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09 October 2008

Della Aleksander (1923? - 2002) school teacher

Revised September 2017, August 2018. 

Derrick Alexander, had an adventurous early life in South Africa, worked with the European National Movement, and was an officer in the National Reserve.  He was a teacher in Bermuda in 1969 and paid to resign as the effects of administered hormones became apparent. 

Alexander  was a client, and then a friend of Charlotte Bach, the pioneering but idiosyncratic Hungarian non-op transsexual living in London who was made famous by another of Derrick's friends, the writer Colin Wilson.

Aleksander became a patient at Charing Cross Hospital and after a buccal smear, and EEG and several 10-15 minutes interviews was given a prescription for stilboestrol.
"What is so amusing and tragic is that female hormones are given to quieten the male libido, but something much more insidious happens.  The patient feels more female. Oestrogens essentially convert a transvestite into a transsexual.  If I hadn't been on hormone therapy I would never have dreamt of changing my sex." (Jacobson p19)
As Della Aleksander,  she had surgery in June 1970 from Dr Georges Burou in Casablanca.

She and her wife were several times guests at the home of Colin Wilson, and Wilson was pleased to learn from them, but in his book, The Misfits, he reduced her contribution to a slightly mentioned:  "a forty-four-year-old TV called Derrick Alexander", as mainly a sidekick of Charlotte Bach.

Della was the founder of GRAIL (Gender Research Association International Liaison), which campaigned for transsexual rights.

In 1973 she co-produced a BBC2 Open Door program on transsexuals which featured the Member of Parliament for Pontypool, Leo Abse, who had introduced the private member’s bill to decriminalize homosexuality that had become law in 1967.  (See embedded video below)

Della gave papers at the pioneering gender conferences at Leeds 1974, and Leicester 1975 (the latter was attended by the sociologist, Dave King, who would later write on transgender persons).  At Leeds she said:
"Being a transvestite or a transsexual cannot, by its nature, be a social protest phenomenon, for it seeks to conform to accepted norms of the sexual division and the manner in which the sexes are distinguished by dress. In this it is very conformist and not to be confused with unisex of the David Bowie genre with which it is frequently confused. Unisex mirrors Man’s sexual ambiguity. Transvestism and transsexualism does something about this ambiguity."
and
"Transsexualism is not, by itself, a viable life style, for it is a journey, and as such must have a destination. Though it is a truism that it is better to travel than to arrive, what makes it so is the knowledge of the certainty of arriving. To be robbed of that certainty would be to consign the traveller to a permanent limbo."
She also wrote a pamphlet on Theocratic Socialism, which she dedicated to Charlotte Bach.

*Not the first lesbian character in the BBC soap opera East Enders.
  • Bobbie Jacobson. “The Sex Changers”. World Medicine 9, 13 Feb 1974: 16, 19, 25.
  • Della Aleksander. ‘Outline Copy of Lecture’, reported in The First National TV.TS Conference, 1974. Transvestism and Transsexualism in Modern Society, sponsored by Leeds University TV.TS Group, Leeds, 15–17 March, pp. 11–12.
  • Harry Brierley. Transvestism: A Handbook with Case Studies for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counsellors. Pergamon Press, 1979: 14, 235.
  • Della Aleksander. Theocratic Socialism Is Here! 1978-1979. A New Day Publication 1980.
  • Colin Wilson. The Misfits: A Study of Sexual Outsiders Grafton Books. 271 pp1988 Carroll & Graf Publishers, 1989:30-32.
  • FrancisWheen. Who Was Dr Charlotte Bach? Short, 2002: 108-9, 113.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. London: Sage, 2006: 3-4, 44.
  • Dave King & Richard Ekins.  "The First UK Transgender Conferences, 1974 and 1975".  Gendys Journal, 39, Autumn 2007.  Online.  
  • Ian Millard.  Review of  Colin Wilson's The Devil's Party: A History of Charlatan Messiahs, 28 July 2008.  


3 comments:

Stephen Whittle said...

I did meet Della soemtime in the mid-a970s at an event in Leeds, I understood her to be teaching at a school in Leeds at that time

Stephen Whittle said...

Della Aleksander and her partner Carol were listed in the 2002 electoral register for London. However, Ian Millard, writes in his 28 July 2008 review of Colin Wilson's 'The Devil's Party: A History of Charlatan Messiahs' that Della Aleksander had died some 6 years earlier which would have made her death in approx. 2002. Millard writes:
"The last aspect I did not like about this book is that in going into his sex-as-motive-power theory, Wilson mentions someone I knew prior to her decease, someone I knew as Della Aleksander (thanks to the surgeon's knife in 1969 Casablanca!) and who had an amazing mind in many ways on the religious-philosophical level, but who Wilson dismisses as "a transvestite called Derrick Alexander", not explaining that he, Wilson, learned a lot from that person, as did some other famous writers (Roger Scruton, for one). Indeed, the book does not mention Della's weekend visits to the Wilson home in Cornwall alongside her (?) partner, Carol. I cannot say whether Wilson's facts about someone else he mentions (Charlotte Bach) are correct or not, never having met Bach, but by odd and apposite synchronicity (since Jung wrote a book about that) I opened a book very recently,(Man and His Symbols, by Carl Jung) in my library, having just read Wilson's book, only to see inside it a stamp "Ex Libris Charlotte Bach" and a reverse Swastika. That book was given to me by Della's partner after Della's death about 6 years ago."
Interestingly what Millard refers to as Wilson's 'sex-as-motive-power theory' is not that far removed from Charlotte Bach's theory that 'sex is all'.

blue moon said...

She didn't put on the 1974 conference at Leeds, nor the 1975 conference.
http://www.gender.org.uk/gendys/2007/39ekins.htm