This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.

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30 July 2012

Foekje Dillema (1928 – 2007) runner.

Foekje Dillema was born in Burum in Friesland, in the Netherlands. Neither she nor her family ever doubted her gender.

She began running in 1948. The next year she was named “athlete of the match” at a tournament in London.

Her major Dutch competitor was Fanny Blankers-Koen who had won four gold medals at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Fanny voiced doubts about Foekje’s gender, and refused to run against her.

Foekje at home in 1950.
In 1950 Foekje ran 200 m in 24.1 seconds breaking Fanny’s national record. Following this, the Dutch star photojournalist Ben van Meerendonk visited her at home in Burum, and showed her living a traditional life of wooden shoes and drawing water from the well.

Foekje and four other women were sent for a gynaecological examination, and it was concluded that Foekje was not a woman. While on her way to a meeting in France, she was stopped by Dutch Athletics authorities, and expelled for life from competition.

She returned home to Friesland, and did not leave the house for a year.
In 1952 Foekje had an operation ‘on her glands’, that was never explained even to her siblings. She lived the rest of her life in Burum. Several journalists attempted to find out more, but she would never speak on the topic.

After she died, a controversial test was done on DNA found on her clothing. This would indicate that she was a Mosaic with a Y-chromosome in 30% of her skin cells.

Max Dohle had written a biography some years earlier, but did not publish it until after her death.


27 July 2012

Betty Cowell (1918 - 2011) motor racer, pilot.

++Updated October 2013 in incorporate the IOS article on her death.

Robert Marshall Cowell was born in Croydon, the middle child of three. His father was Ernest Cowell, the prominent surgeon in the Royal Army Medical Corps and at Croydon General Infirmary (now closed), and who would be Director of Medical Services for the Allied Forces in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War.

Robert had an aptitude for mechanical things. From the age of twelve he spent his holidays in engineering workshops in Croydon. His public school had a motor club where under-aged members drove motorcycles and cars on the school grounds. John Cunningham, the future RAF night fighter ace was a member of the same club. Robert also joined the Officers’ Training Corps while at school, and became a non-commissioned officer. In the early 1930s, Robert and a friend spent a summer holiday in Belgium, Austria and Germany, and picked up some German.

He left school at sixteen and entered a series of tennis tournaments, which led to his first homosexual proposal, which he quickly ran from.

He worked in both aircraft and racing car service shops. At seventeen he drove in the London-Land’s-End trial run. Later in 1935 he joined the RAF as a pupil pilot. He gained a commission but found that flying made him feel extremely ill. He was invalided out of the RAF, and declared as permanently unfit for flying duties.

He studied engineering at University College, London, where he met his future wife, Diana, who was also a racing driver. He drove in motor races and speed trials, including the 1939 Grand Prix in Antwerp. Later that year, he almost ran down Neville Chamberlain who was crossing Parliament Square.

With the outbreak of war, Cowell thought that the best job to have was that of a fighter pilot. He pestered the Air Ministry, but they wouldn’t take him back. He was offered a position in the Royal Army Service Corps with a promise of a fast-track commissioning. In January 1941 he was commissioned as a captain.

In May he married his girlfriend, who by then had a degree in engineering. They spent the war apart but did manage to have two daughters, born in 1942 and 1944.

After a few months in Iceland (which had decriminalized homosexuality while under British occupation) Robert managed to get transferred to the RAF. By this time he knew how to fake a military medical exam.

He was trained to fly various fighter planes and bombers. He mainly saw action supporting the Invasion of France in the summer of 1944, until his plane was hit by flak, and he became a prisoner of the Germans.

He spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 1, between Lübeck and Rostock. He vehemently refused to play a female role in the camp theatricals, as he felt that ‘would have been a public declaration of homosexuality’. The gay cliques in the camp constantly annoyed him by assuming that he was one of them. On 30 April 1945 the prisoners refused German orders to evacuate in the face of the advancing Soviet Army.  After negotiations, the Germans left leaving the POWs behind.  Two weeks later Captain Cowell and the other British prisoners were flown home.

Back in England, with a business partner, Cowell set up a specialist auto engineering company. They built cars for motor racing, and he competed as a driver. He also renovated houses and sold them at a profit.

His marriage fell apart as Diana was not happy about his wearing her clothes, and suspected him of seeing other women. They separated in 1948.  Cowell never saw his daughters again.  His wife re-married and had three more children.  The two girls were brought up by their grandparents, Sir Ernest and his wife.

Robert continued to be depressed, and saw a couple of Freudian analysts. The outcome was:
“The feminine side of my nature, which all my life I had known of and severely repressed, was very much more fundamental and deep-rooted than I had supposed (p96)”.
He secured a consultation with a Harley Street sexologist who referred him to a woman endocrinologist, who put him on oestrogens. Feeling that he should counterbalance the heavily masculine nature of his business interests, he invested in a small company which designed and manufactured women’s clothes, both theatrical and haute couture, and proceeded to learn that business. He also struck up a friendship with a woman, Lisa, whom he met in a London hotel, who later lived with him and helped him transition.

Cowell came across the 1946 book Self: a study in ethics and endocrinology, by Michael Dillon, which contains a section discussing sex changes as possible. Cowell wrote to him via the publisher, and after several lengthy letters, they met in London. Dillon admitted that he had been a woman until a few years previously. More meetings followed. Michael convinced himself that fate had put them together, and they should be a couple. Cowell needed an orchiectomy if she were to proceed to being a woman, but no doctor in the UK would do the operation because of the mayhem laws. Michael, who was nearing the completion of his medical degree at Trinity College, Dublin, used his new skills to do so. He also introduced Roberta to Arthur Millbourn, Canon at Bristol Cathedral, and to his surgeon Harold Gillies.   However he finally had to concede that Roberta was not returning his passion.

Roberta had a consultation with Dr George Dusseau on Wimpole Street. Given her orchiectomy, he agreed to write a letter that was “in the nature of a working certificate to enable the plastic surgeons to carry out their operations”. That done, Roberta was able to change her name by deed poll to Roberta Elizabeth Cowell and to get her birth certificate amended. From then on she would be Betty to her friends.

Sir Harold Gillies was now willing to proceed with surgery. He had never done a vaginoplasty before. He practiced the previous evening on the torso of a male cadaver. The operation was successful and medical affidavits were sworn. Cowell then persuaded Gillies to feminize her face.

The Cowells’ divorce decree was made absolute later in 1952. Betty was now deeply in debt after medical bills, the closure of her engineering firm and the failure of her dress-making firm.

In 1953 the news story broke about another pioneering transsexual, Christine Jorgensen. By early 1954, Betty knew that she herself was about to be a front-page story. She negotiated with the Picture Post that she would write an exclusive for them. It was said by the Sunday Pictorial that they paid £20,000 (according to this calculator, equivalent to £440,000 today), an enormous sum that allowed her to clear all her debts.

A ‘disclosure’ in the form of a Press Association statement was issued on 6 March 1954. With the notable exception of The Times, most British papers carried it on the front page with different headlines, but with almost the same text:
“This amazing change of sex is believed to be the first case in Britain where an adult male has so fully taken on the physical and mental characteristics of a woman. It may well be the most complete change of sex in the medical history of the entire world”.
The Daily Herald’s doctor commented that
“cases of women becoming men are increasing but the change from male to female is rare”.
Cowell wisely left for the continent, pursued as she was by a pack of journalists. The Sunday Pictorial, which would become the Sunday Mirror in 1963 and which had published an homophobic three-part series, “Evil Men” in 1952, and had serialized the Jorgensen story in 1953, gave scant attention to Cowell on the first weekend, but a week later was saying that she was a transvestist and expressed concern for the
“startling legal and medical tangle which arises” and said that: doctors who deal with these change of sex cases.......”.are anxious for their position in the eyes of the law and the community to be clarified. This is a matter for the law makers.”
The Sunday People, the same week, ran the headline 'ROBERTA IS NO REAL WOMAN'. However it accepted Cowell’s claim that the operation was largely to speed up changes taking place naturally. The next day Roberta’s father, Ernest Cowell was quoted saying:
“I am told that it is quite on the cards for her to bear children”.
However by the next weekend, he had retracted:
“this is not a case of hermaphroditism” and he agreed that Roberta was a transvestist.
Betty in 1958
The Picture Post series ran for seven weeks from 13th March. It was then revised and published as Roberta Cowell's Story with a Preface by Canon Milbourn. The publisher was Heinemann, which had published Dillon’s Self, eight years earlier. The publication had two benefits other than money. By ‘disclosing’ herself, she was able to return to motor racing once the fuss died down. It also allowed her to claim that she was not a transvestist like Christine Jorgensen. Despite the two daughters that she had fathered, and the fact that Robert had passed an RAF medical, she claimed to have XX chromosomes and ovaries, and that the stress of being in Stalag Luft 1 had brought out her underlying female biology, and that Dr Dusseau’s letter had certified her as a woman.

Betty in the 1970s
After the media fuss died down, Betty did  continue both motor racing and flying. She won a hill climb in 1957. In 1972 she was interviewed by Michael Bateman for the Sunday Times. He noted that her house was
“cluttered with pilots’ helmets, high-frequency radios, models of planes and racing cars. She’s logged 1,600 hours as a pilot (recently she flew at Mach 2 twice the speed of sound )... She doesn’t approve of the Permissive Society and she doesn’t welcome Women’s Lib. She certainly hopes the trend towards Unisex has stopped. It’s unhealthy, unnatural. ‘My experience shows that men and women are so completely different as to be almost different species.’”
She also disapproved of other transsexuals:
“I was a freak. I had an operation and I’m not a freak any more. I had female chromosome make-up, XX. The people who have followed me have often been those with male chromosomes, XY. So they’ve been normal people who’ve turned themselves into freaks by means of the operation.”
In the 1970s Betty worked with Liz Hodgkinson on a second book which however was never completed.

Betty and Lisa continued to live together on and off until the latter died at the end of the 1980s.  Betty then moved into a flat in Hampton.  She was reclusive and private, but always had an expensive car.  However she used it less as she aged.   Her spine became bent and  swollen legs made walking impossible.

Diana died in 2006.  Betty's last years were spent alone in sheltered accomodation.  She died aged 93.  Only a few friends attended the cremation, and no news of her death was published in any newspaper until an article in The Independent on Sunday in October 2013.  Her daughters were not informed until contacted by the newspaper prior to publication

  • Roberta Cowell. Roberta Cowell's Story. British Book Centre, 1954. With a preface by Canon Millbourn. Online  and also
  • “Former British Fighter Pilot Changes Sex”. Reprinted in Lewiston Evening Journal, Mar 6, 1954. Online 
  • “Wife’s Story of Man Who Changed Sex”. AAP, March 7, 1954, reprinted in The Sydney Morning Herald. Online 
  • “Ex-War Flier Now ‘Completely Female’. Doctor-Father Confirms ‘Son Robert is now Daughter Roberta’ “ The Vancouver Sun, March 15, 1954. Online
  • “The Real Story of Sex Change: Here’s Medical Proof of Father of Two Who Turned Into a Woman”. PIC: The Magazine for Young Men, 26,1, March 1955. Online 
  • “Roberta Wins Hill Climb”. British Pathé, 1957.  Online  
  • Harold D. Gillies & D. Ralph Millard. The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery.  Butterworth, 1957: II,384-7.
  • Auriol Stevens. “The sexual misfits”. The Guardian, 7 Jan 1970, reprinted 7 Jan 2012. Online
  • Michael Bateman interviews Roberta Cowell. Atticus, The Sunday Times, 12 March 1972. Online.
  • Liz Hodgkinson. Bodyshock: The Truth About Changing Sex. Columbus Books 1987: 21-2.
  • Liz Hodgkinson. Michael née Laura. Columbus Books. 1989: chp 6.
  • Dave King. The Transvestite and the Transsexual: Public Categories and Private Identities.  Avebury, 1993: 51-55, 86, 103, 110-115, 118, 119, 125, 128, 130, 132, 141, 162, 169.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending genders: social aspects of cross-dressing and sex-changing.  Routledge. 2002: 87-91. 135-7, 141, 146.
  • Pagan Kennedy. The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution. Bloomsbury. 2007: 3-4, 10-14, 55-7, 76-8, 85-99, 103-5, 109-113, 119-120, 136.
  • Jean-François Bouzanquet. Fast Ladies: Female Racing Drivers, 1888-1970. Veloce, 2009: 99-103. 
  •  Matthew Bell.  "'It's easier to change a body than to change a mind': The extraordinary life and lonely death of Roberta Cowell ".  The Independent on Sunday, 27 October 2013. Online   
  TRANSGENDERZONE      EN.Wikipedia     

Page references are to the 1954 edition.   The PDF edition has been repaginated.

Some online articles say that Cowell was born in 1921.  However this is not compatible with dates in her autobiography.  For example Cowell is 17 in 1935 (p17), 20 in 1939 (p23).  The newspaper story, “Wife’s Story of Man Who Changed Sex’, 1954, says that Roberta was then 36.  Therefore Cowell must have been born in 1918.

Wikipedia actually has a Cowell (surname) disambiguation page that at this date includes neither Roberta Cowell nor Ernest Cowell nor Robert Cowell, the US swimmer.

For those of you who are into titles, Ernest’s full moniker is Major General Sir Ernest Cowell K.B.E., C.B., D.S.O., T.D. (1886-1971).  He was doctor to Winston Churchill, General Eisenhower, and Director of Medical Services for the Allied Forces in North Africa and Italy during 1942-1944.  Being of such low significance, there is no Wikipedia or other web page about him.

Why did Canon Arthur Millbourn write the Preface to Betty’s autobiography?  There is no mention of him in her autobiography, nor in Kennedy’s book.  Cowell was not a church goer, and is proud to have resisted early religious indoctrination, and not to have succumbed to prayer as his plane crashed in Germany.   Millbourn does appear in Hodgkinson’s biography of Dillon.

Cowell says quite clearly that it was the Russians who liberated Stalag Luft 1, as we would expect as it was clearly in the future East Germany.  Why does Kennedy go from precise to vague and say "freedom came in the form of Allied bombers, a phalanx of B19s that peeled out of the sky and landed near the German camp (p76)"?

While Drs Dusseau, Dillon & Gillies appear in Cowell’s autobiography, none of them are named. The two Freudian analysts, the Harley Street sexologist and the female endocrinologist have not been identified.

The statement that Michael Dillon performed Betty’s orchiectomy appears only in Kennedy (p91-2).  It is based on a release that she signed: “I desire that he be absolved from all responsibility in this this operation, due to possible hemorrhage or sepsis, which I am desirous to undergo being fully aware that either might, per fortunam, be fatal”.  This paper is in Hodgkinson’s collection.  She did not use it in her biography of Michael, but did pass it on to Kennedy.

There is no suggestion or admission by Cowell, Hodgkinson or Kennedy, that Roberta was able to use her father’s contacts to get appointments with top doctors.

Hodgkinson explains why Michael fell for Roberta: “although he did not want to be considered a snob [he] was far more comfortable with people of his own kind of background.  Roberta fitted the bill here.  Her father was one of the leading surgeons of his day, her background was upper-middle-class, and she spoke with the correct vowel sounds, which was always vitally important to Dillon. (p87)”.  However their interests were radically different.  Michael’s idea of taking out a woman was to go to a play in ancient Greek, and he enjoyed cycling/camping in Ireland.  Roberta, of course, liked to race cars and fly planes.  This did not bode well as a traditional relationship.   There was one more thing.  As Betty admitted to Hodgkinson years later, “But as far as I was concerned, it would have been two females getting married (p87)”.

Which brings us to Betty’s most aggravating trait: that no transsexual but she is the real thing.  Michael Dillon is a female;  Christine Jorgensen is a transvestist.  And see her comment for the Sunday Times in 1972 quoted above.

This is possibly related to something neither Hodgkinson nor Kennedy mention: Cowell’s homophobia:  
“I was not a homosexual; my inclinations, as they developed, were entirely heterosexual.  I was horrified and repelled by homosexual overtures, and this loathing included any boy who showed the slightest sign of being a ‘sissy.’ I  could be friendly with other men, but I could not bear any form of physical contact with them.  It was impossible for me to stand having someone link his arm in mine, and even shaking hands was unpleasant. (p1)”
“One thing was certain.  I had not the slightest desire to swell the ranks of the gentlemen of no particular gender.  It is true that I had become a little more tolerant in this direction than I had been in the past; this meant, however, that had I met one I would have refrained from actually kicking his spine up through the top of his head. (p101).”
“There is strong anthropological evidence that the basis of transvestism is, in the main, a homosexual one.  It can hardly be considered a manifestation of heterosexuality.  But the homosexual element is nearly always entirely unconscious, and often very deeply buried.  When a transvestite strenuously denies that he has the slightest tendency in this direction, it is entirely likely that he is telling what he believes to be the truth. (p175)“  --- Cowell fails to connect this statement to his own strenuous denials.
The claim of being intersex, the non-acceptance of other transsexuals, the homophobia.  Betty had much in common with the HBS movement of the early 21st century.

Lisa, who according to the autobiography was a major factor in helping Roberta to emerge, is not even mentioned in Kennedy’s retelling.  She is not named as such in Hodgkinson’s biography but is presumably the flatmate whom Michael ended up taking to see Greek plays when Betty made a point of avoiding him.

How did the press get onto Roberta in 1954?  Cowell tells (p159) of a journalist friend phoning up excitedly as the Jorgenson story broke to get her opinion because of her medical knowledge.  Medical knowledge?!  Kennedy suggests (p103) “It’s not clear who had tattled on her.  Cowell herself may have been the one who leaked it.”  There is another possibility.  While Roberta wrote her book asserting that she passed 100% and no one would ever guess her past, she certainly would not be the last transsexual to overestimate her passing.  It is quite likely that her transition was a ‘secret all over the block’, and by common consent it was not mentioned to her.   The journalist phoned her on that topic precisely because he knew that she had been through the same experience.

I found Roberta’s autobiography a much better read than Kennedy’s paraphrase.  She has a wry style that is quite funny at times, and has lots of good anecdotes about people she meets.  That is all removed in Kennedy’s book.  What Kennedy adds is that she deflates the illusion that Roberta was an XX and did not do the usual transsexual change things.

24 July 2012

João W Nery (1950–2018) diving champion, psychologist, manual labourer, writer.

Joana Nery was the youngest of four sisters. In a struggle with her own body, she became a Brazilian diving champion at age 16. She won 30 medals, and had acquired a more muscular body.

She graduated in psychology in 1973 at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, and taught at the universities of Gama Filho, Hélio Alonso and Celso Lisboa.

In 1976 Nery attended a clinic organized by Dr Cesar Nahoum and was diagnosed as transsexual. The next year he underwent a clandestine mastectomy and hysterectomy from Dr Roberto Farina in Sao Paulo, and was put on testosterone. Farino considered phalloplasty for João, but Farino had been convicted for doing genital surgery on a trans woman and was still appealing.

João is considered to be the first surgical trans man in Brazil. This was the period of military government (1964-85) when such surgery was illegal, and there was no possibility of having documents re-issued in the new gender.

João W Nery was not able to work in universities, but did work clandestinely as a psychologist. He worked as a taxi driver, builder, retailer, tailor, computer teacher and masseuse. In 1984 he published his first autobiography. In 1987 he adopted the son of his second wife, and continued as his father after the marriage broke up. His fourth marriage has been the most successful.

Nery’s second autobiography came out in 2010, which led to a series of media interviews.

In his sixties, Nery suffered from arthritis, and had a lumbar spine and hip prosthesis. The last surgery led to a heart attack, but he was able to ride his motorcycle to the hospital in time for treatment.

++He died at age 68 after a struggle against cancer.


22 July 2012

Ludwig L. Lenz (1889- 1966) surgeon.

Ludwig Levy-Lenz was raised by a wealthy family in Posen, Germany (now Poznań, Poland). In 1909 he went with his younger brother Siegbert to medical school in Heidelberg and then Munich and Breslau.

In the Great War he set up a hospital for reconstructive surgery, and also supervised a military brothel. After the war, with his parents financial support, he opened a medical practice at the Rosenthaler Platz, Berlin.

In 1926, he divorced his first wife, Denise, a dancer, and moved his practice to the Berliner Westend. He worked at Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissen-schaft 1925 – 33. He was one of first surgeons to perform genital reassignment. He also published on abortion techniques, and he wrote booklets for the general public on how to avoid venereal diseases which were distributed in public toilets. His second marriage to  Elma Wilhelm lasted until 1932, the year that he and Felix Abraham operated on Dörchen Richter. He married his third wife, Marya Goldwasser, a Jewess twenty years his junior, in 1933, which was the year that the Nazis attacked and destroyed the Institut.

Ludwig and Marya fled to Paris, where Ludwig acquired new skills as a cosmetic surgeon. There was increased tolerance in the year before the Berlin Olympic Games, and Levy-Lenz returned and opened a surgical practice on the fashionable Kurfürstendamm. However in late 1936 he had to flee again.

In 1939 he was deprived of his German citizenship. He settled in Egypt, where he was very successful, and had a villa near the Giza pyramids. One of his first patients was the great singer Umm Kukthum. He was editor of the Cairo-based Revue of Medicine. In 1944 his second wife, Elma Wilhelm, had her property confiscated. However a French translation, La femme initiée, of one of his books was allowed to be printed in Paris during the German occupation.

After the war, Ludwig also practiced in Baden-Baden as a cosmetic surgeon, but he dropped his double surname. Jeanette Schmid had surgery with Dr Lenz in Cairo in 1964.

In 1965 he returned to Berlin, and died a year later.

Adele Bailey had surgery at his Cairo clinic in 1976.

Ludwig also wrote fiction.
  • Peter Schmidt & Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Die Erfolge der Steinachbehandlung beim Menschen, Berlin: G. Ziemsen, 1921.
  • Magnus Hirschfeld & Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Sexual-Katastrophen: Bilder aus dem modernen Geschlechts- und Eheleben. Leipzig: Payne, 1926.
  • Maria Winter & Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Abtreibung oder Verhütung der Schwangerschaft? Berlin-Hessenwinkel: Verlag d. Neuen Gesellschaft, 1928.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Die aufgeklärte Frau: ein Buch für alle Frauen. Berlin: Man-Verl, 1928.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Janine: Tagebuch einer Verjüngten, Berlin: Man Verlag, 1928.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Wenn Frauen nicht gebären dürfen: Bedeutg u. Methode d. Empfängnisverhütg gemeinverst. dargest. Berlin-Hessenwinkel: Verlag d. Neuen Gesellschaft, 1928.
  • Arthur Koestler, A. Willy, Norman Haire & Ludwig Levy-Lenz. The Encyclopœdia of Sexual Knowledge. London: F. Aldor, 1934.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. La femme initiée, Paris: Le Caire, R. Schindler, 1943.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Diskretes und Indiskretes: (Memoiren eines Sexualarztes). Dischingen/Wurttemberg: Wadi-Verlagsbuchhandlung, 317 pp 1951. English translation as Discretion and indiscretion: memoirs of a sexologist. New York: Cadillac Pub. Co., 512 pp 1951.
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz. Praxis der kosmetischen Chirurgie. Fortschritte u. Gefahren, 1954.
  • “Ludwig levy-Lenz, M.D.” Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (1919-1933).
  • “Ludwig Levy-Lenz (1889-1966)”. Archive for Sexology.
  • Yasmene Jabar. “Dr. Ludwig Levy Lenz”. The International Transsexual Sisterhood. No Longer Available.

I was unable to find anything on Marya Goldwasser after 1933.  Surely she did not return to Berlin with Levy-Lenz in 1935.  Did she go to Cairo with him?

The dates of Lenz’ birth and death vary.   The Institut für Sexualwissenschaft site says 1889-1976.  The Archive for Sexology says 1889-1966.   de.Wikipedia says 1892-1966. !!

I would like to know more about Levy-Lenz’ Clinique de Berlin.  It would seem to still be operating in 1976 when Adele Bailey went to Cairo for surgery.  However when Sally Mursi, a native of Cairo, needed surgery in 1988, it apparently was no longer there.

20 July 2012

Harry Weston ( (1917- 1943) domestic servant.

Hilda was the younger sibling of Olympics shot-putter and javelin thrower Mark Weston.

The question of Weston having an operation similar to that undergone by Mark came up when Weston was to be registered for National Service at the beginning of the Second World War. The operation was deemed advisable, and carried out at Charing Cross Hospital.

As Harry, he then worked at the house of a butcher in Oreston, near Plymouth.

However he became very depressed, and hanged himself from a tree. The coroner returned a verdict of suicide while the balance of mind was disturbed,
  • “Were Once Sisters: Death Brings Strange Fact to Light”. News of the World, 2 Aug 1943. Reprinted in George Ives (ed Paul Sieveking). Man Bites Man: The Scrapbook of an Edwardian Eccentric. Penguin Books, 1981: 40.

18 July 2012

Rusty Ryan (1947 - 2003) stock broker, drag performer.

Robert Timbrell was from Kingston, Ontario. He was working as a stock broker when he was helped in starting his drag career by Craig Russell in 1972.

Rusty founded The Great Impostors the same year, which initially included Michelle DuBarry, and they concentrated on touring small towns at a time when taking a drag revue into northern Ontario was considered brave and crazy, but they were actually treated as stars.

Rusty also played parts, both male and female, in commercials. He was Jimmy the bartender in the two Craig Russell films, and had a part in the US remake of Queer as Folk.

In 1999 Rusty had a contract with a Vancouver agent and The Great Impostors played 382 stages across the country. He also toured with Frankie Goes to Hollywood. He was proudly gay, and performed in many drag fund-raisers and charity events.

He died of a coronary just after a mufti performance in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

*Not the Brad Pitt character in Ocean’s 11 and sequels.

16 July 2012

Monika Strub (1975 - ) nurse, photographer, political candidate.

Horst Strub, grew up in EmmendingenBaden-Württemberg.   He had been fostered as a child, and was an outsider, but grew up to be a nurse and a photographer. He was a member of the neo-Nazi Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands 2000-2. In retrospect, Strub claims not to have understood their platform, and joined because he was accepted.

Strub then became Monika. She actually found less acceptance from her fellow nurses, than from the NPD.

She later joined and became a candidate for the Linkespartei (which is to the left of the Social Democrats). She has been threatened by her former NPD associates several times, and her door and windows were covered by NPD stickers.

14 July 2012

Dominic Bash (1946 - 1993) monk, hairdresser, AIDS activist.

Dominic was raised Catholic in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an obvious sissy from early childhood. He was a Franciscan monk for some years, but left because he was gay.

He became a hairdresser. He called his shop: The Abbey. He gave free haircuts to nuns. He also gave free haircuts at homeless shelters.

He became friends with Jeannine Gramick, a nun who was starting to organize a Catholic ministry for lesbians and gay men. Dominic was a co-founder in 1973 of Dignity of Philadelphia for Catholic gays, and from 1980 he was co-ordinator of the group’s AIDS ministry.

He was irreverent and outrageous. He would go to the 5th floor of the Graduate Hospital which was prominently gay Catholic priests with AIDS, and tell them what he thought of the Church and its homophobia. His drag persona was Madominic, based mainly on Madonna. In 1989 he tested positive for HIV.

In 1991 he was part of Act-Up when they sprinkled condoms on the altar of SS Peter and Paul while the Cardinal was preaching. In 1992 he led the Philadelphia Pride Parade in a purple-and-pink sequined leotard and a lavender feathered boa.

He wrote a Spiritual Guide for men dying of AIDS. On behalf of Dignity of Philadelphia, Dominic visited AIDS patients several times a week, hundreds of men over twelve years. "I just give a little nurturing, loving, and caring that they're not getting from mother church". He served communion, counseled patients, and helped arrange funerals. "I was brought up as a Roman Catholic, being taught to love one another. Yet [the Church] couldn't love me and I couldn't live a lie."

He died from complication of AIDS at age 46.

What a shame that Dominic’s Spiritual Guide is behind a firewall at The Philadelphia Inquirer and cannot be accessed by those who need it.

The Gay History Wiki has some good pages but the name is completely misleading as it is a Wiki of gay Philadelphia only.  It has section called 'Outside Philadelphia' which contains three men in Cleveland, Ohio.  New York, London and Berlin obviously don't come under the rubric of Gay History.  The Wiki needs to be more specific in its name. 

There are a few Philadephia trans and queer persons that I have featured in this blog that are not in The Gay History Wiki: Charles Hamilton finished his life in Philadelphia, Reed Erickson was raised there, as was Gladys Bentley, Donna Delbert was from Philly and returned there after adventures in England, Flawless Sabrina organized pageants from Philadelphia, Rachel Harlow, pageant winner, nightclub owner and engaged to Grace Kelly's brother, was very much a Philadelphian, Leslie Townsend grew up there  and returned in her mature years, Tenika Watson lives there, Elizabeth Coffey, who was in John Waters' Pink Flamingoes, grew up there, Camille Paglia teaches there. In addition Dawn Langley Simmons registered the birth of her daughter in Philadelphia, and IFGE/Trans Events had most of their conferences in Philadelphia.

12 July 2012

Alecs Recher (1975–) teacher, politician, lawyer, activist.

Anja Recher was raised in Schwamendingen, Zürich. She twice visited South America. From 1996 she worked as a bicycle courier, and from 2000 in the administration.

She also worked with impaired and gifted children, and gained a diploma in remedial teaching in 2003.

In 2004 she was elected to the Zürich Kantonal legislature for the Alternate List Party.

In 2008 Recher informed the Kantonal legislature. that he was undergoing hormonal treatment to become a man, and that his name was now Alecs.

He has completed a bachelors law degree at the University of Zürich, and a masters at the University of Luzern,

He is a founder/co-president of Transgender Network Switzerland , and is the author of a study of homophobia, transphobia and discrimination in Switzerland.

10 July 2012

Caroline Paige (1961 - ) air force pilot.

Eric Cookson joined the Royal Air Force in 1980, and was trained to fly combat planes, Phantom F4 fighters and Bae Hawkes, and was involved in the ritual interception of Soviet planes.

In the 1990s Cookson transferred to support helicopters and weapons detection systems, and was in the front line in the buildup to the first Gulf War, and in Bosnia.

After consultation with RAF doctors, the flight lieutenant was approved for transition. As Caroline Paige, she was transferred to a ground posting. She paid for her own operation.

After surgery in 2000, Flight Lieutenant Paige returned to flying duties, and has since completed seven operational tours.

She advised personnel staffs in the drafting of initial Guidance and Policy documents regarding transgender people within the RAF.

The Wikipedia article claims Paige as the first RAF officer to transition.  Well. only if you don’t count Roberta Cowell who was a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War, Lynne Janine Braithwaite, who was in the RAF for 40 years, and Ruth Rose, a navigator in the RAF for many years, who expects surgery at age 70.

And of course Michelle Marshall and Ayla Holdom are also serving in the RAF.

We might also mention Rex Jameson/Mrs Shufflewick, who was in the RAF’s entertainment section, but of course never transitioned.

And lastly, there is Foxy Roxy who, after 23 years in the RAF, has come to a bad end.

06 July 2012

Camille Barbin (1838 – 1868) school teacher, railway clerk.

Adélaîde Herculine Barbin was born in Saint-Jean-d’Angely in Charente-Maritime. Her family usually referred to her as Alexina.  Her father died when she was young, which resulted in her being raised in an almost exclusively female and strongly religious environment.

Alexina was chosen for a charity scholarship to study at the school of an Ursaline convent. In 1856 she was sent for teacher training. Afterwards she became an assistant teacher in a girls’ school, where she had an affair with a fellow teacher, Sara.

Abdominal pain and religious guilt led Alexina to a confession with the bishop, and with her permission to break confessional silence, he sent for a doctor to examine her. The doctor found that she had a small penis and testicles inside her vagina, had never menstruated or developed breasts, and shaved facial hair.

In 1860 a tribunal heard evidence from Dr Chestnet of La Rochelle. As a result the register of Barbin’s birth was changed: the sex to male, and the name to Abel. It was deemed that Barbin had always been male. The next Sunday, Abel Barbin, dressed as a man appeared at the church of Saint-Jean between his mother and one of the town’s most respectable ladies.

This did not mean that Abel could marry Sara. The scandal was great and they were kept apart. A family connection secured for Barbin a position of clerk to a Paris railway company. Dr Chestner wrote up the case for the Annales d’hygiène publique et de médecine légale.

Abel committed suicide at the age of 30 by inhaling from his gas stove in his room in the rue de l'École-de-Médecine in Paris. The police doctor, who had been called, examined the dead man’s genitals expecting to find that he was a syphilitic - a common cause of suicide at that time - but finding something quite different. Word spread quickly, and Dr E Goujon at the Faculity of Medicine acted quickly so that the body would not be lost to science. He performed an autopsy and took careful notes, including two detailed drawings of Barbin’s genital area.

In addition Barbin had left memoirs, in which the male persona is referred at as Camille. They were given to Auguste Ambroise Tardieu who published excerpts in his Question médico-légale de l'identité, 1872.

In 1893 the German psychiatrist and novelist Oskar Panizza, wrote a fictionalized version of Alexina/Camille as Ein skandalöser Fall: Geschichten, which is obviously taken from the account in Tardieu but set in the eighteenth century.

Five years later, Armand Ernest Dubarry, a French novelist who wrote several medical pot boilers, published L'hermaphrodite, again based on Alexina/Camille.

In 1908 Neugebauer summarized Camille’s story in his immense inventory of hermaphroditism. Either by his doing, or as a printer’s error, Barbin’s name was affixed to the image of somebody else.

After that interest in Barbin dissipated until, in the late 1970s, the memoirs were discovered in the archives of le département français de l'Hygiène Publique, and were published by the controversial academic Michel Foucault.

The story was filmed in 1985 as Mystere Alexina. To the plot from the book, the filmmakers added an intrigue of being secretive about the gender of the actor who played Alexina: Philippe Vuillemin, a comic book artist, was billed as Vuillemin only.

In 2010 Sarah Leaver, who has a similar intersex condition, performed a one-woman play based on Barbin’s memoires.
  • Chesnet. “Question d’identité. Vice de conformation des organes génitaux. Hypospadias. Erreur sur le sexe” . Annales d’hygiène publique et de médecine légale, 2, 14, 1860: .206-9.
  • Abel Barbin. Mes souvenirs. 1863-8. Published Paris: Editions du Boucher, 2002.
  • E. Goujon. “Étude d’un cas d’hermaphrodisme bisexual imparfait chez l’homme”. Journal de l’anatomie et de la physiologie normales et pathologiques de l’homme et des animaux, 6, 1869: 599-616. Reprinted in Foucault 1978/80.
  • Auguste Ambroise Tardieu. Question médico-légale de l'identité dans ses rapport avec les vices de conformation des organes sexuels, contenant les souvenirs et impressions d'un individu dont le sexe avait été méconnu,. Paris: J.B. Baillière et Fils,1872. Contains selection from Barbin’s Souvenirs.
  • Oskar Panizza. Ein skandalöser Fall: Geschichten. 1893. Translated by Sophie Wilkins and published in Foucault 1980. Reprinted: München: Martus Verlag, 1997.
  • Armand Ernest Dubarry. L'hermaphrodite. Paris: Chamuel, 1898.
  • Franz Ludwig von Neugebauer. Hermaphroditismus beim Menschen. Leipzig: Klinkhardt, 1908:748.
  • Michel Foucault (ed) Herculine Barbin dite Alexina B. Paris: Gallimard, 1978. Translated by Richard McDougall as Herculine Barbin: being the recently discovered memoirs of a nineteenth-century French hermaphrodite. New York: Pantheon Books; Brighton: Harvester Press, 1980.
  • René Féret (dir & scr). Mystere Alexina. Scr: Jean Gruault, based on the book by Herculine Barbin & Michel Foucault, with (Philippe) Vuillemin as Alexina Barbin. France 86 mins 1985.
  • Alice Domurat Dreger. Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex. Cambridge, Ma, Harvard University Press. 2000: 16-20, 23, 28-9, 51-2, 76, 239n21.
  • Sarah Leaver (writer & performer). Memoirs of a Hermaphrodite, 75 mins 2010. Performed in London, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool
  • “Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite”.  Wikipedia, the free

Dr Goujon left us two detailed drawing of Barbin’s genital area, but we have no record of her face.  The drawings may be viewed in Dreger’s book.

The EN.Wikipedia article, in line with its usual practice, retrojects final gender back to birth.  “It's wikipedia policy to use the gender that the person decided upon as the pronoun throughout, not alternate them”.  However it gives not the slightest evidence that Barbin chose to be male, or even accepted the gender reassignment.  Suicide was her method of refusing to be male.  Even stranger, having imposed male pronouns, it names the article with Camille’s birth girl name: “Herculine Barbin”.

Actually the birth name was Adélaîde Herculine Barbin, so if only one first name is given, it should be Adélaîde Barbin.  However it would be better to refer to Alexina, as this is what family and friends called her.  This is one case where the film got it more right than most of the books about this person.

Likewise Abel is a name imposed.  When Alexina uses a male name for herself, she uses Camille.  I have used Camille in the name of this article in that it is the last name that Barbin used for herself.

If Barbin had been born earlier, s/he would have been determined to be a hermaphrodite, and permitted to choose a gender.  This freedom had been gradually reduced since the eighteenth century and by 1860 the church, the state and medicine in alliance took it upon themselves to determine the ‘true sex’ of a person, and compel them into it, without any consideration of the person’s feelings.

Previously to 1860, the major determinant in sexing a person had been presence or lack of a penis or vagina.  Barbin had both and should have been a hermaphrodite.  However the new fashion was that gonads determined sex.  Barbin had testes but no ovaries.  This criterion was the trump until chromosomes were discovered in the twentieth century.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I am not a follower of Michel Foucault.  However I feel that his paragraph from page xiii is certainly worth pondering:
Alexina wrote her memoirs about that life once her new identity had been discovered and established. Her "true" and "definitive" identity. But it is clear she did not write them from the point of view of that sex which had at last been brought to light. It is not a man who is speaking, trying to recall his sensations and his life as they were at the time when he was not yet "himself." When Alexina composed her memoirs, she was not far from her suicide; for herself, she was still without a definite sex, but she was deprived of the delights she experienced in not having one, or in not entirely having the same sex as the girls among whom she lived and whom she loved and desired so much. And what she evokes in her past is the happy limbo of a non-identity, which was paradoxically protected by the life of those closed, narrow, and intimate societies where one has the strange happiness, which is at the same time obligatory and forbidden, of being acquainted with only one sex.

02 July 2012

Genucius (1st century BCE) Galla.

Genucius and Naevius Anius were slaves in Rome both owned by Sordinus Naevius.

After manumission the two ex-slaves remained close. Genucius became a galla, dedicated to the Magna Mater.

Naevius Anius died circa 77 BCE and left his possessions to Genucius. This inheritance was confirmed by praetor Aufidius Orestes. However this decision was appealed by Sordinus. He argued that only men or women could inherit property, and Genucius, having become a galla was neque virorum neque mulierum (neither man not woman). The consul Mamereus Aemilius Lepidus ruled for Sordinus, and furthermore barred Genucius from appearing in his courtroom in that his “obscena praesentia (obscene presence)” polluted the tribunal.
  • Valerius Maximus, Factorvm et Dictorvm Memorabilium, 7.7.6.
  • Randy P. Conner. Blossom of Bone: Reclaiming the Connections between Homoeroticism and the Sacred. HarperSanFrancisco, 1993: 111.

  • “Gallos” in Randy P. Conner, David Hatfield Sparks & Mariya Sparks. Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol, and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore. London: Cassell, 1997.

  • Jane F. Gardner. “Sexing a Roman: imperfect men in Roman law”. In Lin Foxhall & J. B. Salmon. When Men Were Men: Masculinity, Power, and Identity in Classical Antiquity. London: Routledge, 1998: 145-6.

  • Roller, Lynn E. In Search of God the Mother: The Cult of Anatolian Cybele. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1999: 292.


As Gardner points out, a castrated Roman male was not excluded from inheriting.  However Roman citizens were not permitted to become Gallae, and therefore Genucius was probably not a Roman citizen, and was excluded from inheriting on that basis.

The dating is based on the fact that Mamereus Aemilius Lepidus is known to have been consul in 77 BCE.