This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1200 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing - especially in the year-end summaries (see links in right sidebar.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

30 August 2012

Dorothy Medway (192? - ? ) female impersonator

Dorothy, who had been working as a female impersonator, had obtained female hormones from a doctor who , 'decided that I had been born with a completely feminine mind, controlling all my actions'.

However in the early 1950s no British doctor would do an orchidectomy because of the mayhem laws. She had to go to the Netherlands instead. She was featured in the Sunday Pictorial on 6 March 1954, on an inside page, on the day that most UK newspapers were featuring the Roberta Cowell story.

Unlike Roberta she did not have the upper-class connections to be introduced to Sir Arthur Gillies, nor would she have been able to afford his fees.
  • Sunday Pictorial, 6 March 1954.
  • Dave King. The Transvestite and the Transsexual: Public Categories and Private Identities. Aldershot: Avebury, 1993: 111.

28 August 2012

Willibald von Sadler-Grün (18?? - 19??) performer, aristocrat.

Willibald von Sadler-Grün was a Baltic German aristocrat and was associated with Magnus Hirschfield's Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee before the Great War. He was a noted transvestite, and with Herman von Teschenberg was photographed en femme for the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen.

Sadler-Grün performed on stage, often under the name Urany Verde, and made a tour of Germany. He usually performed in the role of either a queen or a princess, and sang soprano as well as baritone.
  • Iwan Bloch. The Sexual Life of Our Time In Its Relations to Modern Civilization. London: Heinemann, 1908: 500.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller. “Sadler-Grün, Willibald von”. Mann für Mann: biographisches Lexikon zur Geschichte von Freundesliebe und mannmännlicher Sexualität im deutschen Sprachraum. 1, A - Ras. Münster [u.a.]: Lit-Verl, 2010: 602-3. 
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Grün is German for green, Verde is Spanish for green.  Urany Verde is Green Uranian.  Uranian is the anglicization of Ulrich's Urning.

I have found no mention indicating that Willibad survived the First World War.


25 August 2012

Marie-Marguerite (1792–18??) farm worker

Marie-Marguerite was raised in , in the then newly created département of Eure-et-Loir, France.

At age 13 she started to suffer from groin hernias on both sides, and consulted a surgeon who prescribed a truss, to no avail. Marie-Marguerite was blonde and attractive, and a good housekeeper, so the son of a neighbouring farmer proposed when she was 16. However this fell through for reasons of family interests. At age 19 another engagement was broken off at the signing of the contract.

Her charm was disappearing, and her clothes no longer seemed to suit her. She expressed a preference for outdoor tasks such as sowing and harrowing, rather than milking cows and nursing chickens.

She consulted Dr Worbe who examined her and concluded that she was male. She shed tears, and exclaimed: : "So I'll never be able to settle down!" It took several months to become used to the idea that he was not a woman. Finally he took the decision ‘to make a solemn proclamation’ that he was male, and obtained a court ruling to that effect. Then he presented himself to the community. As Worbe tells it:
“Making a masculine entrance in the village whose inhabitants had until then only seen him in woman's clothing was extremely embarrassing for Marie; but over-coming any false shame, he went to mass on Sunday, passed through to the choir of the church, and took his place among the men. After this bold and decisive act, protected by one who was not long ago his lover, Marie went to the places frequented by young men of his age, and shared in their entertainments. Marie soon abandoned all feminine habits: an excellent domestic worker, he became a good labourer in very little time.”
  • Worbe. “Sur un individu rendu par jugement á l’état viril, après avoir été vingt-deux ans réputé du sexe féminin; cas médico-légal”. Bulletin de la faculté de médecine de Paris, XI, 4:10, 1815: 479-92.
  • Geertje Mak. Doubting Sex: Inscriptions, Bodies and Selves in Nineteenth-Century Hermaphrodite Case Histories. Manchester University Press, 2012: 51-3.
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After his consultation Dr Worbe refers to Marie as ‘he’, which is good, but still calls him Marie!!  It is not known what male name he adopted, although it was probably stated in the court ruling.

It is likely that the groin hernias were likely late-descending testicles.

This account is one of very few from the period which recounts what happened after the patient was told that he was a man.  Typically for the period, Dr Worbe has no interest in and does not ask about whether Marie regards himself as a man.

Marie took the initiative to change gender and to have it legally confirmed.  At this period – before 1870 or so – intersex persons were allowed to choose whether to change or to stay with the gender of rearing. 

For most of his life, up to 1815, France was at war.  Fortunately, becoming a man did not mean joining the army.

22 August 2012

Alice Baker (18?? - ? ) school teacher.

In 1910 Alice Baker was a school teacher in Harrah, Oklahoma. She left for Oklahoma City where a man paid attention to her. However he then reported to the police that she was a man. She was arrested for masquerading, but seized an opportunity and left town.

The next year, as James Arthur Baker, he was teaching in Segundo, Colorado, just west of Trinidad. Several of his schoolboys suspected that he was a woman disguised as a man. They took their concerns to the authorities who arrested Baker and lodged him in the women’s quarters at the local jail. At a court hearing ten days later, the prosecutor supplied evidence that Baker had gone by the names Madeline, Mabel and also Irene Pardee, and had corresponded both as male and as female. Furthermore Mrs Baker had deserted a husband and two children in Oklahoma. He also displayed items of female clothing taken from Baker’s trunk. However three physicians, who had examined Baker, testified that he was man, and the judge dismissed the case.

Baker arrived in Portland, Oregon in the spring of 1913. She arrived in men’s clothes but found refuge at the women’s Peniel Mission, where she explained that she had had to leave home in Idaho after a disagreement with her parents, and had traveled as a man with a fake moustache. Donations were made to her of feminine attire and a ‘transformation’ wig. There were even rumors that a local evangelical minister had proposed. However the wife of the Peniel Mission’s superintendent became suspicious, and a short stay in hospital resulted in the physician reporting to the superintendent and to the local authorities that she was a man. Baker quickly left town, on a ship sailing to California, with a man friend.

In late 1913 Baker was again arrested, this time in Kansas City, Kansas, charged with dressing as a woman. By this time she had a lawyer husband. The two had counterfeited gold certificates, and even travelled to Japan to exchange them for real gold.

*Not the Great War veteran, nor the Artie Baker who was jailed in San Quentin in 1916 before being discovered to be female-bodied.
  • Peter Boag. Same-Sex Affairs: Constructing and Controlling Homosexuality in the Pacific Northwest. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 2003: 82.
  • Peter Boag. Re-Dressing America's Frontier Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011: 84-6.
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Boag discusses Baker in Portland in both his books.  In the first it is stated that she arrived in Portland in Spring 1913.  The second is more vague, perhaps to allow time for the trip to Japan before the Kansas arrest.

This is a remarkable reconstruction of Baker's life by Boag who had noted her stay in Portland in his 2003 book, and then found other  articles in different local papers and realized that they referred to the same person.

Baker is not listed as a prominent resident in any of the Wikipedia town pages.

19 August 2012

Herbert Beeson (1899 - 1969) high wire walker.

Herbert Beeson was raised in Summitville, Indiana. At 17 he was working as a clerk in a general store, and helping out three nights a week as a stage hand at the village theater.

A small circus, the Marvelous Lucknows came to town. Herbert took up with Margaret, the slack wire dancer, and joined the troupe. Seven months later, in Texas, Margaret slipped and was hurt, and Herbert practiced in wig and skirt, took over her act as Berta Beeson, and graduated to tight rope. Margaret and Herbert also married.

From 1917-1923 Berta was a featured artist at the Sells-Floto Circus which billed her as M’lle Beeson, and as she was the star they had no other acts performing at the same time. Berta Beeson performed in Vaudeville during the off season.

Ringling Bros, Barnum & Baily Circus (RBBBC) lost their star high wire dancer, Bird Millman in 1923. She was replaced by Berta Beeson who canceled his contract with Sells-Floto.  Like Bird she wore a calf-length dress with flounce and fluff, but was now being described as “the Julian Eltinge of the Wire” which implied that her her gender was an open secret.

Berta Beeson, high wire performer retired in 1936. Herbert Beeson, who became known as Slats continued with the RBBBC as a 24-hour man (advance advertizing before the circus arrived in town), and then in the 1950s as an announcer. He was also on the circus baseball team.

Herbert Beeson died age 70 in California.
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By 1929 practically all travelling circuses in the US had been absorbed by Ringling Brothers.

Thank you to Stacy Wilderness for her site on Berta Beeson.

It is normal for high wire artists to retire as they approach middle age.  Beeson seems to have given up female impersonation at the same time.

It is not clear whether he performed in Vaudeville as a woman or as a female impersonator.

The Wikipedia page on Summitville does not list Beeson as a prominent resident.

16 August 2012

Colette Berends (1934 - 2012) performer, beautician, fabric artist.

Berends was raised in Zwolle, Overijssel, Netherlands. After a few years of window dresser, she went to Amsterdam and found work in a nightclub as a travestie, and later appeared at Madame Arthur in Amsterdam and Paris.

She had breast augmentation in 1956, and made the transition to regular night clubs, and sang and danced in clubs all over Europe and North Africa. She completed transition to Colette with surgery from Georges Burou in 1971. Two Moroccan gynaecologists certified that she had all the external characteristics of a woman. Three months later, with the help of the noted endocrinologist, Dr O de Vaal, she was able to have her birth certificate re-issued.
“Some people said: the most remarkable fact is that you remained precisely the same person, but now it looks more natural. Indeed, I remained the same. Some transsexuals totally reject their past. They tear apart old photo albums in order not to be reminded by the past. However, I have also lived before my surgery and in some way I was happy too. This is not bothering me too much. I am as I am, I do not impose anything on myself. Sometimes they say: as a woman you have to behave such and such. Nonsense. Even should I have a male characteristic. I don’t know if I have one - then it is like that and that makes me not unhappy.”.
She continued as a performer until she was 48. This gave her the money and the time to take holidays all around the world. Colette then returned to Zwolle, despite the fact that she and her past were known there. At first she opened a beauty salon, but became known for her artistic work with tapestries, for which she has won many awards.

She spent the last 30 years of her life with the same boyfriend, Ton. She died at age 77.
TS Successes

14 August 2012

Raoul Hurpin (189?–?) soldier, housewife.

Raoul Hurpin was a noted ladies’ man. He was in the French Army during the Great War. His trench was demolished by a shell, and he was buried alive. He was rescued, and was then three years in hospital. By this time he had become a women.

One of Hurpin’s ex-girlfriends sued for breach-of-promise to confer legitimacy upon her son, so that he could take up a provincial government post. Hurpin admitted responsibility, and medical testimony was taken. Hurpin was declared the father of the child, but it was now obviously impossible for her to marry the women.

Proceedings were then taken to secure legal recognition that Hurpin was a women, and later she married a labourer.
  • Roberta Cowell. Roberta Cowell's Story. London: Heinemann. London: W.Heinemann. New York: British Book Centre, 1954: 105.
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This story is found only in Roberta Cowell's Story.  I attempted to check it in relevant book such as Peter Farrer’s Cross Dressing between the Wars: Selections from London Life, 1923-1933, Maxime Foerster‘s Histoire des transsexuels en France and Alice Dreger’s Hermaphrodites and the Medical Invention of Sex, but to no avail.  Obviously we have insufficient detail.  Most likely Hurpin had an unspecified intersex condition, but that Cowell read a popular account that did not give details.

Cowell does not give Hurpin’s female name.

11 August 2012

Hotcha Hinton (1915 - 1983) circus, performer.

Hayward Hinton was literally born in a theater trunk, and was raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. His mother was an aerialist with the Sells Floto Circus, and his parents separated when he was young. At the age of 7 he learned to dance in a studio run by Christian Ebsen (the father of Buddy Ebsen). The name ‘Hotcha’ came from a Broadway show, and also became a slang term for approval or delight.

Hinton first danced in clubs in Chicago when she was 16, and at 18 was working in the chorus line at a midway carnival, where Gypsy Rose Lee was the headliner, at the Chicago World’s Fair. Later in 1933 she was in the revue, The Streets of Paris, at the My Oh My Club in Miami. As the vaudeville theaters closed, she moved into burlesque. She toured the US in the burlesque musical Vogues, and became acquainted with Mae West and most of the big-time strippers.

Paulson & Simpson p 141.
By the late 1940s Hotcha had landed at the Garden of Allah club in Seattle, where she worked each winter and did many of the costumes for the show until it closed in 1956. Her act involved live snakes to the consternation of the other performers. In summer she would leave to work in carnivals.

She lived as a woman full-time, was quite pleased to be taken as a woman, and she would get upset if she failed to pass on the phone, or if show-biz rival like Ray Bourbon or Liz Lyons referred to her as a man. She had electrolysis but apparently did not take hormones.

In 1969 she had a small part in the film Lady Godiva Rides. She did charity benefits, especially for the disabled, and political fund-raisers for John Kennedy (Potus 35) and Jimmy Carter (Potus 39). She went to the Carter inauguration ball with stripper Flame Fury. In later years she often performed for college audiences.

When she checked into hospital at the end, she did so in male clothing to avoid the fuss that would otherwise happen. She was cremated in an androgynous hospital gown. She was 68.

08 August 2012

George Kelf (168? - ?) convicted.

In 1726, George Kelf from Bramton Park, Hertfordshire, was visiting London. Two women picked him up, and they went to an ale house where the two women fell into conversation with Margaret Bradford as if old friends. In jest, Kelf referred to one of the women as his wife, and the other as his sister.

Bradford had a spare room, and offered to let it for the night, to avoid a late night journey. After Kelf and the two women had been in the room a hour, he came down to share a pot of ale with Mrs Bradford. He returned to the room and fell asleep. Mrs Bradford remembered that the drawers in the room were unlocked. She went up and found the two women gone, and the clothing in the drawers also.

Kelf was arrested, tried and cast for transportation. While in Newgate prison it was suspected that he was a woman, and he was examined and discovered. He admitted that he had lived as a man for sixteen years.