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 March 2019

Eleno de Céspedes (1545–?) surgeon

The child was born in Castile but the initial name is not recorded. The father was Pero Hernández, a Castilian peasant and the mother an African slave. The child inherited her mother’s slave status, and was branded on both sides of her face.

At age twelve, Elena de Céspedes, the owner, died, and the child was freed and given the owner’s name. The new Elena de Céspedes was married at 16, to a stone mason. He left after three months, and she received news that he had died.

However she was pregnant. As she reported later, the childbirth was unusual. During labour, a penis also emerged: “with the force that she applied in labour she broke the skin over the urinary canal, and a head came out”. Céspedes gave away the baby, and had surgery to further reléase the member.

Elano – as he now was – was able to have relations with women. He moved from town to town, working as a tailor, a hosier, a soldier. Finally he lodged with a surgeon, who taught him the trade. He worked in the Hospital de la Corte, and built up a library of 24 medical texts.

Céspedes was known for his affairs with women. In 1586, that is after over twenty years of living as male, he proposed to marry Maria Del Caño. The vicario (archdeacon) of Madrid, suspecting that he was a capon (eunuch), required an examination. The lead examiner was Dr. Francisco Díaz de Alcalá, a prominent urologist, and surgeon to the King. Diaz determined Céspedes’s identity to be male and not hermaphrodite:
“It is true that he has seen Eleno’s genital member, and having touched all around it with his hands and seen it with his eyes, he made the following declaration: That he has his genital member, which is sufficient and perfect, with its testicles formed like any other man. . . . And he thus said and declared that in his opinion Eleno does not bear any resemblance to a hermaphrodite or anything like it”.
The marriage went ahead. However a year later, just after injuries suffered while riding a horse, combined with a bout with cancer, he was arrested and charged in secular court with sodomy and ‘contempt for the sacrament of marriage’.  He explained that there had been changes:
"At present I have only my woman’s nature. The male member that emerged from me has just recently come off in jail, while I was a prisoner in Ocafia. It only now finished falling off, after more than fifteen days. What happened is that before last Christmas I suffered a flow of blood through my woman’s parts and through my rear end, which caused me great pain in my kidneys. I’d hurt myself while riding horseback and the root of my member became weak. The member became spongy and I went cutting it bit by bit, so that I’ve come to be without it. It just finished falling off about fifteen days ago, or a little more, as I’ve said."
Céspedes was examined by midwives who determined that he had a vagina, but was a virgin. The charges were changed to bigamy and the case was transferred to the Inquisition.

Dr. Díaz changed his testimony, now believing that the defendant’s male genitalia had been a deception:
“an art so subtle that it sufficed to fool him by sight and by touch”.
Céspedes asserted that he was a hermaphrodite.
“I never made any pact, explicitly or tacit, with the devil, in order to pose as a man to marry a woman, as is attributed to me. What happens is that many times the world has seen androgynous beings or, in other words, hermaphrodites, who have both sexes. I, too, have been one of these, and at the time I arranged to be married the masculine sex was more prevalent in me; and I was naturally a man and had all that was necessary for a man to marry a woman. And I filed information and eyewitness proof by physicians and surgeons, experts in the art, who looked at me and touched me, and swore under oath that I was a man and could marry a woman, and with this judicial proof I married as a man.”
He insisted that the women whom he had had relations with had no knowledge of his female organs. He was convicted of bigamy and sentenced to two hundred lashes. He was then put to work without pay in the Toledo hospital to use his medical skills, but was obliged to wear female clothing. The hospital administrator complained:
“The presence of Elena de Céspedes has caused great annoyance and embarrassment from the beginning, since many people come to see and be healed by her”.
Thus Céspedes became the first female surgeon in Spain. There would not be another for some centuries afterwards. 

Céspedes was mentioned in Jerónimo de Huerta’s 1599 annotated translation of Pliny’s Natural History (as a transgendered mulatta criminal lesbian) and Antonio de Fuentelapeña’s 1676 El ente dilucidado: Tratado de monstruos y fantasmas.
  • Vern L.,Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993: 94-6. (the Bulloughs never mention that Céspedes was born a slave; refer to him throughout as ‘she’ and refer to the Archdeacon as ‘vicar’. )
  • Israel Burshaton. “Elena alias Eleno”. In Sabrina P. Ramet (ed). Gender Reversals and Gender Cultures: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives. Routledge, 1996.: 105- 122.
  • Elizabeth Krimmer. In the company of Men: Cross-Dressed Women Around 1800. Wayne State University Press, 2004: 75.
  • Leila J Rupp. Sapphistries: A Global History of Love between Women. New York University Press, 2009: 95-6.
  • Sherry Velasco. Lesbians in early modern Spain. Vanderbilt University, 2011: 7, 11, 68-9, 75-8, 81-3.
  • Richard L Kagan & Abigail Dyer. “Sexuality and the Marriage Sacrament: Elena/Eleno de Céspedes“. Inquisitorial Inquiries: Brief Lives of Secret Jews and Other Heretics. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011: 36-59.
  • Von Christof Rolker. “„I am and have been a hermaphrodite“: Elena/Eleno de Céspedes and the Spanish Inquisition”. Männlich-weiblich-zwischen,  27/11/2016. http://intersex.hypotheses.org/2720.

ES.Wikipedia    Butch Heroes

__________

So what do we make of this.   His penis was maybe a large clitoris, and was later damaged.  But why would the midwives, having found a vagina, then declare that Céspedes was a virgin?   Elena had previously given birth.

Rolker makes the point: "At the same time, this in my view clearly demonstrates that Elena/Eleno was not ‚accused‘ of hermaphroditism. Rather, hermaphroditism in sixteenth-century Spain (as in medieval France, for that matter) was a defence strategy. Eleno/Elena’s story of first gradually changing from woman to man and later from predominantly male to predominantly female hermaphrodite may be mind-boggling, but given the very real danger of being condemned for sodomy, the story in the end was live-saving."

13 March 2019

Candy Lee (193? - ) female impersonator, bartender, Mardi Gras

The first gay 'krewe' – of the krewes that put on the New Orleans Mardi Gras celebrations – was the Yuga Krewe, founded in 1958. The name is an exoticism referring to the Kali Yuga of Hinduism. It was also a gay in-joke to refer to it as KY (after the branded lubricant), and perhaps Yuga is a play on (are) you gay? The Krewe had grown out of the Steamboat Club, a gay social organization. These were the years when gay organizations had to be discreet; Mayor deLesseps Story Morrison and Louisiana district attorney Richard Dowling pursued an anti-gay clean-up, supposedly for the tourists, and a crackdown ensued. The first two Yuga Balls were held in a private house on Carrollton Avenue, but the neighbors had become irate. The third Yuga Ball in 1960 was held in a jazz club, Mama Lou’s on Lake Pontchartrain, reached by a wooden walkway that proved quite difficult for those who came in high heels. The fourth and fifth Yuga Balls were held in the suburb Metairie in a school that had a large dance studio, and was surrounded by a wooded area close to the lake. The second gay krewe, that of Petronius, held its first ball in 1962 at the same location. However the Yuga Ball a week later was raided by the Parish Police. Some managed to flee, but many were arrested in what the police dubbed a ‘lewd stag party’. Those arrested had their names printed in the newspapers and thus most lost their jobs.

Candy Lee had started a career as a female impersonator at the Club My-O-My on Lake Pontchartrain. She also worked as a bartender at Bacino’s bar, and was an acquaintance of playwright Tennessee Williams when he returned to the city in the late 1950s.

Williams wrote an one-act play, And Tell Sad Stories of the Death of Queens in 1958, which is said to be inspired by the life of Candy. The play’s protagonist, an interior decorator who sometimes cross-dresses, is called Candy, and is about to turn 35. Her older lover who set her up in business has left her for a younger man. Candy picks up a sailor, Karl, in a gay bar. She spends money on him, and he then beats her up and steals more. This was the first play by Williams with explicit gay characters, and was never performed during his lifetime.

The real Candy Lee had been arrested five times at Bacino’s in 1958, as had the other bartenders. She was also one of the founder members of the Yuga Krewe. However she did not get on with the other members, and by the early 1960s had been banned from the balls. The word is that she called the police on the 1962 Fifth Yuga Ball.
  • Michael Paller. Gentlemen Callers: Tennessee Williams, Homosexuality and Mid-Twentieth-Century Broadway Drama. Palgrave MacMillan, 2005: 133-7, 246n45n47. Discussion of the play.
  • Howard Philips Smith. Unveiling the Muse: The Lost History of Gay Carnival in New Orleans. University Press of Mississippi, 2017: Chp 1 The Royal Krewe of Yuga and the Birth of Gay Carnival.
--------------

Clay Shaw, New Orleans business man and prominent in the city’s gay scene was likely a member of the Yuga Krewe. He is best known as the only person to be prosecuted for the assassination of US President Kennedy (Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Shaw in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK.)

09 March 2019

Elmer Belt (1893 - 1980 ) urologist, pioneer sex-change surgeon.

++Original version April 2009; revised March 2019.
                                                                             
Originally from Chicago, Elmer Belt moved to Los Angeles with his family at age 9. He did a bachelors, 1916, and a masters, 1917 at University of California Berkeley, and an M.D. (1920) at the University of California Medical School in San Francisco. He followed this with a residency in General Surgery at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston. He married his high-school girlfriend in 1918. Afterwards they lived in Los Angeles all their lives. Belt opened a private practice.

Belt had collected the works of novelist Upton Sinclair since he was a student. In 1934 he was part of Sinclair’s campaign to become governor of California. By then he had established the Elmer Belt Urologic Group, a group practice which moved to its own building on Wilshire Blvd. in 1936; the upper floor of this structure housed his ever-expanding library.

From 1939 through 1954 Belt served as the President of the State Board of Public Health, having been first appointed by California Governor Culbert Olsen and then reappointed by Governor Earl Warren for each of Warren's three terms in office. While treating Warren, Belt was able to put the case for a medical school at UCLA, which opened in 1946. He was not only instrumental in the founding of the UCLA School of Medicine, he found its first dean, and continued to support it for his whole life. Dr. Belt had privileges as a staff, attending, or consulting urologist at many hospitals around Los Angeles County and taught as Clinical Professor of Surgery (Urology) in the UCLA School of Medicine. He was acknowledged as a specialist for prostate problems.

In 1950, when he was 57, Belt became the first surgeon in the US to do sex change operations on a regular basis, many on patients referred by Harry Benjamin. He also just predated the team led by Poul Fogh-Andersen in Copenhagen, and he was doing vaginoplasty using skin grafts from the thigh, buttocks or back while the Fogh-Andersen team was was doing only orchiectomy and penectomy. While most surgeons would not do a castration because of the mayhem laws in effect in California and most other states, Belt got around this by preserving the testicles, pushing them into the abdomen, to preserve the hormones that they produced and to avoid charges of mayhem. He regarded this as good practice. As he explained to a colleague: “It is not necessary to disturb the patient’s endocrine balance to maintain his condition as a transsexual since the faulty tissues lay within the substance of the testis in the first place.”

Belt was also interested in doing surgery for trans men. He corresponded with Harry Benjamin about how to do this. Benjamin mentioned the flap techniques that Harold Gillies had done for Michael Dillon, but was unsure that such a procedure was worth following. Belt did have a trans man client who had had breast reduction from another Los Angeles surgeon, and as he had a cystic ovary, hysterectomy was medically justified anyway. Phalloplasty was considered, but in the end was not done.

One of his associates, his nephew, the urologist Willard E Goodwin, asked Rollin Perkins, a professor of law about the mayhem statutes in 1954. Perkins acknowledged that there was a “want of judicial decision on the point” and advised caution given the uncertainty and the prejudice. Belt ceased the operations at the end of 1954, Annette Dolan, who did her own auto-orchiectomy, having been one of his last patients, when a committee of doctors at UCLA, including psychiatrist Frederick Worden and Willard Goodwin, decided against the practice.

In 1956, Dixie MacLane was arrested in Los Angeles by a vindictive policeman, and although she had had her surgery in Mexico, Dr Lyman Stewart from Belt’s practice provided supportive written testimony as did Harry Benjamin.


Belt had restarted quietly. As he wrote to Benjamin, he considered himself a softie who found it hard to turn away such desperate patients. In 1956, he did completion surgery on Barbara Wilcox, who was one of the first trans women to receive female-hormone injections and who in 1941 had successfully petitioned the Superior Court of California to change her name and to legally become a woman. A notable patient was Agnes who approached UCLA psychiatrist Robert Stoller in 1958. Stoller convinced himself that she was intersex rather than transsexual, and referred her to Belt for surgery. Also that year, Belt saw an 18-year-old trans woman “who is trans-sexual and earnestly desires an operative procedure for the change of his sex”, but as he explained to Benjamin, he turned her away for being under the age of medical consent.

Patricia Morgan, from New York came in 1961, but it took four months before a bed could be found in a hospital for Belt’s type of surgery. Then she had to wait another two months for the second phase, the vaginoplasty. And then she developed urinary problems and Belt had to do a third operation.

Aleshia Brevard, who like Annette Dolan had done an auto-orchiectomy, came in 1962, one of Belt’s last trans patients.  Hedy Jo Star had also been referred to Belt and accepted.  She was saving up for this just before Belt discontinued doing genital surgery, however a friend referred her to a doctor in Chicago who arranged surgery elsewhere.

He discontinued finally in 1962 under family pressure after he heard about the growing practice of Georges Burou. He had continual problems finding hospitals where he could do the work; he feared that a dissatisfied patient would ruin his practice by suing; he had a percentage of patients who did not pay their bills. There were also complaints about the way that he treated some patients. He was by then 69 and ready for retirement.

He was not part of the UCLA Gender Identity Research Clinic (GIRC) that was founded the same year, led by Robert Stoller and Richard Green, although he had more experience of transsexual patients than the entire GIRC team together.

Elmer Belt was a collector of artefacts by or about Leonardo de Vinci for over 60 years. He gave the collection to the UCLA in 1966.

His nephew Willard Goodwin was a member of the GIRC and was the urological surgeon for the operation on Beverly-Barbara in 1968, the GIRC’s first transgender operation.

Elmer Belt died in 1980 at age 87.
  • Elmer Belt. Surgical teaching through motion pictures, A. R. Fleming co, 1937.
  • Elmer Belt. Leonardo the anatomist. Logan Clendening lectures on the history and philosophy of medicine, Ser. 4, Univ. of Kansas Press, 1955.
  • Patricia Morgan as told to Paul Hoffman. The Man-maid Doll. Lyle Stuart, Inc, 1973: 51-3, 56-64, 68-9.
  • Akleshia Brevard. The Woman I Was Not Born to Be. Temple University Press, 2001: 81-7.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States . Harvard University Press. 363 pp 2002: 142, 146, 147-8, 160, 162-3, 164,192, 242.
  • Julian Gill-Peterson. Histories of the Trangender Child. University of Minnesota Press, 2018: 137, 171-2, 244n25n26n28, 251n27.

LA Conservancy   Elmer Belt Papers   Vidensbanken om konsidentiten     Google Scholar

04 March 2019

Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez (1964 - 2016 ) sex worker, singer, prisoner.

++I originally wrote about Cristina Otiz in May 2008.  A lot has happened to her since then.

Cristina was born José Antonio Ortiz Rodriguez, the fourth of six children, in Adra, Almeria, Andalusia. Jose became known as Joselita.  From an early age Joselita showed talent in fashion design.  She was never accepted because of her gender expression and was attacked and mistreated, but as a man was considered to have good physique and was awarded the title Mister Andalusia in 1989 at the age of 24.  Still as José Antonio, Ortiz entered a competition on television in 1991 and won a trip to Thailand.

Ortiz had been secretly dressing as a woman, and in January 1992 she went to Madrid and began  transition.
Cristina was working as a prostitute in 1996 when she was discovered by television host and journalist Pepe Navarro who was doing a story on trans people. He hired her, and she became famous on his television shows Esta noche cruzamos el Mississippi and La sonrisa del pelícano, and with a music single ‘Veneno pa tu piel’ (Poison in your skin). She became known as Cristina La Veneno (the poison).

There was a plan to make a film about her life, but it did not happen. She starred in two porn films:  El secreto de la Veneno and La venganza de la Veneno, both 1997.  She toured Spain as a singer, and in 1998 was on television in Buenos Aires for a month.

In 1999, Cristina was arrested in an insurance scam, accused of arson, after an anonymous denunciation by her Italian ex-boyfriend. Investigation uncovered other crimes and she was sentenced to three years in a men’s prison, 2003-6, where she was frequently attacked and raped, and was incommunicado to her family for many months. Her weight doubled from 60 to 122 kg, and she suffered obvious physical deterioration.

After release she appeared on television gossip shows, complaining about her treatment in prison. The Instituciones Penitenciarias denounced her statement as calumny, but later in 2006 the Socialist Workers Government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (no relation) introduced a new policy of respecting a prisoner's gender and changed name, and placing trans women in women's prisons.

She was confronted by other trans activists in that she gave a bad image to the trans community.   In 2010 she was challenged on television to lose the weight that she had gained in prison, and some months later had lost 35kg.  But she was still suffering from bulimia and depression. 

In 2013 Cristina presented her 23-year-old boyfriend.   However he disappeared with her savings of €60,000.   But she was hired as one of the stars of the show Que trabajo Rita. From the end of 2013 to 2014, La Veneno made stellar appearances in some of the concerts of the tour.

In October 2016 her long-promised memoirs, ¡Digo! ni puta ni santa, appeared.  It was co-written with Valeria Vegas, a friend, and self-published through the Bigcartel web site.  She gave the initials of many famous politicians and footballers who had had sex with her.    This resulted in death threats.

In November that year she was found at home with bruises, unconscious and with a serious bruise on her head.  She was rushed to hospital, put into an induced coma, and died a few days later.  She was 52.  Officially she was deemed to have suffered a fall after massive consumption of pills, but there are suspicions that one of the death threats was acted on. Her family attempted to re-open the case in 2017 to show that it was murder.

A plaque has been mounted in Cristina's Honour in Madrid's Parque del Oeste where she worked as a prostitute.

In 2019, Cristina's sister attempted to again re-open the case with the support of Dr Luis Frontela, a prestigious forensic doctor, who pointed out defence wounds on Cristina's hand.  However the attempt was without success.

*Not the  University professor.

  • "Los buenos modales son Veneno". Perlas ensangrentadas. Online.
  • "La Veneno pasa factura".  Interviu, 24/04/2006.  Online
  • "La Veneno, su infierno en la cárcel" Entrevista en “Qué me dices”, 3 de abril de 2006. Archive
  • "Prisiones denuncia a «La Veneno» por decir que sufrió abusos en la cárcel" ABC, 21 de abril de 2006. Online
  • «La Veneno, perdida por los hombres de mal vivir». El Mundo. 12 de noviembre de 2016. Online
  • CristinaOrtiz & Valeria Vegas. ¡Digo! ni puta ni santa: las memorias de la Veneno. Roi Porto DL, 2016.
  • "La Veneno murió por una caída accidental".  El Periodico, 10/11/2018.  Online.
  • " 'La Veneno' pudo ser asesinada, según un nuevo análisis forense".  La Opinion de Tenerife, 09.01.2019.  Online.
  ES.WIKIPEDIA    IMDB     

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The ES.Wikipedia page on Adra does list Cristina among its citizens of note.