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!

09 January 2019

Robert Gaffney (1872 - ?) janitor.

Gaffney was raised on a farm in a religious family, and was married at 17 to a boy of the same age. They rambled, hunted and fished together, which gave her experience of wearing trousers and other men’s clothing.

After ten years of marriage they split. Gaffney then became Robert A Gaffney, moved to Spokane, Washington and found work as a photographer, a house painter and a janitor.

In 1911 Gaffney met Margaret Hart, an abandoned wife with one child and another on the way. He offered to look after her until she was able to do so by herself. For the sake of appearances, they were married by a Justice of the Peace. It is not clear when and to what extent Margaret realized that Robert was not a regular man. He lost his temper when she brought up the issue.

They moved to Seattle. He was employed as a janitor, and worked his way up to head janitor with 5 men and 10 women working for him. He earned $90 a month.

Then Margaret became pregnant and gave birth again. Neighbors congratulated him on his third child, but he felt that Margaret had broken their agreement. He disappeared, cycling all the way to California.

This left Mrs Gaffney and her three children destitute. The charity she turned to filed a charge under the 1913 “Lazy Husband” Act of Washington State.

Robert worked for a while in California, but then, being unemployed, he returned to Seattle, where he was arrested for abandoning his wife, and sentenced to hard labor (for which his wife would be paid $1.50 a day), which he did not care to do. All he had to do was to proclaim himself a woman, and
Newspaper cartoon implying
Margaret did not previously
know.  Skidmore p152.
dress in women’s clothes. He did so and was quickly released.

There was no law in Washington State nor in Seattle against cross-dressing. However his and Margaret’s marriage was declared void. The press went easy on both: Robert had stepped in to help a woman in distress; they accepted Margaret’s claim that she did not really know about Robert’s sex until the trial.

Gaffney said the required things about being a real woman, and wouldn't dress as a man again, despite still walking and looking like a man in women’s clothes, and having forgotten how to to cook, and how to sew. The best janitorial job that could be obtained now paid only $30 a month.

Gaffney left Seattle. A few months later, a reporter from the Seattle Star was invited to take an interview where he explained himself.  Gaffney pointed to his female dress: “It stands for all the follies of convention that makes men free and women slaves”.

Then Gaffney disappeared again.
  • “Story of Woman ‘Father’ of Family”: ‘Mr.’ Gaffney Tells How ‘He’ Came to Woo, Win and Marry ‘Margaret’”. The Daily Capital Journal, Feb 19, 1916. Online.
  • “Find ‘Lazy Husband’ In Reality Is Woman”. Tacoma Times, Feb 19, 1916. Online.
  • “Woman is ‘Man’ for 18 years”. Rogue River Courier, Feb 20, 1916. Online.
  • “She Longs for the Mental, Economic Freedom of Pants”. Seattle Star, Sept 7, 1916. Online.
  • Emily Skidmore. True Sex: The Lives of Trans men at the turn of the 20th Century. New York University Press, 2017: 150-6.
  • Kerry Segrave. ‘Masquerading in Male Attire”: Women Passing as Men in America, 1844-1920. McFarland Publishing, 2018: 193-5.
  • “100 years ago in Seattle: After 4 years of marriage, wife discovers husband she married in Spokane was a woman”. The Spokesman, January 08, 2019. Online

07 January 2019

Beverly-Barbara (1943 - ) restaurant worker

Beverly-Barbara*, from the Los Angeles area, was definitely a transkid expressing girls’ interest and dressing as a girl from an early age. Her parents hoped that she would grow out of it.

At age 15 she found work as a cocktail waitress, and saved up enough money to go and see Harry Benjamin. She claimed to be 18, although only 16, and Benjamin prescribed female hormones. Beverly-Barbara followed up with breast implants and electrolysis. Her voice had not changed much at puberty.

She found a boy-friend and in early 1967 they were married in Reno. She was able to do presenting her drivers license only. Beverly-Barbara was by then working as a receptionist at a prominent restaurant, but still not able to afford completion surgery. Benjamin suggested that she get in touch with Richard Green who, after two years with Benjamin in New York and a year in London with John Randell, had returned to the University of California Los Angeles Gender Identity Research Clinic (UCLA GIRC).

When Beverly-Barbara approached Green, he initially failed to understand why she was doing so.
“On the phone I did not suspect that she was transsexual. In person I saw no clue either.’ (Green, 2019: 144)
The GIRC had been active since 1962 but had not actually provided transgender surgery to any one, and Green thought that it was time to do so. Robert Stoller, the head of the GIRC was cautious about permitting such surgery, but was open to it being used as a research technique.
“Patient selection was crucial. It should be limited to those males who had been very feminine in childhood, had never lived acceptably in a masculine role, and who had not derived pleasure from their penis. He termed these ‘true transsexuals’.” (Green, 2010:1459).
Beverly-Barbara met these requirements. Green also endorsed John Money’s proposal that transsexual patients should undergo at least 12 months ‘real-life test’. Beverly-Barbara had in effect undergone 10 years real-life test.

Green enquired about the likelihood of being charged with mayhem. The University of California legal counsel in Berkeley quickly replied that such was a possibility, but that the University would pay the legal bill.

Green presented Beverly-Barbara to the GIRC at a Saturday morning conference in November 1968. Stoller gave a qualified approval. A second opinion was obtained from UCLA psychiatrist Larry Newman, and urologist Willard Goodwin (who had argued against the continuation of transgender surgery by Elmer Belt in 1954) agreed to do the operation.

All went well, and Beverly-Barbara co-operated in follow-up interviews. Then she disappeared into private life.
  • Robert Stoller,. Sex and Gender: On the Development of Masculinity and Femininity, Science House,1968: 251..
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 214.
  • Richard Green. “Robert Stoller’s Sex and Gender: 40 Years on”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 2010: 1459.
  • Richard Green. Gay Rights, Trans Rights: A psychiatrist/lawyer’s 50-year battle. 2018: chp 19.
---------


*Green 2010 calls her Barbara; Green 2018 calls her Beverly.  Meyerowitz does not give her a name.

Beverly-Barbara will now be 75 years old.

Other clinics refused to start the clock on the real-life test until after they had interviewed the patient – as Holly Woodlawn had found when she approached Johns Hopkins in 1966.


Of course Beverly-Barbara is very similar to Agnes, who had been approved for surgery with Elmer Belt by Stoller 10 years earlier. There has been a lot of commentary about Agnes, but very little about Beverly-Barbara.

02 January 2019

The Worden and Marsh project, UCLA 1954


In 1954 Frederick G Worden, psychoanalyst, and James T Marsh, clinical psychologist, both at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Medical Center, interviewed and tested five “physically normal men” (that is trans women): three of whom had already had transgender surgery, Annette Dolan, Caren Ecker and Janet Story; and two hoping for it, Carla Sawyer and Debbie Maine (all names pseudonyms).

Annette had prepared herself for surgery in 1954 by doing an auto-orchiectomy, and had sent an account to Harry Benjamin which was later published in Sexology magazine (albeit under another name). Carla provided Worden and Marsh with a 6-page letter, but they never bothered to read it. Caren had had surgery in San Francisco in 1953, where, while recovering, she gave out offprints of Harry Benjamin’s "Transsexualism and transvestism as psychosomatic and somatopsychic syndromes". She volunteered for the project to show “the true idea that I’m happy with my new life, and that for suitable subjects it is right to make these changes”. Debbie Mayne, hoping for surgery, spent a year working with Worden, waiting for surgical approval which never came – at the end Worden plain refused to approve her. She later wrote that Worden “has never recommended anything for anybody . . . he doesn’t know too much to begin with.”

At this same time, Elmer Belt, the urologist and surgeon who had been the first surgeon in the world to provide vaginoplasty for trans women as opposed to cis and intersex women, beyond a few experimental cases was persuaded to cease doing so --  Annette Dolan having been one of his last patients. A committee of doctors at UCLA, including Frederick Worden, had decided against the practice.

Worden and Marsh published their paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association in April 1955. Their subjects, they wrote’ had “an extremely shallow, immature, and grossly distorted concept of what a woman is like socially, sexually, anatomically, and emotionally”. They depicted them as attention-seeking, and even held their co-operation with the study against them as a “need for recognition”. Worden and Marsh were irritated by the two subjects who wanted surgery, and criticized their refusal to acknowledge “the possibility that the wish for surgery might be symptomatic of a disorder within themselves”. They, of course, did not provide the desired recommendations for surgery.

Harry Benjamin immediately wrote to the journal to object. Worden and Marsh had “badly misunderstood or misinterpreted” his work. Four of the five interviewees wrote to Benjamin expressing outrage. Annette also wrote to the Journal and Elmer Belt as well as to Frederick Worden. “In general my words were twisted to suit their purpose.” She spoke of how she could sense the ridicule in their words.

------

Carla Sawyer had the misfortune to have a session with psychoanalyst Robert Stoller, then new to the field, who attempted to reverse her ‘sexual tendencies’ and antagonized her. Benjamin later helped her to obtain surgery in Mexico.

Caren Ecker later became a nurse.

Debbie Mayne later had surgery in Mexico with Dr Lopez Ferrer.
 
  • Frederick G Woden & James T Marsh. “Psychological Factors in Men Seeking Sex Transformation: A Preliminary Report”. Journal of the American Medical Association, 157, 15, April 9 1955: 1292-4, 1297-8.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 107-9, 143, 146, 155-7, 166.

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

A similar thing happened in 1970-2 when Harry Benjamin allowed Ethel Person and Lionel Ovesey to interview several of his trans patients.  Person and Ovesey applied a psycho-analytic interpretation.   They proposed a typology of trans persons assuming that a child's separation-individuation anxiety produced a fantasy of symbiotic fusion with the mother which the transsexual tries to resolve by surgically becoming her mother.  Papers to this effect were published 1973-85.  One trans woman who had been declared by Benjamin to be a type VI High Intensity, was rendered by Person and Ovesey as a secondary transsexual.  Again Benjamin was appalled by the printed study.  

26 December 2018

Two early pioneers in Los Angeles


Annette Dolan

Annette Dolan had been told by doctors that “there was no ‘help’ for me, and I accepted this [as] gospel”.  After the news about Christine Jorgensen in 1953, she consulted with Harry Benjamin who suggested that she go abroad for castration, after which a US surgeon would be willing to complete the operation.

 However she could not afford such a trip. She decided to perform the operation herself. She read medical texts and bought the appropriate equipment.  "I learned to ligate, suture and anesthetize. I studied the surgical procedure step by step and memorized its sequence”.

She presented her doctor with the successful result and in 1954 she went to the UCLA medical center for completion surgery with Elmer Belt. However she was disconcerted to see her confidential records left open on the business manager’s desk.

Annette sent an account of her self-surgery to Harry Benjamin and it was later published in Sexology magazine, under a different pseudonym.

In 1955 she participated in the Worden and Marsh project, and like other participants was angered by the way that they used her words to cast transsexuals in a negative light. She wrote to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Elmer Belt and Harry Benjamin as well as to Frederick Worden. “In general my words were twisted to suit their purpose.” She spoke of how she could sense the ridicule in their words.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 145-6, 157, 162, 166.


Tom Michaels

At age 16, in the late 1940s, Michaels, then still living as a girl, discovered the lesbian scene, and was initially elated to find other similar people, but then realized that they were not so similar. Michaels lived as a man, but then went back to living as a woman for a while.

As a man, Tom had difficulties being accepted, and for some years lived in a criminal subculture, the one place where he was accepted on his own terms.

Eventually he moved elsewhere and did a bachelor’s degree in zoology. He again reverted to living as a woman, and did a year at a medical school. In the mid-1960s he contacted Robert Stoller at UCLA and was able to start taking testosterone.

  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 143, 144, 195.