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.

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22 September 2020

The Bible and what could be taken as transgender

I remember, many years ago, a simple pamphlet put out by the LGBT church, MCC. Its title was What the Bible says about Homosexuality or something like that. The inside pages were blank, because – despite irrational claims and bad translations – the bible does say nothing on the subject.

So, likewise, I could have left this article equally blank. However there are several verses therein that have been taken out of context and proposed as saying something about us. 

All translations from the King James Bible.




Genesis 1:27

“And God [Elohim אֱלֹהִים] created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

Fran Bennett comments: “God created humankind in the divine image … both male and female 

Fran Bennett


(Genesis 1:27). So God as Creator is both father and mother. God is both male and female. God is fully androgynous……God is therefore trans-gender if you will… “

This account inspired much speculation in Midrash and Kabalistic texts, many of which compared this created androgyne with that in Plato's Symposium

The word Elohim is plural and some read it as a group of gods, both male and female.

On the other hand, others argue that birth gender is here a fundamental given and such as the Evangelical Alliance argue that "the individual who claims ontologically to be a 'woman trapped in a man's body' (or vice versa) is fundamentally mistaken given the biblical assertion of the primacy of the physical."


Genesis 2: 21-2

Adam is created first, but needs a partner. 

“And the LORD God [YHWH יְהֹוָה ] caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.” 

This of course makes Adam a male mother. Traditionally Eve is taken to be the left side of the fusion, the same side as Parvati fused with Siva. This tradition was preserved through millenia and the fake circus hermaphrodites almost always put the female on their left.

As Jesus was considered the second Adam, as Adam was androgynous, so Jesus was also said to be androgynous.


Exodus 3.14

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM”. 

A perplexing verse in the Torah in that the word translated as ‘god’ is Elohim אֱלֹהִים , who here is taking the name Yahweh (YHWH יְהֹוָה ) a competing god name. The two god names have been used to separate the J-text from the E-text in the analysis of separate traditions in the Torah.

Anyway what we have here is an ycleptance, a self naming and naming being accepted by others. Such self naming is an important process during Transition when a new name is taken and accepted by others.

I am that I am” is the standard English translation of the name Yahweh. This resembles but is not the same as “I am what I am” as per Greta Garbo, Popeye, the Village People, a song in the musical version of La Cage aux Folles and a defiant cry from many who are queer.


Deuteronomy 22:5

“The woman shall not wear that which pertains to a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment, for all that do so are an abomination to the Lord your God.”

The odd thing is that this injunction comes right after a series of sensible advice about how farmers should help each other – mainly that strayed animals should be returned. This is then interrupted by the one-verse no-drag imperative, and then more sensible farming advice. This in turn is followed by some more how-to-dress imperatives, of which the major is verse 11

“Thou shalt not wear a garment of divers sorts, as of woollen and linen together”

which presumably would include cotton-polyester and most clothing on sale today.


Deuteronomy 23:1-3

“He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD. 

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD. 

An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever.”

So, no transsexuals in the congregation then. Not to mention certain medical conditions that cis persons may be afflicted with.


2 Kings 9:30-36

A rebellious army commander, Jehu, having murdered his king, intends to kill the king's mother, Jezebel, who had stood up for religious diversity against the monolatrous Yahwists:

"And he lifted up his face to the window, and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot." 

Jeffrey McCall identifies ‘eunuchs’ with LGBT persons. “The Lord spoke to my heart that eunuchs born that way are those who were set apart by God from the womb to minister to God. They are to continually minister to his heart, and He to them. They were set apart not to be touched by any other humans. They were not created for marriage and the typical family life.” See also Isiah 56:4-5 and Matthew 19:12. 


Isiaah 56:4-5

"For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off."

However, compare Deuteronomy 23:1 above.


Matthew 6:6

The prologue to the Lord’s Prayer: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly”.

An invocation, particularly in Pentecostalism that queer persons should stay in the closet. This works only in the King James translation.


Matthew 19:12

“For there are some Eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”


Mark 9:47

“And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”

This is the title of Calpernia Addams’ autobiography. 


I Corinthians 1:27-8

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 

And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea”

The chosen text by Paula Nielsen to accompany her transition.


Galatians 3:28

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

There is lots of controversy about the so-called Pauline epistles. More conservative believers accept 13 Pauline epistles; most scholars designate only 7 as authentic; more radical scholars see them all as being written by Marcion and his school. 

While some use this verse as a foundation for Christian Socialism, it is certainly not consistent with other verses attributed to Paul where slaves are told to obey their masters and preaching in church is reserved to male persons.

Certainly when Christians took power in the Roman Empire in the 4th century there was no move for either gender equality or for the abolition of slavery.


Bibliography:

  • Helen Savage. Changing Sex? Transsexuality and Christian Theology. University of Durham Phd, 2005. Online
  • Robert M Price. Holy Fable Volume I; The Old Testament Undistorted by Faith. Tellectual Press, 2017.
  • Richard Elliott Friedman. The Bible with Sources Revealed: A New View into the Five Books of Moses. Harper Collins, 2003.

17 September 2020

Margaret Branch (1912 - 1997) social worker

In 1936 the young Margaret Johnson was an ambulance driver in the Spanish Civil War, and then she was in Prague in 1938 after the German invasion, where she helped Jews and other refugees escape into Poland. During WWII she was in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, and was sent to France to work with the Resistance – however she was caught and tortured by the Gestapo until a bribe got her out.

From September 1941 she was Assistant Labour Manager at the Royal Ordinance Factory at Swynnerton south of Newcastle-under-Lyme, and took her husband’s name when she married Mr Branch – but the marriage did not last. From 1943 she was a journalist for a while in London.

In 1945 she went to West Germany working for the UN’s Relief and Rehabilitation Administration  (UNRRA), where she met Camilla Ruegg who became her life partner. Margaret went to Switzerland to study with the renowned psychiatrist Carl Jung. January- March 1955 she attended a course in Mental Hygiene at Dalhousie Medical School in New Brunswick.

By the 1960s she was a psychiatric social worker at Guy’s Hospital in London. She worked in children’s therapy and she and Ruegg founded the National Association of Gifted Children, and worked also on the BBC TV 'Lifeline' & 'Face-to-Face', Series.

By the late 1960s she was working at Guys liaising with trans and intersex people – of whom the best known is Peter Sterling. She gave a paper on her work at the First International Symposium on Gender Identity, London, 25-27 July 1969, and again at the Second at Elsinore, 12-14 September 1971. 

Margaret in 1966
Later she worked as a counsellor for all LGBT individuals , and appointments co-ordinator at the Albany Trust, and worked on the Gay Bereavement Project helpline in 1980.

  • “News”. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 46,2,February 1955: 91.
  • Margaret Branch & Aubrey Cash. Gifted Children. Recognising and Developing Exceptional Children. Souvenir, 1966.
  • Margaret Hall. “Too clever .. the boy they put into the dunces’ class”. Daily Mirror, 1 April 1966: 7.
  • Sheila McGregor. “Unmasking high Intelligence”. The Birmingham Post, April 20, 1966: 4. Review of Gifted Children.
  • Margaret Branch. “Social Aspects of Transsexualism”. First International Symposium on Gender Identity, London, 25 July 1969.
  • Margaret Branch. “The Role of the Psychiatric Social Worker in the Rehabilitation of Transsexuals. Second International Symposium on Gender Identity, Elsinore, 13 September 1969.
  • Peter Stirling. So Different: an Extraordinary Autobiography. Simon & Schuster, 1989.
  • Antony Grey. Quest for Justice: Towards Homosexual Emancipation. Sinclair Stevenson, 1992: 218.
  • Callum Burroughs. “The spy who went on to become a therapist at Guy’s”. Southwark News, March 17, 2016: 22. Online
  • “In Search of a Remarkable ‘Rose’ “.The Stone and Eccleshall Gazette, 22 August 2016. Online.

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

Ed Knox, a relative of Camilla Ruegg, has been working on a much anticipated biography for some years now.

16 September 2020

More on Angela Douglas

 I have previously discussed Angela Keys Douglas:

There is a new biography on Morris Kight, the long-time gay activist in Los Angeles (EN.Wikipedia) which contains extra information on Angela Douglas.

  • Mary Ann Cherry. Morris Kight: Humanist, Liberationist, Fantabulist. Process, 2020: 152, 161-4, 227, 294-6.

Kight did pioneering work in gay activism from the late 1950s onward, and was a co-founder of several enduring organizations. However he did tend to exaggerate his work. As Cherry reports:

“In 1994, Kight said: 'Transgender is very real. Whatever that may be, that’s transvestites, cross-dresser, male/female trans—female to male. And there’s transvestite heterosexuals, male to male, female to female. I created "transgender." I’ve been recreating the language, and that’s one of the terms. First, I tried "transpeople," and that didn’t fly. Then I created "transgender," and that flew, and it’s now in the language. I think that’s appropriate.' Kight frequently took credit for the creation of nomenclature." (p162)”

       (See my 6-part series on the history of the word 'transgender' which does not mention Kight at all). 

By 1970 Kight was acquainted with Angela Douglas, who was then using the name Douglas Key and was a writer for the Los Angeles Free Press. Comments from activists described Key: 

“I remember one member named Doug who was an attractive, masculine, muscular young man who always wore a dress to the meetings. Sexual attraction was always a feature of these get-togethers." (p161)

And 

“A pre-op trans white guy who was very male and loud. A royal pain in the ass—had male privilege written all over him. The women did not want him in their group. He was upset that Morris made some funny comment about ‘transsexuals need to learn how to keep their seams straight,’ referring to Key’s inability to keep facts straight." (p161)

Cherry: 

“Key, a pre-op transsexual, was still writing under the name ‘Douglas Key’ in 1970 and may have had a hormonal reaction to gay lib. Key reported thoroughly on GLF meetings, gatherings, schedules of upcoming events, and wrote eyewitness accounts as well as editorials. Key, who was not homosexual, pushed for the inclusion of ‘trannies’ in the gay movement; it was not an automatic love-fest. Transsexuals and transvestites were not guaranteed the understanding and acceptance in a room full of out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians." (p161)

In February 1970 Los Angeles was hosting the Western Homophile Conference. Key wrote: 

“Attempts to obtain the use of the Masonic temple were crushed when temple officials discovered ‘homophile’ was not ‘hemophilia’ and rejected the WHC request.”

Key was generally considered disruptive and difficult. Key’s reports almost always mentioned ‘transvestites’ within the movement, and often violent reactions from ‘gaylibbers’. She also made it news when Virginia Prince spoke at GLF.

Cherry writes that Kight:

“respected the way Key used his byline to advance his personal agenda. Key compared gender re-identification issues with homosexuality. Most homosexuals did not agree that the two were the same, acknowledging that transsexual is not homosexual. The gay movement had never before embraced gender issues—role-playing, yes. But not gender. . . Key instigated what was perhaps the largest 'ripples of discontent' in the early movement when he reported that 'transvestites and transsexuals have come to the conclusion that the Gay movement is not valuable to their manifestations.' Key pushed it at GLF meetings for quite a few months and the tension mounted on both sides of the 'discussions'.”

GLF member Craig Hansen spoke with Connie Vaughn, a transsexual member of the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) who expressed an opinion that Key was not a real transsexual but did have a severe gender identity problem complicated by paranoid fantasies.

Key spoke of the end of GLF, and several times published that she was quitting the organization, but was back the next week, until one week she was not. The Advocate reported: 

“Sunday was orderly and amiable. Key was not present”.

Cherry says that Kight recognized that Douglas was a pioneer in her cause, that of transgender rights, which was a difficult battle, but that 

“Angela probably did not possess the right temperament to achieve the goal”.  

Shortly afterwards Douglas left Los Angeles, and via Chicago, New York and Atlanta ended up in Miami. She frequently wrote to Kight. In an early letter, Douglas wrote that she had befriended the local MCC pastor for 

“desperately needed assistance … I am a physical wreck—horrid leprous sores on my feet and legs. The sun, air and cleanliness of the city is curing me quickly.”

She had ups and down: “I am really quite the lesbian now, very well accepted as such by most gay sisters and I am most happy about this” but later ““No money and I’m living on the street. Where are the so-called brothers and sisters? Bullshit....”

Later she wrote:  

"It is so hard to be a woman, so hard, & I am proud to be even a partial one. Inside me, I am a woman; my exterior is beginning to match the inside. It seems you understand me better now—I miss all of you, of course, very much. You are all such a big part of my life. Yes, freedom, Morris, freedom to be a man or a woman, to be gay, to be straight whatever.”

Cherry mentions Douglas’ surgery with Butcher John Brown – although she gives the year as 1976. 

Afterwards Douglas returned to Miami and mailing and phoning Kight. Cherry says 

“She had become more mentally unhinged; her letters demonstrate a constant emotional pendulum swinging from lonely and distraught to sociable and manic”. 

The phone calls degenerated into death threats. According to Cherry, by 1984 Kight had become aware that Douglas using the birth name of Douglas Czinki was communicating with the Secret Service and had named Kight as a Libyan agent. 

After Douglas won a substantial sum on the Florida lottery in 1991, Kight heard no more from Douglas, not even after she squandered the money was again impoverished.

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

As I have mentioned before, as Douglas was gynephilic, why did she not attend meetings of Virginia Prince's organization?

Cherry’s book is based on a personal acquaintance with Morris Kight and access to his papers. Her end notes do include Douglas’ writings for the Los Angeles Free Press, but offer no way to connect the quotes in the main text to a particular piece.

In addition to my own writings, The major writings about Angela Douglas are:

  • Kay Brown. "Angela Keyes Douglas". Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History. 1998. Archive
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press. 2002: 236, 237-241, 257, 271, 333.
  • Mark Hinson. "Angela's ashes: Farewell to a wild pen pal". Tallahassee Democrat, August 24, 2007. Reproduced.
  • Susana Pena. "Gender and Sexuality in Latina/o Miami: Documenting Latina Transsexual Activists". In Kevin P. Murphy & Jennifer M. Spear (eds). Historicising Gender and Sexuality. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011: 755-772.

Cherry apparently consulted none of these. There is no mention of Douglas as a musician; no mention of the controversial letter to Sister magazine in 1977.

The letter was just after her unsatisfactory surgery with John Brown. Every other source gives the date as 1977. Cherry say 1976 but gives no reason for disagreeing with the others.

Twice in Cherry’s book there is reference to an anonymous source: Douglas “was described by a prominent Professor of Gender Studies as ‘A really important figure in the gay lib history of Los Angeles’ “ (p181) and “One prominent historical researcher also described her as ‘a really important figure in the gay lib history of Los Angeles’ “ (p294). The end notes contain a letter from Susan Stryker, PhD, so she is presumably the ‘prominent’ source – why not just name her in the text?

Stryker’s 2008 “primer text” for undergraduates, Transgender History, contains one and a half pages on Douglas, but also is not referenced, even though it is one of the very few sources to mention Kight and Douglas together.

12 September 2020

John Talbot divorced 1967

In 1961 John David Talbot married a widow, Mrs Eileen Poyntz, matron of an old people’s home in Brighton, Sussex. Eileen, now Mrs Talbot, realized that John was anatomically not the man she expected – but continued to live with him for a year.

Five years later she filed for divorce. The judge in the case, Justice Ormrod, declared that John Talbot was a woman, and immediately granted a decree nisi of nullity. John Talbot did not contest the petition and was ordered to pay the costs.


  • Talbot (otherwise Poyntz) v Talbot, (1967) 111 S.J. 213.
  • “’Husband’ was a woman”. Liverpool Echo, 27 February 1967: 14.
  • “’Husband’ turned out to be a woman!”. Reading Evening Post, 27 February 1967: 1.
  • Stephen Cretney. “The Nullity of Marriage Act 1971”. The Modern Law Review, 35,1, 1972: 57n4.
  • Christopher Hutton. The Tyranny of Ordinary Meaning: Corbett v Corbett and the Invention of Legal Sex. Palgrave MacMillan, 2019: 74, 83.

There seems to be a small confusion as to whether Justice Ormrod in this case is the same Justice Roger Ormrod (1911-1992) as in Corbett v Corbett. Cretney and Hutton write as if they are the same. EN.Wikipedia(Timeline_of_LGBT_history_in_the_United_Kingdom) says that the Justice was Benjamin Ormerod (1890-1974) – but is alone in this claim.

Hutton says p83: “Whereas in Talbot, Ormrod had in effect brushed aside the (non-)marriage, in Corbett he felt obliged to deploy the full range of medical and legal argumentation”.  Surely a pertinent difference was that April Ashley (Mrs Corbett) had had confirmation surgery but there is no suggestion that John Talbot had also.

The Inner Temple Library booklet Transgender Law: A Short History, Online, quotes Justice Ormrod as saying re Talbot v Talbot: “Marriage is a relationship which depends on sex, not gender”.  However this sentence is actually taken from his Judgment (p19) on Corbett v Corbett.

Several sites (example, example, example, example) repeat the Ormrod sentence assigned to Talbot v Talbot and actually add that he thereby ruled that transsexuals were not permitted to marry under British law. However as John Talbot apparently had not had surgery this was not so. Nor was Talbot v Talbot cited as a precedent in later cases.

03 September 2020

Bobbie Kimber (1918 – 1993) ventriloquist, miniatures painter

Birkenhead, 1938, with Eddie

​I wrote an initial version in September 2008.

Ronald Victor Kimberley was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham. As a teenage aspiring variety artist he appeared with an all-male cast in Weston-super-Mare in 1935. The ‘leading lady’ quit, and Kimberley being the youngest was given her parts, and ended up doing his vent act without time to change. This went well, and as there was a surplus of male ventriloquists, although very few female ones taking the stage, he took the name Bobbie Kimber and started a stage career at the Theatre Royal, West Bromwich where he was paid £3 10s, but was also ‘given the bird’, that is booed off-stage. However he persevered with warm applause but little national recognition. His dummy at that time was Eddie, known for his infectious laugh. They appeared on television as early as 1939.

Kimberley was in the Army during World War II where he was a Sergeant assigned to do Service entertainments. There he met Janet, ten years older, who was touring with her parents in a family act. They married in 1941. They had a daughter Christine in 1949.

Augustus Peabody
During the war Kimber had  acquired a new dummy, Augustus Peabody. The act then was very successful and Bobbie and Augustus appeared in the major London theatres, including a Royal Variety Show at the London Palladium in 1947. In 1952 Augustus was given the job of announcing the acts for television’s Music Hall, assisted of course by Bobbie Kimber. They also appeared on radio. The Times commented in a review: 'Miss Bobbie Kimber is at once the triumph and surprise of the evening'.

Bobbie was at that time a tall glamorous brunette – she was 6 ft and 14 stone (1.83 m, 89kg), and had grown out her own hair (pinned under a hat when in male mode). Most members of the public, and even theatre critics took her to be a woman, as they did with Mrs Shuttlewick, although some viewers would phone the BBC switchboard enquiring: is it a man or isn't it?

However Kimber was reasonably open about his sex. He appeared in Pantomime as early as 1945 when she was one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella at the Regal Theatre in Edmonton, which was broadcast on the BBC - that is, she was playing a Dame part and therefore was implicitly a man.
In December 1946 Kimber wrote an article for the trade magazine, The Stage. He acknowledged that he had been preceded as a female impersonator ventriloquist by Lydia Dreams.

In mid-December 1952, the Daily Mirror ran a front-page story
“Biggest B.B.C. Hoax is Out: “Five million viewers watched TV Music Hall on Saturday Night ... And once again Britain’s TV audience was hoaxed into thinking it was watching a woman. But it was not. For Bobbie Kimber is a man – married eleven years with a daughter of four.”
Bobbie pointed out that “I’ve always been careful to see that the B.B.C. never used any pronouns about me – just Bobbie Kimber, no ‘he’ or ‘she’.”

Gilbert Harding (1907-1960), the closeted-gay television personality phoned a top BBC executive to complain, and then attacked Bobbie in a magazine article: “Is Bobbie Kimber He, She or It?” The BBC contract was up for renewal, but was not taken up, and Kimber only rarely worked for the BBC again, despite many viewers writing in to ask what had happened to Augustus Peabody.

Hannen Swaffer (1879-1962), theatre critic who had written him up as a woman, snubbed him after that.

This was followed by a small article in The Stage:
“Recent Press comments about the sex of Bobbie Kimber the ventriloquist have succeeded only in raising faint smiles among his professional colleagues, who have always been aware of Mr. Kimber’s masterly female impersonation.” 
Kimber remained in demand but was now working as a known female impersonator – and even took to removing a wig at the end of the act.

However by the 1960s gigs had dried up. For a while he ran a pub, but both he and Janet drank too much of the merchandise. Later he drove lorries, and then London Transport buses.

Bobbie returned for a sold-out Cavalcade of Drag Music Hall in April 1969. Augustus was revamped with longer hair, and a moustache - which was fashionable at that time. In January 1972 Bobbie and Augustus appeared on the amateur talent show Opportunity Knocks, which led to a flurry of letters from old fans, and enquiries from agents.

On the 2 February the Daily Mirror ran a positive article on Bobbie, “Geared Up for a Comeback”, written by Clifford Davis, the same journalist who had denounced Bobbie twenty years before. This time he wrote her up as a female impersonator.

But then only 13 days later, the sister publication, the Sunday Mirror, ran the first of three three-page spreads written by Bobbie revealing that she had had transsexual surgery two years before, but not told her wife and daughter until December 1971. “They see me go out to work five days a week dressed as a woman. But at weekends – to please my wife – I dress as a man.” She did not change her driving licence or passport. “My family means everything to me. And this is why, even after my sex-change operation, I am not prepared to register as a woman. This would ruin my marriage completely, and after all we have been through, I love my wife more than ever. She wants me as a man – and for her I stay as one, at least at weekends.” Of her earlier years she wrote: “But my happiness as a man [after marriage] was short-lived. I found myself fighting a constant inner desire to become a woman. … I also started to change physically. Over the years my male parts began to shrink. My chest began to fill out developing into full breasts. The Army discharged me for ‘ceasing to fulfill physical requirements’. … Yet never in my life have I taken any kind of hormone treatment.” In late 1969 Kimber was playing a two-week engagement at the Mediterranean when she was invited to dine by a rich Moroccan who then made a pass. She confessed her sex, and surprisingly the man said: “You know, you really should be a woman. In my country, this can be done quite easily. Would you like me to arrange it?” She agreed and was flown to Casablanca, and was operated on by Dr Burou in January 1970. Bobbie first confided her change to a woman friend, Rene, who ran a pub in Yorkshire. Rene took her shopping in Leeds, and schooled her in the ways of women.  From June to October 1971 Bobbie lived alone in Blackpool where she found work as a toy demonstrator and some weekend and evening work as a ventriloquist. Then she worked as a barmaid until it became apparent that she was allergic to the detergent used to wash the glasses.  During this time she dated a man, and got to the point of cooking for him, but not sleeping with him.


Bobbie placed a half-page advert in The Stage newspaper in late March 1972 , referencing “the Sunday Mirror’s Sensational ‘He & She’ Story”, and was booked by clubs in Sheffield and Barnsley, Nottingham and Manchester, usually as the star attraction. Sidney Vauncez, writing in The Stage said “he has certainly come back with a bang”.

A fellow performer commented:
“I worked in a Revue with Bobbie Kimber at The Devonshire Music Hall, Manchester in the early 70s. She had shoulder length natural greying hair and always dressed as a woman. This was after the News Article about her being Transgender that had regenerated interest in her as a performer. She was like a very nice, polite middle aged woman and in no way flamboyant or brash like the stereotype Drag Act. She did tell me that she was the only person to appear at the London Palladium both as a male and later as a Female. She was very professional, a terrific Vent' and a lovely person.”  
Later in the 1970s the gigs again ran out, and for a while Bobbie worked at a hardware factory in Shoreditch.  Unlike in the 1960s she worked as female and was accepted as such.

Bobbie was also a fine painter of landscape miniatures.

Janet died in 1985, and was described on the death certificate as the wife of Roberta Kimber. Bobbie lasted another eight years, with some assistance from the Entertainment Artistes Benevolent Fund. On her death bed it was discovered that Bobbie never did have a surgical sex change.

*Augustus Peabody was not the US Congressman Augustus Peabody Gardner.

  • Bobbie Kimber. “Impersonation”. The Stage, 5 December 1946: 5.
  • Clifford Davis. “Biggest B.B.C. Hoax is Out”. Daily Mirror, 15 December 1952: 1.
  • “Bobbie Kimber’s Impersonation”. The Stage, 1 January 1953: 3.
  • “Augustus Made Bobbie’s Name”. Portsmouth Evening News, 14 August 1953: 13.
  • Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage. A Triton Book. 1968: 189.
  • Ellis Ashton. “Music Hall Miscellany”. The Stage, April 10 1969: 6.
  • Clifford Davis. “Geared Up For a Comeback”. Daily Mirror, 2 Feb 1972.
  • Bobbie Kimber. “He She: Five days a week I am a woman. At weekends my wife wants me as a man“. Sunday Mirror, 13 February 1972: 10-12.
  • Bobbie Kimber “He buys his first dress as a woman; She has a close shave in a girl’s bedroom”. Sunday Mirror, 20 February 1972: 10-12.
  • Bobbie Kimber “He gets his first marriage proposal as a SHE; tells of his life as a man – and a woman”. Sunday Mirror, 27 February 1972: 10-12.
  • Jan Kimber. “Our Incredible marriage”. Sunday Mirror, 27 February 1972: 12.
  • Sidney Vaunces. “Light Entertainment”. The Stage, 18 May 1972: 3.
  • Kris Kirk & Ed Heath. Men in Frocks. GMP, 1984: 28
  • Anthony Slide. Great pretenders: a history of female and male impersonation in the performing arts. Wallace-Homestead Book Co., 160 pp. 1986: 50.
  • Patrick Newley. “Obituaries: Bobbie Kimber”. The Stage, April 29 1993: 41.
  • Michael Kilgarriff. Grace, Beauty & Banjos: Reculiar Lives and Strange Times of Music Hall and Variety Artistes. Oberon Books, 1998: 146.
  • www.christinekimberley.info.
  • Richard Anthony Baker. Old Time Variety: An Illustrated History. Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 2011:
  • Oliver Double.  Britain Had Talent: A History of Variety Theatre. Red Globe Press, 2012: 187-8.

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Born 1918 or 1920? In interviews Bobbie said 1920, but also that he was 17 in 1935 when he first appeared on stage.

The social construction of femininity circa 1970. Rene advised: “Always make your own bed and tidy your own room. This is something that women guests always do – but never men. … Don’t get into heated arguments over foreign affairs, politics, football matches or things like that”. Bobbie already knew to hold her cigarette upwards so that the smoke rises. “This stops too much nicotine staining your fingers.” “I’ve had to give up pints of beer and confine myself to the odd sherry or gin. And when I drink as a woman I have to remember to sip – not to down the lot in one big swallow.”

The February 1972 articles are written by Bobbie and this in the first person. However the captions to the pictures are presumably by a sub-editor and use male pronouns.

From a 21st-century perspective, it seems rather odd that ventriloquists as well as gender impersonators were booked on the radio, where they could not be seen – but audiences were required to have more imagination those days, and the broadcasts were supplemented by live appearances and media reports.

Kimber had a career bounce after being denounced in 1952.   I assume that the writing of the Sunday Mirror articles in 1972 was an attempt to repeat that, and in fact did produce another career bounce.  While she apparently lied about having surgery, she apparently did start living almost full-time as female, and as such should be regarded as transgender as well as a female impersonator earlier in life.

My initial 2008 version was mainly based on Roger Baker’s Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage which was published in 1968, and thus before the 1972 articles in the Sunday Mirror.   In his posthumous second edition, Bobbie Kimber has been removed, and so he did not discuss the later developments.

Bobbie’s daughter Christine added comments – see below.  She insisted that
“He arrived at the theatre as a man and left as one. He didn't reveal himself at the end of his act either because it served him better to have people think he was a woman. There weren't many female vents in those days and the range of his voice made it exceptional for a woman. It gave him a professional edge. It was a gimmick - all part of the game.” 
This would well fit the period before 1952, but after that he was perceived by the public as a female impersonator. After her revival in the early 1970s it seems that Bobbie was mainly living as a woman – at least five days a week. Apparently she told some, as she had written for the Sunday Mirror, that she had had the operation, and others just assumed that she was a woman.

www.christinekimberley.info no longer seems to work.  I suspect an outdated Flash plugin.

I was unable to find a web page of Bobbie’s  miniatures, nor a video of her performance.

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The Reader Comments to the original posting:


Anonymous said...




As the daughter of Bobbie Kimber (his only child now aged 61) I don't find it hard that vents etc were booked for radio. In those days most radio was recorded live from theatres and readio audience heard the laughter from the live audience. Not everyone could get to or afford to got to the theatre and radio was a far more widespresd and popular form of entertainment. And of course all the acts recorded were well known through news paper reviews, magazines, live appearances and the charity work the did.
Anonymous said...
As the daughter Christine Kimberley now aged 61) of Bobby Kimber who worked as a female impersonator and ventriloquist I find it strange to read 'outed himself as a man in 1952' Dad never 'outed himself' he was always a man.The press found out that he was a man and had a field day - that's all. He was good at his job - he worked at it like any male impersonator impersonating a man today. Fact is he was so good at it he fooled a lot of people for a long time.
Zagria said...
Thank you for your comments, Christine. Is your father still alive? Was his secret known to the other performers, or did he arrive at the theatre already dressed as female?

I might well have had written 'outed himself', but actually I did not. The details in Baker and slide are very brief. What a shame that Bobbie Kimber was removed from Baker's second edition.
christine kimberley said...
From Christine Kimberley, daughter of Bobbie Kimber. My Dad died on the 8th of April 1993.To answer your questions: Other performers did know that he was a man. He only dressed as a woman to do his act or for publicity shots and charity appearances and things like that. All his friends knew he was a man. He arrived at the theatre as a man and left as one. He didn't reveal himself at the end of his act either because it served him better to have people think he was a woman. There weren't many female vent's in those days and the range of his voice made it exceptional for a woman.It gave him a professional edge. It was a gimmick - all part of the game. He went to great lengths to study women's body language and mannerisms. Again, in those days there were far more distinctions in the way men and women behaved and carried themselves than there are now. At one point he even had some special corsets made (or as he would say 'constructed' such was the work involved) to give him more curves in the right places. His hands were his only worry but fortunately he could hide them behind his dolls.
This is how it all began: When he first started out as a ventriloquist in his late teens, in the late 1930's, he was working in a seaside town in a summer show. Because the back stage facilities were so bad the town council wouldn't allow any women performers in the show. The boss didn't like this and said that to get round it, one of the performers would have to dress as a woman. Dad was the youngest, and newest member of the company.....so....then one night something went wrong with the running order and Dad didn't have time to change out of his female costume back to male clothes - so - he just grabbed his dolls and went on stage. From there he realised he was on to something and, being the artist he was he put as much work and effort into learing to deceive with his looks as he had put into doing the same with his voice. Voila! Warm regards, Christine.
Pebbles said...
I dont know who "Christine" is but Im afraid I really dont think this is Bobbie's daughter. I knew Bobbie, his wife and daughter in the 70s and Bobbie did not dress as a woman just for his shows and his real daughter Christine would know that!

Bobbie dressed as a woman ALL the time and was thought of as a woman which is how she wanted it. She had spoken often to my husband and I about her operation to become a woman. Her real daughter spent many a time with myslf and my husband and other friends with Bobbie and her mother, with Bobbie dressed in women's clothes. If you ask anyone in the Stoke Newington area, where they lived, about Bobbie they will tell you the same, Bobby was NEVER seen in men's clothes.
Zagria said...
//www.christinekimberley.info now contains lots and lots of photographs of Bobbie Kimber and promises that his autobiography with be added soon. Enjoy.
Anonymous said...
Pebbles. Oh yes I am Bobbie's daughter. I have no idea who you are and would really appreciate your full name - then I might remember spending many hours with you. Bobbie's story was very complicated, believe me, and I have no desire to wash dirty linen in public. You may never have seen Bobbie out of womens clothing but I did. The big tabloid spreads in the 70's did not tell the whole truth - far from it.
Please contact me through my website where you will see part of my collection of photo's of my Dad - and me as a little girl with my family.I also have some unpublished snaps you might like to see if, like me, you are who you say you are. I post my comments as anonymous because I can never get the URL thing to work.
Robert G said...
I was lucky enough to work with Bobbie in the 1970's when we were both employed by a Hardware Factor in Shoreditch. Although she called 'Herself' 'Robbie' at the time, we didn't know her past, eventhough there were rumours about her gender, she dressed as a Woman and was accepted as so and used the Ladies Loo along with all the other women. There was also some talk of her past celebrity status and that she once performed on the same bill as Laurel and Hardy at the Paladium,but, she never mentioned this herself and very much kept herself to herself, except did say she was going to visit her daughter now and again. She was also a fine artist and spent a lot of time (while she was at work) painting miniture Landscapes and I'm proud to say that she actually gave me some of these paintings and I still have them today. However, it wasn't until years after I left that company,that I came across a man who once worked as a stage hand at the Paladium, who said he had met Laurel and Hardy,so when I mentioned Robbie, he told me hew knew 'Him' well, which was a shock to me, as I was young at the time and didn't understand such things. Anyway, If Christine, requires any further information from the time I worked with her Father, please don't hesitate to contact me at bgsky@supanet.com.
Pebbles said...
Thank you Robert for confirming what I said. Bobbie came to my wedding with the woman he had been married to, who was still her wife. I'm appalled how her daughter now seems ashamed of her father. Both Bobbie and her wife came to my wedding and BOTH wore women's clothes and Bobbie was a guest, she wasn't working, and didn't bring her dolls.
Broken Sword said...
I lived in Stoke Newington in the 80s and was a friend of Bobbie's I agree with all that Pebbles wrote. I spent many afternoons with Bobbie admiring her paintings (she painted exquisite miniatures) and chatting about the old days of variety theatre.
Patrick said...
I worked in a Revue with Bobbie Kimber at The Devonshire Music Hall, Manchester in the early 70s. She had shoulder length natural greying hair and always dressed as a women.This was after the News Article about her being Transgender that had regenerated interest in her as a performer. She was like a very nice, polite middle aged woman and in no way flamboyant or brash like the stereotype Drag Act. She did tell me that she was the only person to appear at the London Palladium both as a male and later as a Female. She was very professional, a terrific Vent' and a lovely person.



29 August 2020

Peggy Yule (1860-1965) circus performer


Minette tells us:
“When I was in the carnival, all the queens were mad for Peggy Yule. She was magic and they always talked about her. She left home in 1875 when she was 15 and ran away with the carnival. She traveled in a covered wagon. Peggy lived in drag and became a real woman as much as she could, not so easy then. She probably used the depilatory wax. And she had long hair, so long she could sit on it, dyed red. Oh, it was gorgeous from what the queens said, and she worked right up to the end. She lived to be 106, and she could hardly walk at the end. But she had a boa constrictor this big around, and she would pull herself up on the boa constrictor and she could cooch up a storm. She could hardly move her feet but she could cooch up a storm, and she was 96 or 98 then. The last few years she couldn’t pull up and cooch anymore, so she worked on a chaise lounge and did fortunes.
“Peggy always had a place in the show because she was very well loved. Peggy was always willing to stake people and she was very faithful, so there were people she knew in her old age that were ride boys when she met them and now owned the show. When she finally retired they couldn’t get Peggy into the house — I suppose the central heating would get to her — so she lived out back in a truck. She was a legend among the queens, Peggy Yule.”

  • Minette, edited by Steven Watson. Recollections of a part-time Lady. New York: Flower-Beneath-the-Foot Press 1979: 48

26 August 2020

Liz Eden and Dog Day Afternoon: Part III - Release, a final wedding and afterwards (and Bibliography)


Trigger warning. This 3-part article contains quotations from John Wojtowicz, the major protagonist. The quotations contain frequent misgenderings, and in the latter 2 parts traditional English swear words. Caveat Lector.

Part I: Two Weddings and a Bank Robbery
Part II: Imprisonment, the Movie and one more wedding
Part III: Release, a final wedding and afterwards (and Bibliography)


John Wojtowicz gave Carmen a yellow rose on her anniversary, and Liz a red one on hers.

The divorce of Carmen and John was finalized in 1983. Carmen reverted to her maiden name, and while working three jobs, put herself through college. She became an education associate for children with special needs.

Liz Eden was in a hit-and-run incident coming out of a gay bar late one night. She was rushed to St Clare’s Hospital in Hell’s Kitchen and they put pins in to save her leg. However apparently the blood transfusion was HIV+, and after a while and a couple of sicknesses Liz was confirmed to have AIDS.
 
One time while out, Wojtowicz and Liz were interviewed by gay film buff Vito Russo on his Our Time television show. Wojtowicz was still referring to Liz as ‘Ernie’ and Liz became quite infuriated.

Liz moved to Rochester, NY, and was said to be remarried. Liz died in September 1987 of Aids-related pneumonia – she was 41.

         John and his mother
Finally out for good, Wojtowicz returned to living with his mother and his developmentally disabled brother Tony in Brooklyn.

Despite claims that he was paid $100,000 or 1% of the profits of the film which took in over $50 million on a budget of $1.8 million, he received very little of it apart from the $2,500 that went to Liz for the operations. The New York State Crime Victims Compensation Board diverted tens of thousands to the hostages, and contested against Wojtowicz receiving anything right up to his death. Sometimes he was on welfare. Sometimes he worked at minimum wage jobs.

John was married for a fourth time to Chiclets, a 17-year-old trans woman. She was viciously beaten by a group of transphobes in the Village. They dumped her in New Jersey. She was in a coma for a month before dying.

Pierre Huyghe, the French artist, was doing a series of dual screen presentations combining a real event, its fictional remake and a first-person recollection of the original. He was intrigued by the Dog Day Afternoon scenario. In 1999, he travelled to Brooklyn and knocked on doors until he found Wojtowicz at his mother’s house. He invited John to go to Paris to re-enact the events. A copy of the bank as in the film had been built in a studio in a Paris suburb. This could not be done in the US as Wojtowicz did not own the copyright. The resulting film, The Third Memory, 2000, opens with the standard FBI warning against copyright infringement, with a voice-over:
“I tell the FBI to go fuck themselves. . . . It’s been twenty-eight years since I’ve been fighting Warner Brothers to try and get my money back. They keep giving it to the hostages while I’m a millionaire living on welfare. My name is John Wojtowicz; I’m the real Sonny Worcek and I’m the one that you see in Dog Day Afternoon.” 
It was shown at Huyghe’s first solo exhibition in New York. As Barikins’ book on Huyghe says:
“As Huyghe’s film demonstrates, neither Wojtowicz’s ‘self’ nor the details of his story are or were ever entirely his own. Not only was Wojtowicz’s original conception of the robbery influenced by Al Pacino’s performance in The Godfather (1972) (which he and his partners viewed on the morning of the bank robbery as a kind of motivational manual), but Pacino’s interpretation of the character later affected Wojtowicz’s reenactment of the siege.”
In 2005 there was the Australian film, Based on a True Story, which is mainly a study of the 1975 film combined with phone calls to Wojtowicz where he asks for money for further co-operation.
Instead he co-operated with Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren, local film makers who spent 10 years recording him and the other people in his story. It was released in 2013 as The Dog.


Wojtowicz died in 2006 of cancer, age 60. As he deteriorated, his brother Tony, despite his own disability, stepped up to become John’s carer. John was cremated and did not have the military funeral that he had hoped for.

Films:


  • Sidney Lumet (dir). Dog Day Afternoon. Scr: Frank Pierson, from the magazine article by P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore, with Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik, John Cazale as Sal, and Chris Sarandon as Leon Shermer (roughly based on Liz Eden). US 124 mins 1975. Oscar for best screenplay; Sarandon was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Top grossing film of the year. The shooting script is online at: Archive.
  • Pierre Huyghe (dir). The Third Memory. With John Wojtowicz as himself. US 10 mins 2000. A short documentary re-enacting the “Dog Day Afternoon” bank holdup.
  • Walter Stokman (dir & scr). Based on a True Story. With John Wojtowicz and Sidney Lumet, with photos or clip quotes of Liz Eden, Al Pacino, John Cazale & Chris Sarandon. Netherlands 75 mins 2005.
  • Allison Berg & Frank Keraudren (dir). The Dog, with John Wojtowicz, Liz Eden, Carmen Bifulco, Randy Wicker. US 101 mins 2013.

Other:


  • Atthur Bell. “Mike Umbers: The Emperor of Christopher Street”. The Village Voice, July 22, 1971. Online.
  • “Here Comes the Bride”. Drag: the magazine about the Transvestite, 2, 6, 1971: 9-12. Online.
  • Paul Meskil. “An Insider Is Sought in Bank Holdup: FBI Agent Kills Bandit at JFK And 2d Thus is Nabbed”. Daily News Aug 24, 1972..
  • “A Mobster is Linked to Bizarre Holdup”. The New York Times, Aug 26, 1972. Online.
  • Arthur Bell. “Littlejohn & the mob: Saga of a Heist”. The Village Voice, August 31, 1972, XVII, 35. Online.
  • “News”. Drag: Now! America’s No 1 Magazine about the Transvestite, 2, 8, 1972: 4, 6. Online.
  • P.F. Kluge & Thomas Moore. "The Boys in the Bank". Life Sept 22, 1972, vol 73 (12). Online.
  • “News”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 5,17, 1975: 9. Online.
  • “Gay Bank Robber’s Real Wife Sees Movie – and Red”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 6,24, 1975: 3, Online.
  • John Wojtowicz. “Real Dog Day hero tells his story”. Unpublished article written from prison for the New York Times in 1975, later reprinted in Gay Sunshine: A Journal of Gay Liberation, No. 29/ 30, Summer/Fall, 1976, and then again in Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 31-32. Online at: www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC15folder/RealDogDay.html.
  • Eric Holm. "Dog Day Afternoon, Dog day aftertaste". Jump Cut, 10-11. 1976:3-4. Online.
  • Fredric Jameson, “Class and Allegory in Contemporary Mass Culture: Dog Day Afternoon as a Political Film” College English 38, April 1977: 854.
  • “Elizabeth Eden, Transsexual Who Figured in 1975 Movie”. The New York Times, Oct 1, 1987. Online.
  • Holly Woodlawn with Jeff Copeland. A Low Life in High Heels: the Holly Woodlawn Story. Martin's Press,1991. Harper Perenniel Pb. 1992: 111-2.
  • Lisa Photos “The Dog and the Last Real Man: An Interview with John S Wojtowicz”. Journal of Bisexuality, 3,2, 2003: 43-68.
  • Jefferson Cowie.  Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. The New Press, 2010: 200-5.
  • Michael Schiavi. Celluloid Activist: The Life and Times of Vito Russo. University of Wisconsin Press, 2011: 85-6, 218.
  • Emily S Rueb. “A Wife Recalls Her Estranged Husband’s 1972 Failed Bank Robbery”. The New York Times, August 22, 2012. Archive.
  • John Strausbaugh. “Liz Eden’s White Wedding”. The Chiseler, 2012. Online.
  • Amelia Barikin. Parallel Presents The art of Pierre Hutghe. The MIT Press, 2012: 116-121, 138.
  • Sean Manning. “7 Fascinating Things You Didn't Know About the Real Dog Day Afternoon”. Esquire, Aug 8, 2014. Online.
  • Larry Getlin. “The bizarre true story that inspired ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ “. New York Post, August 3, 2014. Online.
  • Sam Roberts. “‘The Dog’ Who Had His Day on Film”. The New York Times, Aug 4, 2014. Online.
  • David Ehrenstein. “The wild Inside story of ‘The Dog’: How one failed bank robber shaped LGBT history”. Salon, Aug 6, 2014. Online.
  • Cynthia Fuchs. “'The Dog' from ' Dog Day Afternoon' Would Do It All Over Again, Hell Ya”. Pop Matters, 08 Aug 2014. Online.
  • J R Jones. “Revisiting the Brooklyn bank robbery that inspired Dog Day Afternoon: The Dog tells the sad story of a man trapped by his criminal past”. Chicago Reader, October 01, 2014. Online.
  • Gina Dimuro. “The Real Story Of John Wojtowicz And The Bank Robbery That Inspired ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ “. Allthatsintering.com, June 27, 2018. Online.
  • Emily S Rueb. “A Botched Robbery That Went Hollywood”. The New York Times, August 22, 2018. Online.
  • Phillip Crawford Jr. “Real Life Mafia Story Behind Dog Day Afternoon Movie”. Reddit.com/r/Mafia, April 2020. Online.

FindaGrave(Liz)   FindaGrave(John)    IMDB(John)     IMDB(Dog Day Afternoon
IMDB(The Dog)    EN.Wikipedia(Liz)     EN.Wikipedia(John)     EN.Wikipedia (Salvatore) EN.Wikipedia(Dog day Afternoon)    EN.Wikipedia(The Dog)     Military.Wikia(John)   NNDB(John)      New York Times Slide Show      Getty Stock Images

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The FindaGrave site for John lists only his first spouse as such, although two others are mentioned in the text.

The Wikipedia page on Liz states that Liz had a second marriage, but does not give a source.