When he reached puberty several of the other boys, who had been rude to him, volunteered him as the one who would be sexually passive.
At Louisiana State University he found his first gay friends, but was ejected for being gay. He found a lover in Baton Rouge until his mother interfered. He then went to Southwestern Louisiana Institute (now the University of Louisiana at Lafeyette) and found another lover before being kicked out for doing so. In New Orleans he became a waiter and a prostitute, and as a kept boy started wearing female clothing full time, until his mother interfered.
He then joined the US Navy where he was a nurse, and married a woman from high school. However he found himself unable to have sex with her. He then told the Navy doctors that he was a woman, and was discharged within a week.
He returned to waiting, and did his first drag show at the My-O-My Club on Lake Ponchatrain. He was recruited for the Jewel Box Review because his size allowed him to take over the costumes of one who had left. He quit the Revue when his father was in hospital.
After that he opened a beauty salon, but then performed in various drag clubs. An agent in New York named him ‘The South’s Most Beautiful Boy’. In 1958 he and 142 others were arrested at a big costume ball at the Manhattan Center in New York. At the same time he came down with jaundice.
One day on the street he met an old friend who was close to completing transition, and demanded the name of her doctor. Perry then started on hormones injections from Dr Ritter in New York (probably Dr Benito Rish) , and started electrolysis. She also bleached her hair. She had a nose job and silicone injections.
Once she had breasts she passed easily as a woman, and went back to a mix of hooking and running a beauty salon. She gave that up to be a kept woman, but after a year of two-timing her husband, left him for the other man, Wayne.
In 1968 her father died, and she bought male clothing to attend his funeral.
She opened a new beauty salon in a haunted ante-bellum house in New Orleans, and then became a self-taught astrologer, and did lots of drugs. Her business evolved into an occult shop called The Age of Aquarius. She had her fortune read two or three times every day and constantly recalculated her horoscope.
After seven years together, Wayne beat her up and took off. Perry consulted a witch who sold her a spell to get Wayne to return.
After ten years on hormones, she contacted Dr Murphy Seeling in New York to be castrated. Wayne returned to go with her, and while she was there she had facial silicone implants as well. Seeling’s operation resulted in a painful abscess.
The next time that Wayne took off, Perry attempted suicide. Afterwards she bailed him out of jail and took him to a rehabilitation ward. In that ward Wayne embraced Jesus. After he got out, Wayne would not live with Perry because that would be a sin. He kept sending Christian leaflets to Perry and tried to get Perry to go to his church.
Perry found herself a new younger lover, but after a year of conflict with Wayne the new lover left for a ‘real woman’. This was 1974. Then her mother died, and wished to remember Perry ‘as you were’.
After an abortive visit to Wayne’s church she read the literature he had been sending to her, and approached the Baptist Church next to the laundromat. The minister visited her at home, and she converted, and was persuaded that to God she was still a man.
Perry reverted to male clothing, and he became a minister, and a celebrity on the Christian circuit. He became a pioneer in the Exodus movement. He supported the Anita Bryant crusade. He died of a heart attack at age 48.
*Not the singer, Perry Desmond-Davies
- Lester Lee & Good News Gang. And such were some of you (1st Cor. 6:11) : introducing Perry Desmond and the Good News Gang. New Orleans: Good News 1976.
- Perry Desmond & Dr. R. L. Hymers. Perry: A Transformed Transsexual. Ironton, MO: Metamorphis Books, 137 pp1978. Impact Christian Books 133 pp 2004.
- Perry Desmond. “The Final Transformation”. No longer available.
Both Drs Ritter and Seeling are obscure. I cannot find any other information about them, nor any other transsexuals who used their service.
At the end of the book Perry issues a blanket forgiveness to the homophobic bullies and other who made his life difficult. Surely even within Christianity, forgiveness should only follow repentance -- which does not seem to apply here. This is more serious than it sounds in my summary of Perry's life. He mentions two female impersonators who were his friends, and who were murdered in really horrible ways by homophobes. Are we to take it that he forgives these murderers too?
From the way that Perry chooses Dr Ritter we see that she is impulsive on making such a choice. Therefore it is not strange that she chose a church equally impulsively. This is a shame for there are churches that accept transsexuals, but they are not usually the one next to the laundromat. It is an enormous pity that Perry did not find a trans-positive church before changing back.