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13 February 2011

Phaedra Kelly (1955 – 2019) activist

Bruce Lake was raised on the Isle of Wight. After tolerating his intermittent cross-dressing, his mother, when he was 12, grabbed the book on sexual perversities that he was reading and threw it on the fire. " 'Do you want to be a woman, or something?' And I thought for a good twenty minutes and then I said, 'No, no, I Don't think so'. (Ekins, 1997:156)". Later that year, Bruce was seduced by a woman in her thirties, and the next year he was raped by a middle-aged man.

An early marriage left him "mind-numbingly bored". After a divorce, he developed the female within. He did a "full transformation" at age 20 for a fancy dress disco at the local youth club, which went down well and a special prize was created. As Phaedra, she attended drag balls (and later wrote an article on Porchester Hall that was reprinted in Blending Genders) and corresponded with transvestites and transsexuals via contact advertisements. She wrote to the Beaumont Society in 1983 asking to meet 80s-minded transvestites or transsexuals, and the answer came back that there were no such persons. She rejected the Beaumont Society for its lack of interest in the varieties of trans cultures.

Phaedra & Vanda, p160 Ekins 1997.
Phaedra found some like-minded others and they constituted themselves as the Transconscient Arts Movement. They exhibited at local exhibitions and published in local outlets. Phaedra met Vanda, a cis woman, and they married at the registry office with Vanda as the groom and Phaedra in traditional bridal attire. They then did a second shamanistic wedding of the male and female in Phaedra and the male and female of Vanda.

Phaedra built up the International Gender Transient Affinity corresponding with others in many countries and issuing reports on transgender human rights. This was done by mail in the days before the Internet. In Ekins' 1997 book, Bruce is a house-husband and Vanda a successful business woman.

Several books quote her as saying:
"It's about a discipline of duality with an open mind, without changing sex with hormones, with pills, with injections or surgery, living one's dualism as much as possible. If I am Phaedra, I allow elements of Bruce through, and there is no self-hating or loathing going on. If I am Bruce I allow elements of Phaedra – it's horses for courses, but like the transvestite, and to some degree the trans person living full time, I live with a separate identity. I have accepted my separate identity as well."
 Phaedra later performed with the poetry band Ecurbrekal.

++ Phaedra died in 2019 at age 63 after a period of illness.
  • Phaedra Kelly. (ed.), (1987–90) Chrysalis International, Gender Transient Affinity Magazine, Freshwater, Isle of Wight.
  • Phaedra Kelly. "London Grandeur: The Porchester Ball". In Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. London & New York: Routledge 1996.
  • Richard Ekins. Male femaling : a grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing. London & New York: Routledge. 1997: 154-62.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Towards a sociology of transgendered bodies". The Sociological Review, 47:580–602, 1999: 598.
  • Surya Monro. Gender Politics: Citizenship, Activism and Sexual Diversity. Pluto Press, 2005: 13.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. London: Thousand Oaks; California: Sage. 2006: 11.
  • Colin Clarke. "Poetry Band Shows Nothing is Bland". The Isle of Wight Gazette, Aug 31, 2010.


  1. I was shocked and saddened to hear - only just now - about the death of Phaedra on your site.

    Thank you for updating.

    Although I left most transgender worlds some years ago I did occasionally hear from Phaedra
    updating me on her various activities.

    Soon after I established The Trans-Gender Archive at the University of Ulster in 1986, Phaedra/Bruce became its most active supporter and contributor for many years.

    She felt she had anticipated the 1990s move to gender 'transcending' and never received due credit for that.

    She was also extraordinarily welcoming and generous to me whenever I visited her at her home on the Isle of Wight.

    I will miss her and remember her with great respect.

    Professsor Richard Ekins
    Ulster University

    1. Anonymous8/8/22 00:21

      A very nice article about my late father/mother .but if I may can I please mention two facts without being was born on panarama Road in sandbanks Poole Dorset. And he was 65.when he passed

  2. Thanks for the kind words of my late father Bruce laker .but may I please add that he died at 65and 6months after retirement. And that he was born in panorama Road sandbanks poole Dorset. My father thought very highly of you Prof.Ekins.and again thank you for you kind words.jespah.a.laker.goode.

    1. Anonymous1/8/23 16:36

      I knew Bruce in the late 90's, met him at a party on the mainland and visited him several times in Freshwater IoW. Tried to buy his flat as a buy-to-let to give him secured tenancy but was unable to secure a mortgage. He visited me once but my fondest memories were when visiting him on the IoW. He had a visitors book which I remember commenting in. It's August 2023 and I've only just learned of his passing, so sad. Beverley

  3. I am an old fan of Phaedra Kelly and I had long correspondence with her when I was in Dhaka, Bangladesh I had long correspondence with her but when I had moved to Pakistan I had wrote to her from Pakistan I got her letter 2 or three time and after she did not replied me. I did not have her E-mail address. I wrote her through Postal service only. I grieved her departed Soul. and Place her in Heaven.


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