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.

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc. There is also a Place Index arranged by City etc. This is still evolving.

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29 May 2014

Michelle De Ville (1958–) performer, habilleuse.

19-year-old De Ville first met transsexuals in a Montréal gay bar. They were dressed as men but had obviously started on hormones. This led to a discovery of the bars that catered to transvestites and transsexuals: PJ's for English speakers and Café Cléopâtre further east for French speakers.

De Ville completed education in 1979 with a diploma from the CEGEP St Laurent in Sciences humaines.

Michelle was often found in Montréal's bars and nightclubs. Many times she was given a hard time in gay bars, or ejected, for being too feminine. She was much more accepted in disco and then New Wave clubs through the 1980s. She got to know a club owner, and became first a waitress, and then a 'door-bitch' deciding who got into the club. She did drag shows at PJ's and Cléopâtre's, starting with an impersonation of Brigitte Bardot.

This led to some small parts in movies shot in Montréal. The most significant were Or D'ur, Amour impossible and Evixion, each directed by Bashar Shbib. For Amour impossible, she introduced the film at gay film festivals across Canada and in New York. She was also in The Surrogate, 1984, a mainstream Canadian film where the major trans role went to professional impersonator Jim Bailey.

In 1989 she was working with Comité Sida Aide Montréal, but was concerned in that HIV+ trans women were being referred to by male pronouns.  Although not HIV+ herself,  she started a group specifically for HIV+ trans women.
"In my book, the trans community should be within the gay community, we should be a whole, that's what we say about LGBT rights. We're supposed to stick together, but the reality is totally different."
In 1990 she was interviewed in Fuzzbox magazine on how queens/ transsexuals had not been allowed in some gay bars even those with a drag show.

In 1994 Michelle was gratuitously insulted by two police officers. She made an official complaint, handicapped by the fact that the officers had hidden their name tags, which resulted in her being hassled by police for six days until she was stopped with her lawyer in the passenger seat. When the case finally came to court, a year later, the police insisted that there was no way to know which police officers were in which car.

Viviane Namaste`s 2005 C'était du spectacle! drew partially on Michelle`s personal archives.  

Michelle makes a living selling and renting period clothing, and also books and records.
  • Interview with Michelle de Ville. Fuzzbox, 1990. np.
  • Ki Namaste. "'Tragic Misreadings': Queer Theory's Erasure of Transgender Subjectivity". In Michele Eliason & Jim Cullen (eds). Queer Studies: A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Anthology. New York: New York University Press, 1996: 186.
  • Viviane K. Namaste. Invisible Lives: The Erasure of Transsexual and Transgendered People. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000: 10-11.
  • Viviane K. Namaste. C'était du spectacle!: l'histoire des artistes transsexuelles à Montréal, 1955-1985. Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005: xii.
  • Viviane K Namaste. Sex Change, Social Change Reflections on Identity, Institutions, and Imperialism. Toronto: Women's Press, 2005: 210.
  • Michelle De Ville interviewed by Viviane Namaste. "'We Paved the Way for Whatever Tolerance They Have in Their Lives': An Interview with Michelle De Ville, 'The First Door Bitch in Montreal'". In Dan Irving & Rupert Raj (eds). Trans Activism in Canada: A Reader. Women's Press, 2014.
*not the Hollywood special effects person, nor the French film director

IMDB     LinkedIn      AmazonReviewer

There is a pattern whereby academics who write about trans people have a favourite person whom they mention again and again.   For Vern Bullough it was Virginia Prince.   For Richard Ekins it was Phaedra Kelly.   And for Viviane Namaste it is Michelle De Ville.

Namaste 1996, 2000, 2005 returned and returned to the 1990 Fuzzbox interview where Michelle spoke of herself and others being hassled as trans women in gay bars.   This is hardly straighforward.   Are trans women a type of women or a type of gay or both?  Should trans women want to go where cis women are not allowed?  I, also, in the 1970s and 1980s, when I was less confident of passing, would go to gay bars in Toronto where it did not matter if I were read.  Fortunately, I never had such bad experiences as Michelle talks about.  The fact that the same bars that did not welcome women (trans or cis) also had drag shows is not very germane as a trans issue.   Women who go into bars offering striptease or pole dancing are unlikely to be treated the same as the male customers.  The issue is more a feminist one of what attitude to take to men in gender segregation where women`s bodies and images are commodified.

The section on Michelle's films in the 2014 interview needed some fact checking.   Namaste spelt  Evixion as Eviction, and Michelle named The Surrogate as Blind Rage (presumably a working title, but not the release title).

You may care to browse Michelle`s Amazon Reviews.   Her dismissal of Benjamin`s Transsexual Phenomon as 'dinosaur' and 'dangerous' and her dismissal of the film Different for Girls as 'both irresponsible and offensive' sets her apart.   She is also a big fan of Jayne Mansfield.

26 May 2014

Barbara Diop (198? - ) model.

Barbara Diop from Dakar, Senegal was able to obtain some modelling work in Milan in 2001, and appeared in Vogue Italia.

She then moved to Cape Town. The 2003 Cricket World Cup was held in South Africa. It was arranged that each team be led onto the field by a model, and Diop was chosen to lead the Zimbabwean team.

During the contest word went around about Barbara's gender history, and presumably caused consternation in Harare given the public homophobia of Mugabe's government. However Zimbabwe were able to advance to the Super Sixes (quarter finals) after they were awarded a technical win over England who refused to play against them.

20 May 2014

Mark Rees Part II: activist, councillor.

Continued from Part I.

The refusal from the Church of England spurred Mark to consider a challenge through the legal system. A friend told him of Daniel van Oosterwijck who had applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the same issue. In 1979 he found a lawyer, David Sonia Burgess (1947 – 2010), also transgender, who would take the case.

In 1981 Mark chastised a local boy for breaking glass close to his house. In revenge the boy's mother put out the word about Mark's gender history and he was then continuously taunted by local kids. Another disappointment in this period was that Mark's younger sister, Jane, who had been initially supportive of his transition, turned against it in 1984, and even cut herself off from their mother.

That same year Mark wrote to the BBC's Claire Rayner's Casebook, and suggested that they do a program on transsexuality. The film crew came to Mark's home for the interview, but did not give his full name or whereabouts on the air.

Mark and David Burgess had been appealing through the courts and finally the ECHR decided that there was a case. Supposedly Mark's identity was to be confidential, but in April 1985 the ECHR issued a press release giving Mark's full name, and it was reprinted in The Guardian. This was quickly picked up by a local newspaper.

The ECHR hearing was held in 1986. Eleven days before, Mark and his mother were featured on BBC 1 Nine O'Clock News, and on Woman's Hour. The Thatcher government sent expensive lawyers to argue against Mark's petition, and it was denied. However, on the day that the ECHR's decision was handed down, Mark received a letter from the Liberal MP and barrister Alex Carlile expressing support. He was also invited to the Tunbridge Wells Civic Banquet by the incoming mayor.

In Liz Hodgkinson's 1987 book, Bodyshock, Mark explained:
"Sometimes I think  that I should know all about cars, now that I'm supposed to be a man, but many of my male friends don't understand mechanical things. I don't feel that it is essential at all. I see myself as an ideal person in the middle. Having been a woman, and having grown up, albeit reluctantly, in a woman's world, I find that my sympathies are with women. I find many men boring and pompous. I prefer to listen to women, and feel I know all about them, having been one. Everybody knows about me and I don't try to hide my background as many female-to-male transsexuals do."
In 1988 Mark encountered his sister's two daughters in town and said 'Hello'. A solicitor's letter letter came three days later demanding that he not attempt to see the children. Following this their mother went to visit a friend in Somerset, and died. A cousin from South Africa turned up for the funeral, who was also a female-to-male transsexual. Jane came but refused to sit with or even look at her brother. The local yobos jeered as Mark followed his mother's coffin. Later in the year a memorial service was held, without Jane being invited.

Mark fell into depression and stopped attending church. In 1989 Wendy Cooper got Wales On Sunday to commission a life history from Mark, and in June he went to Brussels as the European Parliament had accepted a motion that transsexuals be legally recognised. The motion was passed in September, but, as expected, the Thatcher government totally ignored it. On the trip Mark met with Pastor Joseph Doucé, a year before he was assassinated.

Mark started on a career as a public speaker, mainly to the Samaritans charity. Financially he was still relying on the dole. Alex Carlile organized a meeting of transsexuals and supporters in 1992 that started in his office and finished in a nearby café. This resulted in the foundation of Press for Change(PFC). Mark was happy to let the younger, and computer literate, do most of the work, but continued to write letters , especially to Anglican dioceses, and spoke at many meetings across the UK.

In 1994 Mark was elected to the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council representing the Liberal Democrat Party, one of the first openly trans candidates to be elected. However it resulted in an ill-mannered article in The News of the World. Nonetheless the local paper published a photograph of Councillor Rees a few weeks later with no mention at all of his gender history.

In 1996 Cassell published Mark's biography with a foreword by the Dutch professor Louis J Gooren and a preface by Alex Carlile.

In 2002, Mark turned 60, and being legally a woman was able to start drawing a state pension.

The Gender Recognition Act which PFC had campaigned for, came into effect in 2004, despite fierce opposition from the Evangelical Alliance and the Christian Institute. In July Mark had a letter published in The Church Times.
"It has been my hope that it might be possible to organise a service to give thanks for the passing of the Act, and to include penitence and reconciliation; but this has met with considerable antagonism from some colleagues, solely because of the bishops’ opposition. I wonder if there is any serving bishop who would have courage enough to say, 'On behalf of the Church, I am sorry for the hurt we have caused you'."
This generated enough response that an event, “The Gender Recognition Act 2004, Reflection and
Thanksgiving,” was held in St Anne’s Church, Soho, London, on 21 May 2005. Mark's local vicar in Tunbridge Wells came and preached a sermon against Christians who would not show love. Ironically, within the preceding week the Act had been amended by a Statutory Instrument in order to accommodate the objections of the fundamentalists. As a result they have the right to check on anyone who they might suspect to be transgender. If the individual is so, these religious people are permitted by law to refuse him or her employment, accommodation or even entry to worship.

By now Mark considered himself to be agnostic, and no longer attended church. He did however take a diploma course in applied theology. After the priest tutor mentioned that her church organist was transgender, Mark outed himself to the tutor and then the class. This went well and several wanted to read his biography which was by then out of print. This led to Mark expanding the book and adding photographs. The new publication in 2009 was at his own expense.

He finally registered as male under the Gender Recognition Act as an act of closure in completing the revision of the book.

Mark died age 81 in 2023.

*not the footballer, nor the neuroscience professor
  • European Commission of Human Rights. Mark Rees against the United Kingdom: Report. Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 1984.
  • Terence Shaw.  "Sex Change Rights Plea to Court".  The Daily Telegraph, 17 Mar 1986. 
  • Liz Hodgkinson,. Bodyshock: the truth about changing sex. London: Columbus, 1987:136, 140-3.
  • Jane Jackson (dir). Sex Change - Shock! Horror! Probe. Scr: Kristiene Clarke, with Mark Rees and others. UK TV Channel 4 50 mins 1989.
  • Mark Rees. "Becoming a man: The personal account of a Female-to-Male Transsexual". In Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. London & New York: Routledge 1996: 27-38.
  • Mark Rees. Dear Sir or Madam: the autobiography of a female-to-male transsexual. London & New York: Cassell, 1996. Revised as Dear Sir or Madam: A Journey from Female to Male. Tunbridge Wells: Mallard, 2009.
  • Sophie Goodman.  "New hope for transsexuals as MPs move to change the law on birth certificates". The Independent, 23 June 2002.
  • Pat Califia. Sex changes : the politics of transgenderism. San Francisco: Cleis Press 1997. Second edition by Patrick Califia 2003: 178-186.
  • Judith Halberstam. Female Masculinity. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998.155-6
  • Mark Rees. "Reproaching opponents of Gender Recognition Act". Church Times, 02 Nov 2006.
  • Christine Burns. "Dear Sir or Madam – The New Edition". Just Plain Sense, October 4, 2009.
  • Mark Dalby. "Book Review: Mark Rees, Dear Sir or Madam: A Journey from Female to Male". Modern Church, Jan 2010.
  • Christine Burns.  Pressing Matters, Volume 1.   Kindle, 2013. 
LGBThistorymonth     LGBTran


The second self-published autobiography came out in 2009 as the original was by then out of print.   The irony is that now it is fairly easy to buy a copy of the 1996 book on Amazon Marketplace or AbeBooks, but it is very difficult to find a copy of the 2009 version.

17 May 2014

Mark Rees (1942–2023) Part I: sailor, dental student

Rees' parents met on a P&O cruise, where father, born in South Africa, was part of the crew. He continued in the merchant navy. Mother was a secretary. Brenda Rees was born near Tunbridge Wells, Kent in the third year of the war, the sole survivor of premature twins. She had another sister four years younger.

Rees was a defiant tomboy who refused to wear frocks or a bra.
"I took it for granted that all girls wanted to be boys and would share my masculine interests".
She rejected her parents guidance to female occupations and went to the local art college, but she was taunted for her androgynous appearance, which led to a voluntary admittance to a psychiatric hospital. The doctors had little to offer her, but a fellow patient gave her a copy of The News of the World containing an article about Georgina Turtle. Her use of ladies' toilets also led to confrontations.

After working at a clerical post, Brenda was able, after several rejections because of the psychiatric admission, to join the Women's Royal Naval Service. However she was perceived as too mannish, and after two years discharged on medical grounds.

She started studying for the qualifications necessary to apply for medical school. In 1969 the Albany Trust and the Erickson Foundation organized the first International Conference on Gender Identity in London. Brenda read about this in The Times. After a delay because of father's death, she contacted Doreen Cordell at the Albany Trust, which had mainly worked for the decriminalization of homosexuality. With Brenda's agreement she was passed to Dr John Randall, whom she met, first at his Harley Street rooms, for a fee, and then at Charing Cross Hospital on the NHS. At their first meeting Randall said that he could help Brenda live as a man if that was what she really wanted.

She failed to get into medical school, but was accepted for the Dentistry course at the University of Birmingham. The plan was to qualify as a dentist before before becoming a man. However the stress of remaining the wrong sex for five years proved to be too much and in 1971 she asked to start on male hormones. The university supported Rees in his role change. His vicar suggested a week at the Anglican Franciscan Friary in Dorset, an all-male community, before returning home and to the third year of his dentistry studies.

All went well: with staff, with fellow students, and with neighbours in Tunbridge Wells. In December The Daily Telegraph ran an article by medical journalist Wendy Cooper, "Gender is a Mutable Point". Mark wrote to her, and she interviewed him for a subsequent article. Mrs Cordell asked if he would meet with journalist Sally Vincent whose subsequent article showed several misunderstandings. Mrs Cordell also put him in touch with other female-to-male transsexuals. Nonetheless Mark withdrew from the dental course after the third year - he knew that he wasn’t really dextrous enough to make a good dental surgeon.

He had a bilateral mastectomy in 1974, followed by an appearance on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour. He had a total hysterectomy in 1975. He then studied at Christ Church College, Canterbury, at first in teacher training, but then for a University of London BA in Literature and Religious Studies. He was out with the college authorities in that it was not then possible to change the gender on any legal documents.

Doreen died, leaving Mark feeling that he had lost a true friend. He submitted an article to The Nursing Mirror, but they wanted an accompanying medical article which Dr Randell was happy to supply. As per his usual practice he referred to female-to male transsexuals as 'ladies'.

Mark felt that he was being called to ordination within the Church of England. He was both a guide and a server at Canterbury Cathedral which was in effect his local church at that time. However it said 'Brenda' on his baptismal certificate. He wrote to the Archbishop, Dr Donald Coggan, who replied courteously that because he was still legally a woman and at that time the Church of England did not ordain women, Mark could not be considered for the priesthood.

Mark knew of Dr Charles Armstrong at Victoria Hospital in Newcastle from Wendy Cooper. In late 1978 he wrote to ask for advice in finding a surgeon who would do a phalloplasty, and was referred to Armstrong's colleague Mr Edwards. This led to a full evaluation in Newcastle by the Gender Dysphoria Panel, including Mark's first examination by an endocrinologist. However the surgeon, Mr Edwards, retired shortly afterwards and was not replaced.

Continued in Part II.


Jacqueline Dufresnoy (Coccinelle) was rebaptised after transition.  Such would have given Mark a baptismal certificate in his real name, but he probably realised that if they got beyond the baptismal certificate, the same refusal would have come based on his birth certificate.

14 May 2014

Octavia St Laurent (1964 – 2009) performer, singer.

As Octavia would openly admit in later years, she started with the name Jeffrey. A native New Yorker, she started walking the New York balls in 1982. She joined the House of St Laurent and at age 26 was featured in Jennie Livingston's seminal documentary of the balls, Paris Is Burning. She then had a small part in the film, The Saint of Fort Washington, 1993.

Afterwards Octavia, already HIV+ and addicted, moved to Connecticut and worked as a motivational speaker and HIV educator. She was a talented singer and worked with Connecticut resident Greg Field on a series of recordings. However Greg got an extended gig in Iceland, and the recordings were never released.
Out Magazine, 2005

In 2005 she was the hostess at the Pill Awards. Also that year she was quoted in Out Magazine as "embarrassed" to have appeared in such a "depressing and degrading film"; but Next Magazine quoted her: "Paris is Burning was huge for me and I loved it".

She did appear in the next ball-scene film How Do I Look, which came out in 2006, and was open about her struggle with drugs, and her sex work.

She died at age 45 after a battle with cancer.
  • Jennie Livingston (dir) Paris is Burning, with Dorian Corey, Octavia St Laurent, Pepper Labeija, Angie Xtravaganza and Venus Xtravaganza. US 71 mins 1990.
  • “Still Burning” Out, Oct 2005: 54-5. Online at:
  • Gregory T. Angelo. "Strong Medicine: The Heavenly Angel Octavia Saint-Laurent Manolo-Blahnik hosts ADD-TV’s Pill Awards. Fourteen years after Paris Is Burning, her fire is still burning as bright- and as hot – as ever". Next Magazine, Oct 21, 2005. 
  • Wolgang Busch (dir). How Do I Look, with Tracy Africa, Octavia St Laurent. US 2006.
  • Michael Musto. "RIP, Octavia St Laurent". The Village Voice, May 19 2009.
  • Xem. "The Legacy of Octavia St Laurent". XemSays, July 22, 2012.

11 May 2014

Raven Kaldera (?–) shaman

Kaldera has congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Kaldera was introduced to Wicca by a boyfriend at age 14, and wandered through various pagan and earth-centered traditions including Dianic and Umbanda.

Despite being masculine, Kaldera became a wife and the mother of a daughter, and was planning to be a science fiction writer and a folk musician, until a near-death experience while battling with lupus.
"During this drawn-out illness, I had a massive vision of the goddess who had been involved with me throughout my life.”
She revealed herself as Hela, the Norse goddess of death.
"She hung me up, tore me apart like a butchered animal and rebuilt me. When I came to, I was different. I lost some fears, I lost some memories, I lost some personality traits, and there were some new things. I’d always been able to sense ghosts but now could see them much more clearly. I’d always been able to vaguely sense the presence of gods and divine entities, but suddenly they were there, like an electric fence."
Hela told Kaldera to become a man, an option he had already been considering. He took testosterone and had chest surgery.
“It was a gamble, it was a leap in the dark, but it was absolutely wonderful. For me it was sacred shape-shifting. OK, socially it’s been very difficult, but y’know, it’s hard to be a minority. The irony was that I went through my second puberty at 30, around the same time my daughter went through normal puberty.”
Later the god Baphomet arrived and talked to Kaldera.
"The reason that he, or she, liked me is that he’s a hermaphroditic god. He can shift back and forth, but he’s always mixed. I’ve lent him my body. In Afro-Caribbean terms, I’m a ‘horse’, in that I will lend my body consensually to god-possession under certain circumstances or rituals. He makes sure, while he’s using my body, to leave me a lesson of some kind.”
Raven is a northern shaman, mainly working in the Norse tradition, devoted to gods from all three pantheons: Aesir, Vanir and Rokkr, but with some input from other traditions. He sees his tribe as those who are transgender/ third gender. He is also into polyamory and the spiritual aspects of BDSM:
“If you put BDSM into a spiritual context, it’s not a question of if something deep will come up; it’s a question of when".
He is the leader or king of the Neo-Pagan First Kingdom Church of Asphodel. His wife of 13 years is Bella, a trans women. They own and run Cauldron Farm, a pagan homestead in Hubbardston in rural Massachusetts, where they live with his daughter, who still calls him 'Mum'.

Much of what he has written is controversial and is rejected by other neo-pagan groups, particularly the emphasis on ordeal, the fact that he has a boyfriend-slave, and is into domination that features pain and violence. He has written 33 books.
CauldronFarm   PaganBDSM   RavenKaldera   KingdomofAsphodel   NAFPS   RunatyrKindred    LGBTran    WorldCat    Amazon

09 May 2014

The Eurovision Song Contest

++ Original May 2009, revised May 2014

The Eurovision Song Contest has a a good track record of including both transsexuals and drag composers and performers:

Wally Stott, the future Angela Morley, in 1962 and 1963 arranged and conducted the UK entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Ring-A-Ding Girl’ and ‘Say Wonderful Things’, both sung by Ronnie Carroll.

Cris Owen came second in the competition to represent Finland in 1989, and  wrote the Finnish Eurovision entries in 1992 and 1993.

Sharon Cohen, under her stage name of Dana International, came second in the Israeli selection contest in 1995; in 1998 she won with her song Diva, despite not getting the full support of her country. Orthodox Rabbis and the Shas Party tried to have her selection cancelled.  In 1999 she sang during the interval and presented the awards. In 2011 she represented Israel again, and reached the semi-finals.

In 2000, Gloria Gray performed at the German national final for Eurovision.

In 2002, the Slovenian drag trio Sestra came 13th.

In 2004, the Swedish drag act, After Dark, competed to be the Swedish entry with the song “La dolce vita” but came only third. They tried again in 2007 with “(Åh) när ni tar saken i egna händer” (which has masturbation suggestions), and they came fifth in the Swedish competition.

In 2007, the Danish entry was by the drag persona DQ of Peter Anderson. The song came 19th in the semi-finals.

Also in 2007, the Ukrainian entry by Verka Serduchka, the drag persona of Andriy Danylko, singing “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” came second. Verka Serduchka came second. A nationwide radio station and some members of Parliament objected to Verka’s selection which they saw as “grotesque and vulgar”. “Lasho Tumbai” is a somewhat made-up expression that Verka says sounds like the Mongolian for ‘milkshake’, but this was denied in Mongolia. To Russians it sounded like “Russia Goodbye” which caused offense.

Conchita Wurst, bearded and in drag, the Austrian entry, won in 2014 .  Russia, Belarus and Armenia had protested and threatened to block the broadcast. 

06 May 2014

Danielle O'L (1911?–?) bellboy, housewife

Daniel came from a family in Ireland which held the position of village postmaster for several generations. When he played house with younger girls, he would be the mother. Other boys called him 'mollycoddle' or 'sissy', but otherwise he was not picked on.
"I always liked to dress as a girl. At home they thought it was funny. It was the custom on the other side to dress boys as girls until they were six or seven but when it was time to get out of dresses I did not want to. … I liked to do housework but I wasn't allowed to because I had older sisters."   From age eight, he had relations with older boys "in which I played the part of a woman".
He emigrated to Boston at age 19. He worked as a grocery store clerk and as a bellboy. He found men who treated him like a woman, and mingled in gay circles and used makeup. He saved his money.

At age 21 he moved to New York where he again found men who were interested in him sexually. He dressed female to go to masquerade balls. He worked for a year in a men's club, but was frequently being pestered for sex. This led to an argument and he was fired.

Danielle took up with another who was as feminine and they lived off men. She met an Irish baker, four or five years older, in a speakeasy and he set her up in an apartment. He preferred to see her in female clothing, and gave her money for clothing and recreation.  She would always have a meal ready when he returned from work.  Danielle sometimes went with other men, usually for money. Sometimes the baker did not object, but sometimes he beat her.

Once she was entrapped by a policeman in a movie house: she served six days. Another time she was at a ball when it was raided, and they were all locked up overnight.

Danielle was one of the persons interviewed by the Sex Variants project in the late 1930s.
  • George W. Henry. Sex Variants: A Study of Homosexual Patterns. New York: Hoeber, 1948: 425-38.
  • Jennifer Terry. An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and the Place of Homosexuality in Modern Society. University of Chicago Press, 1999: 228-9.
  • Henry L. Minton. Departing from Deviance: A History of Homosexual Rights and Emancipatory Science in America. University of Chicago Press, 2002: 62-4, 71, 72, 291n33.
 "Daniel O'L." is a pseudonym assigned by the Sex Variants committee.   We do not know either her boy name or her real name.   I have called her Danielle to make the reading easier.

To our eyes Danielle is obviously an early-transitioning transsexual, or would be if the social and medical support available to us had been around in the late 1930s.  Danielle was 26 when interviewed by George Henry, and so was in her 40s when the Christine Jorgensen story broke and almost 60 in the summer of the Stonewall riots.  We hope that she was able to complete her journey to womanhood albeit in the latter part of her life.

Both Terry and Minton purport to stand up for the subjects of the Sex Variants project against the paternalism of the doctors who ran it.  However, in both books, Daniel O'L and the other pseudonyms are not in the index, and the books offer no way to find the sections about them.   I got around this by using Google's look inside feature - but that is not to the credit of either author.

Terry (p228) describes Danielle as a 'drag queen'.   What can she mean by that?   Danielle never performed on stage.   Nor does she get off on being read.  Could it be that for Terry any androphilic trans woman is a drag queen whatever type of trans she is: post-op, transvestite, performer.   This offense is further compounded by always referring to Danielle as 'he' and a 'man'.  As her book is published by the University of Chicago Press we can assume a peer reviewer who also failed to mention this to her.

03 May 2014

Lydia Annice Foy (1947–) dentist, activist.

Donal Mark Foy, did a degree in Dentistry at University College Dublin, 1971, and set up a practice in Athy, Co. Kildare. Foy married a woman in 1977 and fathered two daughters.

As Lydia, she transitioned with surgery in Brighton, UK in 1992, after a judicial separation. The Irish Health Board System contributed £3,000. In 1994 she lost access to her children by order of the Circuit Court.

While her driving licence, and UK and Irish passports give her gender as female, her birth certificate still said male. In 1997 she began an action in a High Court contending that the Births and Deaths Registration (Ireland) Act 1863 did not justify the practice of using solely biological indicators existing at the time of birth to determine sex for the purposes of registration. The case came to court in 2000. Mrs Foy and the daughters contested the plea claiming that it could have "an adverse effect on their succession and other rights". Judgement was reserved for two years: Dr Foy’s claim was rejected due to the lack of Irish or UK legislation that would facilitate the overturning of the existing jurisprudence. Justice McKechnie called on the Government and Oireachtas to deal with the position of transgender people as a matter of urgency:
“Could I adopt what has repeatedly been said by the European Court of Human Rights and urge the appropriate authorities to urgently review this matter”.
Two days later, 11 July 2002 the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of Christine Goodwin's case to have a correct birth certificate (Christine Goodwin v. UK) and awarded costs and expenses of £14,685: “the unsatisfactory situation in which post-operative transsexuals live in an intermediate zone as not quite one gender or the other is no longer sustainable”.

Foy appealed to the Supreme Court, but in the meanwhile the Oireachtas passed the European Convention on Human Rights Act 2003 bringing the European Convention into Irish domestic law. However Foy was once again refused when she made an application to the Registrar General. She began new proceedings in the High Court seeking a declaration under the ECHR Act that Irish legislation was incompatible with the European Convention regarding the registration and issue of birth certificates. The case was heard in 2007 by the same judge as in 2000 who found the State to be in breach of its positive obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in failing to recognise Dr Foy in her female gender and provide her with a new birth certificate. This was the first declaration of incompatibility to be made under the ECHR Act.

The State appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court. In May 2010 the Government set up an Advisory group “to advise the Minister for Social Protection on the legislation required to provide for legal recognition by the State of the acquired gender of transsexuals”, and a month later withdrew its appeal to the Supreme Court. In 2011 the Advisory published its recommendations for gender recognition legislation. And then nothing.

In February 2013, Foy and others announced that they were returning to court to take the Government to task for inaction.

++In October 2014, the Government finally agreed to recognize her gender and awarded her  €50,000 in compensation.

01 May 2014

Some observations on the tranny word

There have recently been two well-worth-reading articles on the word by Cristan Williams and Julia Serano. This is by the way of a supplement re aspects not mentioned.

Kate Bornstein has previously attributed the origin of 'tranny' to drag queens and transsexuals working together in Sydney in the 1960s. Maybe. I don't know an alternate origin claim. I came across the term in the 1970s when it existed in two forms: tranny and transy. People tended to opt for one or the other. I was in the latter camp on grounds of euphonics, that both transvestite and transsexual contained an 's' and that in the 1960s a trannie was the word for a transistor radio.

Today people talk in terms of umbrella words. I always felt that it was a matter of indeterminacy. I met people who were apparently transy some way or another, but it was rude to ask about genitals, and I had no way of knowing if the person was post-op, intended to become so or chose not to be. This was even more so when there was a transy in a film – probably because the part was underscripted. The one distinction that was immediate in my mind was between transvestites and drag queens: the former hated being read while the latter revelled in it. However both types were quite likely to progress to going full-time and becoming post-op.

Both tranny and transy are deeply embedded in our history. Tranny Roadshow, Trannyshack, Tranny Crew, Tranny Granny, Transy House, and in the biographies of our older sisters and brothers.

In the last few years there have been a few developments:
  1. tranny and transy have both transmogrified into 'trans' or 'trans*'. However it is still the same word and concept.
  2. In schoolyards and on the street the repressed meanies, the ones who who are terrified that they themselves should be seduced by homoeroticism or gender variance, the ones who previously put down others by shouting 'pouf' or 'fag' found that those they feared had created words for themselves: gay and tranny. So they thought it clever to take those words and use them as insults. The gay and trans communities have had completely different responses.
  3. The gays use irony and cleverness to counter the meanies, but there is no question of surrendering the word.
  4. A small but loud minority of trans persons decided to surrender the word 'tranny' to the meanies. This is a defeat, and a temporary withdrawal. The meanies use the internet also and will be using trans, transgender, transsexual (even HBS were it to enter common usage) in the same tone of voice.*
  5. Strangely the repressed meanies have not picked up on the word 'autogynephile': it is the bullies within our own community who use that word for trans women whom they do not like. The soi-disant autogynephiles, like the gays, have stuck with their own choice of word despite others using it as an insult.
  6. Having had a bad experience with the meanies, rather than use irony or cleverness, or stand up to them, the minority of trans women sought an easier target: their elder sisters. Many trans women have been using tranny or transy as a positive word of self identification – in some cases for over four decades. These older trans women were told that they could no longer use their preferred word for themselves because of interactions elsewhere that did not involve them. This is impertinent at best. Some would say that it is rude and insensitive.
  7. For some reason, those who demand that tranny be expunged from history and discourse say nothing about a similar expungement of transy and trans. Probably because their agenda is derived from the meanies, not from intra-community discourse.

Those who demand that a word be no longer used do not understand how language works.  The attempt to ban a word gives it extra force and makes it attractive, not just to repressed meanies, but also to satirists, performers, historians and wordsmiths.   After not using the tranny variant for four decades, I have found myself using it in recent years.

For all of my life trans liberation has been struggling, with success, against the dogma that gender variation is a pathology.   Much of the demand that certain words not be used, even within the community, is also a dogma.   Are we building a new prison?    Let those who want say tranny or transy or trans or trans*.   It is not the word that ever hurts - it is the tone of voice.   Those who hate us can avoid any specific word and still be hateful.   It is our loss to lose the word.   It is not a loss to those who hate us.


*There is, of course that delightful scene in It's Pat - The Movie where Pat encounters a bunch of street thugs.   One of the thugs pulls out a battered copy of Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae and says: "Yes, that is what you are: you're androgynous".