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!

30 January 2008

Nancy Hunt (Bowman) (1927 - 1999), reporter and copy editor.

Ridgely Hunt was born to a family listed in the Social Register. He went to a New England preparatory school,. He was drafted at the end of the Second World War and rose to sergeant, although without seeing combat. Afterwards he graduated from Yale in English Literature, and then worked for New England newspapers, where he met his first wife, Constance.

They moved to Chicago in 1958 and he worked at the Daily News as a copy editor. He and his wife had a boy and two girls. In 1963 he moved to the Chicago Tribune and he became a prize-winning journalist, whose name was promoted on the newspaper’s delivery trucks. He was their war correspondent in Vietnam, for which he won four Associated Press awards. He specialized in masculine stories: he scuba-dived to wrecks on the ocean floor; he camped out with the Green Berets; he rode fire engines. He was regarded as irascible by his co-workers.

He was known for his negative comments about hippies and women, but by the late 1960s he was growing his hair long and wearing makeup. He had divorced his wife and married the family baby sitter. She sewed dresses for him and helped him with makeup. She wanted him to stay a transvestite. In 1975, a columnist at the rival Sun-Times outed Hunt, and the Tribune transferred her to the night copydesk where she became Nancy. After surgery at the University of Virginia, Nancy and her second wife divorced.

Nancy wrote her biography and appeared on television to promote it. She emphasized that as a man he had been a ‘devout heterosexual’, and film director Brian De Palma used this clip in his slasher movie Dressed to Kill, 1980.

In the early 1980s she married Wallace Bowman, Sr, and enjoined the staff at the Tribune to say nothing to him about Ridgely. In 1984 she retired, and she and Wallace spend part of their lives in Florida. Constance had to sue Nancy for missed child support payments, especially as one of the daughters has Down’s syndrome. Nancy maintained that Wallace never knew about her past. She outlived him, and spent her last years in a seniors’ residence in Florida.
  • Nancy Hunt. Mirror Image: the Odyssey of a Male-to-Female Transsexual. New York: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston. 1978.
  • Linda Witt.  "Brave Ex-Reporter and Now Transsexual Nancy Hunt Looks at Her Lives as Man and Woman".  People, February 12, 1979.,,20072932,00.html.
  • Marcia Froelke Coburn “Former Chicago Tribune staffers remember their late colleague’s radical transformation – from man to woman”. Chicago Tribune. September 1999.
  • Brian De Palmer (dir & scr). Dressed to Kill, with Michael Caine as Dr Robert Elliot, Angie Dickinson as Kate Miller, and Nancy Hunt in a cameo on television. US 105 mins 1980.

29 January 2008

A gentleman's servant elopes

Giovanni Bordoni (1719 - 1743). Born Catterina Vizzani in Rome, her father a carpenter. At age 14 she courted a beloved while wearing men’s clothes, and continued the practice for almost two years until her beloved’s father caught her.

Through a priest in Rome, Giovanni obtained work as a gentleman’s servant, being generally appreciated except for his incessant courting of young women. He even claimed to have venereal disease (which explained to his laundress the occasional blood on his clothing). He was wounded in the neck after encountering a rival for one of his beloveds. His master wrote to the priest in Rome who met with Giovanni’s father and was ascertained of Giovanni’s body-sex, but kept the secret from the master.

Some years later, in June 1743, Giovanni eloped with the niece of the local priest and her sister. The party was pursued and apprehended, and Giovanni was wounded in the thigh. He was eventually brought to the Hospital della Scala in Siena, and came to the attention of Giovanni Bianchi (1693-1775), commonly known as Janus Plancus, Professor of Anatomy. Giovanni died from a fever that developed from the wound – at the age of 24.

Under his pillow was found a 'leathern contrivance' stuffed with rags that he normally wore fastened below his abdomen. The public expressed great interest in the fact he was a female virgin, and some of the more devout thought that Catherine was 'nothing less than a Saint, having preserved her Chastity inviolate, amidst the strongest Temptations'. Bianchi attempted to find that Bordoni had an oversized clitoris, but it was not so. He wrote up his findings, which were translated anonymously into English with a commentary. It has recently been established that the translator was John Cleland, the author of Fanny Hill. Cleland, despite the libertinism of his novel, was shocked by the account of Giovanni and urged that such women should be severely punished.

Not the nineteenth-century vocalist.

· Giovanni Bianchi. Breve storia della vita di Catterina Vizzani…. Venezia: Occhi, Simone 32 pp 1744. Anonymous translation into English by John Cleland: The True History and Adventures of Catharine Vizzani. 1751. Available online at
· Roger Lonsdale. “New Attributions to John Cleland”. Review of English Studies. 30,1979. p276-80.

Thomas Kando. Sociologist

Thomas Kando (1941- ) was born in Hungary and educated at the Universities of Amsterdam and Minnesota. Professor of Sociology at California State University, Sacramento until his retirement in 2003.

He was at Minnesota looking for a dissertation topic when the university’s medical school did its first sex-change operations. He interviewed 17 post-op MTFs, aged 21 to 55, two weeks to two years post-op.

He found four basic ways of adjusting to being female:
  1. the housewife who desired respectability; 
  2. the stripper who flaunts her stigma; 
  3. the aspiring housewife who cannot find a husband, not being attractive enough;
  4. the career woman who is well-educated and doesn’t try to pass. 
He found his subjects to be more stereotypically feminine than other women, and referred to them as ‘reactionary’ and ‘the uncle toms of the sexual revolution’. In later years he regretted his choice of dissertation, calling it ‘stupid’, ‘grotesque’ and ‘boring’.

Kando's major follower is Janice Raymond, who spends 7 pages in The Transsexual Empire enthusiastically summarizing his work.

Carol Riddell emphasizes that the short period post operative is too short. That trans women become much like cis women after a few years.

Bolin directly refutes his conclusions, by finding something close to the opposite to be the case.

  • Thomas Kando. “Passing and Stigma Management: The Case of the Transsexual’.The Sociological Quarterly 13, Fall 1972.
  • Thomas Kando. Sex Change; The Achievement of Gender Identity Among Feminized Transsexuals. Springfield, Ill: Thomas 1973.
  • Thomas Kando. I Spent My Life Practicing Politically Incorrect 54-6.
  • Janice G. Raymond The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-male. Boston: Beacon Press. 1979: 79-86.
  • Carol Riddell. “Divided Sisterhood : A Critical Review of Janice Raymond's 'The Transsexual Empire' “. Liverpool: News from Nowhere 1980. Reprinted in Stephen Whittle & Susan Stryker (eds).The Transgender Studies Reader.Routledge.752 pp. 2006: 146, 152.
  • Anne Bolin. In Search of Eve: Transsexual Rites of Passage. South Hadley, Mass: Bergin & Garvey, 1988: 113-6.

Kando's results were never replicated. What went wrong?
  • His sample of 17 was far too small, although of course far larger than that of Michael Bailey.
  • His subjects were at most two years post-operative. This is too short a period for the questions asked.
  • He asked the wrong questions, and did not respect his subjects.

28 January 2008

Wayne Dynes (1934 - ), bibliographer and encyclopedist

Wayne Dynes did a Ph.D. in art history at New York University. He taught for six years at Columbia University, and subsequently at the City University of New York. He was a co-founder of New York's Gay Academic Union in 1973.

His Homosexuality: A Research Guide is one of the better bibliographies on homosexuality. Out of 854 pages, only 10 are on Cross Dressing, Transsexualism and Hermaphroditism, grouped in a category ‘Boundary Crossing’ with ‘Intergenerational Sex’, and a further 8 pages on ‘Theatre and Dance’ which contains many articles on drag. He opens his Transsexualism section with the unneeded contention in opposition to the facts: “Follow-up studies have shown that many postoperative transsexuals exist in a state of almost continual depression, and for this reason the operation is now performed less often”, and then gives a biased selection of mainly anti-transsexuality books, including a positive review of Janice Raymond’s diatribe, The Transsexual Empire. The only biographies included are those of Lili Elvenes (Elbe) and Christine Jorgensen. All the others are ignored, even April Ashley’s.

He was the major editor of the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, 1990, where he also wrote about lesbians under a pseudonym, Evelyn Gittone. This was taken to be a female pseudonym, although ‘Evelyn’ was a unisex name to earlier generations. Coupled with the lack of female and transgender contributors, this was considered scandalous, and contributed to the fact that a second edition or a paperback edition was never issued.

Alexandra Selyaninova (? - ) police captain

Alexandra Selyaninova (? - ). Male name: Alexander Selyaninov. Alexander served in the Red Army, and then trained as a miner, but was offered work in the police service. One of his tasks as a policeman was to disguise as a woman to act as bait to catch a serial killer – which he found comfortable. After being transferred to the Perm Region as a Police Captain, far away from relatives and old friends, he began to wear female clothing.

Realizing that he really wanted to be a woman, he applied for a medical examination. Doctors from Moscow diagnosed him as transsexual. There were two operations in 1991, and Alexandra was issued with a new passport and birth certificate. She has stayed in Perm and runs her own business. She is also active in the town politics, and has been selected for a trip to Cuba.

Not the author of a book on Freemasonry.

Eugene de Forest (189? - ?) a teacher of dramatics

Eugene was a teacher of dramatics, well-known in Los Angeles in the 1910s using the title of ‘professor’. He had married in 1911. In 1915 he became engaged to ‘a well-known Los Angeles woman’, and was waiting for the finalization of his divorce when it was discovered that he was female-born, and he was arrested for masquerading. In court, he pleaded that he was ‘in nature a man’, and was acquitted.

Two years later, when ill and admitted to hospital, he was able to convince the hospital authorities to put him in the men’s ward.

  • “Man by Nature Really Woman”. Los Angeles Times. Sept 30, 1917, v.12
  • Lillian Faderman & Stuart Timmons. Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. New York: basic Books 430 pp 2006: 24.

24 January 2008

Erwin Gohrbandt (1890 - 1965) pioneer surgeon

This doctor is not usually mentioned in the histories of transsexual surgery. Of course the two sex-change surgeries are only a small part of his curriculum vitae.

Erwin Gohrbandt studied medicine at the Military Medical Academy and graduated in 1917 with a thesis on syphilis. He worked at the Charité Universitätsmedizin in Berlin. In 1928 he became a professor of surgery at the Friedrich Wilhelms University Berlin, and was also Chief Physician at the Urban Hospital. 

In 1922 Magnus Hirschfeld arranged for Gohrbandt to do the castration on Dörchen Richter.

In 1931 he did the vaginoplasty on Dorchen Richter and on Toni Ebel as arranged by Felix Abraham.  In the same year Dr Kurt Warnekros arranged for Gohrbandt to do the castration and penectomy on Lili Elvenes (Elbe), the Danish artist. 

From 1940 he worked at the Urban Hospital and was also the Medical Chief and later a general for the Luftwaffe. He also participated in lethal hypothermia experiments at Dachau Concentration Camp and in October 1942 presented a paper to the Hypothermia Conference held at the Deutscher Hof Hotel in Nuremberg. In February 1945, he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Kriegsverdienstkeuzes (Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords) on Hitler's personal authority.

He escaped prosecution after the war, retired in 1958 and died a wealthy and respected citizen.
  • Erwin Gohrbandt.  Ein Fall von postkonzeptioneller Syphilis.  MD thesis. Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin, 1917.  
  • Erwin Gohrbandt.  Chirurgische Krankheiten im Kindesalter : mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der einschläging pädiatrischen Fragen.  S Kaeger, 1928. 
  • Felix Abraham. “Genitalumwandlungen an zwei männlichen Transvestiten”. Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, 18: 223-226. 1931. English translation as “Genital Reassignment on Two Male Transvestites”. The International Journal of Trangenderism. 2, 1. Jan-Mar 1998. Archive
  • Erwin Gohrbandt und Joachim Gabka. Handbuch der plastischen Chirurgie. De Gruyter 1965. 3 Volumes.

The Rabbi and the Ayatollah

There are exceptions to the the generalization that religious authorities are anti-sex-changes.

Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg (1915 – 2006).

Born and lived his life in Jerusalem. A leading rabbi and a dayan on the Supreme Rabbinical Court. He is considered an authority on medical halacha.

Whilst he forbade elective surgery on anyone who is neither sick nor in pain, such as cosmetic surgery, he also ruled, in the late 1960s, that a post-operative transsexual has changed her halachic gender.

“The external anatomy which is visible to the eye is what determines the halakha”.
He argued from the analogy of Elijah who ascended to heaven without dying. This ascension discontinued his human status, and therefore his marriage was automatically nullified, and so his wife was halachically free to remarry. This is a precedent for change of halachic status during a person’s lifetime, and thus a sex change has a halachic effect.

In the morning blessings, where a man says, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has not made me a woman," a trans man should end the blessing instead, "Who has changed me into a man", and where a woman says “"Who has made me according to His will", a trans woman should say “Who has changed me according to His will”.

This is now a minority opinion within Orthodox Judaism, but the ruling is cited in Conservative and Reform Judaism where transsexuals are more accepted.


Ruhollah Khomeini (1902 - 1989).

Leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and subsequently leader of the government.

In 1963, he wrote a book in which he stated that there is no religious restriction on corrective surgery, however at this point he was referring to intersex persons.

In 1978, before the Revolution, Maryam Khatoon Molkara, the pioneering Iranian transactivist, wrote to Khomeini who was then in exile requesting religious guidance. Khomeini replied that the case was different from homosexuality, and said that she should follow the Islamic obligations of being a woman.

In 1983, Molkara tried approaching Khomeini directly and was badly beaten up by his bodyguards before succeeding. Khomeini gave Maryam religious authorization for sex-change surgery. This has been taken to be a fatwa that covers other transgender persons as well, and is the basis of the current acceptance of sex-change surgery in Iran.

Irving Thalberg (1899-1936). Norma Shearer (1902-1983)

Irving Thalberg (1899-1936). Norma Shearer (1902-1983). Married 1927.

Thalberg, born in Brooklyn, NY, was the outstanding movie producer of the inter-war period.. 'The Boy Wonder', the model for Scott Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon, Irving Thalberg worked his way up the ladder to be executive producer of Universal City by the age of twenty. He left this position to become the first Vice-president of MGM in 1924. He died of heart attack and pneumonia at the age of 37.

Shearer, born in Montreal with a RCMP cop for a father, was a rising star at MGM when she married the boss. She was nominated for Best Actress Oscars six times.

Irving and Norma were recreational transvestites. Flamini's 1994 biography says: 'Because he carefully watched what he ate, Thalberg's frame never varied, and Norma's dress size fitted him well, as did her shoes. One of their private jokes was to dine together by candlelight wearing each other's clothes, Thallberg in an Adrian creation complete with makeup, Norma wearing one of his suits.'

Violet Radcliffe (1908 - 1926) A forgotten child male-impersonator

Violet Radcliffe (1908 – 1926). Born in Niagara Falls, New York.
Violet made her first film at age 6, her last at the age of 10, and was dead at age 18. In 5 years, from 1914 to 1918 she made 34 films. She finished her career in Fox's Sunshine Kiddies films, children's stories with most parts played by children, in which she played male villains.
She was Prince Rudolpho in Jack and the Beanstalk, 1917, the evil magician, Al-talib in Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp, 1917, the Robber Prince in The Babes in the Woods, 1917, Long John Silver in Treasure Island, 1918, and the Chief Executioner in Fan Fan, 1918.
  • Here is her IMDB entry - 34 films.
  • There is no English Wikipedia entry, but here is the French one - which completely misses the point that she was a male impersonator.

17 January 2008

Emil Alois Mario Ferdinand Hugo Vacano (1840 - 1892) novelist.

Emil  Vacano was born in what is now the Czech Republic. He was an artist and writer in what was then the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary.

In his youth he had a feminine appearance and using the names Signora Sangumeta and Mademoiselle Corinna he was popular as a woman school-rider and a circus rider. It is also said that he lived for a time in a convent. Only a few people knew Signora Sangumeta's secret.

He settled down when he fell in love with an Italian officer, and concentrated on his writings, producing numerous historical novels and short stories. Some of his works pioneer the gay novel, especially König Phantasus based on the life of Ludwig II of Bavaria.
  • Magnus Hirschfeld,. Die Transvestiten; ein Untersuchung uber den erotischen Verkleidungstrieb: mit umfangreichem casuistischen und historischen Material. Berlin: Pulvermacher, vi, 562 pp1910. English translation by Michael A Lombardi-Nash. Transvestites: The Erotic urge to Crossdress. Buffalo: Prometheus Books. 424 pp 1991: 345.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller. Mann für Mann : biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte von Freundesliebe und mannmännlicher Sexualität im deutschen Sprachraum. Hamburg: MännerschwarmSkript, 1998: under Vacano, Emil Mario.
  • “Emile Mario Vacano”. Wikipedia: Die Freie Enzyklopädie.

There is no mention at all of Emil Vacano in either The Gay and Lesbian Literary Heritage edited by Claude J. Summers, or Who's Who in Lesbian & Gay Writing by Gabriele Griffin. Apart from the happenstance that Hirschfeld was finally translated after 80 years, there seems to be nothing on him at all in English.

16 January 2008

James Miranda Stuart Barry (1795 - 1865) Military Surgeon.

Of uncertain parentage James Barry, was raised in the milieu of James Barry, R.A., the Irish painter. He took his second name from General Francesco Miranda, a Venezuelan revolutionary and friend of the elder Barry. He was known to refer to Mary Anne Bulkeley, the sister of the elder Barry, as his aunt, although it possible that she was his mother, with Barry being in fact Margaret Bulkeley. Young Barry wrote a letter to General Miranda reminding him that no one in Edinburgh knew of Mrs Bulkeley's daughter. In 1809 James, at the age of 14 went to the University of Edinburgh Medical School to enroll as a student, and by this point he would have transitioned. He graduated in 1812 with a thesis on the hernia of the groin, which, as was normal at the time, he wrote and defended in Latin. The following year he passed the Army Medical Board exam and became the medical surgeon that he would remain for the rest of his life.

From 1817 to 1827 he was with the army in the Cape Colony, introducing several needed reforms, mainly in the areas of diet and hygiene, that seem obvious to present day readers, and was promoted to Colonial Medical Inspector. However not being the most political of men he also incurred the enmity of several of his colleagues. This pattern was to recur in his later appointments. He also performed the very noteworthy event of the first caesarian section in the colony that was survived by both mother and child. He served in Mauritius and Jamaica. In St Helena he cleaned up an epidemic of dysentery by attention to diet. He also caused a disturbance by insisting on female attendants for female patients. In Malta he dealt with an epidemic of cholera, with personal thanks from the Duke of Wellington. In Corfu he handled the hospitalization of men wounded in the Crimean war. From Corfu, on official leave he went to the Crimea where he encountered Florence Nightingale who was later to describe him as the 'most hardened creature I ever met'. After the war he was appointed to Canada as Inspector General of Hospitals, where he caught bronchitis and had to retire. This was in 1859 when he was 64. He died in 1865.

Upon his death a new drama started. A charwoman, Sophia Bishop, who was present at his death and who was employed to lay out his body made the claim that he was a woman, and that furthermore there were marks on his stomach to indicate that he had once given birth. She spoke from her experience as a mother of nine. On the other hand, Staff Surgeon major D.R. McKinnon, who had served with Barry in the West Indies, who had been treating him for some months for bronchitis, and who signed the death certificate, stated in a letter to the Registrar General that Barry was probably intersex, although he does not do say this with great certainty. Mrs Bishop's tale soon did the rounds of the London clubs. It was published within a fortnight of his death in Saunder's News Letter of Dublin, and shortly after that by the Manchester Guardian. However no London newspaper published the story. The Medical Times and Gazette of the same month published 'A Female Medical Combatant', the same account as had appeared in Saunder's, except that it merely specified 'A certain Doctor'. The very next issue carried a rebuttal from Dr Edward Bradford, Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals, who had known Barry since working with him in Jamaica in 1832. He considered that Barry was a male with arrested sexual development. He described Barry as 'quite destitute of all the characteristics of manhood' and described his voice as that of 'an aged woman'. However the opinion of Barry as a woman was launched. People remembered the scandal from 1824 in Cape Town when it had been suggested that Barry was sexually involved with the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset, and a placard had been posted on a popular bridge that referred to 'Dr Barry's little wife'. The assistant surgeon who had treated Barry for yellow fever in Trinidad now remembered that he had discovered that Barry looked like a woman. As late as 1935, the nephew of Dr Andrew Smith, who had been a colleague of Barry's in the Cape Colony, would claim that Barry as a young woman had fallen madly in love with Smith and when rebuffed had donned male attire and studied medicine.

Isobel Rae, in her much cited 1958 biography of Barry refers to him throughout as 'she' as do such recent writers as Carlotta Hacker and Julie Wheelwright. While it is true that to attend medical school, or any other university, in 1809 it was necessary to pass as male, it is also true that Barry maintained his chosen gender, if it was chosen, for the rest of his life even after retirement. His decision was to be male, and like other female-bodied persons who lived as men, he would be entitled to the male pronouns. On the other hand, if he were intersex, we should be able to pin it down more closely and specify what kind of hermaphroditism he had. The key text for this approach is a paper written in 1970 for the South African Medical Journal by Dr Percival Kirby, a medical historian. He considers two options. Firstly that Barry had Klinefelter's Syndrome which would give him breasts and small genitals, and maybe a lack of beard and a female voice. Secondly and more likely in his opinion is the possibility that Barry had Testicular-Feminization Syndrome, also known as Androgen-Insensitivity Syndrome, which is more consistent with being taken as a woman, and is more likely to result in no facial hair. Kirby considers that although his sex may have been ambiguous at birth, he would have been raised as a boy. This choice of diagnosis raises problems of its own. Most Androgen-Insensitive babies have a very definitely feminine vagina and are raised as girls, only realizing a problem when they fail to menstruate. They are females in all but chromosomes, and if Barry were Androgen-insensitive and raised as a girl, it would be extreme pedantry to say that she was not female. Hacker, citing Kirby as a reference, rejects this whole approach. The only reason, in her opinion, for considering the possibility of hermaphroditism is a male assumption that a mere women could not have achieved as much as Barry did.

  • 'A Female Medical Combatant' - Medical Times and Gazette: a Journal of Medical Science, Literature, Criticism and News - July-December 1865. Early statement that Barry was a woman.
  • A Strange Story. The Manchester Guardian. 21 August 1865.
  • E Rogers. 'A Female Member of the Army Medical Staff' - Lancet - July -December 1895. Early argument for Barry as intersex
  • Olga Racster and Jessica Grove. Dr. James Barry: her secret story. London: G. Howe, ltd, 1932. Reprinted as Journal of Dr James Barry. London: J. Lane. 1949. A fictionalization, in the first person.
  • Isobel Rae. The Strange Story of Dr James Barry, Army Surgeon, Inspector General of Hospitals, Discovered on Death to be a Woman. Longman, Green. 1958. Refers to Barry throughout as 'she'. The seminal argument for Barry as female.
  • P.R Kirby. 'Dr James Barry, Controversial South African Medical Figure: A Recent Evaluation of his Life and Sex' - South African Medical Journal - 25 April 1970, vol 44. The seminal argument that Barry was intersex.
  • Carlotta Hacker. The Indomitable Lady Doctors. Clarke, Irwin & Company Limited. 1974: chp 1. Presents Barry as the first woman doctor in Canada, and rejects the intersex theory as male prejudice that a woman could not have achieved so much.
  • June Rose. The Perfect Gentleman: The Remarkable Life of Dr. James Miranda Barry, the Woman Who Served as an Officer in the British Army from 1813 to 1859. Hutchinson 160pp,1977
  • Don Akenson. At Face Value: the Life and Times of Eliza McCormack/John White. McGill-Queen's University Press. 1990: 238-9. Summarizes the literature and opts for the intersex theory.
  • Anne & Ivan Kronenfeld. The Secret Life Of Dr. James Miranda Barry. Write Words, Inc. 274pp, 2000. Another fictionalization.
  • Patricia Duncker. James Miranda Barry. London Serpent’s Tail, New York: Ecco Press. 375 pp. 1999. London Picador (pb) 2000. A novelization that assumes that he was a woman.
  • Rachel Holmes. Scanty Particulars: The Scandalous Life and Astonishing Secret of James Barry, Queen Victoria's Most Eminent Military Doctor. Random House 384 pp, 2003. Asserts that Barry was intersex, based on a study of his writings and medical interests.
  • Savona-Ventura. Dr. James Barry: an enigmatic Army Medical Doctor.
  • “James Barry (surgeon)”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

15 January 2008

Georges Burou(1910 - 1987) pioneer surgeon

++ revised August 2011, August 2013, September 2020.

Georges Burou was the son of a French teacher in Algeria. He qualified as a doctor, and initially worked in a gynecological clinic.  After a fuss about abortions, he moved to Casablanca, Morocco in 1940.   He served in the Fourth French-Moroccan Mountain Division, and was part of the liberation of Alsace.

Back in Casablanca he opened his Clinic du Parc at 13 rue Lapébie. Again he was the go-to doctor for women seeking an abortion.  In 1956 he was approached by Jenny, a nightclub electrician, desperate to become a woman who had already been rejected by other gynecologists. In 1957 the newspaper France Dimanch carried a story about Jeannette Jiousselot, a carpenter who likewise was accepted by Dr Burou.

Burou developed a technique to create a vagina using a live graft taken from the penile skin, and continued to refine and improve it. He was initially unaware of previous vaginoplasty by Ludwig Levy-Lenz in Berlin in the 1930s; Lennox Broster in London in the 1930s and 1940s; Harold Gillies in England in the 1940s and 1950s; Elmer Belt in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

It was Jenny who informed Coccinelle of what Dr Burou could do, and over the next few years several performers from Le Carrousel, not only Coccinelle but Bambi, April Ashley, Amanda Lear and Capucine came for the operation, and Borou became famous as the sex change doctor of choice.

Dr Burou was also the first doctor in Morocco to offer in vitro fertilization.  This was often without the consent of the husband, so as not to offend his manhood.

In the US the rich businessman whom we know as Rex/Gloria, who herself felt too old for surgery, was adopting younger trans women and paying for them to go to Dr Burou.  In addition, especially after Belt reduced and then discontinued his practice, Harry Benjamin sent many to Dr Burou for surgery.

++Previously, vaginoplasty, where it was done in the US had taken skin from the patient's thigh to construct the vagina.   However returning patients who had had surgery from Dr Burou were able to demonstrate the advantages of Burou's penile inversion method.   Dr Edgerton adopted and adapted this method.  When he was contacted by Dr Stanly Biber in 1968, this was the method that was recommended.

In 1970 Dr Burou was interviewed by the Sunday Mirror:
"I don't remember Miss Ashley in particular.  It was a long time ago and I have done so many similar operations since then.  But I know how she must feel as a result of the judge's decision.  Every human being has the right to try to find happiness, and if people like Miss Ashley can find happiness by living and working as women why shouldn't they?"
Madame Burou told the reporter:
"We have at least two applications a day for the sex change operation.  They come from all over the world.  This week we have done three operations. Last week we did four.   All over the world there are these people who feel so tragic because they are mentally and psychologically women, but have the characteristics of a male body.  ... A couple of months after the operation here, our young women could have examination by doctors in their home countries who would probably not notice they had ever been men."

Jan Morris, who arrived in 1972, refers to Burou only as "Dr B--".  She was two weeks in his clinic:
"I did not know his address, but when I arrived in Casablanca I looked him up in the telephone book, and was told to come round to his clinic next afternoon.   ...  He was exceedingly handsome.  He was small, dark, rather intense of feature, and was dressed as if for some kind of beach activity. He wore a dark blue open-necked shirt, sports trousers and games shoes, and he was very bronzed.  He welcomed me with a bemused smile, as though his mind were in St Tropez.  What could he do for me, he asked?  I told him I thought he probably knew very well.  'Ah, I think that's so.  You wish the operation.  Very well, let us see you.'  He examined my organs.  He plumped my breasts - 'très, très  bons'.  He asked if I was an athlete. 'Very well,' he said, 'come in this evening, and we shall see what we can do.  You know my fee?  Ah well, perhaps you will discuss it with my receptionist - bien, au revoir, until this evening!' "

In 1973, Dr. Burou gave his first formal public presentation on his innovative surgical technique at a major conference held at the Stanford University Medical School. By that time he had performed over 3000 MtF operations.
"I do not transform men into women. I transform male genitals into genitals that have a feminine aspect. All the rest is in the patient's head."
In an article by Associated Press in 1974:
"Dr Burou said that his patients come from all parts of the world and from all walks of life.  Almost half of them are Americans.  Others come come from western Europe and Japan.  Their average age is 30, but his oldest patient was a 70-year-old German.  'I often get appeals from patients to operate on their teenaged sons,' Burou said. 'I tell them to wait until the boy comes of age, because the operation is final and irreversible and you can't risk making a mistake.'  He said that he successfully operated on a 50-year-old French Roman Catholic priest, and Italian university professor, several fellow doctors, some writers and artists and 'quite a large number of prostitutes and transvestite performers.'  Dr Burou almost never follows up a former patient's career." 

Notable patients:

1956  Jenny
1957  Jeannette Jiousselot
1958  Jacqueline Dufresnoy (Coccinelle)
           Barbara Buick
1960  Marie-Pierre Pruvot (Bambi)
          April Ashley
1962  Betty
1963  Amanda Lear
          Abby Sinclair 
          Latina Seville
1964  Benjamin patient examined by Richard Green
          Dolly van Doll
          Lorraine Channing    
1968  Risa Bella, who performed as Naughty Lola
1969  Jacqueline Galiaci 
          Jo Shanley
1970  Della Aleksander
          Michael Brinkle
          Lyn Raskin
          Deborah Hartin
          Hélène Hauterive 
          Angela Morley
1971  Colette Berends
1972  Jan Morris
          Carrol Riddell
1973  Jean Lessenich
          Karūseru Maki
1975  Vanessa Van Durme
1980  Marcella Di Folco

Renée Richards famously came to Burou's door in the mid 1960s but then turned away.

In 1972 Bobbie Kimber claimed that she had had surgery with Burou in January 1970 - but examination of her body at death in 1993 refuted this.

And in fiction, Patsy Stone (played by Joanna Lumley) of Absolutely Fabulous, is said to have visited Casablanca in 1971.  
Burou was a keen water-skier. He drowned under his boat at age 77.
  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. Julian Press, 1966. Warner Books Edition 1977: 128, 147, 250-4.  PDF: 59, 68, 116-7 . 
  • Paul Hughes. "The Surgeon who Changes men into Women: We do our best to put nature's mistakes right" .  The Sunday Mirror, February 22, 1970: 10-11.
  • Georges Burou. “Male to Female Transformation”. Donald R. Laub & Patrick Gandy (eds). Proceedings Of The Second Interdisciplinary Symposium On Gender Dysphoria Syndrome. Stanford University School of Medicine. 1973. Online at:
  • Jan Morris. Conundrum. London: Faber and Faber. 1974: 126-8.
  • Michael Goldsmith.  "Sex Surgeon Gives a Rare Interview".  Associated Press, May 19, 1974.  
  • Maxime Foerster. Histoire des transsexuels en France. Paris: Harmatten 2003. Beziers: H&O 2006: 21, 76, 78, 97-100, 170-1.
  •  J Joris Hage, Refaat B. Karim, Donald R. Laub Sr. “On the Origin of Pedicled Skin Inversion Vaginoplasty: Life and Work of Dr Georges Burou of Casablanca”. Annals of Plastic Surgery. Dec 2007, 59,6: 723-9. 
  • “Dr. Burou – de man achter operatie ‘Casablanca’”. What the Papers Say. Archive.
  • “Mémoire: En souvenir des transsexuels”.  Archive
  • Bambi. “Un jour que j’étais en tournée à Nice”.  Archive
  • Dolly Van Doll. “Dolly Van Doll, Turin, 1938” in David Barba. 100 españoles y el sexo. epublibre, 2009: 364-5.
  •  Michiel van Erp (dir).  I am a Woman Now, with April Ashley, Marie-Pierre Pruvot, Colette Berends, Jean Lessenich, Corinne.  Netherlands 80 mins 2011. A documentary about 5 of Dr Burou's early patients.
  • Aurélie Hazan.   "Casablanca, la Mecque mythique des transsexuels Dans le Casablanca des années 60 et 70, un gynécologue génial et amoral avait fait de la mégapole marocaine la capitale mondiale du changement de sexe." Slate Afrique, 03/10/2012.


Barbara (1912 - ) & Lauren Wilcox (? - ) transheterosexuality pioneers

When speaking of transgender persons the term 'heterosexual' is best used for persons who encouple with a person going in the other direction, that is an MTF with an FTM. Here is the first known such couple to attain surgery.

Edward Richards attended Pomona College, Los Angeles in the 1930s where he shared a dorm with Arnold Lowman, the future Virginia Prince. Edward worked as a salesman in Los Angeles.

In July 1941, as Barbara Ann Richards, she was featured in the press as she petitioned the Superior Court of California to change her name and to become legally a woman. Her story was that two years earlier changes to feminine had occurred spontaneously, that she was a hermaphrodite. An endocrinologist, Marcus Graham, presented her case at a medical conference, attributing the change to an hormonal imbalance resulting from a childhood illness. However at a hearing in October at which the judge granted the legal change, a medical report revealed that she had been taking female hormone injections.

Lorraine Richards played the role of a devoted wife, but in 1944, away from media attention, she also had a sex change and became Barbara’s husband.

They were friends of Louise Lawrence, the prolific networker who brought so many early transgender persons together. The newspaper accounts of Richards were inspirations to Virginia Prince. Barbara had her final surgery in the 1950s from Elmer Belt.

  • “’Man’ Asks Legal Right to Assume Woman Status”. Los Angeles Examiner. July 3, 1941.
  • Barbara Ann Richards, as told to Bart Lytton. “Nature Betrayed My Body”. Sensation. Nov 1941, 88.
  • “Young Bride Won’t Leave Mate Who’s Victim of Sex Change”. Oakland Tribune. July 4, 1941
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press. 363 pp 2002: 39-41, 48.

In addition, let us look at:

  • Leah Cahan Schaefer & Connie Christine Wheeler. “Harry Benjamin's first ten cases (1938-1953): a clinical historical note”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 24:1 Feb 1995: 4-5. Online at
They tell us us of

Carol (1913 – 1963) and Christian (1906 - ?). They were both only-children , and married twice: first in their gender roles as assigned at birth, and again after both had transitioned. They had met Karl Bowman and Alfred Kinsey, and the latter referred them to Harry Benjamin who became their hormone prescriber. He introduced them to Dr Elmer Belt in Los Angeles for surgery in 1956. Carol died of a coronary at age 50.

Are not Carol and Christian the same as Barbara and Lauren? It was common practice for doctors to use pseudonyms when writing up accounts of patients.