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.
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.
- Paula Grossman. A Handbook for Transsexuals. Broadview Enterprises Inc. v,67 pp 1979.
- Janice G. Raymond The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-male. Boston: Beacon Press. 1979: 78-9.
- Jillian Todd Weiss. “Law: The first Title VII transgender case”. “Law: When is dismissal based on ‘sex reassignment’?” Transgender Workplace Diversity. http://transworkplace.blogspot.com/2006/06/law-first-title-vii-transgender-case.html
- Richard Green. Sexual Science and the Law. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1992: 109-110.
- Scott Keeler. “A generation ago, my music teacher had a sex change”. St Petersburg Times. March 4, 2007. www.sptimes.com/2007/03/04/Opinion/A_generation_ago__my_.shtml.
- Levi Chambers & Daniel Reynolds. "How Meryl Streep's Trans Music Teacher Opened Her Eyes to LGBT Acceptance". Advocate, Aug 05 2016. www.advocate.com/arts-entertainment/2016/8/05/how-meryl-streeps-trans-music-teacher-opened-her-eyes-lgbt-acceptance.