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01 February 2011

Richard Ekins (194?–) jazz musician, sociologist, psychoanalyst.

++ updated August 2012, March 2014

++Teenage Richard Ekins was a fan of New Orleans jazz.  Inspired by the legendary trumpeter DeDe La Croix Pierce (1904 - 73), he played the same instrument in New Orleans-style jazz bands mainly in and around Birmingham, firstly with the Burgundy Street Stompers in 1964, before teaming up with pianist Bob Barton to co-lead the Crescent City Stompers from 1966 to 1968.  On his first visit to New Orleans in 1966 he encountered Joseph 'Kid Twat' Butler, bass player with the Kid Thomas Band, who had never seen such a tall, long-haired and heavily-bearded man, and bowed down proclaiming: Here come de Lord!".  The moniker stuck.  Lord Richard set up his own record label,  La Croix Records, and released seven LPs by both British and New Orleans musicians. The famous Kid Thomas Band recorded live in 1968 at Kohlman’s Tavern in New Orleans was one of his projects.

Richard also did a Ll.B Hons in Law at the University of Birmingham in 1966, and then a PhD on the work of philosopher and social psychologist George Mead at the University of London where he was influenced by Margaret Coulson & Carol Riddell's pioneering introductory textbook on sociology. ++He fathered two sons named after his record label and a jazz hero:  Matthew La Croix Ekins (1974-) and Luke Baptiste Ekins (1977-) - named for Willie Baptiste, the banjo player++.  Richard completed his PhD in 1978 after an extended period with Mead disciple David L. Miller at the University of Texas at Austin, and at the Mead Archive at the University of Chicago.

Ekins chose transvestites and transsexuals as the empirical domain to which he would apply his theoretical training.
"As a student of the sociology of knowledge, I approached the area in terms of the interrelations between the various ‘knowledges’ in the area, conceptualized in terms of three principal ‘knowledges’: those of ‘science’, those of ‘members’ (of transgendered people), and those of ‘everyday life’."
Ekins and Dave King first met at the British Sociological Conference on Gender in Manchester in 1982.
"My work was based upon observations of what later became several thousands of transgendered people, extended interviews with several hundred informants, and detailed life-long life history work with several dozen informants from a number of different continents. From the outset I took care to follow selected informants in the full range of their social settings. This often entailed detailed observational and interview work with medical and related professionals, with the families of my transgendered informants, and with the various service providers to trans people, such as beauticians and hair care specialists. At the same time, I immersed myself into the full range of transgender ‘community’ events such as private meetings, drag balls, erotic networks, and so on. (2006:8)"
He started at the University of Ulster at Coleraine as a senior lecturer in sociology in 1984, by which time he had developed his signature jargon of 'femaling'. In 1986 he established the Trans-Gender Archive with himself as director. This is probably the earliest textual use of 'transgender' in the collective sense, although the term had been used orally with that meaning in Britain as early as The First National TV.TS Conference in 1974 at Leeds, and was so used on BBC Radio in 1979. Ekins contributed towards the definition of Transgender in the Oxford English Dictionary.

In 1989 Ekins obtained a M.Med.Sc in psychotherapy from Queen's University, Belfast. In 1995 he switched to being a senior lecturer in psychology. In 1996 he completed his training as a psychoanalyst with the British Psychoanalytical Society and International Psychoanalytical Society.  In 1996 Ekins and King edited a collection of papers, Blending genders: social aspects of cross-dressing and sex-changing, with contributions from both trans persons (Mark Rees, Phaedra Kelly, Rachel Terri Webb, Stephen Whittle) and from academics (Neil Buhrich, Janice Raymond).  The next year Ekins published Male Femaling: a grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing. (Review) Ekins also published books on psychoanalysis. 

In 1999 Ekins and King published "Towards a sociology of transgendered bodies" in The Sociological Review, where they summarized their position:
"Transgendering refers both to the idea of moving across (transferring) from one pre-existing gender category to another (either temporarily or permanently), and to the idea of transcending or living ‘beyond gender’ altogether. Following Plummer’s (1995) work on sexual stories, we distinguish a number of contemporary transgendering body stories which we consider in terms of four major modes or styles of body transgendering: those we identify as ‘migrating’, ‘oscillating’, ‘erasing’ and ‘transcending’. We give illustrative examples of each mode with reference to the binary male/female divide, the interrelations between sex, sexuality and gender, and the interrelations between the four main sub-processes of transgendering, which we identify as ‘substituting’, ‘concealing’, ‘implying’ and ‘redefining’."

Also in 1999, Ekins and King met Anne Lawrence at the 6th Biennial Harry Benjamin Conference in London. They sort of incorporated her ideas into Ekins' concept of erotic femaling, and in 2001 published “Transgendering, Migrating and Love of Oneself as a Woman: A Contribution to a Sociology of Autogynephilia”. Unlike the Blanchardians they see autogynephilia in MTFs as very similar to that in cis women.
“In our judgement, our framework provides the conceptual wherewithal to unpack such issues in a way denied to the taxonomic, typological and diagnostic approach followed by Blanchard.”
Ekins was Reader in Cultural and Media Studies from 2002, and Professor of Sociology and Cultural Studies from 2006.

In 2009 Ekins and King published The Transgender Phenomenon, which expanded the program that they had proposed in "Towards a sociology of transgendered bodies", 2006.   The book heavily features Virginia Prince, to the point of including an extensive biography, and is one of the very few books to discuss Charlotte Bach.  And the same year they published a book devoted exclusively to Prince and her writings.

Since retirement, Ekins  has completed an MA in Popular Music Studies at the University of Liverpool and is currently working for a PhD in Musicology at Goldsmiths, University of London. and has returned to recording jazz-revival CDs.

++The Trans-Gender Archive had never been inventoried.  After retirement Ekins offered the collection to the London School of Economics’ LGBT Hall-Carpenter Archive, but was told it would not be accepted because of a lack of an inventory listing what it contained.  They also insisted that they would need him to get rid of any items subject to copyright or containing personal information like addresses.  He then accepted an offer from Aaron Devor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, who arranged for it to be shipped to Victoria.  Other possible UK sites were not consulted.  

*not the Oxford law tutorial fellow
  • Richard Ekins. ‘G. H. Mead: Contributions to a Philosophy of Sociological Knowledge’, PhD thesis, University of London, 1978.
  • Richard Ekins.‘Male Transsexualism, Sociological Analysis and Some Problems of the Double Hermeneutic’, Annual Conference of the British Sociological Association, Manchester. 1982.
  • Richard Ekins. (1983) "The Assignment of Motives as a Problem in the Double Hermeneutic: the Case of Transvestism and Transsexuality, Annual Conference of the Sociological Association of Ireland, Wexford, 1983.
  • Richard Ekins. "Facets of Femaling in Some Relations Between Sex, Sexuality and Gender", Annual Conference of the Sociological Association of Ireland, Drogheda. 1984.
  • Richard Ekins. "News from Around the World - In Their Own Words: Interview with Dr. Richard Ekins of the Trans-Gender Archive, University of Ulster". Renaissance News, The Chrysalis Interview, 1 (5), 1987: 4-5.
  • Richard Ekins. "Building a Trans-Gender Archive: On the classification and framing of trans-gender knowledge". Beaumont Trust International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester, 1990.
  • Richard Ekins. ‘On Male Femaling: A Grounded Theory Approach to Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing’, The Sociological Review, 41 (1): 1–29, 1993.
  • Richard Ekins & Ruth Freeman (ed). Centres and Peripheries of Psychoanalysis: An Introduction to Psychoanalytic Studies. Karnac Books, 1994.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending genders: social aspects of cross-dressing and sex-changing. London and New York: Routledge. 1996.
  • Richard Ekins. Male femaling: a grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex-changing. London & New York: Routledge. 1997.
  • Richard Ekins (ed). Selected Writings of Anna Freud. Penguin, 1998.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Towards a sociology of transgendered bodies". The Sociological Review, 47:580–602, 1999.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Telling Body Transgendering Stories". In Kathryn Backett-Milburn & Linda McKie (eds). Constructing Gendered Bodies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. “Transgendering, Migrating and Love of Oneself as a Woman: A Contribution to a Sociology of Autogynephilia”. International Journal of Transgenderism, 5,3,
  • Richard Ekins. Unconscious Mental Life and Reality. Karnac Books, 2002.
  • Dave Senior. "Dan Pawson's Artesian Hall Stompers in the 60's - The Forgotten Recordings". Jazzgazette, 2004. Online at:
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Rethinking 'Who put the 'Trans' in Transgender?" GENDYS 2004, The 8th International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Transgendering, Men, and Masculinities". In J. Hearn, M. Kimmel and R. Connell (eds). Handbook of Studies on Men and Masculinities. London & New Delhi: Sage, 2005: 379-394.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. London: Thousand Oaks; California: Sage. 2006.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds), with a forward by Susan Stryker. Virginia Prince: Pioneer of Transgendering. Haworth Press Inc., Paperback: 65 pages 2006. Essays about and by Virginia Prince.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Pioneers of Transgendering: The Life and Work of Virginia Prince". GENDYS 2k, The Sixth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester Eng. 2006.
  • David Valentine. Imagining Transgender: an ethnography of a category. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2007: 262n2.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "Transgender, Transvestism, and Transsexualism". In G. Ritzer (ed). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2007: 5037-5043.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. "The Emergence of New Transgendering Identities in the Age of the Internet". In S. Hines and T. Sanger (eds). Transgender Identities: Towards a Social Analysis of Gender Diversity. London: Routledge, 2010.
  • Amy Smart.  "University of Victoria transgender archive gets a European boost".  Times Colonist, July 12, 2013.
  • Alice Hutton.  "Unique transgender archive sent to Canadian university after offer to LSE is rebuffed".  Camden New Journal, 18 July 2013. 
  •  Catherine Baker.  "The ethics of archive acquisitions: why couldn’t an important collection of British trans history stay in the UK?".  22 July 2013.


The OED definition of transgender which Ekins contributed to is
“Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but combines or moves between these; transgendered.  Although often used (esp. among participants in transgender lifestyles) as a generic and inclusive term which deliberately avoids categorizations such as transsexual or transvestite, in wider use transgender is sometimes used synonymously with these more specific terms.”
The books by Ekins and King are not just sociology, they are also history.  There are incidents recorded in their books that  I have not found elsewhere.  The use of 'transgender' on BBC radio mentioned above;  Stephen Whittle being active in the UK branch of Angela Douglas' TAO.  Anybody like myself researching history and biography will find the books essential for this alone.

While Ekins and King have taken Blanchardian ideas into their theorizing, I cannot find any examples of reciprocation. 

In fact I cannot find any critical discussions of Ekins' work outside the circle around Kenneth Plummer.

Ekins seems to be quite insensitive to the fact that many, perhaps most, trans persons find the term ‘male femaling’ to be offensive.  He also uses ‘transgendered' which is now rejected by many, probably most, transgender persons, but that point was not not commonly made back in 2006.

On the last page of Male Femaling, 1997, he mentions the lack of studies of male maling and female femaling.   We are still waiting. 

The Transgender Phenomenon give an  amazingly uncritical account of the Blanchardian ideas, and dismisses the  opposition in merely a few words:  "a concerted campaign has been fought in an attempt to discredit this book alongside the work of Blanchard and Lawrence (see Conway, 2004; James, 2004)".   What happened to the interrelations of the the three knowledges?  Surely, against what Ekins had promised us, this is a privileging of professional knowledge.

Likewise the book is weak on criticism of Prince, and does not consider the damage that her homophobia and transgenderphobia did.  The book was published in 2006 and therefore does not mention HBS which started only in that year.  Prince was as much against transgender diversity as the HBS people are, and Ekins does not make this clear.  See the comparisons here.

Fortunately the term ‘male femaling’ has not taken off.  It is not the case that he uses the American single l rather than the British double ll (compare modeling and modelling).  The dropped ‘e’ requires a single l or else the pronunciation changes.

Why 'Trans-Gender'?  ""The use of the hyphen was in homage to ‘psycho-analysis’. ‘Psycho-analysis’ as opposed to ‘psychoanalysis’ represented, until very recently, commitments to purity, integrity and authenticity in some quarters. Indeed, the British Psycho-Analytical Society still retains the hyphen. (2006:14-15)".

Richard Ekins has been hanging around trans events etc since 1979.  He says not a word about whether he ever did participate, whether as sociological participant observation, for the simple fun of it, as an exercise in performativity, or to understand better what he was watching.

In Surya Monro's GenderPolitics, which was published in 2005, a year before The Trangender Phenomenon, on the second page of the introduction, we find: "I keeping with the usual norm, I shall identify myself at this stage as a female-bodied bisexual, who does not identify as trans in any substantial way at present, but who has explored some trans identities in the past."  Despite his higher rank, Ekins does not feel that he can be as open about himself.   Maybe it is a difference of generations.          

Note to US readers:  what is called a professor in the US is a lecturer in the UK.  A UK professorship is top rank in the department.                                                                                                                                                                                                

Usually when I profile a musician I include a video of them performing, or, failing that, a link to a site where the person's music can be sampled.  I found neither.

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