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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.

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