This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 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 February 2009

Phil Starr (1932 – 2005) performer.

Arthur James Fuller started in amateur dramatics. He became a drag performer as Phil Starr in the early1960s, appearing with Terri Dennis (Barry Chat) at pubs such as The Black Cap in north London and The Union Tavern in Camberwell. He built up a reputation for his patter and ad-libs.

With his lover, Perry, he ran the Two Brewers pub at Clapham Common where they presented nightly cabaret. Lily Savage appeared there when she was starting out.

Phil was a regular performer in music hall and adult pantomime, especially at the Brick Lane Music Hall.
He and Perry retired to Brighton where he ran Starr’s Hotel and Bar, and performed in nightclubs. He often teamed with Maisie Trollette (David Raven).

He also worked in Thailand to raise money for a children’s orphanage after the tsunami. He continued with his rather old-fashioned act with long shaggy-dog stories until two days before he died.

*Not the martial arts teacher.

27 February 2009

Princess Seraphina (16?? – 17??) servant.

John Cooper, a gentleman's servant. was active in the Molly houses in London in the 1720s, using the name, Princess Seraphina. He was a gay transvestite just at the period when people were beginning to conceive of such a role - to which they applied the label 'molly'.

Trumbach quotes some of Seraphina's contemporaries. One called her a Mollycull, 'one of the runners that carries messages between gentlemen ... going of sodomitical errands'. Another said that she had 'never heard she had any other name than the Princess Seraphina', and that she had 'seen him several times in women's clothes, she commonly used to wear a white gown and a scarlet cloak with her hair frizzled and curled all around her forehead; and then she would so flutter her fan and make such fine curtsies that you would not have known her from a woman: she takes great delight in balls and masquerades'.

However she sometimes dressed as a man. In 1732 John Cooper was the plaintiff in a court case in which he charged Thomas Gordon with forcing him to undress in Chelsea Fields in order to exchange his fine male clothes for those of Gordon. Gordon insisted that this was part of a deal in permitting Seraphina to bugger him.
    • Randolph Trumbach. "The Birth of the Queen: Sodomy and the Emergence of Gender Equality in Modern Culture”. In Martin Baumal Duberman, Martha Vicinus & George Chauncey, Jr (eds) Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. New York: New American Library 1989: 138-9.
    • Rictor Norton. “Princess Seraphina”. Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England

Elizabeth Tudor (1533 - 1603) queen.

The original Elizabeth was the daughter of Henry Tudor (known as Henry VIII) and Anne Boleyn. When she was three, her mother was executed and Elizabeth was declared to be illegitimate.

When Elizabeth was nine (or perhaps twelve), the plague was raging in London and to avoid it she was sent to Overcourt, a manor house at Bisley, a small village in the Cotswolds. There she befriended a boy of about her own age. He was her nephew, although sometimes described as her cousin: an illegitimate boy fathered by Henry Fitzroy, who was an illegitimate son of Henry VIII. The boy had been sent to Bisley to conceal his existence. Elizabeth died of the fate she had been sent to Bisley to avoid. The servants were terrified to tell the tyrannous but distant Henry VIII, who was about to visit. The illegitimate nephew was pretty, of about the same age and, most important, he rather resembled Elizabeth. It was easy to pass him off as 'Elizabeth' for a visit of Henry who was certainly not affectionate and was rather in a hurry.

However having started the imposture it proved impossible to let it go. The embarrassment of the boy's existence meant that very few questions were asked about his disappearance. An alternate version says that the boy was from the local village and had not actually met Elizabeth.

The replacement Elizabeth became Queen of England, Ireland and France in 1559 after the deaths of her supposed half-brother Edward, and her half-sister Mary. She reigned until she died in 1603 at the age of 69.

She never married; she became bald later in life and wore wigs; she left explicit instructions that there should be no post-mortem on her body; she took suggestions that she was androgynous and made a legend out of them. At Tilbury in 1588 during the crisis of the Spanish Armada, Elizabeth spoke to her troops, saying: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a King".

In Bisley itself, for over three hundred years the May Queen was always a boy in Elizabethan female costume. In the 1860s, the Rev Thomas Keble, during renovations at Overcourt, found an old stone coffin containing a girl’s skeleton in Tudor clothing. He had the remains reburied nearby, but the locations is no longer known.

The story was researched and popularised by Bram Stoker, the theatre manager and author of Dracula, who published it in his book Famous Imposters, 1909. A friend of his came across the legend while looking for a house in the area. Stoker visited the manor house himself, and going over the story point by point, became convinced of it.

The standard biographies of Elizabeth do not bother to refute this thesis, they merely ignore it.

People have different opinions whether Jackson, Blanchett, Mirren or Richardson was the best cinematic Elizabeth Tudor, but the most appropriate was Quentin Crisp in Orlando, 1992.

25 February 2009

George Wilson (18??-18??) sailor.

Born in England, George Wilson adopted a male identity and went to sea, crossing the Atlantic several times.

In 1836 he was arrested in Baltimore for horse-stealing. The prison authorities, decided that he was a woman, and were quite appalled to find that he knew nothing of women's work - he could sew a button on his trousers, but he could not sew as a woman would.

The authorities decided that he should dress and behave as a woman, and declared him intransigent when - dressed in trousers, 'as muscular as a pugilist', tall and answering only to 'George' - he would not perform as a woman. For this they flogged him, they put him into solitary confinement, they put him on bread and water, they flogged him again and again.

*Not any of the cricketers or footballers, nor the Pittsburg mayor, nor the chemist.
  • Julie Wheelwright. Amazons and Military Maids: Women who dressed as men in pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. Pandora 1989: 86.

Hermann von Teschenberg (1866 - 1911) barrister, translator.

Hermann von Teschenberg trained as a barrister. He was connected to Austrian royalty, and entitled to be called Freiherr (Baron). He was described as charming everybody with his feminine gracefulness, and he said that he would rather have been a maid in service rather than a son of a Minister.

At the age of twenty he was observed kissing a soldier in the Wiener Prater and was obliged to leave the country. He went to England where he became an acquaintance of Oscar Wilde, and translated some of his work into German.

After Wilde's trial von Teschenberg lived for a while in Paris and then Berlin. He worked for homosexual rights and became part of the inner-circle of Magnus Hirschfeld's Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. He was one of very few openly out gays in Berlin, and was often engaged to speak on the topic. When Hirschfeld was writing his Transvestiten, von Teschenberg provided a photograph of himself in drag, to be printed with his full name (however the Lombardi-Nash 1991 English translation does not include pictures).

He remained a Catholic and attended Mass quite frequently. He died in Naples in 1911 from the effects of his addiction to cigarettes.
  • Charlotte Wolff. Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait Of A Pioneer In Sexology Quartet Books. 1986:42,104-5, 228.
  • Joseph Bristow. Oscar Wilde and Modern Culture: The Making of a Legend. Ohio University Press. 448 pp 2009: 138-140.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller. Mann für Mann : biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte von Freundesliebe und mannmännlicher Sexualität im deutschen Sprachraum. Hamburg: MännerschwarmSkript, 1998: under “Teschenberg, Hermann von”.

18 February 2009

Christine Chappel (1972 - 2000) electrical goods retailer.

Bryan Hooley was born in Perth, Western Australia. After moving to the UK he studied electronic engineering at Salford University.

He married Alison Halfacree in 1990 and moved to Roxwell, Essex to be with his wife. They had a daughter in 1992.

Hooley transitioned to female in 1994 and became Christine Chappel (after the nurse in Star Trek), but did not legally change her name.

In 1996 she claimed in court that she had had a two-year relationship with Rev Christopher Awdry whom she met at a model railway show in Chelmsford. Awdry is the son of Rev Wilbert Awdry who created the Thomas the Tank Engine series of books. She claimed that she had written some of the new books. The court found in favour of Rev Audry.

She sometimes appeared as Christine, and sometimes as Bryan. She was working at an electrical store in Chelmsford. In 2000 Christine won possession of the family home in court, which also ordered Alison to leave.

Shortly afterwards Christine disappeared. Her naked body washed up on a Suffolk beach weighted down by gym weights. She was identified by her fingerprints.

After an investigation, her brother-in-law, Charles Halfacree pleaded guilty to manslaughter, preventing the lawful burial of a body and conspiring to pervert the course of justice. They had had a fight. Halfacree is seven stones (44 kg) heavier than Chappel, and is 6’4” (1.93 m). During the fight her head hit a door frame. Halfacree hid the body for a month, and then he put it on a lilo and floated it out to sea. He was jailed for four years and three months.

Alison jumped bail, spent some time in Scotland, and then went to Poole, Dorset where she was arrested. She was sentenced to 18 months for perverting the course of justice and one month for absconding.

It is not explained how the police had her fingerprints to match against.

14 February 2009

Bryher (1894 - 1983) novelist, poet.

Annie Winnifred Ellerman was born in Margate. Winnifred was the daughter of a millionaire shipping magnate, John Ellerman, who had risen from humble origins to run the Ellerman shipping line, The Times and The Illustrated London News.

With her first novel, Development 1920 Winnifred took for herself the name of one of the Scilly Isles. She grew up intelligent, rebellious and furious that she was not a boy who could take over the family empire.

She instead became a writer and cultivated artistic friends. She became the lover of Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) in 1918, and her second novel Two Selves, 1923, brings the heroine into a relationship with an H.D.-like poet.

When she consulted Havelock Ellis, Bryher did not see herself as having a 'lesbian problem'. She saw herself as a boy and it was only natural that she become involved with a woman. She cautioned H.D. never to refer to her as 'she'. Not able to become a boy, she attempted to integrate her feminine social self with her masculine inner self.

In general she wrote historical adventure stories about a lone boy, danger and a battle. She thought that she was writing adult fiction and could not understand why the publisher marketed them as juveniles. Nor would she give in to the suggestion that she put sex in the stories. It has been commented that these adventure stories are thoroughly conventional in their presentation of gender roles, although the lack of a romantic interest allowed her to elude heterosexual conventions. An exception was Civilians, 1927, which brought a feminist perspective on female labour during the First World War.

While Bryher is not known as a cross-dresser herself, she was interested in the topic, and as early as 1920 wrote an essay, 'The Girl-Page in Elizabethan Literature' for the Fortnightly Review. Her most poetic novel, The Player's Boy, 1953, follows a young man who plays female parts in an Elizabethan company of travelling players. In the 1930 film, Borderline, she played a butch innkeeper with H.D. and Paul Robeson.

In the early years of the Second World War she provided her home in Switzerland to help Jewish refugees from Germany.

Bryher made two marriages of convenience to men protect her lesbian identity. The first was to the writer Robert McAlmon, which lasted from 1921-7. The second was to Kenneth Macpherson, a bisexual lover of H.D., with whom she adopted H.D's daughter. This one lasted 1927-47. She became pregnant by him, but terminated the pregnancy.

Throughout her life she used her money to subsidize books and publishing including the Paris bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, and James Joyce and Edith Sitwell. She also subsidized film, psychoanalysis and Hellenic studies.
  • Diana Collecott. 'Bryher' in Harriett Gilbert(ed). The Sexual Imagination from Acker to Zola. Jonathan Cape. 1993.
  • Barbara Guest. Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and her World. Quill 1984 p112-5,122,136.
  • “Bryher”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Yes, I was very conscious of writing the sentence "She cautioned H.D. never to refer to her as 'she' ". I attempted to rewrite this using male pronouns, but that does not work either. I had this same problem previously with Mathilde de Morney, but could not become comfortable saying 'he' for a person who answered to 'Missy', and never took a male name.

Bryher is similar. She thinks of herself as a boy, but as she grew older she had two husbands, and a daughter. By modern standards of transsexuality she can be dismissed as merely a dabbler, particularly as she had so much money that literally she could do anything that she wanted to. However she and de Morney preceded the social construction of transsexuality and of trans men, although they had in turn been proceeded by many female husbands. However they probably saw female husbands as a lower class phenomenon. For their generations, what they did was the upper class social construction of female masculinity.

10 February 2009

Lauren Harries (1978 - ) antiques retailer, television personality.

James Harries was raised in Cardiff, Wales. From the age of five, James had collected china and knick-knacks from car-boot sales and second-hand shops. He found a piece of porcelain that was valued at several thousand pounds.

He became famous at age 10 when, curly-haired and bow-tied, he appeared on Terry Wogan’s BBC television chat show, where he demonstrated a precocious knowledge of antiques.

The family opened an antique shop. Three years later his family publishing company released his book on making money by spotting bargains. He left school at age 11, being home-tutored from then on.

After a fire at one of the family properties, his father was jailed for filing a false insurance claim, and all the family businesses failed. As James matured he was employed in a series of low paid jobs, but never lasted.

He started cross-dressing in 1997 and changed his name to Lauren. Lauren has said that a casual remark in a supermarket, that 'he should be a woman', helped her realize that that was what she wanted. She had surgery in 2001, followed by daytime television appearances.

The actor, Keith Allen, made a documentary in 2004 about the family. They told him that they are marriage counsellors, with a sideline in private investigation, and that all the family are Doctors of Metaphysics. Allen discovered that the degrees are sold on the Internet, and that Lauren’s counselling for transition was done by her mother. It also seems that 10-year-old James was not so much a child prodigy as a child well coached by his patents.

The Harrieses had had long-running problems with their neighbours, and on 8 July 2005, a gang of young men assaulted Lauren, her father and her brother Mark.

Her brother holds the world record for baking the largest Yorkshire pudding.

Lauren has become a minor television personality, appearing in Trust Me … I’m a Beauty Therapist and Big Brother’s Big Mouth. It was rumoured that she would be in Celebrity Big Brother, but then said that she would not participate because she could not bring medical supplies needed by a post-operative.

She has converted to Buddhism. In 2008 she was a cover girl for the magazine Transliving.

*Not the UK singer, nor the Canadian painter, who both use different spellings.

04 February 2009

Wynsley Michael Swan (? – 1949) Lieutenant-Colonel.

Wynifred Mary Swan was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Women’s Army Corps during the Great War.

He transitioned to Wynsley in 1923.

In 1927, Wynsley married a wife, Olive.

After his death, his estate was examined in court in that he had a residue in trust under the name of Wynifred. The court decided that Wynsley was the same person as Wynifred, and that his widow could inherit.
  • Roberta Cowell. Roberta Cowell's Story. London: Heinemann. New York: British Book Centre, 208 pp Inc.1954: 170.

Like the Ewan Forbes ruling this was a legal precedent to our advantage, but no later case ever used it. In particular, why were neither of these precedents mentioned at the Corbett v. Corbett divorce case in 1969, which did become case law in the UK and in Australia.

Indeed are we to take it that the Ewan Forbes and the Wynsley Swan rulings were intended as law for the aristocracy, and not to be used by the plebs.

Cleveland Standard 1951.10.5 p2

03 February 2009

The first British trans woman

The first surgically confirmed British trans woman is usually taken to be Roberta Cowell, who had surgery from Harold Gillies in May 1951, published her autobiography in 1954 and then managed to disappear from the media.

However, apparently, there was an earlier British trans woman. In November 1945, a Sergeant in the UK army, a career soldier, not a conscript, who was at that time serving with the occupation forces in Hamburg, was evaluated by the medical officer and a psychologist. The Sergeant was then permitted to travel to Denmark for a sex change operation to female.

No details are given of what she did afterwards. Hopefully she was reassigned elsewhere in the army and not terminated. Her name has never been released.
  • Eye-witness report on a ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) television program in 2005, and recorded on an earlier version of the Joanne Rushton Wikipedia page.

02 February 2009

George Augustus Selwyn (1719 - 91) MP.

George Selwyn was the second son of a country gentleman. He was educated at Eton, where he met Horace Walpole, and at Hertford College, Oxford. He was sent down from Oxford for filling a communion chalice with wine and urging his friends to drink it in his memory. Later retellings had it that the chalice contained his own blood.

For the rest of his life he lived in London where he was known as an arbiter of taste in art. He was known as one who followed all the details of acts of murder. He was an activist in the Hell Fire Club, and had a true passion for attending public executions while cross-dressed. He famously journeyed to Paris in 1757, although the Seven Years War had started, to attend to execution of Robert-François Damiens, who having attempted to take the life of Louis XV was drawn and quartered in public. However Selwyn was dressed as a man on this occasion, and was asked if he were the executioner.

He never married, but was noted for his tenderness to sons and daughters of his friends.

He was 44 years in the House of Commons representing family constituencies first of Ludgershall and then Gloucester, and then Ludgershall again. It is not recorded that he ever made a speech in the House. His vote was at the disposal of the King’s ministers in that he was dependent on government pensions to offset the cost of bribing his electorate and also his gambling debts.

He died of gout at the age of 71.

In 1914 Edmond de Goncourt published his novel La Faustin, which has a character, an English gentleman-sadist, called George Selwyn, based partly on Selwyn and partly on Algernon Swinburne.

*Not the New Zealand bishop.
  • Grace & Philip Wharton. The Wits and Beaux of Society, Vol II. London: John Hogg & Sons 1860. 1890 edition online at
  • Geoffrey Ashe. Do What You Will: a History of Anti-Morality. W. H. Allen. 1974: 123, 191, 233.
  • Magnus Hirschfeld translated from the German by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash. Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress Prometheus Books. 1991: 180.
  • “George Augustus Selwyn”. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.