This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 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 right-hand sidebar. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

29 December 2007

Sydney, NSW - 1942

Neville McQuade (18) and Lewis Stanley Keith (19).
A photograph of this same pair appears in the newspaper Truth, of 14 June 1942, taken after they had appeared at North Sydney Police Court on charges of being idle and disorderley persons, having insufficient means of support, and with having goods in their possession - including a military uniform and an American dollar bill - believed to be stolen. After being remanded in custody for a week, both were released on bonds. Of the photographs, McQuade later said to a Truth correspondent: 'We were bundled out of the police cell, and snapped immediately. My friend and I had no chance to fix our hair or arrange our make-up. We were half asleep and my turban was on the wrong side.'

McQuade told the paper of his ambition to be a professional female impersonator, and spoke of his admiration for his mentor, Lea Sonia, who had been killed not long before getting off a tram in the wartime 'brownout'.

I have copied this from

02 December 2007

The Wife of Convict SYF45, nurse.

A story was told in The Evening News on 8 September 1955. In Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, an old lag wishes to unburden his conscience. The old lag had been a sailor, and in 1887 he fell ill and was hospitalized. He fell in love with one of the nurses, and they were married before he left on a last voyage. On return he had a few drinks with his shipmates and he went off with one of the prostitutes who joined them.

His wife would no longer sleep with him. One night he found a bloodstained carving knife on the kitchen table, and a few days later a pair of his trousers hanging to dry though still bloodstained. His wife admitted that she was doing the Ripper killings: 'Both of our lives have been ruined by women of that class - and I'll see they don't wreck other people's lives!' She would dress as a man - as a sailor - but carry a nurses cloak and bonnet in a bag. The deed done she would dress as a nurse and calmly walk away. After the death of Mary Kelly, a man was suspected and almost charged. Not wanting an innocent man to be punished, she decided to stop the killings.
  • Colin Wilson & Robin Odell. Jack The Ripper: Summing Up And Verdict. London: Corgi Books 1987.

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell (1857 - 1941) 1st Baron Baden-Powell OM, GCMG, GCVO, KCB.

Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell. hero of the siege of Mafeking, the founder of the Scouts, and thus of a new type of drag, was also an amateur female impersonator.

He had a very distinguished career with the British army in India, southern Africa and elsewhere, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-General.

All through his life Baden-Powell was keen on amateur theatricals, from Charterhouse public school where among other roles he played female operatic roles. With his music master at school he shared the ability of being able to sing in a convincing female soprano. In the army he made a speciality of female roles and would often make his own dresses. His stage specialty was what he called his skirt dance.

From 1881, he had a particularly close friendship with a younger man, Kenneth McLaren, whom he would call 'the Boy', and, after comforting him after McLaren's mother died, the two men became very close. They took a bungalow together and Baden-Powell's letters home were constantly referring to his new friend. They shared many activities, in particular polo and pigsticking.

At this time Baden-Powell wrote a short story 'The Ordeal of the Spear' about two officers, 'an unusually good pair of friends' who both wanted to marry the same woman. They decide that whoever inflicted the first wound in a bout of pigsticking would be the one to propose to her. The 'boy' drew first blood, but before he has a chance to propose, the young woman was thrown from the back of an elephant and trampled underfoot. This allowed the friendship to continue unchanged.

In addition to his drag shows, Baden-Powell balanced his love of manly activities with sketching, choosing fabrics and furnishings and designing embroidery patterns. He was quite uncomfortable with women in a context where he might be considered a prospective husband, but could get on with them quite well where all hints of sex were removed, e.g. in considering fabrics and embroidery.

He maintained a number of correspondences with girls, but let them lapse as they matured into women. He did not marry until the age of 55, when he chose an androgynous 23-year-old, Olave Soames.

At a time when British officers were very conscious not to socialize with their men, and hardly treated them as human, Baden-Powell spent much of his free time with the men under his command. He took them scouting, of course he participated in theatricals with them, he also joined them in gymnastic displays involving physical contact, and he gave them counselling. On the other hand this was only extended to young men; middle-aged men where more likely to experience his snobbery.
  • Michael Rosenthal.  The Character Factory. Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Scouting Movement.  Panthean Books, 1984.
  • Tim Jeal. The Boy-man: the Life of Lord Baden-Powell. William Morrow and Company, Inc 1990: 35,54,66-71,73,chp 3,144.
  • Ian Buruma.  "Baden-Powell: Boys Will Be Boys" in The Missionary and the Libertine:  Love and War in East and West.  Faber & Faber, 1996.

There was previously a Wikipedia page called "Robert Baden-Powell's sexual orientation", but which has since been removed.    Here is its Archive.  

28 November 2007

Micky Jacob (1884 - 1964) A forgotten major novellist

Micky Jacob (1884 – 1964). Pen name: Naomi Ellington Jacob. Aka Jake. Born: Ellington Gray in Ripon, Yorkshire.

Jacob began her working life as a teacher, but left after six years when the school board objected to her wearing trousers, and she found them to be authoritarian. Then for seven years she was secretary/companion to her lover Marguerite Broadfoote.

She went on the stage as a comic actress. Later, in her 40s when tuberculosis prevented continuation of her career as an actress, she became a prolific author, writing 75 novels. She also wrote advice books, women’s magazine serials and a biography of Marie Lloyd, the Music Hall singer.

Jacob claimed that she served as a seaman--successfully passing as a male in WWI. She also served in the Women's Legion in WWI.

She was a suffragette, and converted from Judaism to Roman Catholicism.

Upon two occasions her domestic arrangements involved a menage a trois with two other women.

She won the Eichelberger Prize (1935) for "services to humanity", but when Jacob learned she shared the prize with Adolf Hitler for "Mein Kampf", she refused it. Many of her novels were best-sellers in the 1930, and she wrote many volumes of autobiography.

She survived 2 bouts of tuberculosis and a struggle with malaria. In 1929 she moved to Italy for her health.

During WWII she worked for the Ministry of Information, and then served with ENSA in North Africa where she caught malaria.

She usually wore male clothing as ‘more practical’.

Today her books are out-of-print and she is largely forgotten.
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. Me, a Chronicle About Other People. London: Hutchinson 1933.
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. Me – Again. London: Hutchinson 1937.
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. More About Me. London: Hutchinson 1939.
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. Me –looking Back. London: Hutchinson 1950.
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. Me – and the Stags. London: William Kimber 1964
  • Naomi Ellington Jacob. Naomi Jacob: The Seven Ages of Me. London: W. Kimber 1965.
  • Paul Bailey. Three Queer Lives: An Alternative Biography of Naomi Jacob, Fred Barnes, and Arthur Marshall. Penguin 2004.
  • Claire M. Tylee. “'Ticketing oneself a Yid': Generic fiction, antisemitism and the response to Nazi atrocities in Naomi Jacob's 1936 Novel, Barren Metal”. Working Papers on the Web.

Douglas Bing (1893 - 1987) The first drag show on television

Douglas Byng was born in Nottingham. His father was managing director of the Midland Counties Bank. He started in show-biz as a theatrical costumier in London. His first professional engagement was in Hastings in 1914 as part of the Periodicals Concert Party. He appeared at the London Gaity in 1917, and from 1922-4 toured with the Revue 'Crystal'.

In 1921 he did his first dame role in Aladdin. He was well known in the 1920s for his female impersonations in cabaret and pantomime. He was regarded as more sophisticated than other impersonators of the time. His big breakthrough came with Noel Coward's 1925 review On With the Dance where he played a drag double act with Ernest Thesiger. He was a top-ranking star of London cabaret in the 1930s, and played in 26 Christmas pantomimes, usually in a dame part, before retiring.

He was the first drag act to have a starring show on BBC television -- in March and April 1938. His act was distinctive in that he played several different personalities including Minnie the messy old mermaid and Boadicea.

During the Second World War he was billed as 'Bawdy but British', the bawdiness being double-entrendres in the lyrics of his songs.

However he achieved his greatest fame in the mufti role of Martin in the stage play and later film of Hotel Paradiso, 1966. Many of his songs were originally banned on BBC radio.

His stage career lasted 72 years. He retired to Brighton where he died at the age of 94.

24 September 2007

Sporus - (? - 69CE)

Poppaea Sabina
In the Roman year AUC 818, the year that in the later Christian calendar would be numbered 65, Nero, in the 15th year of his rule, had a row with his second wife, Poppaea Sabina, who was pregnant with their second child. This led to his kicking her in the stomach, as a result of which, she died. He had already honoured her with the title of 'Augusta' after their first child. Nero was devastated. Her body was embalmed and put in the Mausoleum of Augustus; she was given a state funeral; and she was proclaimed to be a goddess.

He also resurrected her in a way that would fit a horror b-movie. One of his slaves had the misfortune to resemble Poppaea. Nero had Sporus castrated, dressed as the empress and addressed as ‘Sabina’. He paraded her through Rome, and publicly embraced her. They were publicly married in Greece in 67.

In AUC 821 (68 CE), as Nero's rule fell apart, he retreated to the suburb of Via Salaria with a few of his loyal servants and slaves. Sporus was among them, as was Marcus Epaphroditus, Nero's secretary, who actually helped Nero to commit suicide, or perhaps killed him.

Subsequent emperors.

Otho (Poppaea Sabina's previous husband whom she left for Nero), on becoming emperor, took Sporus as consort under the name Poppaea.

His successor, Vitellius, ordered Sporus to act on the stage as a woman being ravished, a final humiliation that lead to her suicide.


None of the ancient sources says anything of what Sporus may have felt.

Sporus is definitely a male name. The feminine would be Spora, but is never used.

Not the Greek mathematician and astronomer.

Nero was somewhat of a drag queen himself. He composed songs, sang and danced in public, and sometimes appeared in drag.

  • Dion Cassius. Ixii. 28, Ixiii. 12, 13, 27, Ixiv. 8, Ixv. 10 ;
  • Suetonius. Nero. 28, 46, 48, 49 ;
  • Sextus Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus. 5, Epit. 5 ;
  • Dion Chrysostom. Oratio. xxi;
  • Suidas, s. v. “Sporus”
  • ++Shaun Tougher.  The Roman castrati : eunuchs in the Roman Empire.  Bloomsbury Academic, 2021: 33-5, 40-53.
  • ++ Anthony Everitt & Roddy Ashworth.  Nero: matricide, music, and murder in imperial Rome. Random House, 2022: 322-3, 341-2, 344-5, 349.



The Christian connection

Poppaea Sabina was probably the first proto-Christian in Rome. Josephus visited Rome in 817/64 to obtain the release of some Jewish priests and found that Poppaea was always ready to facilitate Jewish petitions towards her husband. He succeeded in his mission, and returned home bearing gifts. He described her as θεοσεβής (theosebioi) which is usually translated as 'God-fearer'. See the entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia. It is ironic that she became a Roman goddess but not a saint.

Marcus Epaphroditus, the secretary who killed Nero, was also a colleague of Paul the Apostle, and the sponsor and publisher of two of the works of Josephus. See Philippians 2:25: "Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants".    There are those who say that Epaphroditus is the Marcus who gave his name to the second Christian gospel.

Thus Sporus links two of the key early Roman Christians.

23 September 2007

Megillus - second century CE

A wealthy woman from the island of Lesbos who lived in the second century CE. His name is really Megilla, but he prefers the masculine form. He sees himself as really a man, and regards Demonassa as his wife. He has his hair short in the masculine style, but wears a wig over it for social occasions. We know of Megillus from the account of a woman Leaena who was seduced by Megillus. Leaena will not discuss the details of the sexual encounter but hints at some kind of substitute male organ.

  • Lucian. Dialogues of the Courtesans. # 5.


There is controversy about which characters in Lucian's works are real, fictional or fictionalized rewrites of real people. Megillus feels real. He is similar to some modern persons in that some readers refer to him with masculine pronouns and grammatical forms and regard him as a FTM transgender. Others see a butch lesbian and use feminine pronouns and grammatical forms.

18 September 2007

Body Modification

Is sex change surgery (vaginoplasty, phalloplasty, metoidioplasty, electrolysis, mastectomy, hormone therapy) body modification?  Most transsexuals  don't relate to the concept of 'body modification', and the phrase is rarely found on web pages with transgender content. 
On the other hand, the Body Modification community don't seem to relate to changing sex as a type of body modification.  The Wikipedia article on Body Modification does not mention sex changes although the Category: Body Modification does have a sub category on Genital Modification which in turn has articles on Phalloplasty and Vaginoplasty.    BME, the specialist Body Modification Wiki which list 97 types of body modification does not have anything on sex changes.  
The similar yet different concept of Transhumanism which seeks to use technology to improve human bodies does acknowledge sex changes as a major step forward (although not on the Wikipedia page that I have just linked.   Here is a web page called "Transexuals Pave the Way for Transhumanists".

One individual who is into both Body Modification and being transgender is the avant-guard musician Genesis P-Orridge who describes him/her self as pandrogynous.

08 September 2007

Lavinia Edwards (1809 - 1833) Actress

An actress, young, beautiful and Irish, Lavinia had never performed in London, where she lived, but had had leading parts at various provincial theatres.  She lived with Maria, who was presented as her sister and who was seven years younger. She sometimes used the name Eliza Walstein.

She and her sister had been living in London about three years and were supported by different gentlemen. At the age of twenty four, she developed inflammation of the lungs, and despite one visit from a doctor, died very quickly.

An inquest and post-mortem were held, wherein a Dr Clutterbuck realized that she was a 'man'. All the witnesses at the inquest, some of whom had known her for over a decade (that is, since before her puberty), were amazed to find out about her gender. Mary Mortimer, a fellow tenant, had even shared a bed with her many times, as young girls will, and had never noticed anything odd. The only suspicion came from Mrs Shellett, the rent collector, who thought that her cough was that of a man. It is noteworthy that she had decided on her course before puberty, and was able to pass while experiencing the changes of that time of life.

The jury, with the compassion of the time, ruled: 'That the deceased died by the visitation of God and the jury are compelled to express their horror at the unnatural conduct of the deceased, and strongly recommend the proper authorities that some means may be adopted in the disposal of the body which will mark the ignominy of the crime'.

Mr Alfred Taylor, surgeon at Guy's Hospital, having examined the body, wrote up the case as a paper in Medical Jurisprudence (1873). Therein he stated that her face was feminine but her body still masculine. 'The beard was carefully pulled out'.  Her well developed penis was bandaged in an upward position.
  • Alfred Taylor.  Medical Jurisprudence, ii, 1873: 473.
  • Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Psychopathia sexualis. Mit besonderen Berücksichtigung der konträren Sexualempfindung. Eine klinisch-forensische Studie, 6th ed. Stuttgart: Ferdinand Enke, 1892: case 150 p388.
  • C.J.S. Thompson. The Mysteries of Sex: Women Who Posed as Men and Men Who Impersonated Women London: Hutchinson. 1938. New York: Causeway Books 256 pp 8 plates1974. New York: Dorset Press, 1993: chp XXIV.

While we know of many FTM persons in the 19th century who passed for many years, or even until death, Lavinia is one of very few MTF persons to do so at that time.

Donna Delbert (1913-1991) Fire Eater

Delbert Eugene Hill, from Philadelphia, was a fire eater, who also did bits of magic tricks and some whip cracking. He went to England in 1942 as an entertainer in the US Air Force Special Services. Part of his act was in a grass skirt and coconut-shell bra as "Dirty Gertie from Bizerti". He kept performing during air-raids, and with this reputation was invited to a Royal Command Performance, 4 July 1944.

In 1945, he was re-assigned as a latrine orderly, and ran away. He disguised as Donna Delbert, "America's Outstanding Lady Magician and the Only Lady Fire Eater in the World". Female magicians were very rare, and Donna was quickly booked. She said that she was the widow of a tank gunner killed at Normandy. Between tours she worked at the Lambert & Butler factory as a tobacco-packer, where it was thought that she was a bit mannish, probably a lesbian.

The role lasted four years. Donna had two girlfriends who were in the know. One was jealous of the other, and shopped Delbert to the police. In prison back in the US, Delbert got a star turn in the inmate talent show, and wrote to The Performer telling the truth, and show-biz cronies wrote back.

Afterwards he returned home to Philadelphia, usually performing as a man, but sometimes as “Donna Delbert: The Celebrated English Magician & Fire Eater”. With time, however neither Delbert nor Donna was in as much demand, and they sold ice cream, worked in a Magic Fun Shop and even ran a diner.

They finally died of cancer in their mid-70s, and were buried in an unmarked grave.

  • Roger Baker. Drag: a history of Female Impersonation on the Stage. A Triton Book. 1968: 189.
  • Raymond Teller. “My Search for Donna Delbert”. SinCity - The Web Home of Penn & Teller.
  • Matt Lake.  Weird Pennsylvania: Your Travel Guide to Pennsylvania's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling, 2009: 110-111. 

10 August 2007

The Honourable Arthur Cameron Corbett

Arthur Cameron Corbett (1919 – 1993) was educated at Eton and Balliol. He acquitted himself fairly well in the war, rising to the rank of Captain, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre; his father was Chief Scout of the British Empire 1945-59 and governor of Tasmania, 1959-63; his uncle was Jo Grimmond, leader of the Liberal Party 1956-67. The family money came from Brown & Polson's Corn flour.

From childhood he had been a closet transvestite. As an adult he went to male brothels and paid the boys to dress him, and also dressed for some family events. He networked in the underground transy scene, and had seen Toni April, a star performer at the renowned Le Carrousel in Paris. He used his contact with Louise Lawrence to get in in touch with April Ashley, as Toni was known since becoming a woman, courtesy of Dr Burou in Casablanca.

April had become a fashionable model whose gender secret was open, but not widely known. In 1962 she obtained a small part in the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby film, The Road to Hong Kong, the last of the franchise, and this attracted more media attention. She was outed in the press, and her biography was published in The News of the World - an event that had enormous impact on the next generation of transgender Britons. April's modelling career came to a sudden halt, and she received an enormous mailbag of enquiries. The next year Arthur Corbett married April in Gibraltar, which makes her Lady Corbett.

However the marriage was a failure, and they spent very little time together. In 1969 he applied for an annullment. Divorce by mutual consent had not been previously possible, but was allowed for in the new Divorce Reform Act of 1969 which would come into effect in 1971. However he did not wish to pay alimony. He applied for an annulment on the grounds that Ashley was not a woman. The case was tried by Justice Ormrod, the only UK judge to also be qualified as a doctor. Ormrod granted Arthur Corbett’s prayer for an annullment, however he also ruled that a person born male is legally male in perpetuity. Corbett v Corbett became case law in the UK and in Australia. The correcting of birth certificates for intersex and transgender persons ceased, and such persons lost the legal right to be treated as their new gender – in particular to marry a person of the now opposite gender.

This situation continued in the UK until the Gender Recognition Act of 2004.

April rallied and opened a restaurant just round the corner from Harrods, that was an immediate sensation, and continued to run it for five years until she had a heart attack. Then she retreated to the book-shop town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border,

In 1977 Corbett became the 3rd Baron Rowallan when his father died.

April's first autobiography, written by Duncan Fallowell, was published in 1982.

In 1993, when Ashley heard that Arthur was dying, she went to his bedside at his home in Spain. He said that she was the only one that he had ever loved, and admitted that he had cheated her.

April's second autobiography, written by Douglas Thompson, was published in 2006, but was pulped when Duncan Fallowell pointed out that it was largely a copy of the earlier book. However somes copies are available on the second-hand market.

Corbett was, of course, a spoilt rich kid, a self-indulgent upper-class twit, who cared not what trauma he imposed on his wives, April included, and cared not that he had messed up the lives of tens of thousands of others.

However the real villain was Lord Justice Ormrod, MD, who apparently was much respected in the legal field. However this was a classic case of the law being an ass. It was quite possible to grant Arthur Corbett's petition without impacting not only on every other trans person in Britain, but also every intersex person. The ruling by Ormrod details personal medical facts that are irrelevant. The central issue was that Corbett knew perfectly well what April had been. There was no deceit on her part. This is not even discussed by him. Instead he concentrates on her medical history. He even wrote to Dr Burou for medical details. This is prurient.

08 August 2007

Paula Grossman (1919 - 2003) music teacher

++updated 15/4/11, 7/8/16.

Paul Monroe Grossman was born in Brooklyn, NY. He grew up in New Jersey,  graduated with an A.B. in 1941 from the University of Newark (now called Rutgers), and spent the Second World War in the U.S. Army.  He then went to Columbia University where he earned an M.A. and a Professional Diploma in Music Education (S.M.E.) in 1947. In 1949 he married Ruth Keshen, and he spent the next 21 years as a music teacher in public schools in North Dakota, Montana, upstate New York and in 1957 he finally returned to New Jersey to teach at Cedar Hill Elementary School in in the town of Basking Ridge (map).

In 1971 Paul became Paula, and was suspended as a teacher. She sued, and lost. She fought the dismissal to the US Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case. However since she had been declared to be 'disabled', she eventually won a disability pension. She did stay in the same small town, and was well known as a transsexual. During the years of litigation, she became something of a celebrity, appeared on television, the guest of Johnny Carson and David Frost. She gave lectures all over the eastern United States. She supplemented her income playing as a musician in night clubs.

When it was over, she wrote A Handbook for Transsexuals, which is long out of print.

She was never allowed to teach in a school again. She stayed with her wife until she died in 2003.


Here is a summary of Paula's book:
  • 'A transsexual has his sex changed to correct a medical condition which will kill him if he doesn't. And for absolutely no other reason whatsoever.'
  • Transvestites never should; the naturally small and feminine should not either.
  • If you cannot stand the agony, then do the change.
  • Stand up for yourself; don't be shunted aside as an outcast.
  • 'Don't let non-transsexuals formulate rules for you.'
  • If you want to keep the same job, fight for it.
  • If you want to stay with your wife and children, then do so.
  • Don't bother with electrolysis: 'Thousands of extra dollars and a couple of years of suffering is a lot of money and extra pain for the usually inaffluent transsexual to absorb. A few extra minutes a day [to shave] isn't all that ghastly.'
  • Don't be persuaded to live a year in the guise of a woman - you probably won't be able to get a job in your field.
  • Don't be persuaded to move to another town and throw away your career. Stay and fight. Work out in advance whether you can keep your job. If you cannot, figure out what you can do instead.
  • Find a good lawyer. For your name change. For a will. For a spouse's consent to the operation - needed if you do not divorce. For litigation especially in fighting to keep your job.
  • Choose the right doctor. Do not go to a psychiatrist expecting any kind of cure. Avoid bigoted and insensitive doctors.
  • Don't let other transsexuals down by being a 'slob' e.g. by becoming a stripper.
Grossman's case against her employer, Grossman v. Bernards Township Board of Education, became caselaw in the US and is frequently cited result in transsexual employment law discussions. Drs Charles Ihlenfeld and Robert Laidlaw testified on behalf of Grossman, and Dr Charles Socarides on behalf of the schoolboard.  It was ruled that she was not discriminated against as a woman, and therefore the dismissal was legal.

In Janice Raymond's diatribe of hatred, The Transsexual Empire, there is a mention of Paula Grossman. She is quoted via a newspaper article gushing about having one's hair done, cosmetics and clothes. It is typical of Raymond's sloppy research that she did not find Paula's Book. This is probably just as well.

In 2007, one of her ex-pupils wrote a sympathetic article for the St Petersburg Times.

++In 2016,  Meryl Streep revealed that she had been one of Paula's students.  

31 July 2007

New York pickpocket 1941

The history of transpeople can be taunting. Some persons, who presumably live a life of several decades and repeatably express their transgender personality, even in periods of repression, literally have only a few moments of fame, often because they have been arrested. Then they disappear back into the darkness.

One such was a person charged with being a pickpocket who was arrested in New York in 1941, and who just happened to be photographed by the freelance photographer Weegee (Usher later Arthur Fellig 1899 - 1968). She co-operated with Weegee by lifting her skirt, and we have the photograph, but we do not know even her name.


Mathilde de Morny (1862 - 1944) painter, aristocrat

Mathilde de Morny, also known as La Marquise de Belboeuf, and sometime as La Chevalière, who had a lifetime nickname of Missy. She was a minor painter and sculptor under the name of Yssim.

Mathilde was a daughter of the Duc de Morny and grand-daughter, from the first marriage, of Josephine Beauharnais, consort of Napoleon. She was briefly the wife of the Marquis de Belboeuf.

The novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873 – 1954) had a six-year affair with Mathilde after the end of her first marriage. Colette was making a living as a music-hall dancer and mime, and sometimes Mathilde would play a minor male dance role in the troop. In 1907 the two performed Rêve d'Égypte at the Moulin Rouge: their onstage kiss caused a riot, and the police were called.

Mathilde had 'the solid build of a man, reserved and rather timid'. She looked like a distinguished, refined, no-longer-young man, for she always wore men's clothes, indeed she wore many of them at once which made her look plump. To hide her 'effeminate' figure she wore several woolen waistcoats and shirts, and several pairs of socks to fill up her men's shoes. She had a hysterectomy and had her breasts removed. She was addressed as 'Monsieur le Marquis'.

Monsieur le Marquis moved in the FTM transvestite circles in Paris, and lived a life of fine wines, long cigars, photographs of horsemen. When one of her brothers died, feeling that she should not be disrespectful to the dead, she attended the funeral in a veil and a black dress. The family thought that she looked like 'a man dressed as a woman' and begged her to change to her male attire.

She committed suicide during the German occupation, when she was ruined and desperate.

With the hysterectomy and mastectomy she was as physically close to being a transsexual as was available for her generation, and it seems strange to use female pronouns for the latter part of her life, but none of the sources that I have consulted uses male pronouns. This is presumably partly due to her life happening at an early stage in the social construction of transsexuality, but also due to her class position and wealth. If she had to work for a living, passing, rather than just playing with gender roles, would have been essential.

  • Fernande Gontier et Claude Francis. Mathilde de Morny: La scandaleuse marquise et son temps. Paris:Perrin 330 pp 2000.
  • Fernande Gontier. Homme ou femme? La confusion des sexes. Paris: Perrin 218 pp 2006: chp 8. 


24 July 2007

Harold Delf Gillies (1882 - 1960) pioneer surgeon

Harold Delf Gillies (1882 - 1960) was born and raised in Dunedin, New Zealand. He trained at Cambridge University, where he was a rowing and golfing blue, and St Bartholomew's Hospital.  He became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1910.  He married in London in 1911. He and his wife had four children.

In 1914 he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, and pioneered a facial injury ward, and later hospital for wounded soldiers. At The Queen’s Hospital which opened in June 1917, he and his colleagues developed much plastic surgery and performed over 11,000 operations on over 5,000 men. He was knighted in 1930.

In the Second World War, he consulted with the Ministry of Health, and organized plastic surgery units, and trained other doctors. He had developed ‘flap surgery’ where a flap of skin is moved to another part of the body to help healing. Flaps were later rolled into tubes, from which a penis could be fashioned.

The first transsexual surgeries had been performed in the 1920s in Berlin by Ludwig Lenz and Felix Abraham at Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, and in Moscow by Il’ia Golianitskii, The rise of the Nazis traumatically interrupted the evolution of this knowledge.  Arlette-Irène Leber had vaginoplasty in Switzerland in late 1941.

The next operations were by performed by Harold Gillies. A series of operations from 1942-6 on female-to-male Michael Dillon, who himself later qualified as a doctor. This was the first ever operation anywhere to change a woman into man. Gillies also performed the first UK male-to-female operation on Betty Cowell in 1951.  These operations resulting in his having to appear before the General Medical Council.  

Following this, urologist Kenneth Walker arranged an appointment for Georgina Turtle.  It was probably a mistake for Turtle to have come straight from his job as a male dentist clad in a black morning coat and pinstrip trousers.  Gillies waved him away: I do not really think you look or could be made to look like a woman".  Subsequently Turtle's operation was performed by Gillies' colleague and compatriot Patrick Clarkson. Four years later, after Turtle had obtained a revised birth certificate, Gillies wrote to say that he was sorry for what he had said, and request help in getting one of his 'very deserving cases' a correction of birth certificate.  

Gillies is not known to have done any other sex-change operations after the two pioneering cases.

Harold Gillies is referred to as the father of plastic surgery. He was also a noted painter, a champion golfer and practical joker. His paintings were exhibited at Foyale's Art Gallery in 1948.

Mrs Gillies died in 1957, and Harold married a woman who had been his surgical assistant some months later.

In 1960, Gillies suffered a cerebral thrombosis while operating.   He died in hospital a month later.
  • Harold D. Gillies. Plastic Surgery of the Face. London: Henry Frowde, 1920;
  • Roberta Cowell. Roberta Cowell's Story. London: Heinemann. New York: British Book Centre, 1954.
  • Harold D. Gillies & Ralph Millard. The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery. London and New York: Butterworth, 1957.
  • Reginald Pound. Gillies: Surgeon Extraordinary. London: Michael Joseph, 1964.
  • Craig Williams. “Harold Gillies: Aesthetic Reconstructor”. The New Zealand Edge.
  • Liz Hodgkinson. Michael née Laura. Columbus Books. 1989.
  • Pagan Kennedy. The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007: 7-8, 60-67, 70-3, 78-81, 97-9.

20 July 2007

Alexei Pedachenko (1857 - 1908) doctor, murderer.

In Russia Pedachenko had been a doctor, who had worked in the maternity wards in Tver (known as Kalinin 1931 - 1990). Pedachenko spent some time in Paris around 1886 and was wanted for the murder of a woman in Montmartre. In 1888, he was living with his sister in Walworth, south London, which was the year of the Ripper murders.

The Monmartre murder was presumably the cause of his flight to London, although it is also said that he was an agent of the Ochrana, the Russian secret police. Some say that they ordered the Jack the Ripper murders merely to embarrass the British police; others say that the idea was to blame expatriate Russian anarchists.

Pedachenko passed himself off as a woman when he felt like it, but on other occasions he grew a heavy moustache which he wore curled and waxed. A burnt out tea kettle was found with the body of Mary Kelly, one of the Ripper victims. It is suggested that this was used to boil water to shave off his moustache so that he could escape in Kelly's clothes.

After the murders in London, and Sir Charles Warren had resigned from the Metropolitan Police, Pedachenko was smuggled back to St Petersburg, where, after murdering yet another woman in 1902, he was committed to an asylum where he died. He was cross-dressed when arrested.

In 1923 William Le Queux published Things That I Know About Kings, Celebrities and Crooks in which he claimed that the Russian provisional government of 1917 had given him manuscripts found in the cellar of Grigori Rasputin's house. These included a manuscript in French called Great Russian Criminals which specified that Pedachenko was Jack the Ripper. As Colin Wilson comments: Rasputin lived in a fourth floor flat and did not know any French.

Donald McCormick, in his 1959 The Identity of Jack the Ripper, says that he was shown a lithograph copy of The Ochrana Gazette for January 1909 which identifies Vassily Konovalov as the Ripper, and describes his cross-dressing. The Ochrana Gazette was a real publication, but other researchers have not been able to find the entry. It also, peculiarly, refers to 'Petrograd', a name that St Petersburg would not take until 1917.

Possible aliases include: Vassily Konovalov, Mikhail Ostrog, Andrei Luiskovo.
  • Paul Begg, Martin Fido & Keith Skinner “Vassily Konovalov, William Le Queux, Ochrana Gazette, Michael Ostrog, Alexander Pedachenko, Grigori Rasputin” The Jack the Ripper A to Z. London: Headline 1991.
  • Tom Cullen. Autumn Of Terror 1945. Reprinted as The Crimes And Times Of Jack The Ripper. Fontana/Collins. 1966: p206-7
  • Christopher J. Morley. “Dr. Alexander Pedachenko”. Jack the Ripper: A suspect Guide. E-Book. 2005. Online at

17 July 2007

Whatever happened to ... Lanah Pelley

Hands up those who remember the 1987 film called Eat the Rich, or more obscurely, the 1985 film The Supergrass. Eat the Rich, a comedy that did not quite work, was a comedy, in the English tradition and about the horrors of life under Thatcherism, that had an unusual selling point: the actor(ess) playing the male lead Alex was a recent MTF transsexual. IMDB credits the part to 'Alan Pellay as Lanah Pelley'. The video box image shows Alex as a maternal female feeding the other actors - a scene that is not only not in the film, but has nothing to do with the plot of the film. The Wikipedia article on Eat the Rich, on the other hand mentions only Alan, and says nothing about his sex change.

Alan/Lanah, originally from Grimsby, Lincolnshire, a graduate of London's drag scene, had been a gender-bender punk in the band Spit Like Paint and part of the alternate comedy troop, The Comic Strip in the 1980s, sometimes playing female characters. 'Lana Pelley' played the part of 'Mary' in Supergrass.

In the late 1980s it seems that Lanah was presenting as a completed transsexual, or at least that the press releases that film reviewers get implied or said so. Here is an 80s website called The Blitz Kids which has photographs and publicity material for Lana Pelley, pushing her then new single 'Pistol in Your Pocket' which describes her as 'Alan Pelley, now known as Lanah', and as a transsexual superstar.


I had wondered what had happened to Lanah Pelley. Transsexuals in show biz sometimes lose their careers and disappear completely from view, for example Canary Conn, and I thought that maybe that was what had happened to her. However I have now been pointed in the direction of Al Pillay, (note the surname has now been altered also), a rising performer who is moving from successes in London's West End to a stint in Las Vegas. Al is also from Grimsby, was in Eat The Rich and had a successful single called 'Pistol in Your Pocket'. In fact it is the same person. The bio on Al's web page describes him as 'one time transexual disco diva', but that is all on that topic. In an interview on Positive Nation, the interviewer asks:
What happened to Lana and the sex change?
As far as a sex change operation, it was not even on the menu. Transsexuality for me, was more my protest against a macho, posturing gay world, and my subversion of society’s restrictive gender norms. Some of us have to go right out on a limb and overboard to find out who we are as people.
Such are the realities in show biz!

PS IMDB has a separate entry for Al Pillay, and treats him as a separate person from Alan Pellay.

01 July 2007

Maria Salomé Rodríguez Tripiona (1880 - ?) torera.

Female bullfighters date back to the 18th century, but only at the whim of local authorities. Only in 1808, the new Bonaparte puppet king, José, gave a royal blessing to female bullfighters. This blessing outlasted José's deposition, the restoration of the Bourbons, the First Republic and another restoration of the Bourbons.

However, in 1908, but again in 1930 and of course again under Franco, women were banned from bullfighting. Some retired, some emigrated to Latin America.

From 1900-8, La Reverte had been one of the few female toreras. She was one of Spain's most popular and was especially revered by women. In 1908, when she was banned, Maria Salomé, said that she was not really a woman, that she was a man, Agustin Rodriguez. This claim was accepted. However public opinion reacted against the deceit and Rodrigues was never successful as a bullfighter.

He left Madrid for retirement in Majorca. However it is said that he reverted again to being Maria Salomé in retirement.

30 June 2007

What will happen to to ... Sandy-Jo Battista

++Updated June 2011

Sandy-Jo Battista was born David Megarry Jr in Massachusetts in 1962. He had a rough childhood. He had a rare hormonal imbalance, 21-hyperplasia Syndrome, which led to rejection by his mother. He also witnessed his father kill his mother. He was taken in by a female relative who abused him. At the age of 21 he apparently raped a 10-year-old girl. However I cannot find anything online that describes this in any detail. Was it real forcible rape? Was it statutory but consensual? Was it mainly a misunderstanding? The various mentions online say nothing between these options. Nor do they say anything that would imply that Megarry was a predatory pedophile.

Megarry was sentenced to 18 years in prison. He completed the 18 years back at the beginning of this decade. But just because you have completed your sentence does not mean that you are released. He was transferred to the Massachusetts Treatment Center for the sexually dangerous in Bridgewater for an indefinite civil commitment.

While in prison he started to transition, and is now known as Sandy-Jo Battista. She has requested castration and has offered to pay for her own sex change. How, after 24 years in prison, she could afford to pay - is something else not explained in the media. But surely this is a reasonable offer. As a post-op woman, she would be unable to repeat her crime. There is much evidence that post-ops fit better into society and are less likely to commit crimes. Surely any penologist interested in reducing recidivism would go for the offer.

One is of course amazed at the incredible antagonism in the US to prisoners having a sex change. In the case of Michelle Kosilek (born 1949, also Massachusetts, in for wife murder) the Corrections Department paid over $52,000 for so-called expert testimony that she does not need a sex change. So much for the argument that the Massachusetts Department of Corrections cannot afford to pay for such operations.

A few hundred kilometres north, in Canada, the Human Rights Tribunal ruled in 2000 that Corrections Canada was discriminatory in placing transwomen among a male population and that the absolute ban on sex changes was unwarranted. This decision was upheld in Federal Court, and the plaintiff, Synthia Kavanagh (born 1962, in for killing her lover, a fellow transy-hooker) was operated on later that year, and then transferred to a women's prison.

A naughty thought occurs. I will follow this through as a thought experiment. Is Sandy-Jo a "real" transsexual? Usually "real" is an inauthentic distinction. A "real" transsexual is one who goes through with it, through all the hassles, the job losses, the cost, and the lowered status. One proves one is real by doing it. However incarceration changes the game. For Sandy-Jo, although not for Michelle Kosilek or for Synthia Kavanagh, it is a way to get out of prison. I am not being critical. She has has served a complete sentence and more. Good luck to her if it works. The famous example of a prisoner faking a disease to get out was Ernest Schleyer, the crooked CEO of Guinness PLC, who was sentenced to 5 years, who developed symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and was released after 10 months, and, lo and behold, recovered completely from the symptoms, and went on to a successful career as a business consultant. However Sandy-Jo cannot be playing this game for, as she certainly knows, the sex-change operation is irreversible. It is possible that she is a mild transgender, a person who - if not in prison - would explore drag, but would never commit to a sex-change. Given a stark choice: incarceration for life, or live as a woman, which would you choose? I put the question to my husband, who is no way transgender, and he had no difficulty in choosing the sex change.


Between 2005 and 2011 Battista applied to the courts as a pro se litigant in  response to the Massachusetts Department of Correction's decision to block her prescription for GID treatment.  That treatment, which included hormone medication, had been unanimously approved by the DOC’s own contracted medical providers.  In May 2011 the US Court of Appeals ruled in her favor.

Shortly afterwards, a blogger using the moniker GallusMag wrote a libelous article accusing this author of saying that the victim was 'asking for it'.  As a feminist and a human being, I never defend child or adult rape.  Nor did I even suggest that Megarry should not have served a prison sentence. However I still do not know the facts in the Megarry case. GallusMag's account is very different from those that were appended here as comments, some of which were from persons who say that they knew Megarry.  However let us assume that GallusMag does have the facts right.  28 years so far for a single rape is totally out of proportion.  Serial killers have been released after serving shorter terms than that. 

However the most intriguing aspect is that GallusMag is is so emphatic that a convicted rapist must--at whatever cost, be it a large multiple of the cost of a sex change operation--that the rapist must be prevented from giving up the testosterone and the penis that are required for rape.  Is GallusMag totally mad?

18 June 2007

Whatever happened to ... Teri Toye

This article revised, March 2009.

1984. Just three years after Caroline Cossey (Tula) was outed when she came to attention by being a 'Bond girl' in For Your Eyes Only, and as a consequence lost most of her modelling contracts. Just three years after 1981, in New York, the new fashion sensation was the openly transgender Teri Toye, who had moved to New York from Iowa to study fashion. She was offered modeling work, especially for the cult fashion designer Stephen Sprouse, but also for Karl Lagerfeld and Jean Paul Gaultier. Her success allowed Lauren Foster, whose career had wobbled after she was outed, to spring back. 

There is a Teri Toye doll by Greer Lankton's husband, Paul Monroe. Teri was maid of honor at Greer's wedding.

However after three years, Teri split the scene. She returned to her native Iowa where she works in historic preservation and real estate.

10 June 2007

Crossing Sexual Boundaries

Crossing Sexual Boundaries: Transgender Journeys, Uncharted Paths. Edited by J. Ari Kane-Demaios and Vern L. Bullough. Prometheus Books 365 pp 2005.

The book consists of two poems, an introduction with a bibliography co-signed by the two editors, 20 autobiographical essays, two brief accounts of genital reconstruction surgery, two typology diagrams, a second bibliography and a glossary.

What is the name of the first editor? On the title page it is given as J. Ari Kane-Demaios. However the Introduction refers to an Ariadne Kane who is presumably the same as the Ariadne Maria Kane given as the name of the author of the second essay. Readers with external knowledge may know that these are all one person. However this is not clarified for readers not already in the loop. Furthermore, in the essay by Christopher Barrett (#6) he pays for counselling from a Dr Ari Kane (p 97), presumably yet again the same person. In addition the two accounts of surgery are by Ariadne Kane and the two typologies are by J. Ari Kane-Demaios. This is surely quite confusing for any readers with no acquaintance with the person. At the very least an editorial note on this issue would have been sensible.

In contradistinction to standard academic practice, the two editors append their doctorates to their names on the title page, and again on the surgical accounts and the typologies. The same courtesy is not extended to the authors of the autobiographical essays, some of whom do in fact have higher degrees, and one of whom, Esben Benestad, is an MD and has important publications in sexology and psychology.

The introduction signed by both editors, would actually seem to be by Vern Bullough alone, and is a condensation of his Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. This assumption also explains why there are two bibliographies, the one at the end of the book being Kane’s.

Both Kane and Bullough are admitted followers of Virginia Prince. Bullough’s Cross Dressing, Sex and Gender has been criticized for giving too much emphasis to Prince and ignoring other transgender activists. This new book repeats this by having 10 – far too many - of the 20 essays by organizers of Princian-style groups. Prince herself, and the groups that she founded, have been criticized for excluding gays, transsexuals, drag performers and all female-to-male transgenders. They also promoted a middle-class respectability at odds with the less conformist models of transgenderism, and apparently also to working class and ethnic minority transgenders. Sex workers in particular were not welcome. In addition, the questioning of sex roles by feminism, the gay movement, and gender theory is pretty well non-existent. And there is an indifference to what happens outside the US. Bullough’s introduction fails to mention anything at all outside the US after Jorgensen comes back from Denmark. The Princian groups have relaxed two of their restrictions: transsexuals are now permitted, as are female-to-male persons.

The selection is this book reflects this exclusivity quite closely. Of the 20 essays, one is by a Norwegian, but 19 by US persons. Only two are by female-to-males. This gender bias is reflected in the cover illustration of a male sifting through a hourglass to become female. 19 (including the 2 FTMs) of the persons are gynephilic (sexually oriented to females), and one, who after an early gynephilic marriage, takes a secretive male lover. There are no androphilic persons (sexually oriented to males) as such. All 20 persons have middle-class occupations (doctor, professor, teacher, nurse, financial advisor, own business etc). No-one works in Wal-Mart, or a factory or drives a taxi (although a couple have been through rough periods when they could not get work). No-one is on welfare, and no-one is a criminal, no-one is a sex-worker, and no-one has been murdered. No-one is black, or Latina or Asian. No-one is an immigrant. No-one works in a drag show, or gets off on gender transgressivity – although one writer, Christine Hochberg, is in that generally-ignored category, the heterosexual drag queen. No-one is a butch female or female-masculinist. All write reasonably well. Thus we can say that the sample is strongly atypical, both of the general population and of transgender persons.

Kane, who, like an old-time female-impersonator, prefers to be addressed by male pronouns, in his own autobiographical essay says that when he first went to a transy group, the organizer reassured him: “She added that many of the members came from middle-class environments, had respectable jobs, and were married in the traditional sense.” (p49). And so are most of the persons here.

Many of the writers are pushing the definition of same-sex marriages by becoming legally female while still married to woman. Do any of them relate this to the debate in the US re same-sex marriages, or to the concept of being gender queer? Helen Boyd and Phyllis Frye do, but not the others.

The two female-to-male persons are the only ones to become ‘heterosexual’ in their new genders. None of the male-to-females do. This is the greatest distortion in the book. There is no shortage of such persons, and yet the editors of this book were unable to find even one.

Worse still, this book could be taken as a companion to Michael Bailey’s hateful The Man who would be Queen. By excluding what Bailey tendentiously refers to as ‘homosexual transsexuals’, this book – consciously or not – endorses his viewpoint by presenting only transgenders who fit his concept of ‘autogynephiles’ – that is oriented to women, professional, respectable etc. See my article on Autogynephilia.

This said, I would like to commend some of the essay writers for having produced good, readable, succinct, interesting autobiographies, but they are betrayed by the editors and their biased selection.

I would refer prospective readers instead to Finding the Real Me edited by Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox, and Genderqueer edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell and Riki Wilchins, both of which present a much more representative sample of transgender lives.
This review was rejected by Amazon.

07 June 2007

The greatest artist of the 20th century

One of the most colourful figures in the scene around transgender persons is the Marquis of Pubol, Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí Domènech, best known as Savador Dalí. The artist and filmmaker.

His 1929 film with Louis Buñuel, Un Chien Andalou, contains a character described as a 'hermaphrodite'.

He offered to do a painting of April Ashley as Hermaphroditos but she did not want to immortalized in her half-way status.

From the 1960s he was and remained a friend and mentor of Amanda Lear, and rumours say that he paid for her operation with Dr Burou in Casablanca in 1963. She lived with him and his wife for many years. Some say that her name = ‘a man’ + ‘dali’ or "L’amant Dali”.

In 1965 Mario Montez the New York underground film female impersonator made his iconic Andy Warhol film, Screen test Number 2. the one where he confronted about his gender and admits that he is a man, but he does so, he says, only because he is a woman. Savador Dalí was present and is in the film.

In the late 1970s he trained Manuela Trasobares Haro (who had transitioned at the age of 15) as an artist.

Also in the 1970s had his own set in New York.   Most famously he was a friend of International Chrysis, the New York drag celebrity, best known for her role in Sidney Lumet's 1990 film Q & A.  He appears in the 1992 documentary film about her life, Split: William to Chrysis: Portrait of a Drag Queen.    

Anthony Haden-Guest describes the scene.  Potassa de la Fayette "was often part of the entourage of Salvador Dalí. If any 'ism' ruled in Studio, it was voyeurism. Most went to see or be seen. Dalí, a veteran of the human gaze, would go with people he needed to impress. A man who liked a hectic sort of order, he would follow a routine, dining first —Trader Vic’s was a favorite spot—with his considerable retinue of regulars before going on to the club. 'There were always three or four transvestites,' says Roger de Cabrol, a designer and regular himself. “Potassa. There was
this French transvestite, very pretty, named Pascale."

Dalí was also seen at the GG Barnum Room with Ava Hollywood.

In the late 1970s, Dalí was close to the Brazilian 'trans diva', Yeda Brown. He introduced her to musicians and the press called her ‘the muse of Dalí’.

  • Anthony Haden-Guest. The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night. William Morrow, 1997: 113.