint Twist”. 45 rpm single. Three weeks at number 1 in January.
  • Sam Cooke. “Twistin’ the Night Away”. 45 rpm single. "a place/Somewhere up a New York way/Where the people are so gay".


The Beatles were filmed at the club. Many musicians of the period performed there including the Beach Boys, the Crystals, Chubby Checker, Liza Minelli, the Four Seasons etc.


The State Liquor Authority decided to revoke the Peppermint liquor licence. This was upheld in the state Supreme Court. The club closed in December.  Within two months Matty Ianniello on behalf of the Genovese family had arranged a new front company to purchase the club. Mar-Jear Restaurant paid $20,000 and received a liquor licence at the end of June 1966. A September 1966 FBI memo stated:
“On 08/29/66 the informant advised that Matty Ianiello whom the informant has previously met had recently bought a piece of the Peppermint Lounge Nite club on West 45th St. NYC. He continued that Matty has an interest in a number of ‘Fag Joints’ in NYC and that the Peppermint Lounge is now a ‘Fag Joint.’ ” (Crawford:113).
The designated owner was Abraham Margorgolies (the ‘mar' in Mar-Jear) who also owned a jewelry business on 135th Street, a factory in Puerto Rico and was co-producer of a Broadway show. The manager was John Mink, who had just retired as a police captain in the 10th Precinct. He had been an army buddy of Ianniello – they had been in combat together in the South Pacific.

Initially the place opened as a topless bar. Geri Miller who had been in the Warhol/Morrissey films Flesh, Trash and Women in Revolt, IMDB, and had been one of the Peppermint Twisters and had dated Ringo Star, was one of the performers.

Johnny Biello was whacked in 1967 in a Miami Beach parking lot on orders from Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno.

The topless bar was not too successful, and the place reverted to being a gay bar, The Turntable. Later it was called the Hollywood. Richie Kaczor was the DJ, and Abe Glanstein was the manager. It was popular with Puerto Ricans. By 1977 Disco music was the craze. That was also the year that Studio 54 opened, and Kaczor took his skills there.

 The GG Kickerbocker Barnum Room 

When the Gilded Grape closed, most of the staff went to the Hollywood. Glanstein’s mainly Puerto Rican clientele had pretty well moved on and he needed a new crowd. He changed the name of the club to GG Knickerbocker – the GG was a signal to the Gilded Grape crowd that they were welcome. The new club was a moderate success from its opening in May 1977. Police harassment was way down in that the hookers were off 8th Avenue. Also being on the south side of 45th Street, the policing was done by the Midtown South Precinct – who were less uptight than their colleagues to the north.

Most of the Knickerbocker Hotel was being converted into condos – the Knickerbocker hotel was no longer so down-market. Ianniello arranged for the remodeling of the ground floor incorporating the hotel lobby into the new version of the club. Jerry Cohen’s design company got the contract. The new club could hold 400 comfortably, nearly three times as many as the Peppermint Lounge. The big innovation was the circus theme: a trapeze and a net were put up and aerialists performed. Some of them were trans.  All this to a disco beat.  As had the Peppermint Lounge, this had a long bar with seating in the front, and a dance floor in the rear, Caraballo from the Gilded Grape was still the doorman. The GG Knickerbocker P T Barnum Room (named after PT Barnum the 19th century circus entrepreneur) opened July 20, 1978.  The name was quickly shortened. Jerry Cohen was now the manager.

Generally admission was $5, $10 after 11pm.

Not only trans women from the Gilded Grape started coming: also Truman Capote, Robert Redford and Andy Warhol. Cohen commented:
“A celebrity is no more to us than the average transvestite. Besides they are the cheapest people around. They don’t spend any money.”
Three Italian television journalists making a documentary on the state of US women came and filmed in the Barnum room.

Victoria Cruz did sex work out of the GG Knickerbocker, and the Grapevine.

Timmy Scott had been the show co-ordinator at both the Gilded Grape and at the Barnum Room. He made a point of using regular customers in the show. A regular talent show packed the club every Monday night. He also selected themes for the Sunday shows. He kept things moving and the crowds jumping, and his comebacks on the microphone quieted unruly customers. He died in 1978 age 42.

Tish Gervais:
“GG’s Barnum Room wasn’t exempt from providing us girls with the opportunity to make some extra cash. The clientele from the old Gilded Grape soon discovered this new location and men were continuously on the prowl for some action. Another way you could make some money there was by doing some lip-synching performances. As the reigning Miss 220, I got to perform there and was paid a hundred bucks a night. It was easy money. While I wasn’t comfortable with lip-synching, I rose to the challenge.” (p 106)
Carmen Xtravaganza:
“The club had a circus trapeze on the roof of the club, Salvador Dali and many celebrities would come through the Barnum Room, at the time celebs would mix with people and it wasn’t such a big deal like it is today. Ava Hollywood was a great beauty and a great friend of Dali. I remember seeing them coming out of a large limo with ‘Hollywood’ on the limo’s number plate entering The GG’s Barnum Room. Grace Jones did a show there as well and Taxi, a beautiful girl did the show with her, it was history for Taxi, Grace Jones was her idol and became mine after that!”

Rosalyne Blumenstein mentions that Ava Hollywood was also a hit at Studio 54. She also says:
“I worked in the Barnum Room as a coat-check girl. … It was right around the corner from my old school. Down the block there was a restaurant where all the thugs hung out. I was always scared to go there but because I worked in the bars and I was friends with some of the thugetts, the women who hung out in the restaurant, I would never get jumped or ripped off. The Barnum Room was as hip as studio 54, Zenon’s and the Limelight. But the Barnum Room catered to a more eclectic, shall we say common and perverse, clientele. Trans women and non-trans women who were working girls working out of the Barnum Room would sometimes take their tricks past the restaurant on 45th and Sixth and then their boyfriends would come out and rip the johns off or beat them up. This was the cultural norm in my life.”

In September 1980, New York Magazine, in its True Tales of New York retold an anecdote from August the previous year. Two housewives from Litchfield County, Connecticut, in town for the day, having had an all-day pampering at a 5th Avenue beauty salon, and a meal in an expensive restaurant, all put on their husbands’ credit cards, decided that they would go slumming, to the notorious GG Barnum’s that they had seen on television. Inside they were even daring enough to strike up conversation with a ‘tasteful’ black trans woman sitting nearby. “This your first time here?” she said. “Then lemme give you some advice. You two ain’t never gonna score. Shit, you guys look like dogs. You’re made up like hookers, and frankly, you’re both much too butch!.” The ladies quickly left, and in their hotel scrubbed off the effect of the expensive pampering. They returned early to Litchfield County the next morning.

In 1980 the Barnum Room hosted a Miss Gay NY contest. Blumenstein:
“I entered the contest not even thinking the word ‘gay’ had anything to do with me or the contest. … And gay just meant that women who were not TS could not participate”. 
It was judged by gay men. The winner was Mara Devau from Cuba, the reigning champion. The first runner up was Sugar Belane.  Blumenstein, under the name ‘Roe’ was third runner up.

Chicky died while working at the Barnum Room. His eldest daughter had become a cashier at the club.

In 1980 Motown singer Diana Ross had her second hit single with “I’m Coming Out”. Writer Nile Rodgers got the idea after seeing three different Diana Ross impersonators at GG Barnum Room. For Ross the lyrics had an additional meaning in that she was about to leave - that is to come out from - Motown Records. The song became a sort-of gay pride anthem.

Finally, later that year, after complaints from surrounding businesses, complaints about pickpockets, of johns getting rolled, and finally a pair of murders, the GG Barnum Room lost its liquor licence. It closed November 1980.


Some went back to the Grapevine, although that was a letdown after the Barnum room. A new club for trans women with new owners was the Casa Dario on 46th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The hostess was Edie Lane, back from completion surgery with Dr Biber in Colorado. She was found stabbed to death in her apartment on the upper East Side – apparently she had taken the wrong man home.

Jim Fouratt was a gay activist who had been at Stonewall but was critical of trans women as reinforcing gender stereotypes. In the late 1970s, in partnership with Rudolf Pieper, he was running the rock music nightclub Danceteria, which was closed by the police and fire department 4 October 1980 in that they did not actually have any licences. As the Barnum Room was about to be closed, Fouratt investigated the site. In the basement he found the old signage for the Peppermint Lounge. Fouratt and Pieper reopened the place as the Peppermint Lounge, this time as a cutting edge rock club with acts such as Black Flag and British bands such Gang of Four. However they did not get on with what Fourett referred to as the Italian ‘uncles’ in the back room, who were asking for a bigger cut. After threats of violence, the two of them left. The Peppermint Lounge continued at the same address until May 1982 when the building was condemned. The club moved to 100 Fifth Ave. as the New Peppermint Lounge, where it continued until 1985.

The building at 128 West 45th Street was torn down in the mid-1980s.

GG Barnum Room was not the first New York nightclub with live circus performers. That credit goes to Jerry Brandt who opened the Electric Circus at 23 St Marks Place in the East Village back in 1967.

Was the Barnum Room the first to have go-go boys? For a nightclub, perhaps yes. However go-go boys had been noticed at the GLF dances several years before.

Some source documents talk as if there were two moves, with GG Knickerbocker being in the hotel on 42nd Street for a short while. This threw me off initially, and I had to read the better sources carefully to establish that this was not so.

Apparently Ava Hollywood was somewhat of a legend in the New York party scene from the late 1970s through to the 1990s. She must be at least 60 now. Google gives me an Ava Hollywood who is a porn star. This cannot be the same person who was dating Salvador Dali in 1978? Somebody else must have taken the name.

I could not find any details about the two murders that happened at the Barnum Room.

The building was converted to condos in 1978 and then condemned and pulled down in the mid 1980s.  Bad luck if you bought one.

There is no mention at all of the Gilded Grape or the Barnum Room in Julian Fleisher's The Drag Queens of New York, 1996. There is no mention at all of them in Laurence Senelick's The Changing Room: Sex, Drag and Theatre, 2000,

  • “GG Changes Name / Location”. Drag, 7, 25, 1977: 9. Online.
  • “Gilded Grape’s Timmy Scott … Gone”. Drag, 7, 26, 1978: 9. Online.
  • Orde Coombs. “Le Freak, C’est Chic on 45th Street”. New York Magazine, 8 Jan 1979:47-50. Online.
  • John P French. “Drag” in True Tales of the City, New York Magazine, 1 September 1980. Online.
  • Rosalyne Blumenstein. Branded T. 1st Books, 2003: 99, 101, 104-6, 112-3, 117, 144, 177.
  • Jim Fouratt. “Studio 54, 1982”. RudolfPiper.Com, 2008. Online.
  • John Johnson, Joel Selvin & Dick Cami. Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s. Thomas Dunne Books, 2012: chp 23.
  • Paul Vitello. “Matthew Ianniello, the Mafia Boss Known as ‘Matty the Horse,’ Dies at 92”. New York Times, Aug 22, 2012. Online.
  • Carmen Xtravaganza. “The Late 70s”., February 4th, 2013. Online.
  • Phillip Crawford Jr. The Mafia and the Gays. 2015: 23, 40, 50, 51, 58.
  • Martin Aston. Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out. Constable, 2016: 104, 134-5.
  • Tim Laurence. Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983. Duke University Press, 2016: 58.
  • Ric Tennenbaum interviews Melissa Sklarz. New York City Trans Oral History Project, July 5, 2017. Online.
  • Duncan Osborne. “Feds Tracked Mob Control of Gay Bars into the 1980s”. Gay City News, August 30, 2018. Online.
  • Brian Belovich. Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man. Skyhorse, 2018: 106.
  • “GG’s Barnum Room”. DiscoMusic.Com. No Longer available.
  • Victoria Cruz. Where Love is Illegal: A Witness Change Project. Online.

EN.Wikipedia(Peppermint Lounge)      MotherboardsNYC     PlayerListenLive(I’m Coming Out)            NY Disco Clubs

06 November 2019

The Gilded Grape

Part I: the Gilded Grape
Part II: The GG Knickerbocker Barnum Room

Matty The Horse Ianniello

We have already met Matthew Ianniello (1920 – 2012) who co-ordinated what happened at the Stonewall Inn on behalf of the Genovese crime family.

Born and raised in Little Italy, Manhatten, and then Brooklyn, Ianiello returned from service in the Second World War with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

In 1951 he was arrested for possessing heroin, but the charges were dropped. He acquired the nickname ‘the horse’ either from the heroin (which is sometimes referred to as ‘horse’) or from the strength of his punch.

In the early 1960s Ianniello joined the Genovese crime family, which already had experience of running gay/trans clubs - especially the 82 Club. Ianniello eventually built a string of gay/trans clubs including the Stonewall, the Peppermint Lounge and the Gilded Grape as well as heterosexual strip clubs, porn theatres and restaurants. In addition to more than eighty bars and restaurants, Matty’s enterprise included support businesses supplying alcohol, laundry and trucking, and of course a talent agency that supplied topless dancers. And also an interior decorating firm and a garbage collection firm.

Under a negotiated arrangement he paid tribute to all five New York Mafia families.   A NYPD detective was quoted:
“You don’t run a bar and grill or sex establishment between 34th and 59th streets, from Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River, without Matty having a piece of the action.” (Johnson et al p250), 
Johnson et al say that
“In a large sense, Ianniello was the man who made Times Square the tawdry place that it was in the seventies.” 
In 1972 he was in the kitchen of Umberto’s Clam house when Colombo crime family rebel Joe Gallo got whacked at 4.30am.

In 1986 he was convicted of racketeering and went to prison until 1995.  On release Ianniello became the acting boss of the Genovese family until 2006 when he was convicted again.  He was released in 2009, and died at home in 2012, aged 92.

The Gilded Grape 719 8th Ave, Manhattan

By 1974 there was a lack of bars/nightclubs for trans persons in New York. The Stonewall had closed after the riots in 1969, and the Washington Square at Broadway and 3rd Street where Sylvia Rivera liked to drink had also closed.

The Gilded Grape opened that year as a mixed disco.  Drag Magazine described it as New York’s “sole and only drag hangout”. Gerald Cohen, from the Bronx, was the manager; Angel Caraballo was the doorman, and Matty Ianniello – of course – was behind the scene.  At first Cohen did not realize that there were trans women among his clientele. One evening, passing the ladies’ room, he found his enraged floorman with a hand up a woman’s dress. He made a decision: “if it looks like a woman it can use the ladies’ room”. Word spread and trans women came.

In 1974. Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino suggested to Andy Warhol that he do a series of drag queen portraits, and named  Candy Darling, Jackie Curtis and Holly Woodlawn. It was pointed out to him that Candy was dead. Later Anselmino suggested doing a series of “funny looking” transvestites, those who were obviously men trying to pass as women. Andy suggested The Gilded Grape, where his entourage and rich European clients visiting Warhol’s Factory were sometime taken after dinner to witness the ‘dark underbelly of Manhattan nightlife”. The project started: Bob Colacello, artist Ronnie Cutrone and art student Corey Tippen found most of the models,
"We would ask them to pose for 'a friend' for $50 an hour. The next day, they'd appear at the Factory and Andy, whom we never introduced by name would take their Polaroids. And the next time we saw them at the Gilded Grape, they invariably would say, 'Tell your friend I do a lot more for fifty bucks’." 
These large format polaroids were transferred to paintings as a silk screen. This became part of Andy’s “Ladies and Gentlemen” series first shown in Italy, September/October 1975.

Eddie, Miss Gilded Grape 1974.
The Gilded Grape announced a Miss Gilded Grape Contest, and the editors of Drag Magazine (some of whom were in the Queens Liberation Front) attended. Desi Duvall was turned out from the dance segment when people recognized her as a winner of previous dance contests; Cindy could not answer the questions as she spoke mostly Spanish; the winner was Eddie, a bartender at the Grape, in drag for the first time. The most sensational was Judy Bowen who spoke for ten minutes about her operations. Her operations seemed to count against her. Drag commented that rules against surgery should be spelt out clearly in advance. The third runner up, Miss Toni Stevens, was on the cover of the next issue of Drag Magazine. The next year, Toni won the Grape’s Broadway Award for the best performance in their regular Sunday Night Show.
Despite the publicity, The Gilded Grape declined to pay for an advertisement in Drag Magazine.

Tish Gervais (who many years later reverted to being Brian Belovich) and her friend Easha came:
“Still dressed as a boy, I secretly longed to be part of the transgender milieu. It was quite a scene; the Grape was a hodgepodge of every possible gender and sexual identity. While it was predominately transgender women, there was also a heady mix of gay men, lesbian women, bisexual folks, and tranny-chasing tricks. There was also a small group of transvestite men like those portrayed in the book, Casa Susanna, who liked to dress as women but were married with wives and families.”
Rosalyn Blumenstein also came:
“The crowd was an eclectic bunch. Remember the thugs, rapists and tricks? This made up a percentage of the population entering the Gilded Grape. There were trans girls, girls of trans experience, cross dressers, street punks looking for extra money, drug dealers, businessmen in female attire, transsexuals from all over the country, illegal aliens, kids dressed up as adults, and runaways."
And again:
"The Gilded Grape crowd was predominantly African-American, Jamaican, South African, Nigerian, Latino/a, Puerto Rican, Cubana, Mexicana, Dominicana, Panamanian, street-wise, transsexuals, drag queens, drag kings, hustlers and prostitutes. The tricks, Johns and tranny-chasers, were predominantly white. However, the bangy-boys were Latino and represented the many cultural groups I just described. The crowd was filled with tranny thugs, drug addicts, performers, wannabes, immigrants and our followers. The club was also filled with atmosphere, acceptance, community, safety, and a sense of family, as well as hate, remorse, hustle, desire, escape, and revenge. The music was loud with a mixture of disco, show tunes, salsa, and melodramatic sex vigilant reverberation.” (p 52-3)
Another at the Gilded Grape was Romain Atura who went to Dr Benito Rush and was approved for transgender surgery. The surgery was done by Dr David Wesser in 1976. She afterwards regretted the operation, although still spending time at the Gilded Grape. She killed herself a few months later.

The future film-star, the young Mickey Rourke hung out at the Gilded Grape for a while, and if a woman was being hassled by a trick, he was known to step in and help her.

Cohen, the manager, was interviewed by R. Thomas Collins Jr. of the New York Daily News:
“Drag queens, transvestites came to my place. I had a market and I served them. The only people I didn’t let in were whores. I’ve been harassed by the SLA and police. ... Once a cop told me they kept the pressure on me because the ‘establishment’ didn’t like drag queens. My lawyer has been fighting all the way. I wanted to stand by my customers. They’ve got a right to be that way.” … 
“Of course I know Matty Ianniello, and I was being harassed by law enforcement just because he was reputed to be associated with the Mafia. My only connection with Matty is knowing him, and one of my partners at Jericho used to work at the Peppermint Lounge, when Matty owned it.”

Despite what Cohen said about not letting in whores, sex workers did gather at the Gilded Grape and plied their trade up and down 8th Ave. in open competition with their cis co-workers. Some of the trans woman lived above the Gilded Grape in the Camelot Apartments. Quack doctor Jimmy Treetop sold hormones to some of the regulars at the Gilded Grape.

Tish Gervais:
“Although I felt comfortable in the predominantly trans atmosphere at the Gilded Grape on Eighth Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen, which was a short walk from our apartment, I was often anxious and fearful there. Instead of punching a time clock at some job, I went to the Grape to earn my keep. It was safer than working on the stroll in Times Square and the guys knew what they were getting looking only for those “girls with something extra” like myself. Being a younger trans woman might have made it easier for me to find tricks, but it also created tension with some of the heavily-seasoned regular girls who frequented the bar.”
The police of Midtown North Precinct were not amused at the uptick in trans solicitation. In three years Cohen received 26 tickets and repeatedly went before the State Liquor Authority.

NYC Mayor Abraham Beame (1974-7) had made a crusade to eliminate pornography and the trans bars in New York. This did not get very far. In April 1977 the Highways Commissioner Anthony Ameruso made a surprise visit to the Times Square area with the press attending and had workers use acetylene torches to cut down the canopies in front of four enterprises including the Gilded Grape on the excuse that they did not have permits for them.

No summons against Cohen was ever sustained, but his legal fees had added up to over $40,000, and now canopies had been destroyed. Exhausted, he voluntarily surrendered his liquor license a few weeks later. The Gilded Grape closed, and was reopened as the Grapevine. Some trans women still went there but others heard of a new place: the GG Knickerbocker Barnum Room.

Sharon Churcher writing in New York magazine in 1980 portrayed Romaine spending her last evenings in the GG Knickerbocker Barnum Room. However as Romaine died in 1976, and the GG Knickerbocker Barnum Room did not open till 1978, she must have meant the Gilded Grape.

Orde Coombs spelt Gerald/Jerry Cohen's name as ‘Cohn”.

Blumenstein p53 refers to the manager of the Gilded Grape as Chickey, and says that he let some of the girls in in exchange for a blow job. It is not clear whether or not Chickey is the same person as Gerald Cohen.

  • “Drag Drops in on New York’s Drag Oasis: Beauty at the Gilded Grape”. Drag, 4, 14, 1974: 30-41. Online
  • “Annual Awards at Gilded Grape: Drag Cover Girl Winner”. Drag, 6,24, 1975: 6. Online
  • Lena Williams. “Manes Asks Revision of Pornography Plan”. New York Times, April 2, 1977. Online
  • Orde Coombs. “Le Freak, C’est Chic on 45th Street”.  New York Magazine, 8 Jan 1979:47. Online.
  • R Thomas Collis, Jr. Newswalker: A Story for Sweeney. Ravensyard Pub Ltd, 2002: 99, 123-5.
  • Sharon Churcher. “The Anguish of the Transsexuals”. New York, June 16, 1980: 50.
  • Rosalyne Blumenstein. Branded T. 1st Books, 2003: 50-3, 71, 73, 83, 100.
  • “The Gilded Grape at 719 Eight Avenue”., 11/01/2009. Online.
  • Paul Vitello. “Matthew Ianniello, the Mafia Boss Known as ‘Matty the Horse,’ Dies at 92”. New York Times, Aug 22, 2012. Online.
  • John Johnson, Joel Selvin & Dick Cami. Peppermint Twist: The Mob, the Music, and the Most Famous Dance Club of the '60s. Thomas Dunne Books, 2012: chp 23. 
  • Phillip Crawford Jr. The Mafia and the Gays. 2015: 80,
  • Patricia Hickson (ed). Warhol & Mapplethorpe: Guise & Dolls. Yale University Press, 2015: 6, 42, 162, 169.
  • Duncan Osborne. “Feds Tracked Mob Control of Gay Bars into the 1980s”. Gay City News, August 30, 2018. Online.
  • Brian Belovich. Trans Figured: My Journey from Boy to Girl to Woman to Man.  Skyhorse, 2018: 71-3, 101-2. 
  • Josh Milton. “Andy Warhol’s unseen portraits of drag queens and trans women to go on display for the first time”. Pink News, October 29, 2019. Online.

EN.Wikipedia(Matthew Ianniello)             WarholStare(Ladies and Gentlemen paintings)

30 October 2019

Transgender Lexicons: Morgan Holleb's The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality

Transgender lexicons:

Virginia Prince
Rose White
Raven Usher
Chris Bartlett
Jack Molay
Raphael Carter
John Money – part 1: gender and transexual

Morgan Lev Edward Holleb. The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019.

Morgan Holleb is an immigrant from Colorado who did degrees at the American International University in London and at the London School of Economics, and currently lives in Glasgow. The Twitter page has the description: “yiddish (((anarchist))), bisexual non-binary trans boy”. No preferred pronoun is given up front, but if you persevere to or happen upon page 135, the entry on Gender Identity, you will find: “I transitioned because I’m drawn to queer boy culture; because after years I still get a thrill being called ‘he’; because my body feels better on testosterone”. So ‘he’ it is.

In his introduction Holleb states:
“This book will only cover English-language terms (with a few exceptions), partly to limit the scope, and mostly because as a white American author with no cultural ties outwith the Anglosphere, I am not qualified to define non-English terms, or to fully understand their contexts. However, I want to stress that other languages and cultures have rich histories and wide spectrums of gender variance and sexuality outside the cisgender heterosexuality that is prized as the ‘default’ in our culture. Many other cultures have a long history of third genders or what we might describe as transgender identities and experiences, from hijra to Two-Spirit to Onnabe. The gender binary as we understand it and its coded gender roles—including strict adherence to heterosexuality under punishment of anti-sodomy laws—were exports of European imperialism. English is a language of the colonizer and this book will implicitly reflect that.”
“I anticipate some resistance from queers who want to keep some of these terms secret. I’m not writing this to let outsiders into our safe spaces (and there will always be undergrounds within undergrounds), but for ‘new’ queers and the people who support them. I appreciate the need for safer spaces and exclusion, but if we are to dismantle straightness and cisness and their inherent oppressions, then we must also expand queerness. But if you’re straight and cis, you need to do the work of undoing your privileges! This book will help illuminate and challenge those privileges.”

Holleb, despite having said in the Introduction: “My approach to language is post-structural and descriptivist (not prescriptivist); words do not have inherent meaning signifiers of meanings and these meanings shift across time” starts the dictionary with ‘A’ as in LGBTQIA by insisting that the A is not for Ally but for Asexual, Aromantic or Agender. Obviously he would not be saying this unless some other persons did use A to mean Ally. How is he not being prescriptivist here?

While the book title says ‘Gender and Sex’, four of the first six items in the dictionary are African-American Vernacular English (with a list of which words White people are allowed to use), Ableism, Accountability and Activism. There were times when I felt that this is a dictionary of Political Correctness (in the good sense of the term).

The book has some interesting appendices.

Legislation and Government Communications

These are arranged by country. The longest entry is for the UK. It starts with the Buggery Act of 1533 and continues to the Alan Turing Act 2017 which pardoned men prosecuted under anti-gay laws, especially those in force before 1967. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is of course there, as is Tony Blair’s 2004 Civil Partnership Act and David Cameron’s 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. But where is the Gender Recognition Act, also 2004?

Also should not Corbett v Corbett be mentioned given that it banned trans persons from legal gender changes for 35 years?

There is only one entry under Ireland. The Marriage Act of 2015. Where is the Gender Recognition Act of the same year?

How about Argentina? The Same Sex Marriage Act of 2010 is listed, but again no mention of the Ley de Género of 2012.

There is a section for the European Court of Human Rights (incorrectly claimed as an agency of the European Union – it is not, it operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe). However there is mention only of the 1981 ruling on homosexuality which led to decriminalisation in Northern Ireland. No mention at all of the various appeals to the ECHR by trans persons from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Malta etc.

It does seem that Holleb is far more interested in gay rights and marriage than in trans rights.

Events Referenced

A four-page timeline. The only trans items are the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, Stonewall and Trump’s ban on trans in the military. The other items are general history or gay or lesbian.

What should I mention as missing? There are so many. The 1870 trial of Stella and Fanny that established that cross-dressing was not illegal in England; the triple whammy 1928/9 of the legal trials of Radcliffe Hall, Victor Barker and Violet Morris; the Pansy Craze 1930-3; the university gender clinics in the late 1960s etc etc.

As expected from the previous Appendix, Corbett v Corbett and its repeal in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 are also not mentioned.

Groups Referenced

Many worthy groups are mentioned: Belfast Gay Liberation Society, Camp Trans, Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Daughters of Bilitis, Gay-Straight Alliance, GLF, Lesbian Avengers, Mattachine, Outrage, Scottish Minorities Group, STAR, Queer Nation. But what about: Queens Liberation Front, Press for Change, SHAFT, Transgender Nation, Tri-Ess, IFGE, Southern Comfort, FACT, l'Association des Transsexuelles du Québec, etc, etc.

Individuals Referenced

42 individuals are listed. The only trans persons are Laverne Cox, Marsha Johnson, Christine Jorgensen, Janet Mock, and Silvia Rivera. All from one country. While Holleb, during his years living in Britain, has learned about British gay notables from Oscar Wilde to Alan Turing to Bob Mellors and even tells us the names of the last two men hanged for sodomy in 1835, he either has not learned anything about British trans notables or chooses to erase them. Even April Ashley and Jan Morris and Juno Dawson are so erased.

Magnus Hirschfeld is not listed here although he is discussed, reasonably, in the Dictionary entry on Sexology. Harry Benjamin is mentioned but in a very peculiar way – only in the entry for Compton’s Cafeteria Riot: “Dr. Harry Benjamin published The Transsexual Phenomenon. He wrote that gender identity was fixed but that the body could be changed, and legitimized the use of hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery for trans women; several of the queens who frequented Compton’s saw him.”

Selected Dictionary Entries

Obviously I cannot comment on all the dictionary entries. Here are some of the more relevant.

Transracial. “Transracial people are generally adopted children who are raised by parents of a different race. … Transracial does not mean ‘someone born in the wrong race’ or someone who feels ‘dysphoric’ about their racial identity.” Except that other writers are indeed using the second definition (see Wikipedia). Of course the former is valid and more politically correct. But there are two definitions in use.

Transsexual. “A generally out of favor term for someone who is not the gender they were assigned at birth. There is an implication of medical transition (previously, and reductively, referred to as a ‘sex change’). Transgender is now the preferred term, but transsexual is still in use by older trans people who have always used it, and anyone who appreciates the confrontation of the word.”
Transsexualism. “A disease according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, (Tenth Revision), published by the World Health Organization.” That is the full entry, not an introductory paragraph.

So if not transsexual and transsexualism, what term does he suggest for those who have completed their journey with surgery? A term in distinction from the non-surgical has been required since it became possible in the 1920s, and continues to be needed. This requirement is emphasised by separatist factions like HBS (not mentioned at all) and Truscum, but is hardly limited to them. Holleb – in the Transsexual entry – merely suggests Transgender instead. He does not mention ‘Transsexuality’ at all – which is taken by many to remove the medical implications. ‘Trans Medical’ is also not mentioned, but has become problematic because of its association with Truscum.

Instead of Transsexualism, Holleb seems to prefer Gender Dysphoria. “Many, but not all, trans people experience physical dysphoria. Dysphoria is not a prerequisite for transness: transness is defined by not feeling unambiguously aligned with the sex you were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria cannot be relieved through conversion therapy, and attempts to make people not-trans, through coercion or otherwise, are abusive.” However he tells us that “Gender dysphoria is a mental health disorder classified in the DSM-5, replacing gender identity disorder (GID).” He goes on to correctly distinguish Gender Dysphoria from GID, but when you look at the GID entry four pages later, it simply refers you to Gender Dysphoria.

While he writes that Transsexualism is a disease and Gender Dysphoria a mental health disorder, he releases his inner rebel in the entry on Gender Identity where he complains that “Trans people are expected to justify their gender not only with academic texts on feminism, on queer theory, on sexuality and patriarchy and performance and power, but also with psycho-medical material on hormones, surgery, depression, trauma, autism, childhood anxiety, and a catalogue of every single violence we have suffered which has “made us” trans. Fuck that. … Gender identity is personal and should not need to be explained; it’s an issue of bodily autonomy and social respect.”

The entry on Gender is good, combining ideas about social construction and as a system of oppression, and as performance and how gender signalling can fail. Yet in the middle he writes “In addition to performance, gender is an interior sense of self, aligning with or against cultural norms of gender”. And in Gender Identity he writes that it “could also be called ‘gender’. As I have written elsewhere a transgender person is one who changes aer gender to align it with aer gender identity. Otherwise ae would not be transgender. Many today conflate gender and gender identity, and this usually leads to confusion.

There is an entry for Gender Recognition, but it says nothing about the various Gender Recognition Acts – as expected from the erasure of such acts from the Legislation appendix.

In his Transgender entry, Holleb reminds us that “non-binary people feel that they aren’t trans even though they aren’t cis either”. He closes the entry with: “There is no wrong way to be trans. Some trans people have body dysphoria, some don’t; some see transness as mental illness or disability, many don’t. Medicalization is a path to legitimacy but we shouldn’t need that. While some of the language to describe ourselves is new, transgender people have always existed.”

Tranny. No mention of the ‘Transy’ variant. He sees ‘tranny’ as part of the “conflation between gender and sexuality”, not as an umbrella word for transsexual, transvestite and drag as is usually said. The honourable history of ‘tranny’ as a self-designation is erased, and most of the entry is a condemnation of non-trannys who dare to use the word. (More on Tranny)

Trans, Trans*. Holleb sees ‘Trans’ as short for ‘Transgender’ or maybe ‘Transsexual’. ‘Trans*’ he admits can ‘sometimes’ include cross-dressers and drag performers. He erases the common usage that both words are replacements that mean exactly what ‘Tranny’ used to mean.

Transvestite. Holleb says: “There is a great deal of historical overlap between cross-dressers, drag performers, LGBQ+ people, and trans people.” And then refers us to Cross-Dresser. There is no entry for Transvestism or Tranvestity.

For Holleb, cross-dressers are not transgender – cross-dressing is a gender expression, not a gender identity. He does a small bit of cross-dressing history – mainly about sex workers in the California gold rush. On the other hand the mainstream of US cross-dressing – Virginia Prince, Transvestia, FPE, Tri-Ess, IFGE etc – is totally not mentioned. As is all British cross-dressing – so no word of Charlotte Bach or the Beaumont Society or of Havelock Ellis’ Eonism.

Gender movements totally missing

There is no mention in this book of Cross-Dreaming, as explicated by Jack Molay or otherwise. I have quoted Holleb in that “non-binary people feel that they aren’t trans even though they aren’t cis either”. This is also true of Cross-Dreamers.

Other movements totally not mentioned: HBS, Tri-Ess, Transkids and other self-designated HSTS, self-designated Autogynephiles.


In the entry on Transgender, Holleb says:
“Transness is often reduced to either an illusion of choice, or the ‘born this way,’ ‘trapped in the wrong body’ narrative. Both are overly simplistic and neither is right.”

That I totally endorse.

I suspect that part of our different approaches is generational. This is a book by a Millennial, for his own generation. However that is not an excuse for leaving out chunks of our history. If you are an older person, reading this book may be useful to understand what Millennial trans persons are thinking. If you are a Millennial you may identify with the book and consider me an old fogey. However our history is what it is, and to cut out chunks of it will damage us all.

Another good book for the Millennial outlook is Juno Dawson’s The Gender Games: The Problem With Men and Women, From Someone Who Has Been Both.