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.

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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.