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18 March 2013

Virginia Prince: Part III – Femmiphilic activist

Part 1 – Youth and First marriage
Part II – Second Marriage
Part III – Femmiphilic activist
Part IV – Full-time Living
Part V – Transgenderist dowager
Jargon terms and general comments

Virginia Prince was an adviser to Harry Benjamin for his 1966 seminal The Transsexual Phenomenon, consulted on the transvestite types, but not on Benjamin’s type IV, nonsurgical transsexual, a role that Prince did not adopt until 1968. The three types of transvestite in Benjamin's schema: pseudo, fetishistic and true were a direct reflection of what Prince had been advocating, and left nowhere for gay transvestites, female impersonators nor for female cross dressers. Benjamin proposed a scale or typology divided into six types: Transvestite (Pseudo), Transvestite (Fetishistic), Transvestite (True), Transsexual (Nonsurgical), Transsexual (Moderate intensity),Transsexual (High intensity).

Prince responded with a seven-type scale (Benjamin: 40):
  1. Fetishist
  2. Low intensity TV
  3. True femmiphile TV
  4. Asexual type
  5. Gender type TS
  6. Intensive sexual type TS
  7. Operated TS
As the book came out, Mr Lowman was being divorced by Doreen, and was selling his share of Cardinal Industries. He said that he sold it for 10 times his initial investment. Doreen retained more than half of the assets including the house in Nichols Canyon. Arnold moved to a small rented house in Laurel Canyon.1 Harry Benjamin wrote to the US Passport Bureau in support of Prince's application for a passport in her female name. Without comment the request was granted. (Benjamin:169-170)

The same year Agnes confessed to Dr Stoller that she had indeed taken external estrogens, and that she was not intersex.

Early that year Prince urged FPE members to remember that homophile advances rebounded in their interest:
"The homophile community is on the march AND on the way to gaining acceptance…. Some of the more narrow minded of our sister TVs see nothing good in anything that homosexuals do, but we ought to remember that their persecution is our persecution and their victory will be our victory too…. So, personally I am all for their success and would cooperate in helping them to achieve it where I could out of pure self interest for our group if nothing else fails. There is, however, the broader interest of helping all minorities toward acceptance." (Transvestia #37, February 1966; Hill: 321)
The North American Conference of Homophile Organizations (NACHO) held its founding convention in San Francisco in August 1966. Prince attended as an observer. “I think it is in order that we keep an observer status in this field and stand by to aid their cause when it will aid ours and to extract from their experiences and their contacts with authorities and influential groups any contacts and opportunities that may be to our advantage."

Lavender Los Angeles p 65
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) adopted a national policy very similar to the one that Vern Bullough had drafted for the San Fernando Valley chapter, and following the amicus curiae brief that they had filed in the Felicity Chandelle case, that homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals should be protected.

Prince and several FPE members attended a drag ball. Prince took an informal survey of sixteen drag queens, asking each ten questions that she had pre-devised. She hypothesized that the answers to these questions would distinguish homosexual queens from transvestites. However one of the 16 answered as if a femmiphilic. Prince informed him of that and introduced him to the FPE members. He later joined FPE. (Transvestia #41, October 1966; Hill:399-400).

In August there was a riot between trans women and the police at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco's Tenderloin district.

Another book that came out that year was Myron Brenton's The American Male, an early work of men's liberation. Prince felt that Brenton's arguments about masculine mystique, the arbitrary construction of gender norms, and the narrow stereotypes that men felt pressured to follow were much the same as she had been writing about in Transvestia for the last six years. She juxtaposed quotes from Brenton with references to her own earlier columns (Hill:390) Prince even spoke up for homosexuals as long as they did not attempt to join FPE: “Nothing is more basic to our insecurities, self-condemnation, and non-acceptance than the problem of homosexuality.”(Transvestia #41, October 1966; Hill:398)

FPE- Northern Europe was set up on the FPE model for the Scandinavian countries, at the initiative of Annette Hall from Sweden who had met Virginia in the US in the Spring of 1966. In later years it split into separate organizations for each country.

Late 1966 Virginia was interviewed for television in Hawai'i: "I was there as Virginia and was interviewed for about twenty minutes before I was asked what personal interest I had in the field—it had all been professional before that—and I dropped to my masculine voice and confessed all…" (Transvestia #42, December 1966; Hill:305-6.

Prince set up meetings with police chiefs and the heads of vice squads.
"I went as Virginia to see the Lt. who was public relations assistant to the Police Chief in San Diego. He then took me to the Lt. in charge of the vice squad. After about 45 minutes with him I left for an appointment with the City Attorney….The reason for my call on them was that San Diego is working on an ordinance which could make the wearing of the clothing of the opposite sex with the intent to commit an illegal act, illegal itself….Both the Lt. and the City Attorney made it clear that if a TV such as myself was just walking the streets, acting like a lady and minding his own business that no law would be being broken because there would be no ‘intent’….I urged them to try to get the ordinance through leaving out the clothing as a means to their ends. I don’t think I succeeded in selling them on this, but they did admit that I had a point." (Transvestia #38, April 1966; Hill:308). She usually started with an inquiry about the city's cross-dressing laws, and then stressed the harmlessness of heterosexual cross-dressers. She was always emphatic that they were different from homosexuals and street queens.2
On the last night of 1966 there was a drag contest at New Faces, a bar on W. Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. Just before midnight many of the contestants crowded into the Black Cat, just down the street. At the stroke of midnight, as many of the men exchanged a traditional kiss, the LAPD rushed in and beat several customers brutally. They chased two back to the New Faces where they knocked down the woman owner and beat the two bartenders unconscious, one of whom then suffered a ruptured spleen and after recovery was charged with felony assault on a police officer. Six patrons were charged with lewd conduct for kissing, and were all found guilty by a jury. Two of them were later registered as sex offenders. In response, there were organized protests, and the convictions of the two were appealed as far as the US Supreme Court which declined to take the case. This inspired a new periodical, The Advocate, for gay and lesbian (including transvestite) issues. It was at first a Los Angeles publication, and then grew into a national publication. Despite the probability that some of the drag contestants were FPE members, FPE took no notice of the event.

In January 1967 Prince attended a combined party arranged by Theta Chapter (Madison) and Theta Tau (Minneapolis-St Paul). Later that year members of Theta-Tau joined Prince for a visit to the University of Minnesota.

The newly divorced Prince published a new edition of The Transvestite and his Wife later that year, a clear re-statement that Prince’s organizing is only for heterosexual men. The book is dedicated to Karl Bowman and Harry Benjamin, both of whom had helped Prince. "Through his [Benjamin's] education of other doctors, psychologists, and marriage counselors he has helped many hundreds of transvestites."
Prince claimed to have encountered few happier marriages than those in which the wife accepts and participates in the husband's transvestism; fewer more unsatisfactory than those in which the wife rejects it. If a wife should fail to understand, it is an indication of her immaturity stemming from her own unresolved emotional problems. Prince grades wives A-F on how well they understand and accept. "The femmiphile adopts feminine garb as a matter of personal internal expression – the homosexual 'Queen' does so for external effect – to attract males for sexual purposes and to ease the guilt of both." 3 "Females can and do wear masculine type clothing so openly and without social disapproval that the desire to do so is not frustrated and does not therefore present a problem."4

The British FPE offshoot, The Beaumont Society was founded with an initial membership of 7.

In August Prince appeared on the Irv Kupcinet show in Chicago in a panel with Paul Gebhard, director of the Kinsey Institute who had continued Kinsey's research into transvestites, the black novelist Richard Wright and a psychiatrist. "'For the first time over the air,' she proudly wrote 'a TV was treated as the intellectual equal of other persons with some stature and not as a sort of curiosity to be taken apart.' (Transvestia #47, October 1967; Hill:306). She received hundreds of letters of inquiry.

Sir Lady Java was fired from her employment as a performer and waitress at the Redd Foxx Club in Los Angeles. The ACLU, having been persuaded to aid transvestites, challenged the LAPD Rule that applied as unconstitutional. But apparently FPE did nothing. In New York, Mauricio Archibald, in female clothing and on his way home from a party, was arrested on a subway platform and charged under the same obscure law that Felicity Chandelle had been charged under. Despite his being heterosexual, and despite his obtaining an appeal hearing, no help was forthcoming from either Prince or Siobhan Fredericks.

The final Nationals Pageant, for professional and amateur drag performers, organized by Jack Doroshow/Flawless Sabrina,was held that year in New York as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. This was filmed, and released the next year as The Queen, which became a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. On this basis Doroshow, obviously openly transvestite, was hired as a special adviser on the films Midnight Cowboy, 1969, and Myra Breckinridge, 1970.

Prince informed her readers under the title “Life Begins at 54”:
“Virginia will be a freer soul now even if she has to crossdress as Charles now and then…. I’m going to do everything that will continue to broaden (literally and figuratively) my experience of life in my closing years. Everything with three specific exceptions that is, I draw the line at homosexuality, transsexuality, and a third marriage. (Transvestia #43, 1967)"
The Alpha group had its first open house in November 1967. This became an annual event. City leaders and public officials were invited to a catered dinner and a lecture by Prince. 50 guests turned up the first year. (Hill: 315)

The December 1967 issue of Transvestia was the only one ever to publish a photograph of an east Asian transvestite: Lili, a recent immigrant to New York from Shanghai.5

Prince took on a part-time assistant at Transvestia at this time. Mary’s mother had died in 1966, and she started electrolysis and hormones and gave up her male job with the intention of seeking surgery. However Prince gave her a hard time on the question of surgery. She did however start living full time as female. Her story was published in Transvestia, 62, Feb 1970.

From this point on, until 1982, Prince was a full-time activist and lecturer. She traveled across the US, to England, Scandinavia and Australia. She appeared on radio and television, lectured to college classes, gave newspaper interviews, delivered papers at professional conferences, and appeared at local FPE chapter meetings and social functions. Traveling and appearing as a woman in public as this entailed led to her decision in late 1968 to live full time as female. She encouraged members of FPE to contact their local networks to set up potential appearances. Prince appeared on either radio or television shows in San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Chicago, Madison, Minneapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Toledo, New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Houston, and Tulsa, among other cities. On these radio and television programs, she promoted her books, the magazine, and Phi Pi Epsilon. In Transvestia, she published photographs of herself with television and radio personalities and described her trips in extensive travelogues.

A handful of doctors and mental health professionals responded to Prince's growing reputation by referring transvestite patients to FPE and Transvestia. A similar shift had already occurred with homophile patients being referred to gay groups, and as already mentioned, Harry Benjamin had been referring patients to Siobhan Fredericks since 1963.

In 1968, Transvestia columnist Sheila Niles popularized the concept ‘whole girl fetishist (WGF)’ for members who did not pass well enough, particularly if it were for lack of trying. Over the next few years it came to be that those who failed or didn’t bother to fashion themselves as truly feminine were fetishistic.6 Susanna even estimated that the majority of members were WGFs (Transvestia #55, 1969).

From 1968 Prince wrote more columns about transsexuality than about homosexuality and fetishism combined. He strongly resisted the common assumption (endorsed by Harry Benjamin and others) that there was a continuum from fetishism to transvestism to transsexuality. Susanna Valenti held that many transvestites were incipient transsexuals who with the right circumstances would progress to living as women. Dozens within Transvestia's readership were opting for surgery, and it irked Prince that his advice was being ignored: “…the number of persons asking for and achieving it does not make me happy. I am disturbed”. (Transvestia#50, 1968; Hill, 137) He became quite mean-spirited on the subject, presenting transsexuals as failed individuals: “inadequate, inappropriate, inefficient, and uncomfortable in the masculine gender role and who were also inadequate and unhappy in the male sex role". They had failed at both the sex and the gender of being male. Several times Prince used the crude pun: “While I feel whole, transsexuals feel hole”.

FPE continued its policy of not accepting “bondage or masochistic people, amateur investigators, curiosity seekers, homosexuals, transsexuals or emotionally disturbed people”, Great emphasis was still placed on privacy and secrecy, and also on involving members’ wives.

Annette, whose photograph had been the first cover girl on Transvestia #5, invited FPE, as he did most years, to visit his remote ranch in Idaho. Most of the Seattle Chapter went, and Virginia drove up from Los Angeles. Katherine Cummings was present and observed that Virginia managed to alienate most of the wives by telling them that she was just as female as they were. (Cummings: 185).

WBI Boston 1968 with Dr Leo Wollman.  Presenter Bob Kennedy
Also 1968, Prince's mother, Elizabeth Arnold, died. By this time Prince had had facial hair removed by electrolysis and was taking female hormones again, and had had a legal name change to Virginia Bruce. She took an extensive six-week trip across the US meeting FPE members and even police officers. She emphasized that she took no male clothing with her. On her return she bought a spacious house in the Hollywood Hills. She trained as a glider pilot and purchased an Ultralite aircraft. She also bought a motorhome for her travels in the US.7

In August she wrote "My goal achieved" (Transvestia #49) about how she had attended a session of the then new nudist therapy led by psychologist Paul Bindrim, who had previously spoken at an Alpha Chapter meeting. Prince felt that it was an opportunity to present as Virginia while revealing her male anatomy:
"For about 20 hours I was as naked as the day I was born but for those same 20 hours I was still Virginia to myself and to all the rest. Although there could be no doubt as to my maleness (sex), nobody seemed inclined to doubt my femininity (gender), and I was treated in all respects as one of the girls by men and women alike."
This, of course, created a reaction from her readers. The August issue contained the following letter:
"Most of your readers think that you are everything good about TVism and are the ultimate in FPism and pure in all ways. What your article has done is to plant a great deal of doubt in their minds as to just what you are…. When all this is added to your story of running around in the nude, kissing a man, having him hold you and the other things, no matter what the occasion, I think that a lot of people think you have gone off the deep end. I would think that the GG’s who read it would all be set back…because you have given them proof that TVs just don’t want to put on a dress to express feminine feeling inside them but really want to go much further, and this is what they fear most”
In the June issue, Prince went so far as to denounce how male roles are connected to violence.
"The male citizen of our American culture, and to some extent but not to the same degree, the males of other western cultures, have elevated the cult of masculinity to the ultimate….In a world that venerates, honors, and rewards masculinity far above femininity and which at the same time equates strength, courage, determination, aggressiveness, and force with masculinity, what can we expect? Men are so frightened, so ashamed, so fearful of their gentler instincts and feelings that they shove them aside and elevate the current conceptions of masculinity to the dominant and determining place in their life philosophy. In order to deny femininity, a man will exaggerate masculinity well beyond its proper proportion in human life. What is the result in the world? The continued domination of the masculine ethic of force and violence, of solving problems with wars, pistols, or fists instead of with the head and the heart." (Transvestia #51, June 1968; Hill 391-2)
Prince wrote that she completely accepted herself 'genderally'.
‘I was then free to live my life as I wanted having no domestic or business responsibilities. I therefore crossed the line completely and have lived as a woman full time ever since’ ("Charles to Virginia: Sex Research as a Personal Experience” in Vern Bullough (ed), Frontiers of Sex Research: 172).
Despite the no-transsexuals policy, Virginia Prince, as she now was at age 55, was in effect what Harry Benjamin called a non-surgical transsexual, although she would never admit to the term. However Virginia's male persona was resurrected again for a revised version of A Survey of Chemistry for Cosmetologists.
  1. Laurel Canyon in 1968 had more than its share of both celebrities and of murder. There are two books about the neighborhood: , Michael Walker's Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock-and-Roll's Legendary Neighborhood, 2006. and Dave McGowan's Inside The LC: The Strange but Mostly True Story of Laurel Canyon and the Birth of the Hippie Generation, 2008-2012. Neither has anything to say about Prince. In addition to Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa as neighbors, there was Ramon Navarro who was murdered in his home by two intruders that very year.
  2. Hill:308 commented: "I have found no evidence that indicates what exactly police officials thought about Prince—whether they took her seriously or as a complete joke or as another urban oddity whose voice they, as public servants, were obligated to listen to. Accompanying her many travelogues are photographs of Prince with prominent psychiatrists, doctors, and radio and television personalities. It may be telling that there is not one photograph of Prince posing with a police chief or law officer."
  3. However, see footnotes 5 and 6 in Part II. Prince admitted to Stoller that attracting the attention of men was something that she specifically enjoyed.
  4. Sex Changes: The Politics of Transgenderism was written by Patrick Califia before transition. Its section on Prince is based solely on a careful and insightful reading of The Transvestite and His Wife. "But this putative 'difference' between male and female sexuality has more to do with the repression of women's sexuality in general … than a shift in couture. I know what I feel when I am in male drag. My conversations with other women who cross-dress as men make it clear that I am not the only woman who gets a sexual rush out of appropriating a masculine image. A whole book could probably be written about the misogyny and homophobia that has led sexologists and other 'experts' to frequently state, as Prince does, that women can wear men's clothes without being punished, so they have no need to become transvestites. This is patently false. … As any stone butch or passing woman can tell you, the general public continues to be deeply disturbed by a biological female who appears in public in men's clothing. There is no difference between the discrimination, condemnation, and violence that is routinely inflected upon male and female cross-dressers, if they are exposed as such."
  5. Lili took up with Susanna Valenti, and can be seen several times in Casa Susanna, 2005.
  6. The FPs felt about the ‘whole girl fetishists’ in much the same way that not-TG persons today feel about those who do not pass, and whom they call ‘transgenders’.
  7. Perhaps Prince was affluent after selling 50% of Cardinal Industries; or perhaps his mother left a bequest.

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