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05 September 2011

Juliet Griffiths (1930 - 1960) performer.

(The following is a summary of the Oakley book.  But see my comments below).

Julian Griffiths and his elder brother were raised by a prosperous stockbroker and his wife. At age 12 Julian was discovered trying on girl’s clothing by his brother, but was encouraged to continue by Sandra, a family friend.

He was sent to boarding school where he was feted by older pupils for their midnight parties. One of them obtained female clothing for Julian from his sister, the headmaster caught them and Julian was expelled.

A family doctor took the attitude that damage might be done to his state of mind if Julian were not allowed to follow his tendencies. At age 17, he was prescribed folliculin and luetin, and oestradiol monobenzoate with strenuous exercise, steam baths and cold immersions. His brother took Julian to live in a flat in London.

The brother qualified as a psychologist and opened a practice in Harley Street. It became more difficult for Julian to pass as male, and his brother agreed that he could dress as female. When their parents came to visit, they met their daughter Juliet for the first time. They died while motoring on the continent some months afterwards. Sandra and Juliet continued their affair, and Juliet experimented with various drugs.

Dr Hermann Maxfield (1897 - 19??) of St ______ Hospital, Casablanca, took over Juliet’s case. He proclaimed Juliet’s case “as genuine a case as I have ever seen”. However Juliet would have to wait until the age of 20 before she could be operated on. The operation would cost three million Francs, 1 million in advance. The Specialist, who would perform the operation, flew to London to inspect Juliet. He said to her:
“Young man .. you could, as a transvestite, make your fortune on the stage and in society. Tell me - why do you want to be a woman?”
To which Juliet replied:
“ I was born a woman. But nature robbed me of her attributes and gave me the body of a man. I just want to rectify that mistake. I do not find it pleasant to live in a man’s body, I wish to be released.”
Juliet enjoyed dancing and tennis, and often went out with Sandra. One day two men looking for pickups fell on Juliet and Sandra, and in a scuffle, Juliet’s panties came down. The two men informed a London journalist who demanded a story. Juliet decided to turn the situation to her advantage, and to tell her story to the press.

She became an overnight sensation and shortly afterwards a nightclub star at the Golden Dome, Piccadilly at £50 a week, and was advertised on television. She compered the show, wearing different clothes in each of her six appearances.

The operation was in April 1950. Her brother flew with Juliet to Casablanca, Juliet in male clothing for the last time. Reporters saw them off, and others were waiting in Casablanca. The operation lasted four days, Juliet being unconscious all that time, and recuperation at the clinic took several months. Sandra flew out and joined them. They returned home to much press attention and Juliet started an engagement at the Midnite Spot.

She started to avoid Sandra, and became involved in an affaire with Michael, a well-known portrait painter who rarely went into London and paid no attention to gossip. Not until Michael’s next exhibition, which featured his paintings of a nude Juliet, did he find out about her past.

Juliet started to get invitations from the rich and titled. She performed on the continent and in Las Vegas. She rode her fame for five years.

Sandra then disappeared, and then Juliet cancelled everything and roamed about Europe. She found Sandra in a French fishing village, but left her with her new girlfriend.

Juliet consulted a famous sexologist in Paris who told her that she was really a man.

In Rome she met and had an affaire with Antonio, who, knowing nothing of her past, top-billed her in his club. However she had pains during sex. She saw a specialist who concluded that regular sexual activity had caused the inverted penile skin to atrophy and it was now cancerous.

She sought out Sandra again who was by then the wife of a Norwegian man. Juliet then went to the English Lake District and drowned herself. She was aged 30.
  • Eric Gilbert Oakley. Man into Woman: The Amazing account of a male’s change into female, with full psychological and medical Case History and Personal Analysis Questionnaire. London: Walton Press, 1964.

How much was 3 million francs in 1948?
The French currency was devalued several times between 1945 and 1960 when the New Franc was introduced.  In 1945 £1=480fr and in 1949 £1=980fr.   So Juliet’s operation cost a bit over £3000.  According to this calculator, £3000 in 1948=£86,000 now.  No wonder the Specialist was willing to fly to London as part of the package.  No wonder that there were very few sex change operations at that time.
How good a wage was £50 a week?
In addition to her inherited wealth, Juliet would have been able to save up for the operation in two years. 
According to this site, the average wage in 1948 was £3/18/- (£3.90).  Juliet’s wage was more than 12 times as much.
Who is Eric Oakley?
Oakley (1916 – ?) wrote books on sex and psychology in the 1950s and the 1960s. Others of particular interest are Sane and Sensual Sex, 1963, The History of the Rod, 1964, Sex change and dress deviation,1970.
He puts ‘D.Psy’ after his name, presumably Doctor of Psychology.  However he lists his higher education as Skerry’s College (which prepares for civil service exams) and the Glasgow School of Art, neither of which presumably would award a D.Psy.
Who is Juliet’s brother?
The brother is never named.   The book is composed of extended quotes from Juliet’s diary, the brother’s writings, Dr Maxfield’s writings etc. 
However there is also a a mysterious narrator who is not any of these.
It is very unusual for a newly graduated psychologist to open a surgery on the prestigious Harley Street.  To do so requires both money and connections.
Is Oakley Juliet’s brother?
The brother says that he is writing a book about Juliet, and the only book about her is Oakley’s.   However in the book it says that the brother is five years older than Juliet, which would mean born in 1925.   Oakley gives his birth year as 1916!
‘Trans-sexualist’ used in 1940s?
By the time that Oakley’s book was published in 1964 ‘transsexual’ and its variants was fairly well known.   However the book has both Dr Maxfield and the unnamed Sunday newspaper using the term in 1948.  The term was starting to be used in an experimental way:  Kinsey used it in 1948 for homosexuals considered as an intermediate sex.  Cauldwell coined ‘Psychopathia transexualis’ in 1949.  I have previously written on the term.  However I gave no examples of British usage.  It could be that the term was more in use in the UK at that time, and that it has not been recorded.
Television advertising?
On p136 it says that Juliet’s appearance at the Golden Dome was advertised on television.  British television, that is the BBC, was closed down during the war, but quickly revived afterwards.  However there was no commercial television in 1948.  The first commercial channel, ITV, did not open until 1955.  So where were these advertisements shown?
National Service?
War time conscription in the UK continued, under the name National Service, until 1960.  All persons considered male were expected to serve for 18 months.   It is not mentioned how Julian managed to avoid this.
The nightclubs, The Golden Dome and Midnite Spot.
Google either of these names, and you will find nothing.  I also checked in The London Encyclopaedia – to no avail.
Is The Specialist Dr Burou?
P98 describes The Specialist as ”tall, well-built, foreboding man without, it seemed, a trace of a sense of humour”.  This is hardly how Coccinelle described Dr Burou: “excessively tanned, eyes of blue porcelain, a seductive man in his 40s, he was more like a playboy than a medical luminary (Coccinelle par Coccinelle, 1987, page 141)”. 
More to the point, Burou did not perform his first sex change operation until 1956, almost a decade later than Juliet was accepted by Dr Maxfield.
Were there sex change operations in Casablanca before Dr Burou?
According to this book, yes.  However no one else seems to know about it.
Other early transsexuals:
P137: “Julian now took his place on the short list of famous personalities who had changed their sex, such as Roberta Cowell, Christine Jorgensen, Coccinelle, April Ashley, and so on.”
The tense is wrong in this sentence.  All the others are later in time: Cowell in 1951, Jorgensen 1952, Coccinelle 1958, Ashley 1960.
After the unnamed army sergeant who may have had surgery in 1945, Juliet is presumably the first named British surgically confirmed trans woman.
Who is Dr Hermann Maxfield?
I am unable to find out anything else about him.
P104: Dr Maxfield: “Out of the 48 chromosomes ...”. An egregious error for a doctor and sexologist to make.
Where else is Juliet mentioned?
Almost nowhere.  In this pdf on transsexuality in Iran, in footnote 5, several early transsexuals are mentioned including “Juliet (formerly Julius, no last name given in report)”.   I have tried checking most of the books by the other early British transsexuals, and find no mention of Juliet.  This, of course, is highly unlikely if she had the showbiz success that Oakley says that she did.
Who was Michael, the painter prominent in the early 1950s?
Suggestions are invited.
Who was the famous Parisian sexologist?
 Suggestions are invited.
Does regular sexual activity cause the inverted penile skin to atrophy and turn cancerous?
 If so it is a well-kept secret, or happens - as the book claims - to only 1 in a million of transsexuals.

Is Man into Woman a fraud?
That is the question.


Calie said...

It's an interesting article. I do wonder if the penile inversion method was actually done that long ago. I also question the cancer thing. If I read it correctly, she was sexual active yet atrophy was the reason for the cancer? Something wrong with that theory, even if she wasn't active. I suppose if she didn't douche....

Also, were sex conversion operations really done then? Maybe so. Seems to agree with What Benjamin says in The Transsexual Phenomenon.

That's what I like about your research. Makes one think....

Calie xxx

Zagria said...

I may be wrong in criticizing Dr Maxfield for assuming 48 human chromosomes. This article says that scientists assumed that humans like other primates had 48 until the mid 1950s.