This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 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.

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 right-hand sidebar. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

22 March 2021

Barbara de Lamere previously known as Bunny Eisenhower

Several trans histories tell us that Bunny Eisenhower and Lee Brewster founded the Queens' Liberation Front in 1970, and that they worked with Sylvia Rivera. We know quite a lot about Lee Brewster, but who was Bunny?  Nobody seems to have dug into this question.     David Kaufman's Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam mentions her several times in that she was a minor actor in the plays considered in the book.   However Arthur David Kahn's The Many Faces of Gay contains a fairly detailed biography of Bunny.  This was published in 1997 and nobody seems to have noticed.  Kaufman has details that Kahn does not.   Putting them together we get the account below.

++ Original September 2015, revised March 2021 after being informed by her brother that "Esther" was really Enid Dame, the noted poet. 

----------

Eddie Dame (1940 - )  began cross-dressing at age 3, but usually only when the parents were away. The family regarded him as effeminate, and called him 'Butch' to toughen him up. Cousins slapped him around, to the same end. By age 13 he had started drinking, as did most of the family. Eddie's sisters helped him with makeup, and Nellie, the elder, introduced him to her fiancé with the comment: "my brother wears my clothes". However the rest of the family played a game of denial.

Anticipating being drafted Eddie volunteered for the US Air Force in 1959, where he entered into a relationship with Larry. From 1963, the year that they completed service, to 1967, they lived as a couple in New York. Larry refused to escort Eddie when he was cross-dressed. In 1967 Larry, announcing that he wanted children, married a woman. Eddie was the best man, and Eddie and Larry had sex the night before, as they continued to do occasionally until 1982 when Larry was seriously ill. Eddie never heard from him again.

After the wedding, Eddie went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and bought a full set of female clothing. Back in New York Eddie started going out dressed female.

In 1968 he joined Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and had a part in When Queens Collide. The name Inez Bunny Eisenhower was first proposed for cis actress Regina Hirsch, without her approval, and both names were listed for her in the flyer for Jack Smith's film Big Hotel. However she settled on the nom d'etage of Lola Pashalinski by the time that she was in Bill Vehr's Whores of Babylon. By the time of the production of Ludlam's Turds in Hell, 1969 the name had been assigned to Eddie.

He took up with Esther Enid Jacobs, the daughter of Jewish radical labor activists in Pennsylvania.  She was active in a Communist anti-war group, had had lesbian affairs and was okay with his transvestity, however she felt that the group would not be, so she left the group. Enid was not accepted by the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, so Eddie gave up acting. Eddie's father died in 1970, and later Eddie and Enid were married in a Unitarian Church, a second marriage for both of them. His mother came, but was already drunk.

Bunny and activist Lee Brewster founded the Queens' Liberation Front in 1970. They campaigned successfully to de-criminalize cross-dressing in New York. Previously a bar or club could be closed and patrons arrested, simply because a single person, deemed to be cross-dressed, was present.
Enid & Bunny in 1973 gay parade.   p8 Drag Magazine 3.11

Eddie and Enid stayed married for seven years. When Eddie let his hair grow and grew a beard, Enid thought that his cross-dressing would stop, but he continued with a scarf to hide his beard. 

In 1977, Eddie got a position as a proof-reader in a law firm. The next year he and Enid divorced.

Eddie now considered the possibility of transition. A therapist provided a reference to an electrologist and an endocrinologist. She came out at work after speaking up when the supervisor made comments about transsexuals. Word spread though the firm, and as Eddie became increasingly androgynous, colleagues would stop by her office to see 'the company freak'. Outside Eddie was taken as a woman, but at work was still addressed as a man. She was unnerved by this, developed ulcers and thought of suicide. After a bad experience with a Catholic family values psychologist, Eddie was referred to a therapist who was positive and helpful. She gave up drinking at home and worked overtime to accumulate savings for the operation, which, as Barbara de Lamere, she achieved in 1982. 

Barbara was able to retain her job as a proof-reader. She became active in gay organizations. In 1990, the Gay Veterans Association was excluded from the Veterans Day Parade and Barbara joined the GVA. She became a member of the board and editor of the newsletter. In 1993 she was arrested while marching in the unofficial St Patrick's Day Parade with the Irish and Lesbian Gay Organization.
  • Jayne County & Rupert Smith. Man Enough to Be a Woman. London: Serpent's Tail, 1995: 64.
  • Arthur David Kahn. The Many Faces of Gay: Activists Who Are Changing the Nation. Westport, Conn: Praeger, 1997: 3, 15-20, 266-9.
  • David Kaufman. Ridiculous!: The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2002: 95, 98, 107,119.
  • Susan Stryker. Transgender History. Seal Press, 2008: 87.   2nd edition, 2017:111. 

Enid Dame

Enid Dame become known as a poet, gained a PhD in English from Rutgers University in 1983, and taught there and at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.  Her third husband was the poet Donald Lev, but she retained her second husband's surname.  The two edited Home Planet News, a literary review.  Enid's poetry often expanded the Torah from a midrash and feminist perspective, for example by invoking the personae of Lilith and Eve. 

Enid died in December 2003.  The Academy of American Poets Prize bestows the Enid Dame Memorial Poetry Prize for the best poem by an undergraduate.
  • Burt Kimmelman.  "The Historical Imperative in Contemporary Jewish American Poetry: Enid Dame, Michael Heller, and Nikki Stiller".  Shofar:  An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, 21,2, Fall 2002: 103-110. 
  • "Enid Sue Jacobs Dame".  Legacy, The New York Times, Jan 9, 2004.  Online.  
  • "Enid Dame (1940?- ) Jewish American". In Linda Cullum (ed).  Contemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives: 91.  Greenwood, 2004.
  • "Honoring Enid Dame".  Friends of Rutgers English, Spring Summer 2005.  Online.  
  • Madeline Tiger & DeDe Jacobs-Komisar.  "How Enid Dame Led Us Beyond Paradigms".  Bridges, 16,1, Spring 2011: 200-7.  
___________________________________________________________

Kahn refers to Enid as Esther, which I initially followed until corrected by her brother.  


The following is found on p98 of Kaufman's book:
 A flyer about the cast of a theatrical production by custom may take liberties with the truth.   Either way I could not see how to fit in the work in Chicago and Los Angeles between the marriages to Larry and to Enid.

Slights

In Stryker’s book the only mention is that “drag queen Lee Brewster and heterosexual transvestite Bunny Eisenhower” founded the Queens Liberation Front.  As you see above, to simply describe Eddie/Bunny/Barbara as a ‘heterosexual transvestite’ raises a lot of difficulties.  ++For the second edition of her book, Stryker could not be bothered to add the extra information about her transition.

WikipediaContemporary American Ethnic Poets: Lives, etc, etc totally ignore Enid's first two marriages and her being in a Communist group, simply describe Donald Lev as her husband, not as her third husband, and do not explain why her surname is 'Dame".  

9 comments:

  1. When Barbara was Ed Dame he was married to Enid Jacobs. Her name was not "Esther." You got that wrong.
    Enid was my sister. And as far as I know she split from "Ed Dame aka Robin Dame aka Bunny Eisenhower aka Barbara de Lamere.
    Maybe correct Esther to Enid. She passed away in 2003. Let's honor her memory.

    Phil Jacobs

    ReplyDelete
  2. And with the name Enid Dame we find a Wikipedia page. However that page ignores her marriage to Eddie, although she is listed with his surname, and a second husband whose name she did not take is mentioned.

    Honouring the memory of spouses runs both ways.

    Now that I have have this extra information, I will rewrite the above as required, but it will take a few days. Will you revise the Wikipedia page to include Enid's first husband?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am not the late Enid Dame's nephew.
    I am her brother.

    She actually was married three times.

    Her first husband was Bill Osten of Baltimore.
    Her second husband was Ed. Ed was also the best man at my wedding in 1976.
    Donald Lev, of blessed memory, was her third husband.

    I do not know if Ed (Barbara) or Bill are still alive.

    Phil

    ReplyDelete
  4. Which makes the Wikipedia page all the worse, passing a third marriage as a first.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Incidentally it was not me who got Enid's name wrong. It was Arthur Kahn. I took the name 'Esther' from his book. There was nothing either in a book nor online to connect Eddie and Enid Dame. The Wikipedia page, which even you did not care to mention, is sanitized mentioning neither Eddie, Barbara nor Enid's activities as a Communist - which were all good training for a poet I would think.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for the clarifications.
    Donald Lev passed away before the pandemic.
    Is Barbara still alive?
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
  7. I don't "care" to mention Wikipedia as you say in your snarky way because Wiki is as reliable as mean spirited gossip. Maybe that's why you love it so much. I don't permit my students to use Wiki for many reasons. It's the lazy way out of accuracy.

    And by the way, stop blaming others for your incorrect info. If you pass it on, you own it.

    Lastly, Enid did not grow up in a radical family from Pennsylvania. She moved to Baltimore with her family in 1958. Our "communist" father worked his entire career for a furniture store selling mattresses and living rooms. Pretty capitalist I'd say. Our "radical" mother was a medical secretary for the State of Maryland.

    IF anything we were liberal, Jewish socialist democrats, civil rights workers, against the Viet Nam war, pro women's equality, pro gay rights, AIDS charities.

    Get it right.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Contemporary American Ethnic Poets (p91): "Enid Dame is a poet, writer, and teacher. She grew up in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, in the 1940s and early 1950s before she and her parents, who were radical labor activists, moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dame's parents were politically progressive."

    Of course it is sloppy writing for CAEP to say "Dame's parents" as they were not called "Dame".

    I criticise Wikipedia and you say that I "love it so much"? Are you not able to read English?

    For every person who reads about Enid on my site, more than 100 will read about her on Wikipedia. It is in your power to correct Wikipedia. Or get one of your students to do so.

    I did not say that your parents were Communist. They are mentioned - using the CAEP phrase - in a subordinate clause. The word Communist is not in that clause.

    Incidentally I do not understand your argument that an employee in furniture retailing could not be a radical. Everyone has to work. I once worked worked for an insurance company where we were told that one of the top managers was a member of the CP.

    You started off by complaining that a pseudonym had been used for Enid. This is the case in Kahn's book. Do you think that Kahn introduced the pseudonym, or did Barbara when interviewed? Perhaps she did so in order to protect your family's privacy. Understanding rather than complaining may be more appropriate.

    Until last week almost no-one outside your family circle knew that Eddie/Barbara had been married to Enid. You and your family chose for almost 40 years to keep that quiet. That was your choice, that is okay. But it is very rude of you to then criticise others for not knowing.

    Incidentally I first assumed that you were Enid's nephew because you wrote "Aunt Barbara".

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi there, this is DeDe, daughter of Phil and niece of Enid Dame z"l, Donald Lev z"l, and Barbara de Lamere. Happy Trans Day of Visibility! My Dad shared your post from last week with me and wow, what a find! What a gift, between your post and Kahn's book which my Dad immediately bought, to know more about Barbara and her pioneering leadership as a trans woman. We always knew she was way before her time and a hero to many, just as my Aunt Enid was. Barbara and Enid remained dear friends and collaborators through Enid's untimely death in 2003. She and Enid had split before I was too young to remember, but I met Barbara at Enid's funeral and we stayed in touch through numerous memorial services for Enid and her unveiling months later. Under the name Careufel de Lamiere, Barbara was Associate Editor of the Home Planet News literary journal run by Enid and my Uncle Donald and became Executive Editor, along with Donald, following Enid's death. She wrote this in a tribute memorial issue to Enid: https://web.njit.edu/~newrev/enid/homeplan/homepl15.html
    My husband Yaakov and I had the pleasure of Barbara attending our wedding in 2005. After that, we unfortunately lost touch, and have actually been trying to find current contact info and reconnect with her. Your post inspired us to re-invigorate the search and we may have found an important lead, so thank you! I just want you to know that we never kept anything "quiet" about Barbara and never would. She and Enid were open about their connection and Barbara's transition. I grew up knowing she was family even if she wasn't still married to Aunt Enid, and seeing pictures of her from my parents' wedding in 1976 when she was going by Robin Dame. We will always be family and I hope we can reconnect very soon.

    Sending love and appreciation,
    DeDe Jacobs-Komisar

    ReplyDelete

Comments that constitute non-relevant advertisements will be declined, as will those attempting to be rude. Comments from 'unknown' will also be declined. Repeat: Comments from "unknown" will be declined, as will anonymous comments.