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!

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.