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13 September 2011

TG, concepts and usages. Part 2: The early years: up to 1990.

Part 1: Introduction: the meanings of Transgende
Part 2: The early years: up to 1990. 
I am including my source bibliography at the end of this part, rather than at the end of part 5, for it is here that it is most referred to.

(OED)=given as a citation in the online Oxford English Dictionary

The desire for a word such as ‘transgender’ is shown by the various groups and writers who use ‘TV-TS’ and similar phrases. The increasing use of both ‘gender’ and ‘transsexual’ inspire different people - who are not copying each other - to come up with variations on ‘transgender’. However the alternate term ‘Crossgender’ remains in use through the 1970s.

Ekins and King, 2006:16, say of Prince:  "It was she who popularized the abbreviations TS (transsexual) and TV (transvestite) and it was these categorizations that comprised the initial usage of transgenderist in its umbrella sense".  However, as with almost all the claims re the term 'transgender', no citations or quotes are given.  As with 'transgender' the two abbreviations are the most obvious for the two words, and it is extremely likely that different people coined them independently.

At the time of Gay Liberation in the late 1960s/early 1970s ‘gay’ was an umbrella term covering both male and female gays, transsexuals and transvestites. In the later 1970s and the 1980s, the component communities formed their own groups and relabelled themselves. Lesbians, bisexuals and trans insisted that they were not gays. Then one spoke of ‘gay and lesbian’ or ‘lesbian and gay’ according to preference and influence. Then the bisexuals, still not being gay, insisted on being added to the list which became the acronym GLB or LGB, and finally, it being apparent that the trans had, as usual, been left out, the T was added to the acronym. However not everyone participated in the groups that were playing musical names, and some lesbians, some bisexuals and some trans persons stuck with calling themselves ‘gay’ even into the 21st century.

The frequently repeated mis-information about Prince and ‘transgender’ has diverted attention from the decline of ‘cross gender’ and its replacement by ‘transgender’. I have never seen a discussion of why this happened.

Note the early use of ‘transgender surgery’, which is usually taken to be a 21st-century innovation.

Late 1940s
Louise Lawrence worked with Bowman, Kinsey, Cauldwell and Benjamin. She is referred to as Doris in Schaefer & Wheeler's account of Benjamin's first 10 cases, and is certainly the outstanding non-surgical trans woman in Benjamin’s circle.

Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966. Type IV: Nonsurgical Transsexual. “It could be interpreted as an intermediate stage between transvestism and transsexualism. These patients may waver in their emotions between the two. They need more than merely ‘dressing’ to appease their psychological sex with its commanding and demanding female component. (p32)” Benjamin articulated the concept three years before Prince did, because he had already met Lawrence and others living the lifestyle that Prince decided on for herself only some years later.

Virginia "Charles" Prince. The Transvestite and His Wife.  No transgender** word used in this book.

Virginia Prince. Tranvestia, December 1969. Prince follows where Lawrence went 20 years earlier. While she is influenced by Benjamin type IV, she restricts the concept to one who has already been a heterosexual transvestite. She searches for a better term, and tries out ‘transgenderal’. She did this only once, so she did not really like it. She did not use any similar word again until 1978. The fact that Prince’s word is an idiosyncratic malformation enables us to know that the usages by other people in the 1970s are not influenced by her, as no-one else used this malformation.

Gore Vidal’s Myra Breckinridge described as ‘transgendered’ in TV Guide.

Los Angeles Times, June 25. “But with other, when temperamental vulnerability is immersed in a potentially detrimental setting, cross-gender identification ensues during the years when gender identity develops.”

American family physician/GP, V,1: “Effeminate Behavior in Boys In a study of effeminate behavior in boys, Zugar and Taylor investigated the prevalence of certain activities in a group of boys who demonstrated a cross-gender type of behavior.” (p94).

Virginia Prince. How To Be A Woman Though Male.  No transgender** word used in this book.

Cynthia Platt, Transexual Action Organization, “The TAO is one of many organizations helping all transexuals and transvestites, and if all of us can join together their goals will be accomplished sooner”.

New York Times, “500 in the U.S. Change Sex In Six Years With Surgery”, Nov 20. “Such persons are said to have a crossgender identity.”

The United Transvestite and Transsexual Society: “This is to announce the formation of a new organization dedicated to promoting the interests of transvestites and transexuals”.

Raleigh Register. “Stanford Sex Change Program Screens Applicants Carefully”, Nov 19. “With great trepidation,’ Fisk said, the team decided to grant his request for surgery — after keeping him on ‘hold’ for a year and a half after he had successfully completed 10 years of cross-gender living with no problem.”

Accent. “Proper evaluation”, Dec 9. “Cross gender experience for a considerable period is strongly advised before surgery is undertaken. In this way, the transsexual will ‘see it like it is’ in living the life of the opposite sex.”

D. Cordell. Report of the The First National TV.TS Conference, at Leeds University. “There is a tendency among trans-gender people to encourage each other. This precludes the very careful self-analysis which must take place in everyone who is proposing to undergo this therapy.” (Ekins & King, 2006:3; OED).

Joseph R. Novello. A Practical Handbook of Psychiatry. Springfield, Ill: C.C. Thomas. “Factors which rule against transgender surgery for otherwise bona fide transsexual individual include a) Sociopathy, especially criminal behavior, b) Psychosis ... (p179).

Yvonne Sinclair and others found the London TV/TS Support Group.

Houston Trans-People group for “transvestites, transgenderists, transsexuals and for spouses or lovers, family, friends, neighbors”.

Drag Magazine, 1975: “Its about time the gays, TVs and TSs break down the barriers between us and work together. United we stand; derived we stand still wishing something would happen.”.

Florence Morning News. “Transsexuals’ Journey Found Long and Lonely”, Sept 5. “In some cases, an affected child develops cross-gender characteristics. Steve Dain, an Emeryville, Calif. high school teacher who became a man through reassignment – and is the center of controversy over his attempt to retain a teaching job – is an illustration.”

Joyce Brothers. “Surgery can help”. Grand Prairie Daily News, Dec 8. “Such persons with the seemingly normal physical makeup of one sex report that for as long as they can remember, they felt the psyche of the other sex. They are said to have a cross-gender identity.”

Virginia Charles Prince. Understanding Cross Dressing. Both Docter (1988:21) and Ekins & King (“Towards a Sociology of Transgendered Bodies”: 581) cite this book in claiming that Prince originated the term ‘transgenderist’. However a) neither give a valid page reference b) a Google Books search fails to find the word within the book.

The editors of Hose and Heel (later The Journal of Male Feminism) reject ‘transgenderism’ as it supports the gender binary and ignores the lessons of feminism. (Valentine: 262)

Ariadne Kane uses ‘transgenderist’ in an interview with Boston’s Gay Community News. (Hill:177)

The Age, 14 April. “Dr. Bower said there had been a number of male cross-gender operations in Melbourne and Sydney in recent years.”

Virginia Prince: "Transsexuals and Pseudotranssexuals", Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 7, No. 4. She proposed two kinds of 'pseudotranssexual' based on sexual orientation.  "The preoperative homosexual group (Kinsey 5,6) gave much higher scores on all questions dealing with sex and lower scores on those questions dealing with gender, while those in the heterosexual group (Kinsey 1,2) gave high scores to gender type questions and much lower scores on the sex type questions".  But does not use any transgender** word.

Virginia Prince. “The Transcendents or Trans People”. A paper read to the Western Regional Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex in Santa Barbara, June 1978, reprinted in Transvestia 95. She describes ‘three classes of such trans-people, generally called “transvestites, transgenderists and transsexuals”’ and adds: ‘The second class is a group of which I am a member and about which most of you haven’t heard …These are people who have adopted the exterior manifestations of the opposite sex but without any surgical interventions. Thus they are what may be rightly termed ‘male women’ (p86). Robert Hill, in his thesis on the Princian movement, concludes that she was copying the word from Adriadne Kane. Prince used the word again in the next issue of Tranvestia, in Bullough’s 1979 book, once more in 1981, and then stopped. (Valentine:262)

“Transgender ’ used on BBC Radio, 2 June. Clair Rayner interviewed John Randall: “That was Dr John Randall . . . He couldn't tell me how many people there are who are transgenderists - the rather clumsy label that's been devised to cover both transvestites and transsexuals." Radio Times (6 June: 5): ‘It is estimated that about one person in 2,000 is a transgenderist; someone who feels an overwhelming need either to dress in the clothes of the opposite gender, or … to “change sex” completely.’ (Ekins & King, 2006:14), (OED).

Virginia Prince. “Charles to Virginia: Sex Research as a Personal Experiencein Vern Bullough (ed), The Frontiers of Sex Research, Prometheus Books, New York. “I am therefore to be classified as a ‘transgenderist’ now” (p172). (OED). There is no record before Richard Docter’s 1988 book of anyone specifically referring to these few and obscure works by Prince, and saying that they are using the term as she did.

Steve Shiflett, Gay Political Caucus, Houston, 11 June “’Transperson’ is a collective term I use to include the spectrum of people who for one reason or another cross-dress to what society has ordained as the ‘gender uniform’: transsexuals ... transgenderists... transvestites... drag society...female impersonators”.

Christine Jorgensen. Winnipeg Free Press, Oct 18. “If you understand trans-genders,” she says, (the word she prefers to transsexuals), “then you understand that gender doesn’t have to do with bed partners, it has to do with identity.

Ariadne Kane’s Human Outreach and Achievement Institute defined ‘transgenderist’ as a term that had been used in the 1970s but was by then superseded by ‘androgyne’. (Valentine:262)

Kim Stuart. The Uninvited Dilemma: A Question of Gender. Lake Oswego, OR: Metamorphous Press. “The word transsexual is somewhat misleading, because the word sexual is incorporated into the term. Perhaps, the word ‘transgender’ would have been a more suitable term. (p25)”. (OED)

Nicholas J. Bradford. "Transgenderism and the Cult of Yellamma: Heat, Sex, and Sickness in South Indian Ritual." Journal of Anthropological Research 39:307-322.

Jason Cromwell first heard ‘transgender’ being used in its collective sense (Valentine: 262).

News (Portsmouth), 6 Aug, 1,4. “Transgender model Bruce Laker’s [Phaedra Kelly] plans for a white wedding have been dashed”. (OED)

Roger E. Peo. “The ‘Origins’ and ‘Cures’ for Transgender Behavior”. TV-TS Tapestry, 42.

Christine Jorgensen: “She gave spark to sexual revolution”. Leader-Post Regina, Dec 18. “I am a transgender because gender refers to who you are as a human”.

Suzanne J. Kessler and Wendy McKenna. Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985.  Although the term 'transgender' is not used, this book is seminal to the later academic transgender studies.  Ekins & King, 2006: 16: " Only in retrospect did it become possible to return to this text and see it as germinal in the formation of sociological foundations for a coherent discipline of transgender studies, and germinal to a fourth conceptualization of transgender – a sociological approach to transgender".  Kessler & McKenna, 2000, revisit their 1985 book: "By the mid-1970s most people, in and out of academia, were beginning to accept that roles, appearances, and characteristics (what they called ‘gender’) were socially defined and culturally varied. However, biological features (what they called ‘sex’) were considered to be given in nature. We argued that the biological is as much a construction as the social is. Although hormones, chromosomes, gonads, and genitals, are real parts of the body, seeing them as dichotomous and essential to being female or male is a social construction. That is why we believed (and continue to believe) that in discussions of this topic it is critical to only use ‘gender’ and never use sex (in the conventional meanings).  If anything is primary, it is not some biological sign, but what we call ‘gender attribution’ – the decision one makes in every concrete case that someone is either a male or a female. Virtually all of the time, gender attribution is made with no direct knowledge of the genitals or any other biological ‘sex marker’."

Richard Ekins establishes the Trans-Gender Archive at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. “He used the term in the umbrella sense to include the widest possible range of ‘transgender’ phenomena. Unlike the orthodoxy of the time, it was apparent to him that transgender was not a rather minority and unimportant matter. It was important to include transgender phenomena that had avoided the medical gaze. He took the view that ‘transvestite’ and ‘transsexual’ are medicalized categories of knowledge. (2006:15)”

DSM-III=R introduces, in addition to GID and Transvestic Fetishism, Gender Identity Disorder of Adolescence or Adulthood, Nontranssexual Type (GIDAANT). That is, transgender is pathologized, but a name is needed. GIDAANT never caught on as a term.

Anne Bolin. In Search of Eve: Transsexual Rites of Passage. Bergin & Garvey, 1987: 100. “Transsexuals utilize the concepts of their own culture to construe their own transgender experience”.

Renaissance News, Vol 1,1, Aug. Says that it provides information about ‘transgendered behavior’. Vol 1,5, December talks about the ‘transgender community’.

Chrysalis, 1, 53. “People often think that trans-gender is a rather minority and unimportant matter”. (OED)

The Tiffany Club of greater Boston, under the influence mainly of Merrisa Sherrill Lynn, gave birth to the International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), and took over TV-TS Tapestry magazine. At its first conference it awarded its Virginia Prince Award to Virginia Prince.

Richard F. Docter. Transvestites and Transsexuals: Toward a Theory of Cross-Gender Behavior. New York: Plenum Press, 1988: 21-4. Docter notes that his ‘transgenderism’ category corresponds to Benjamin Type IV. According to the diagram in p25, it is an heterosexual variation as in Prince, but Docter discusses only one example, 22-year-old Everett/Angela who is androphilic, sexually active and will probably shortly be transsexual.

Stage, 4 Feb, 12,1. “Theatrical transgenders now have their own magazine which, it is hoped ... will ... be a means through which drag artists can find jobs in the theatre”. (OED)

Rouge, Winter 17,1. “ ‘Gender Dysphoria’ ... is a blanket term covering the range of transgender phenomena”. (OED)

Sources Used

  • Susan Stryker. “Transgender”. GLBTG: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Transgender & Queer Culure, 2003.
  • Richard Ekins and Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. London: SAGE, 2006: 13-23.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. Rethinking 'Who put the "Trans" in Transgender?' GENDYS 2004, The Eighth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
  • Robert S. Hill. ‘As a man I exist; as a woman I live’: Heterosexual Transvestism and the Contours of Gender and Sexuality in Postwar America. PhD Dissertation. University of Michigan 2007: 176-8.
  • David Valentine. Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007: 32-7, 262-3.
  • Cristan Williams. Ehipassiko, 2011 June 2, 28, 30, July, 5, 6, 9, 11,12,14,21.
  • ‘transgender’, ‘transgendered’, ‘transgenderism’, ‘transgenderist’. Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Third edition, March 2003, online June 2011.

The IFGE site does not contain a history of itself, and its Wikipedia page is only a basic stub.  While its current mission statement features ‘transgender people’ up front, I cannot find when this wording was adopted.   I suspect that it happened around 1992-3 when TV-TS Tapestry was renamed to Transgender Tapestry.

Likewise the US National Transgender Archives was founded by Dallas Denny sometime in the 1980s.  However I am unable to find out exactly when.  Was it before or after the Archives in Ulster founded by Richard Ekins?  More importantly, did it have ‘transgender’ in its name at the beginning, or was it changed later?


  1. This is a really interesting, Zagria! Thanks for researching and writing about the etymology of these words and phrases. :-)

  2. Anonymous14/9/11 16:43

    Thanks for all the info and hard work you do, Zagria!

    Not sure if you already have this information, but I believe that Phoenix Transgender Support in Asheville, NC may be one of the earliest support groups to use "transgender" in its name.

    Phoenix Transgender Support was founded in September, 1986 by Holly Boswell and Jessica Britton as an open support group for crossdressers, transsexuals (pre, post and non-op, F2M and M2F), intersexuals and other member of the transgender community and has been active meeting since that time. The group also welcomes spouses and family members, as well as caregivers and helping professionals. The website is


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