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!

28 June 2008

Aleksandr Mikhailovich (1905 - ?) dance hostess, cashier.

Shura had been born a girl and had passed puberty in the normal way. She grew up in Tomsk, Russia, where her father was a Tsarist official. He was killed during the Revolution and Shura had joined a group of refugees that ended up in Peking (as Beijing was then known to Europeans) in the 1930s.

There to earn a living, she became a cabaret dance-hostess. Being young and pretty, she was a great success, and even became engaged to a young Chinese general.

However by this time her body was starting to change. With time these changes became more and more obvious, and the amazed general hurriedly got himself transferred to another city. Shura changed almost to the point of being a man, with much facial hair, but retained a considerable bust.

Under the name of Aleksandr Mikhailovich, he returned to the nightclub, but as a cashier. At the time that John Blofeld visited him, Shura, still using that name, was taken as a gay man, and kept the photographs of his earlier glory prominently displayed.
  • John Blofeld. City of Lingering Splendour: A Frank Account of Old Peking's Exotic Pleasures. Shambala. 1989 (1961): chp 5.

In the 1930s there was no chance at all of Shura's condition being diagnosed, even if she had been in the cities of Berlin or London. However in Chicago, two gynecologists, Irving F. Stein, Sr. and Michael Leo Leventhal were identifying the syndrome that would carry their names. One can never really apply diagnoses to persons in the past, but I am presenting the case of Shura with that of Lynn Harris for comparison. It is possible that Shura had Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, otherwise known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which affects 1 in 10,000 births. That is, compared to transsexuality (1 in 500-1,000), it is quite rare.

Lynn Edward Harris (1950 - ) actor, bookkeeper.

Lynn Elizabeth Harris was born in Orange, California, south of Los Angeles, with ambiguous genitals. She was not surgically ‘corrected’, and was raised as female. Her father was a character actor, who left when she was a young child. Lynn was an intelligent child who could recite Shakespeare at age 3.

Around age 5 she pulled down her panties and asked her mother to explain the strange growth between her legs. Her mother told her not to look at it. Her mother’s denial allowed Lynn to grow up without medical ‘correction’. Into her teens, she did not menstruate, she grew facial hair and her voice dropped. She took up acting at school, often playing androgynous parts, and won 14 acting trophies.

She also used makeup, shaving, depilatories and padding to pass as a girl. For gym class she always changed in the toilets, and took care to shower alone. She did this so well that she won several beauty competitions. She was the first Costa Mesa Junior Miss in 1968, which came with a college scholarship. But she was also asked on the street if she were a man in drag.

She left home at 19 to be an actress. She worked in the Los Angeles theater, supplemented by beauty retail work. She visited doctors and started taking estrogen in the hope of growing breasts. This also caused hot flashes, blood-sugar fluctuations and weight gain. A doctor suggested male hormones instead, and in 1973 he spent three days in hospital for tests and exploratory surgery. The diagnosis was Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, otherwise known as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which affects 1 in 10,000 births. They told her that she would continue to masculinize further with age. She reacted by feminizing herself further.

She tried to talk to her parents, but they continued in denial. Lynn acted in small parts in obscure horror movies, such as Mother’s Day, 1980, and Big Meat Eater,1982. In theater she was being cast as middle-aged mothers, although she was only in her late twenties.

She found a counselor who pointed out that she was unhappy. How much worse could it be to live as a man? Lynn changed, almost overnight. He let his beard grow, bought male clothes, and changed his middle name. ‘Lynn’ he kept as it is also a man’s name. After four years, he applied to have his birth certificate re-issued. This was rejected because he did not have a doctor’s letter attesting genital surgery. However he persevered and is the first legal sex change without surgery in California.

Since then he has worked as a film-production bookkeeper, and has become an activist for the intersex community. His mother did not speak to him again for 10 years. He has relationships with men.

*Not the novelist E. Lynn Harris.
  • Lynn Edward Harris. I, the Hermaphrodite (or More Lives Than One). Unpublished.
  • "One Person's Gender Crisis: From beauty queen to man: Intersex stories".   Los Angeles Herald Examiner, September 28, 1988.  
  • “Interview With the Hermaphrodite: The many faces of Lynn Harris”. OC Weekly. October 7, 1999. Online at
  • “Born True Hermaphrodite - Pictorial Profile”. Angelfire.
  • Lynn Edward Harris Papers, Coll2012-137, ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California.   Online.
  • Zackary Drucker.  "Bring Your Own Body: The Story of Lynn Harris".  Art Journal, 72, 2, 2013.

27 June 2008

Sybil Mounsey-Heysham.(1875 - ?) duck shot.

Sybil was born in Kensington, London, and raised in Dorset. She was known to her friends as 'Ba'.

Katherine Saomes, the mother of Olave, the future Lady Baden-Powell, wrote of the family friend, Sybil Mounsey-Heysham: 'a clever, original gentle, manly, astonishing and altogether delightful thing called Ba, who charms equally sportsman, child and critical woman - to which sex she officially belongs! This is, however, only a fact she cares to emphasize on rare occasions.'

Sybil had cropped hair and wore a collar and tie and tweeds, and bound the lower part of her trousers with puttees. She was reputed to be one of the three finest duck shots in Britain, and said that her father's head gamekeeper had taught her all that she knew. She had a gaunt, sharp featured face. She was generally unkempt with buttons missing and shoelaces trailing. It was frequently said of her that she should have been a man.

She never married.

25 June 2008

Andreas Krieger (1966 - ) shotput champion, retailer.

Heidi Krieger started at the Sports School for Children in East Berlin in 1979. At age 16 the coaches started her on Anabolic Steroids, without her understanding. She quickly outgrew her clothes. By 18, she was 100 kg, had a deep voice and facial and body hair. On the streets she was subjected to homophobic taunts, and was called a drag queen in front of her mother. After that she never wore a skirt again.

In 1986 Heidi won the European shotput champion with a record 21.1m. In 1988 in training, she lifted 100 tonnes of weights in a two week period. The strain damaged her knees, hips and back, and by 1991 her career was over. For even longer, she was in denial that she owed her career to steroids rather than skill and determination.

In 1995, Heidi met a transsexual, and decided on the same change. Two years later he transitioned to Andreas. “The doping probably didn’t directly cause my transsexuality but it certainly intensified it”.

In 2000 Andreas testified against Manfred Ewald, leader of the East German sports program who was convicted of accessory to the intentional harm of athletes. The “Heidi Krieger Medal” is given annually to Germans who combat sports doping.

He met Ute Krause, an East German swimmer, at the Ewald trial, and in 2002 they married. Andreas now runs a clothing shop in Magdeburg (map). He still has physical problems from the anabolic steroid treatment.

*Not the Danish politician.


Nadia Brönimann (1969 - ) travestie-dancer, steward, butler, performer.

Christian Brönimann was born in Memmingen, (map) West Germany. He was adopted by a Swiss couple in 1975. He trained in hotel management.

From 1988-93 he was a travestie-dancer in Geneva, Berlin and Basel. In 1994 he was a steward on luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. Then he ran a sandwich business in Tauranga, New Zealand for a year, then returned to Switzerland as a butler to a woman billionaire.

Christian transitioned to Nadia with 14 operations in 1998. The health-insurance cost of these operations was reported in the press. She has published two books, been the subject of a television documentary, and has become a performer.

  • Nadia Brönimann & Danial J. Schüz. Die weiße Feder. Hat die Seele ein Geschlecht?. Bern: Zytglogge-Verlag 389 pp 2001.
  • Alain Godet (dir). Sex-Change - Wie Christian zu Nadia wurde, with Nadia Brönimann. Switzerland TV 53 mins 2004.
  • Nadia Brönimann & Alfred Wüger. Seelentanz: Ich folge meinem Weg. Zurich: Woa 256 pp 2006.

24 June 2008

Lechane Bezuidenhout (1967 - ) princess.

Leon Bezuidenhout was a Telkom technician in Pietersburg, (map) now renamed Polokwane in Limpopo, South Africa.

Leon transitioned to Lechane in 1992 with surgery with Dr Michel Seghers in Belgium, where she worked as a waitress before returning to South Africa in 1995.

In KwaZulu-Natal she used the name Princess Charné. With her husband, Prince François, she promised the director general of the provincial government that her nonexistent African Business Development Consortium would invest R800m in a resort near Port Durnford. She claimed to be descended from a Dutch prince and a Sotho princess, and appeared before the province’s constitutional committee to get her lineage recognized.

She and her husband ran up debts of R120,000 from their lifestyle and as part of registering a purported African Television Network, which cost R13,000.

In 1998, at the expense of a local businessman, they went to Limpopo where they attempted to get Rain Queen Mokope Modjadji to validate their lineage. She refused and the media paid attention and exposed both of them, and outed the princess as transsexual. They quickly disappeared.

In 2004, Bezuidenhout reappeared, again in South Africa, claiming to be an Albanian princess raised in South Africa. She was arrested after convincing investors to loan R100,000 against inflated returns after she regained her Albanian title.

20 June 2008

Craig Russell (1948 – 1990) female impersonator.

Russell Craig Eadie, aka Craig Hurst, was born in tiny Port Perry, (map)Ontario. His parents divorced when he was 9.

In his teen years he founded the International Mae West Fan Club and on the basis of that was invited by Mae West to become her personal secretary. She fired him when she caught him trying on her clothes and makeup.

Back in Toronto Craig finished high school, worked as a typist and hairdresser, changed his name to Russell and started building a career as a drag artiste who used his own voice - one of the last to do so. He also helped Rusty Ryan to get started as a drag artist. Craig had a three-octave vocal range and could impersonate Barbra Streisand in her own key. He could perform a duet between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

He became friends with a schizophrenic writer, Margaret Gibson, and for a time shared an apartment with her. In 1976 Gibson published a collection of short stories, The Butterfly Ward, which includes ‘Making It' about Liza, a pregnant schizophrenic in Toronto and her exchange of letters with Robin, a rising female impersonator. The collection was much praised and the story ‘Making It' was expanded in 1977 into the film Outrageous!, although the focus of the story was shifted to Robin.

The film was a great success and made Russell into the star he wanted to be. This film was the first commercial success to have a gay character played by a gay actor. He was voted Best Actor at the Berlin festival. At the Virgin Islands festival Russell was voted both Best Actor and Best Actress. The film contains Russell's impersonation of Mae West, and this, combined with West's own film, Sextette, bombing at the time, lead to a final break between the two of them.

The follow-up film, Too Outrageous! was not made until 1987, and quickly died without a trace.

As Mae West died three years after her final bomb, so did Craig Russell after his.

In 1992 Margaret Gibson published another collection of short stories, Sweet Poison, one of which is ‘Golden Boy' where the drag performer is now called Phineas and the writer friend Meg. He had once starred in a film based on her life for which she received only $2,000 and almost no credit. Phineas has changed and become mean and violent.

Although openly gay, Russell married one of his female fans, Lori Jenkins, in 1982. He had also fathered a daughter in 1973. He died of a stroke related to AIDS.

Margaret Gibson died of breast cancer in 2006.

*Not the British novelist, nor the US composer, nor the US comic book writer/artist.
  • Margaret Gibson. “Making It”. In The Butterfly Ward. Ottawa: Oberon Press 1976. Toronto: A Totem Book 1979. New York: Vanguard Press 1980. Toronto: HarperCollins 1994.
  • Craig Russell with photographs by David Street. Craig Russell and his Ladies. Toronto: Gage Publishing 1979. New York: Methuen 1979.
  • Margaret Gibson. “Golden Boy”. In Sweet Poison. Toronto: Harper Collins 1993.
  • Robert Fulford. “The 3 a.m. Craig Russell – again”. The Toronto Globe and Mail. March 16, 1994.
  • “Craig Russell”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  • David de Alba. “Craig Russell”.

19 June 2008

Reed Erickson (1917 – 1992) engineer, scion of wealth, philanthropist, drug addict.

Rita Alma Erickson was born in El Paso, Texas, of German descent, and raised in Philadelphia. In 1946 she was the first woman to graduate from Louisiana State University in mechanical engineering.

Reed as a teenager
She was already involved with a New York woman who was a left wing activist. Rita worked as an engineer, until she was fired for refusing to fire a woman suspected of being a communist. The FBI kept her under surveillance, and recorded in 1954, that she refused to become an informant.

She started her own company making stadium bleachers. In 1962, when her father died Erickson inherited the majority of the family businesses, Schuylkill Products Co., Inc. and Schuylkill Lead Corp.

In 1963, at the age of 46, she became a patient of Harry Benjamin, and started living as a man. Reed legally transitioned the same year, and had an hysterectomy in New York, and double mastectomy at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, both in 1965 – which was a legal precedent in Louisiana. Also in 1963 he married his first legal wife, who was in the entertainment industry, but they divorced in 1965.

In 1964 he founded the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), financed entirely by himself. That year he also met Aileen Ashton, a New Zealander who was working as a dancer in New York City. He proposed on their second date, and they had a lavish wedding in Christchurch, New Zealand. They lived in Baton Rouge, and within a few years they had a son and a daughter, and Reed had started doing recreational drugs.

++Reed employed Zelda Suplee to run the Erickson Educational Foundation.  She had managed nudist camps, and was the first full-frontal nude in Playboy magazine (in black-and-white).  From her office in New York she and lesbian feminist activist Phyllis Saperstein (they had met in a nudist camp) managed the daily operations, and the contacts with transsexuals who asked for help. Erickson made the final decisions about who and what he funded, but spent much of his time in Baton Rouge and then Mexico with his family.

Reed in 1962
In 1969 he sold the Schuylkill business for $5million and went on to amass over $40 million, mainly from investments in oil-rich real estate. In 1973 the family, including his pet panther, moved to Mazatlan, Sinola, Mexico. By the end of 1974, Reed and Aileen were divorced. She took the children to Ojai, California, and he followed to be near the children. He married his third wife, a Mexican, Evangelina Trujillo Armendariz, in 1977, but she also left him, in 1983, because of his drug usage.

Though the EEF he financed gay and trans organizations, and research into New Age activities such as acupuncture, homeopathy, dolphin communication and altered states of consciousness. The EEF published booklets on various aspects of transsexuality, sponsored addresses to various professionals, and sponsored two of John Money’s books, and three of Vern Bullough’s. It donated money to the Harry Benjamin Foundation, but fell out with Benjamin in 1968. It subsidized the transsexuality program at the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic. It sponsored three symposia that grew into the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA).

The longest-running recipient of financial support was ONE Inc of Los Angeles, founded in 1952 and still running, the pioneer homophile organization. Erickson had advised them to create a non-profit tax-exempt charitable arm, the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR). Erickson was president of ISHR from 1964 till 1977. He donated 70-80% of the budget, some $200,000. In 1981 ONE was accredited as a graduate degree-granting institution. Erickson suggested that the college needed a proper campus, and for $1.9 million purchased a 3.5 acre property from the religious leader, Elizabeth Clare Prophet. ONE moved its large library and archives into the campus. However by this time Erickson had apparently soured on the organization. He failed to turn over the property deed as previously agreed, and began filing legal suits against ONE to remove them from the campus. The expense of the move and the cut of funding from EEF almost bankrupted ONE, and the defensive efforts paralyzed its operations. The battle continued for over 10 years, with Erickson’s daughter continuing his fight. In 1992 a settlement was reached whereby ONE received $1 million, the property was sold and ONE came under the auspices of the University of Southern California.

By the end of his life Erickson was addicted to drugs, and a fugitive from US drug agents.He was
arrested for cocaine possession in Ojai, in 1983. After two more arrests he retreated to Mexico.

He died in January 1992, aged 74.
  • Aaron Devor writing as Holly Devor. "Reed Erickson (1912-1992): How One Transsexed Man Supported ONE." In Vern Bullough (ed). Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. New York: Haworth. 2002. Online at:
  • Aaron Devor. Reed Erickson and The Erickson Educational Foundation.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press. 363 pp 2002: 210-2, 215-6, 219, 223, 258, 268, 327n5,8, 336n6.

Vern Bullough's stipend from Reed Erickson was $70,000 (almost $1 million in today's money), and the ingrate completely leaves Erickson out of his Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender.

18 June 2008

Maddison Hall (1964 - ) murderer.

Noel Crompton shot and killed a female hitchhiker at Gol Gol, New South Wales in 1987.
In prison Crompton declared as a transsexual and took the name Maddison Hall. She began hormone therapy, and was transferred to Mulawa women’s correctional centre in 1999.

Initially Corrective Services refused genital surgery, but Hall made a successful legal challenge, and obtained surgery in 2003. She is the only Australian inmate to have had the surgery.

Some inmates at Mulawa have complained that Hall raped them in the period before surgery. This is even more serious in that Hall is HIV+. Charges were laid in one case but dropped when the complainant was released and left Australia. Since then Hall has been in segregation.

Hall was to have been paroled in 2006, but media publicity resulted in the arrangements for accommodation falling through.


What a shame that the first person through the system spoils it for those who follow. See also John Pilley.

16 June 2008

Chi Chi LaRue (1959 - ) porn director, drag performer.

Larry Paciotti was born in Hibbing, Minnesota, Bob Dylan's home town. He was first influenced by glam-rock, and became half of a drag-duo in Minneapolis.

When he moved to California his extensive knowledge of pornography got him a job as an administrative assistant. In first years of AIDS, when directors in the industry were dying off, he was able to talk himself into directing gay porn. However he wasn’t considered butch enough, until his other career as a drag performer started to take off.

Chi Chi LaRue also works as a disc jockey. Later he also directed straight porn. He has won many awards from the porn industry. Has also directed as David Lawrence and Taylor Hudson. He was a friend of the late Karen Dior and introduced her to the porn business.

*No relation to Danny La Rue.

  • Chi Chi Larue with John Erich. Making It Big: Sex Stars, Porn Films, and Me. Alyson Books 250 pp 1997.
  • Mike Aho (dir). Sex Becomes Her: The True Life Story of Chi Chi LaRue with Chi Chi Larue. US 70 mins 2001.
  • Angie Carlson. “Sex Becomes Him: How one portly, effeminate lad from Minnesota rose to the top of the gay porn industry”. The Independent Weekly. Aug 8, 2001.


15 June 2008

Vernon Coleman (1946 - ) doctor, columnist, self publisher.

Vernon was born and grew up in Walsall, West Midlands, the son of an electrical engineer. He qualified as a doctor and was a general practitioner in Leamington Spa for a decade, but rebelled against the form-filling.

His first book, The Medicine Men, 1975, accused the National Health Service of being controlled by the drug companies. It was serialized in The Guardian. He has written for The Daily Star and The Sun, and had a regular column in The People. He met his second wife when she wrote to his column in The People.

He took up self-publishing when no-one would publish his novel written from the viewpoint of his cat – he has now sold over 50,000 copies of it. One of his best-sellers is How to Stop Your Doctor from Killing You. He has sold over two million copies of his 90 books.

He gave up his People column in 2003 when the editor would not publish his comments on the war in Iraq. He now lives in Devon, still using WordPerfect 5.1. He writes against medical malpractice, animal testing, the drug companies and vaccination. He is a vegan.

He came out as a transvestite in 1995. He is a member of The Beaumont Society, but is critical of it for having transsexuals as members. He surveyed 1,016 male transvestites and published the results as Men in Dresses. He does not identify with gays, transsexuals or drag queens. He argues that transvestites are not homosexual, that they do not do it for sexual thrills, and that they do not develop into transsexuals. He estimates transvestites as around 10% of the male population - which is very similar to the positions of The Beaumont Society.

As this site is inclusive, we really do not relate to Coleman's separatism.

One is instantly suspicious of anyone who has published 90 books. How could he have found the time to do the relevant research for each one? This suspicion seems quite germain in his writings on crossdressing. He does not cite any other writers. One would expect him to at least mention Virginia Prince who was saying almost the same things over 40 years ago - but he does not.

He seems quite unaware of the biases that are introduced by the methods of selecting a sample.

His survey included the following question with the indicated percentage response:
Question asked: Why do you do it?
Note: Respondents were invited to tick as many options as they liked.
a) Because I like the feeling of women’s clothes: 321 (77%)
b) Because it gives me a sexual kick: 244 (59%)
c) Because it helps me relax and deal with stress: 202 (48%)
d) Because I want to be like a woman: 262 (63%) .
The issue of sexual arousal in crossdressing is contentious. It was certainly exaggerated by psychoanalysts who tried to define the sexual arousal as a a central trait. Many of us have rejected this on the simple grounds that one cannot pass if one is aroused. However how can Coleman report that 59% of his respondents say that they crossdress "Because it gives me a sexual kick", and then conclude
"The second well-established myth about transvestites is that men who wear the sort of clothes normally worn by women do so because they get a sexual thrill out of it. This absurd piece of nonsense was created by doctors who couldn't understand why else men would want to put on dresses. Despite the fact that there is not and never has been any evidence to support this theory many psychiatrists, doctors, psychologists and social workers still believe it."
 His own survey is one of the strongest pieces of evidence for what he calls a myth.

There is a transsexual site by Leyla that reproduces two of Coleman's pages, but does not explain why she thinks that he is the person to best explain transsexuality.

14 June 2008

Lily Savage (1955 - 2023) performer.

Is it Paul O' Grady, or is it Lily Savage, who got an MBE in the the Queen's birthday honours in 2008.

Paul O’Grady was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside. As a young adult Paul fathered a daughter with a female lover, and married a Portuguese lesbian in a marriage of convenience. Later he was openly gay.

In 1977 he worked as a waiter in a brothel in Manila, and came back with the concept of Lily Savage. In the early 1980s Lily played gay clubs and pubs and did an eight-year residency at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London. She also appeared in double and treble acts and appeared across Europe. She was nominated for a Perrier Award at The Edinburgh Festival.

From there she appeared on ITV daytime programmes, and then her own comedy shows, on both BBC and ITV. She has also done pantomime, and played a recurring prostitute snout called Roxanne in several episodes of the police serial, The Bill, listed as her male persona, Paul Savage.

Paul lived for 20 years with his lover, Brendan Murphy, until the latter’s death in 2005. From 2000 on, Paul O’Grady has increasingly appeared, first in travelogues, in a BBC sitcom, and then with The Paul O’Grady Show. He announced that Lily had retired to a convent in Brittany - but she keeps escaping.

His daughter is married, and has made him a grandfather.

In 2017 he married Andre Portasio.

Paul died age 67. 

  • Amber M. Beattie & Martine Boon. Lily Savage – The Blonde Bomb Site. Online.
EN.Wikipedia    IMDB.

10 June 2008

Issan Dorsey (1933 - 90) sailor, female impersonator, zen priest.

Tommy Dorsey grew up in Santa Barbara, California, the eldest son of Catholic parents. He came out as gay while in the US navy, and on being discovered he and his lover were given an Undesirable Discharge under Honorable Conditions.

In San Francisco in the early 1950s he got into doing drugs including heroin, and some transvestitic hustling. He became a stage female impersonator using the name Tommy Dee, and at this date one of the very few to have grown his own hair long. He was billed as ‘the boy who looks like the girl next door’, and his major performance was of ‘Hard-Hearted Hanna’.

He toured over most of the United States and Canada in this role. In 1962 he was the only survivor of a car-full of drag queens that crashed on route from New York to Rochester, although he suffered medical problems from it in later years.

In the late 1960s he began exploring Buddhism at the San Francisco Zen Center. He was ordained as a priest with the name Issan Dainei ('One Mountain, Great Peace). He was known as a priest particularly open to persons living on the margin. He worked with a soup kitchen, and was one of the key founders of the Hartford Street Zen Center in the gay Castro District in 1981.

His work with AIDS patients in the 1980s grew into an AIDS hospice. He died of AIDS-related complications.

*Not Tommy Dorsey the big band musician.

08 June 2008

Maria Gioacchina Stajano Starace (1932 - 2011) writer, actor, journalist, painter.

Gioacchino Stajano was born in the province of Lecce in southern Italy. His uncle was the notable fascist, Achille Starace.  At age 12, with the fall of fascism, his parents separated and he was sent to a Jesuit school.

Giò completed his education at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, and the architectural university in Rome.

In 1956 Giò exhibited his paintings with some success, but is better known for scandal and literature. Asked by a woman if he were a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man, he answered that he was ‘frocio’ dressed as a frocio.

In 1959, he wrote and published the autobiographical Roma capovolta about the café society soon to be made famous by Federico Fellini in La dolce vita. As it was explicitly gay, it was banned as contrary to public morals. The media attention made Giò the most famous homosexual in Italy.

Next Giò wrote Meglio l’uovo oggi ( = a better egg today), a roman a clef about gay life in Rome, including that of the former king Umberto II.  Giò wrote Roma Erotica. These were also banned, but not until after he had sold many copies. Stejano was famous. He opened a bar. He worked with the drag star Dominot. He inspired Fellini by bathing fully dressed in a fountain, which was copied in La dolce vita, 1960, with Anita Ekberg doing the bathing. He was in La dolca vita, but he quarrelled with the producer and lost his credit.

1958-61 Giò worked for Lo Specchio, a scandal rag. In 1961, during the Ballette Verdi gay scandal, he was interrogated by magistrates, and as a protest, he appeared in court in female mourning drag.

In the late 1960s Giò wrote for Men, a fashion and gossip magazine, as a comical agony aunt, Il salotto di Oscar Wilde. This was the only gay column in Italy at the time. In 1971 he became the director of the magazine. He never identified with the gay movement, but they were interested in him.

In 1983 Giò transitioned to female, and became Maria Gioacchina Stajano Starace, Contessa Briganti di Panico, although she still used 'Giò' in her public life. Her first interview was with Il Borghese for which he had written as ‘Pantera Rosa’, mainly about Roman aristocracy.

In 1992 she published her autobiography La mia vita scandalosa, thus being the first Italian to publish on being gay and the first on being transgender.

In her later years Giò returned to the village of her birth, and returned to the Church. She declared to the press that she wanted to enter a nunnery but church does not recognize her gender.

She died in a retirement home aged 79.   

Giò was in 9 films in addition to La dolce vita:
Avventura a Capri, 1958.
Gli scontenti, 1959.
La ragazza di mille mesi, 1961.
Totò, Peppino dolce vita, 1961.
Caccia all'uomo, 1961.
In nome del popolo italiano, 1971.
Gli amici di Nick Hezard, 1976.
Il comune senso del pudore, 1976.
Nerone, 1977.

  • Giò Stajano. Roma capovolta. Roma: Quattrucci 1959.
  • Giò Stajano. La mia vita scandalosa. Milano: Sperling & Kupfer Editori 1992.
  • Giò Stajano and Willy Vaira. Pubblici scandali e private virtù: Dalla Dolce Vita al convento. Manni Editori 136 pp 2007.

06 June 2008

Sándor Vay (1859 - 1918) novelist.

Sarolta Vay was born into an old Hungarian family of eccentrics. Her father brought her up as a boy, Sándor, encouraging muscular activities, riding, driving and hunting. This father also permitted his second son to be a girl and dress as female, but only until he went to a higher school at the age of fifteen.

Sándor had a temporary interruption in his preferred gender when staying with a grandmother in Dresden. He was placed in an institution and forced to wear dresses. However he had a love-relationship with an English girl and they ran away together.

After this Sándor was allowed to be a boy. He travelled much with his father and was quite independent, spending much time in cafés and brothels, frequently using the title 'Count'. He was a skilful fencer and enthusiastic drinker. He frequently fell in love with older women, always pretty ones, and he had no sexual interest in men. He also became a published writer. His affairs were short lived, perhaps not surprisingly for one so young, and with a secret.

In 1884, when he was eighteen, he fell in love with Emma, who was ten years older. They made a marriage contract and lived together for three years, until Sándor met Marie. Only for a large sum of money was Sándor able to break his contract with Emma, who announced herself to the world as the divorced Countess Vay.

Sándor's new affair was opposed by Marie's mother and cousin. But the following spring, 1888, Marie gave up her position as a teacher and they were married 'by a pseudo-priest'. There is no indication that the new in-laws thought of Sándor as anything but male. However the servants in the hotel where they lived seem to have had him figured out. The chambermaids found traces of menstrual blood on the bed linen, and once they looked through a keyhole while he took a bath.

However Sándor had a falling out with his father-in-law over a bond that was required if he were to become secretary of a stock company. The issue was reported to the authorities and the facts of his life came out. This resulted in a physical examination. The court granted pardon, and allowed him to go on living as a man, but he was very distressed in that he had lost his Marie.

He later became known in Hungary for his 12 novels, none of which have been translated into English:
  • C. Birnbacher, “Ein Fall von konträren Sexualempfindung vor dem Strafgericht(A case of cross-sexuality in criminal court)” Friedreichsblätter für gerichtliche Medizin 42, no.1 (1891): 2–42. The original account, based on the court records.
  • R. V., Krafft-Ebing. Psychopathia Sexualis: With Special Reference To The Antiseptic Sexual Instinct: A Medico-Forensic Study. Paperback Library - 1965 Case 166 p428-438. Based on Birnbacher, rewritten as psychology.
  • Hanna Hacker. Frauen und Freundinnen: Studien zur “Weiblichen Homosexualität” am Beispiel Österreich, 1870–1938. Weinheim/ Basel,Austria: Beltz Verlag, 1987: 40–70, 70–75.
  • Geertje Mak. "Sandor/Sarolta Vay: From Passing Woman to Sexual Invert" Journal of Women's History. Volume 16, Number 1, 2004, pp. 54-77.
  • Onagy Zoltán. Vay Sarolta/Sándor a Kiegyezés korából.

02 June 2008

William Alexander Hammond (1828 – 1900) doctor; Lida (?1857 - 81) cigar retailer.

William Hammond was raised in Pennsylvania, and took an MD from the University of the City of New York in 1848. The next year he became a surgeon in the US Army until 1860 when he accepted the chair of anatomy and physiology at the University of Maryland. In 1857 he won a medical prize for an essay on Albumen used as a food.

He rejoined the Union Army in the US Civil War and rose to be Surgeon General. After the army, he moved to New York, and became professor of nervous and mental diseases at Bellevue Medical College in 1867. In 1874 he founded the American Neurological Association.

In his book, Sexual Impotence in the Male, 1883, Dr Hammond tells us of one his patients who used the name Lida when in the female role. He had at the age of seven discovered the pleasure of anal stimulation, and at boarding school he was pleased to act the 'rôle of the passive' with various boys, frequently half a dozen times a night. When he left school at the age of 15, his 'health [was] shattered, his nervous system irritable, with almost constant headaches' and various anal problems. The patient took work as a cigar dealer, and took as a lover a young man in the liquor trade. Lida would array herself in pretty attire as she waited for her lover to return home. After three years this affair was abruptly ended when the liquor dealer had to flee from police inquiring into a gambling operation with which he was engaged. Lida looked for a new lover, but found it difficult to state her preferences given the legal persecution of the time. She did however find an older man of about fifty who was very 'salacious' and would have relations with her three or four times a day. Lida developed an anal fissure and began to suffer epileptic fits during intercourse. She went to see Dr Hammond, who prescribed bromides (sedatives). The doctor was 'not prepared for the horrible instance of depravity' which he elicited from the patient. Hammond was amazed that the patient had had intercourse over ten thousand times, and had repeatedly been tempted to have her genitals amputated. Hammond reports that the young 'man' died in trouble in Cuba where 'he had gone for his health'.

In 1882 Hammond delivered a paper to the American Neurological Association on the ‘disease’ that makes men think that they are women, giving examples from Native American tribes.

Hammond suggested that homosexual patients be "cauterized (at) the nape of the neck and the lower dorsal and lumbar regions" every 10 days.
  • William A. Hammond. Sexual Impotence in the Male. New York: Bermingham 1883. Expanded edition: Sexual Impotence in the Male and Female. Detroit: George S. Davis 1887; reprinted New York: Arno Press. 1974: 55-70.
  • “William Alexander Hammond”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
  • Jonathan Ned Katz. Gay/Lesbian Almanac: A New Documentary, Harper & Row Publishers, Inc. 1983, Carrol & Graf Publishers, Inc. 1994: 185-6.