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 page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

15 August 2018

Helen Savage (1955 - ) vicar, archeologist, wine columnist

Part I: Life
Part II: PhD thesis

Mark Savage was born in Barrow, Cumbria, one of three children of a Baptist minister, and was raised in various parts of Lancashire. Despite a happy family home, Mark was thinking “I didn’t understand why I wasn’t a girl” by the start of school.

After graduating from Birmingham University Savage became an archaeologist: He co-directed the first modern, complete excavation of a Roman milecastle – Milecastle 35 at Sewingshields on Hadrian’s Wall.

In his mid-20s he decided to follow his father into the church and became a Church of England (CofE) curate in Heaton, on the outskirts of Newcastle. He completed a theology degree at Durham University, and a masters in adult learning. He became an adult education advisor for the diocese of Newcastle.

He married in 1979, and they had two children. He was ordained in 1983. After ten years of teaching, Savage became the vicar in the parish of St Cuthbert’s in Bedlington, Northumberland.

From 1990 Savage was also the wine writer for the Newcastle Journal. From 1991 he owned a house in France. Being fluent in the language, was able to visit hundreds of small vineyards across the country.

However he still felt that he was living a lie. In his 40s he contacted the Beaumont Society, but quickly realised that he was not a transvestite. He saw doctors at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and was approved for NHS surgery.

Savage also began a PhD on gender dysphoria and Christian theology at the University of Durham, which draws upon the experiences of seven trans Christians who were interviewed over a period of eight months from 2002-3.

In 2004, with the support of the Bishop of Newcastle, Savage stepped down as vicar so that she could transition to Helen. While Helen is not the only trans CofE vicar, the news of her transition became national news and the press camped on her doorstep for a while.

She has stayed with her wife, and her now adult children have stood by her.
“Neither am I the least bit girly, but as a female I just feel so at ease. It fits with the way my brain works, and I now feel grateful for every new day. It may not be easy for those who know and love me, but before I was so bound up in misery and so obsessed. Now I don't have those feelings anymore. I am just getting on with my life."
She is still a CofE priest, and still a wine writer. Helen completed her PhD in 2006. (see discussion in Part II).

While Savage had wanted to return to being a parish vicar, she encountered more problems as a
woman than as a trans person in that some parishes would not take a woman priest, and she wished to remain in the north. Finally in 2015 she took the Moorland group of seven parishes around Hexham in Northumberland, and the Hexham Courant acquired its first ever wine columnist.

She also has become a Master of Wine (one of only 300 or so worldwide). She is a member of both the Association of Wine Educators and the Circle of Wine Writers; she has twice been short-listed for the coveted Louis Roederer International Wine Writers’ Award.

* Not Helen Savage the movie actor/director, nor the Library of Congress classifier, nor the jazz singer.
* Not any of the other writers called Mark Savage
  • Mark Savage. Excavations on Hadrian's Wall at Sewingshields: Interim Report 1979. Peter Robson, 1979.
  • Mark Savage. Master of Wine Study Bursary: Reports on Visits to Italian Wine-Producing Regions, 1983. The Institute of Masters of Wine, 1985.
  • Mark Savage. The Red Wines of Burgundy. Octopus, 1988.
  • Mark Savage & Claude Dovaz. Bourgogne rouge. Gründ, 1988
  • “Vicar quits to change sex”. Evening Chronicle, 21 Mar 2004. Online.
  • “’Sex Change’ vicar quits parish”. BBC News 22 March 2004.
  • “Anguish of sex change vicar”. The Journal, 22 Mar 2004. Online.
  • Jane Hall interviews Helen Savage. “This is who I am, and I am proud of it”. The Journal, 13 Oct 2005. Online.
  • Helen Savage. Changing Sex?: Transsexuality and Christian Theology. University of Durham PhD Thesis, 2006. Online. Review.
  • Helen Savage. L’Histoire du vin de France. Fetjaine, 2011.
  • “Multi-talented vicar welcomed to Slaley”. Hexham Courant, 22 April 2015. Online.    twitter     WineEducators

Several newspaper articles quote Helen to the effect that there are 5,000 transsexuals in Britain. This is surely a serious under-estimate.

The Hexham Courant mentions that Savage has written a book on music. I was unable to find it.

I have updated my Non-Fiction Books on other topics by trans authors to include Helen Savage.

13 August 2018

Harry Stokes (1799 – 1859) master bricklayer, publican

Stokes was born and raised in Doncaster, the child of a bricklayer. He ran away, some say at age 8, and did an apprenticeship with a bricksetter in Whitby.

He married his first wife in either the Old Parish Church of Sheffield or Sheffield Cathedral in January 1817. Through the 1820s and 1830s they lived in Manchester where he built up a bricklaying firm that specialized in chimney and flue construction. His wife was the company accountant, and at its peak the company employed eight men and an apprentice.

Harry had been sworn in as a Special Constable in 1829 in the 13th division, and acted in that capacity in the first days of the Chartist Riots, 1838.

In April, also 1838, after 22 years of marriage, Harry’s wife approached a lawyer as she wanted a separation. Harry was withholding housekeeping money, getting drunk and ill-treating her.

This was almost 20 years before the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. Divorce was governed by ecclesiastical courts and the canon law of the Church of England. In practice only the very wealthy, who could afford a private bill in Parliament, were able to get a divorce. However there was a chance of annulment.

Mrs Stokes also stated, that she accidentally made the discovery of the sex of her husband “as much as two or three years back” but that she had kept the secret till the present time. Harry was then examined by a police surgeon who did certify that he was a woman. This led to stories in the press, gossip and ridicule, and ballads that were composed and sung in the streets.

While no legal proceedings were taken, Harry had several conversations with the deputy constable and was persuaded to give the family home and contents to his wife, but refused to set aside any sum as a provision for her. Harry ceased to be a special constable in that he not present himself to be re-sworn at the annual procession at Manchester’s New Bailey.

A year later Harry met Francis Collins who, initially out of pity, took him on as a lodger in nearby Salford for a couple of years. She was 10 years his senior, a barmaid with an adult son and daughter. They returned to Manchester and established a beer-house under her name. They were assumed to be a couple and Collins took the name of Stokes. Eleven years later they opened a second beer-house under the name of her son.

However Harry in later years fell into decayed circumstances. In October 1859, a body was found in the River Irwell. The corpse was identified as that of Harry Stokes, then aged 60. The stories of 1838 being remembered, two women were deputed to examine the body. They reported back that it was of a “woman”. Again there were various newspaper stories about the “man woman”. Francis Collins Stokes maintained that despite sharing a bed with Stokes for 20 years she did not know that he was a woman.

  • "A Female-Husband". The Manchester Guardian. 11 April 1838:2. Online.
  • "The Woman-Husband". The Manchester Guardian. 14 April 1838: 2. Online.
  • “A Female Husband in Manchester”. The Weekly Dispatch, 15 April 1838: 175. Reprinted in Oram & Turnbull.
  • "A Woman Passing as a Man for Forty Years". The Manchester Examiner. 22 October 1859. Online.   
  • “ ‘Harry’ Stokes, The Man Woman”. Salford Evening News, October 1859. Online.
  • The Lancet: A Journal of British and Foreign Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, Physiology, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Public Health and News, Volume 2, 1859:649-650. Online.
  • Alison Oram & Annmarie Turnbull. The Lesbian History Sourcebook: Love and Sex Between Women in Britain from 1780–1970. Routledge, 2001: 21-3, 26-8.
  • Esther Roper & Eva Gore-Booth. “Harry Stokes – Manchester’s ‘female husband’ “. Warp and Weft,
  • Esther Roper & Eva Gore-Booth. “Harry Stokes – timeline “. Warp and Weft.



Some accounts (Lancet, Salford Evening News) ignore the first wife married in Sheffield and instead tell of a one-day marriage to a widow, Betsy, who kept a beerhouse, but objected that her new husband was a woman and charged him with assault, which led to his spending a month in the New Bailey prison. Warp and Weft think that maybe this was misremembering because of the ballads that were sung in 1838.

02 August 2018

A BBC2 discussion from 4 June 1973 with Della Aleksander

This program was part of a series called Open Door that launched in April 1973.   Championed by the BBC’s director of programmes at the time, David Attenborough, the series provided a platform for marginalised groups to talk about issues affecting them, without any editorial intervention. 

Four trans women were described as the Transex Liberation Group, and were led by Della Aleksander.  The others were Rachel Bowen, Jan Ford and Laura Pralet.   Della was also the founder of GRAIL (Gender Research Association International Liaison), and co-produced this program.

They are joined by two men: Member of Parliament for Pontypool, Leo Abse, who had introduced the private member’s bill to decriminalize homosexuality that had become law in 1967, and Dr Schlicht, a psychiatrist. 

The opening clip is from the comedy program, Are You Being Served?  The same 'joke' was repeated in the movie spin-off from the series.

Note that the pre-ops are referred to as 'transsexuals' and the post-ops as 'sex changes'.   I wonder how much of out jargon today will still be used in 2063 in the same way?   Della several times describes herself and others as 'intersexual', a term which we use much more carefully these days. 

If the video does not play full-screen, click:

29 July 2018

Jackie Starr (1915 – 198?) performer

Jack Starr grew up on a farm in the US Midwest. His parents encouraged his desire to be an actor, and he studied voice, acting and classical ballet. His elder sister was dressing him in female clothing from age five.

By the age of 14 he was doing drag in mob-controlled speakeasies in Chicago: both solo and in the line of chorines. He played the drag circuit in the 1930s, and did a tour of South America, and of Europe. Jackie met a Prince who wanted to take her home.
“I was tempted but I’m glad I didn’t because he was killed in a coup and I’d have been killed too.”
In Washington DC Jackie went out with senators. Later she moved to Greenwich Village, and tried acting and singing. She also did ballet, both as male and as female. She was one of only a few men in the US who could dance en pointe. She was a fill-in for the noted stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, and she also danced as a Rockette at the Radio City Music Hall (and was also married briefly to another

In the late 1930s, Starr was one of the first artists to join the Jewel Box Review. Starr was one of only a few Jewel Box Revue artists to be dating a woman. He married a second woman, and they had a child.

Starr was in the merchant marine during WWII.

Jackie on the cover 
When the Garden of Allah in Seattle opened in late 1946, Starr was quickly signed up as the headliner. By this time Starr was in her mid-30s, and was regarded as past her peak, although she gave class to the show. She stayed for the full ten years of the club’s existence. She could make a striptease last twenty minutes, finishing in a g-string. Walter Winchel, the syndicated columnist called Jackie "the most beautiful man in America".

Bill Scott and his wife, known as Sister Faye, were street preachers, although most donations to their mission went to Faye’s heroin habit. Bill was devastated when she left town without him (she later died in a car accident, while high). Bill was both bisexual and homophobic, and also worked as a trucker.

He was the recoil from a sex-only affair with a gay man, when he found himself in the Garden of Allah and Jackie was on stage. They married. They had a formal wedding and reception, in the home of a friend who played the part of a minister. Performer Skippy LaRue was the maid of honor and a lesbian the best man. They partied till 9am, and afterwards the couple had a big fight.

However the marriage persisted. Jackie, as the woman, ran their daily affairs and the apartment, however sexually she was the top.
Jackie & Bill's wedding

Later Scott also married a woman who was supposed to inherit, with the idea of spending the money on Jackie. The inheritance never happened, and the second wife died. Scott moved back in with Jackie, and they ran a restaurant together.

Towards the end Scott had to have both legs amputated, and Jackie took care of him till he died in the late 1960s.

Jackie lived the last ten years of her life in a mobile home near the Seattle-Tacoma airport. She was as meticulous as ever in her appearance, and when she and her friends went to the Golden Crown drag bar in Seattle, the younger generation of drag performers would crowd around.

  • Don Paulson & and Roger Simpson. An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle. Columbia University Press, 1996: 151-163.
  • Mara Dauphin. “ ‘A Bit of Woman in Every Man’: Creating Queer Community in Female Impersonation”. Valley Humanities Review, Spring 2012. PDF.

Jackie Starr was a pre-eminent female impersonator 1930s-1950s, and yet there is - until now - no web page for her.  Queer Musical Heritage has a page but it only reproduces a few show bills; Lawrence Senelick's The Changing Room says not a word about her; likewise F Michael Moore's Drag! Male and Female Impersonators on Stage, Screen and Television.  

24 July 2018

A miscellany of unknowns

The Garden of Allah, a gay-owned cabaret was open in Seattle 1946-56. It featured mainly female impersonation, though some male impersonators also performed.

Bill Plant took the name Peewee Nattajon in homage to an older performer called Nattajon (born 1895, died late 1960s). The elder Nattajon had been a character actor. Bill Plant says that he was in 13 Hollywood movies, including Beauty and the Beast and The Picture of Dorian Gray. However there is no Nattajon listed in IMDB. He is probably listed under another name – but which?

Finocchio’s, the famous San Francisco nightclub that featured female impersonators, was owned by Joe and Marjorie Finocchio. Marjorie died in 1956, and Joe remarried to Eve. Rachel Harlow in Philadelphia was also born with the Finocchio name. No relationship has been established between them.

Concetta Finocchio Jorgensen (1941 – 2012) daughter of Joe and Eve Finocchio had a short failed marriage that left her to raise four children alone. She worked doing publicity for her parents’ nightclub, but later was afflicted by MS, and became a disability activist. The husband who left was called Jorgensen. Surely not a relative of Christine? Probably not, but it is intriguing to find two of the most famous names in TG history born by the same person.


Who is Gregory G Bolich?

The Amazon Author Page lists only the following:

Karl Barth and Evangelicalism, 1980
Authority and the Church, 1983
Christian Scholar: An Introduction to Theological Research, 1985
God in the docket: The problem of good and evil, 1992
Psyche’s child: The Story of Psychology, 2000
12 Magic Wands: The art of Meeting Life’s Challenges, 2002

WorldCat tells us that Bolich did a Ed.D, at Gonzaga University in Spokane in 1983: On dating James : new perspectives on an ancient problem, and a PhD at the Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1993: Serving human experience : the boundary metaphor.

He also has several book published through Lulu, but not listed in Amazon.

Scripture Study and Scholarship, 2015
Brick by Brick on the Road through OZ: Recovery from Sexual Abuse Trauma, 2007
Transgender and Religion, 2009
Transgender Realities, 2009
Transgender and Mental Health, 2013
Crossdressing in Context (5 volumes) 2007-2010
Asaph’s Dream (a US Civil War novel), 2011
Conversing on gender: a primer for entering dialogue, 2007

There is no web site for GG Bolich, and no reviews of his books. The transgender books are much more expensive than the theological ones. His books are not in the library. If I were to purchase his transgender works it would cost me hundreds of dollars. I cannot find any reason why I should do so. Does he have anything original to say, or are his books a regurgitation of the usual stuff? I do not know. How would I find out?


Toni Ebel, post-op Hirschfeld patient in Berlin, fled Germany in 1934 after the Nazi takeover. She
fled to Czechoslovakia, claiming to be a Jewess. She settled in Prague using the name Antonia Ebelová. In 1937 she moved to Brno. Karl Giese, Hirschfeld’s lover, had also fled to Brno.

In October 1938, Nazi Germany occupied the Sudetenland; in March 1939 Germany occupied the rest of Czechoslovakia.

Giese killed himself before the Germans got him. Somehow Toni Ebel survived the war, and in 1949 became a citizen of the newly created German Democratic Republic (DDR). She was able to claim compensation from the DDR as a victim of Nazism. She was a minor painter and was recognized at the Akademie der Künste in East Berlin. She died in 1961 at the age of 80.

We do not know how she survived the Nazi occupation.


In the photographs included in Harry Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon, 1966, the 6th and 7th pages (not in the PDF version) are the before and after of an actor, both in a stereotyped pose more typical of silent films than of the 1960s. This actor has never been named. How an actor can transition in stealth and keep working is intriguing.

The US trans actors of the 1960s such as  Candy Darling were non-op (however, of course, several of the stars of Le Carrousel in Paris were in films in at that time). The first US trans actor known to have surgically transitioned was Ajita Wilson who did so in the mid-1970s. The unnamed actor in the photograph is the true pioneer in her field, and we know nothing of her.


18 July 2018

Lynn Edward Benton (1962 - ) cop, convicted of murder

Lynne Irene Benton had been a cop in the small town of Gladstone, south of Portland, Oregon, and nearby towns since 1987. She had become a detective in 1993, the same year that she married a Brazilian man to help him acquire US citizenship (they divorced a few years later). 

By 2008 Benton was a sergeant, the Public Information Officer for the Gladstone force, and taught at the local community college. She had been in a registered domestic relationship with a woman, and was working towards transition, although still presenting as female in both jobs. Benton had changed his name to Lynn Edward Benton, and been able to change his name on his driving license. 

In June 2008 Benton was the local cop summoned when Neil Beagley was found dead. While eventually Neil’s parents, who belonged to the Followers of Christ Church, would be convicted of criminally negligent homicide in denying medical care to their 16-year-old son, initially it was the duty of Benton to announce that the son himself had declined medical attention (Oregon law allows those 14 and older to make such decisions). 

During the Beagley trial in March 2010, Sergeant Benton was not called as a witness, despite being the first cop at the death scene. The lawyers did not want to confuse the jurors with Benton’s personal situation. Police Public Information Officers are often promoted to police chief, but Benton had been passed over when the former chief retired. 

Benton had broken up with his domestic partner of nine years, and had taken up with Debbie Higbee, who owned a beauty parlor in Gladstone. They were married in July 2010. 

Debbie considered that Lynn was becoming angrier and meaner, and attributed it to his taking testosterone. By the following May, Debbie was about to report him for domestic violence, which would have damaged his career. 

Benton offered $2000 to a friend, Susan Campbell, and her son Jason Jaynes, to kill his wife. They shot, beat and then strangled her. Campbell said too much revealing what she knew of the murder, and was arrested. Jaynes was arrested on charges of sex with underage girls and imprisoned for 15 years, where he admitted to another inmate that he had helped his mother do the killing. 

Benton was first placed on administrative leave, but then fired in December when pornography was found on his laptop, and because of the 1993 sham marriage – it was also said that he had not filed charges against Jayne for sex with underage girls. He became a Greyhound Bus driver.

In 2016 Irene Berg, the mother of Debbie Higbee, filed a $900,000 wrongful death lawsuit against Lynn Benton. 

At the trial in 2017, Susan Campbell, whose grand jury testimony had secured the indictment, declined to testify, despite her plea deal for a reduced sentence. Despite this Lynn Edward Benton was found guilty of arranging the murder of his wife in 2011. He was sentenced to life without parole. 

Benton is currently registered with the Oregon Department of Corrections as female and is in Oregon’s only women’s prison at Coffee Creek. (The facility also processes all new inmates, male and female. There are usually about 400 men at the facility. There are also six trans inmates there.)



How far transitioned was Benton at the time of the 2010 marriage or the murder?   Stauth's book and the newspaper articles are not in agreement.  Certainly their is no mention of a doctor or clinic facilitating  transition, although he obviously has been taking male hormones.

Campbell and Jaynes apparently never did get the $2,000.

Cameron Stauth explains faith-healing homicide

14 July 2018

Deena Kaye Rose (1943 - ) musician

Dick Feller was born and raised in Missouri. At 12 he had his first guitar, and at 15 played with a local band.

In 1964 he tried his luck in the Los Angeles music scene.

In 1966 he moved to Nashville: he toured with The Statesiders, did session work and wrote songs. Johnny Cash had a hit with Feller’s "Any Old Wind That Blows" in 1972; Jerry Reed recorded "The Lady is a Woman" and "One Sweet Reason". "Lord, Mr. Ford" – the last was a number-one hit in 1973. Feller’s first album came out some months later.

He spent time at the Chelsea Hotel in New York in the mid-1970s.

Feller and Jerry Reed did the music for the film Smokey and the Bandit, 1977. John Denver had a hit with Feller’s "Some Days Are Diamonds (Some Days Are Stone)".

Feller has 400 published songs, received 10 BMI Music Awards for most performed songs of various years including two “Million-air” awards for songs that have played over a million times in broadcast play in North America alone, and has lectured at several universities.

In the 2010s, Feller relocated to Las Vegas, transitioned at the age of 70 and became Deena Kaye Rose, and published her autobiography.

*not Deena Rose the preacher

Albums (under the name Dick Feller)

Dick Feller Wrote, 1973
No Word on me, 1974
Some Days Are Diamonds, 1975
Audiograph Alive, 1982
Centaur of Attention, 2001.    EN.Wikipedia   IMDB    Alchetron

12 July 2018

Camilla Rose Waters (1957 - ) musician, clown, social worker

Steve John Kern was born in Santa Rosa, California, and raised the youngest in a family of six kids, all of whom played musical instruments. Steve sang, and learned to play trumpet, trombone, French Horn, Baritone and tuba. From 7th grade he was teaching music.

He did a degree in Social Work and Music Therapy, and developed programs for those with physical and mental disabilities, and a 135-agency coalition to provide housing and food for the homeless. He created a company to provide musicians and other entertainers to corporate clients and to schools. He also became certified as a professional clown. He was for a while the Event Manager at the San Jose Convention Center. Discovering that the surrounding school districts had lacked music programs for 20 years, he set up programs that reached 1,500 students weekly.

He had been born lacking peripheral vision. This meant being unable to view the sheet music and the conductor at the same time. He compensated by memorizing the music. While he wore glasses from the 8th grade, it was not until age 30 that the problem was correctly identified.

Kern was often taken for the singer John Denver. After Denver’s death in a airplane crash in October 1997, Kern began singing in Denver’s style, and audiences were amazed at the physical as well as musical likeness, and in a 24-month period he ‘accidentally’ met a dozen people who had links with Denver.

In 2009, at the age of 52, Kern started transition, and became Camilla Rose Waters.

In 2012, in Flagstaff, Arizona, while out shopping, Camilla collapsed and woke up in hospital. Her lack of sight was now almost complete. She decided to move to Portland, Oregon for access to the Casey Eye Clinic, the city’s mass transit system and its strong music scene.

She was welcomed by the Portland Folk Music Society and invited to be one of the representatives of the blind community. She is the first trans person in the history of the Western Music Association. She was chosen by the Portland Folk Music Society as their featured artist for November and December 2013, however the Oregonian Newspaper refused to do a story on her, or to review her music.

Her current album is Songs from the Prairie.

*Not the musician and pastor, also called Steve Kern; nor the Steve Kern, son of Artie Shaw and grandson of songwriter Jerome Kern.
  • Paul Von Ward. The Soul Genome: Science and Reincarnation. Fenestra Books, 2008: 9, 85, 127, 175-6, 190, 200-2.
  • Ray Ashmun. “An Interview with Camilla Rose”. Portland Folk Music Society, August 11, 2013. Online.
SoundCloud     TransitionRadio


The book by Paul Von Ward proposes that Steve Kern and John Denver are a split soul.

Make of that what you will.

The book was published in 2008, just before Camilla Rose transitioned. If it had been published a few years later, what would Von Ward have proposed: that John Denver, had he survived, also would have eventually transitioned?

05 July 2018

Transgender Surgery Addendum – July 2018

The full tale is still not told.   These items will be added to the full timeline, and are published here so that they will be noticed.

Netherlands, Arnheim Municipal Hospital 1959 – 

plastic surgeon S.T. Woudstra did a phalloplasty for a trans man. This was published in the Dutch Journal of Medicine resulting in letters of protest and questions in Parliament. Woudstra never did a second such surgery.

Japan. Nippon Medical School Hospital 1950-1. 

Akiko Nagai had an orchiectomy, a penectomy and breast augmentation.

Japan Tokyo - 1964. 

Gynecologist Taro Kono performed sex change operations on three trans women at a Tokyo clinic — and was arrested the following year and charged with violations of the Eugenics and Motherhood Protection Act of 1948, as  well as an  unrelated  violation of the Controlled  Substances  Act.  In 1969 he was found guilty of all charges , sentenced to two years and fined Ɏ400,000. The case attached a stigma to transsexualism and made it taboo for medical professionals for many years to provide adequate care or even information. This lasted until the late 1990s.

Billings & Urban

A history of transgender surgery that I did not consult for my transgender surgery timeline was,
  • Dwight B. Billings and Thomas Urban. “The Socio-Medical Construction of Transsexualism: An Interpretation and Critique”. Social Problems, 29, 3, Feb., 1982: 266-282.
This was reprinted in In Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds), Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing, Routledge 1996: 99-117, and various other places. It is much cited.

Here is the abstract:
“This article examines transexualism and its treatment by sex-reassignment surgery. Physicians have drawn upon their previous experience with hermaphrodites and the psychological benefits of elective surgery to legitimate sex-change surgery for what they view as a distinct patient population, transexuals. We demonstrate that transexualism is a socially constructed reality which only exists in and through medical practice. Furthermore, we contend that sex-change surgery reflects and extends late-capitalist logics of reification and commodification, while simultaneously reaffirming traditional male and female gender roles.”
The paper closes with:
“But rather than support contemporary movements aimed at reorganising gender and parenting roles and repudiating the either/or logic of gender development, sex-change proponents support sex-reassignment surgery. By substituting medical terminology for political discourse, the medical profession has indirectly tamed and transformed a potential wildcat strike at the gender factory”.
This was published only three years after Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire, and agrees with it that transsexuals would not exist without pushy profit-oriented doctors.  !!

Billings & Urban are not incorrect in what they write, although they twist the interpretation as indicated. They are extremely US-centric and have no interest at all in the work done by Gillies, Fogh-Andersen, Burou, Randel, Steiner or Ratnam. What facts they do have that are not in my timeline are those relating to the opposition by psychiatrists. That is another tale. I am first concentrating on the surgeons who made transgender surgery what it is.

However there are two items in their footnotes which are not mentioned anywhere else.

1) “Thomas Urban was a participant observer for three years (1978–80) in a sex-change clinic”.

But they do not say which one or otherwise elaborate. Did he leave, as did Grant Williams from the Charing Cross Clinic, because he disagreed with the program? This is an unknown.

2) Footnote 8 reads:

“Other university hospitals, such as the University of Minnesota’s, began surgical treatment at roughly the same time but avoided public disclosure. In addition, a few operations were secretly performed in the 1950s at the University of California at San Francisco. We have learned that Cook County Hospital in Chicago was performing sex-change operations as early as 1947, predating Jorgensen’s famous European surgery by five years.”

We know that Elmer Belt (not mentioned at all in Billings & Urban) was doing such operations at the University of California at Los Angeles in the 1950s. Do they have the wrong city, or is this something lost to history?  Louise Lawrence worked with Alfred Kinsey and Harry Benjamin in San Francisco in the 1950s.   If these surgeries happened there is strange that neither Lawrence nor Benjamin knew about them.  The Langley Porter Clinic, while admitting that psychotherapy did not work, generally would not recommend surgery, although it is said that they did arrange surgery in a couple of cases.  Dr Frank Hinman, urologist, author of  “Advisability of Surgical Reversal of Sex in Female Pseudohermaphroditism”, 1951, was brought in in 1953 to save Caren Ecker after an auto-orchiectomy, which was felt to require a penectomy. 

I cannot find any account of transgender surgery at Cook County Hospital in 1947. Orion Stuteville who did transgender surgery at Cook County and Northwestern University Medical School twenty years later was already a surgeon there, but in the dental school. Was it he who did the transgender surgery, or someone else?   Harry Benjamin had requested Max Thorek, a renowned surgeon in Chicago to do an operation, but, after consulting his lawyer, he declined. Again what Billings and Urban are referring to seems to be lost to history.

02 July 2018

Roberta Perkins (1940 – 2018) sociologist, activist

Perkins did a dissertation on transvestism and transsexuality at Macquarie University in Sydney in 1981 – one the very first by an openly trans woman.

She was also one of the members of the newly founded Australian Transsexual Association. She approached Rev. Bill Crews of the Wayside Chapel Crisis Centre to ask for a regular meeting place. Weekly support meetings were arranged.

Roberta’s book The Drag Queen Scene: Transsexuals in Kings Cross, a study of 146 lives based on her dissertation came out in 1983. This was read by Frank Walker, New South Wales Labor Assembly person and at that time Minister for Youth and Community Services.

In July, he invited her to come in and talk, which led to a grant of $80,000 which was used to open a centre, Tiresias House, at 75 Morgan Street, Petersham, Sydney – its 12 bed spaces were filled immediately, and had to be converted to 16 by using the lounge as a bedroom. In December that year, Walker officially opened the centre.

Within a few years, the centre has expanded to four houses, one of which was registered as a halfway house for ex-convicts on parole. A residential nurse and a community worker were employed. Six years later it was renamed the Gender Centre.

Perkins left Tiresias House in 1985, and went on to write and subsequently publish books and articles in peer-reviewed journals on trans women and sex workers. She was involved in the struggle for decriminalization of sex work in New South Wales and Australia.

Roberta died aged 78.
Publications by Roberta Perkins:
  • The Third Sex and Sanctified Persons: A Cross-Cultural Survey, Comparison and Analysis of Transvestism and Transsexuality. Macquarie University BA Hons Thesis 1981.
  • The Drag Queen Scene: Transsexuals in Kings Cross. George Allen & Unwin, 1983.
  • With Nikki Searant & Linda Tyne. Transsexualism: An Overview : Understanding the Transsexual.: Collective of Australian Transsexuals, Australian Transsexual Association, 1983.
  • With Garry Bennett. Being a Prostitute: Prostitute Women and Prostitute Men. Allen & Unwin, 1985.
  • A History, Manifesto, and a Report on the Proposed Welfare Services of the Australian Prostitutes' Collective. The Collective, 1985.
  • Female Prostitutes in Visible Prostitution in Inner-City Sydney. The author, 1985.
  • Female Prostitution in Sydney an Overview: An Information Document on Female Prostitution and Prostitute Women of Sydney. Australian Prostitutes Collective (N.S.W.), 1985.
  • "Working Girls": Normality and Diversity Among Female Prostitutes in Sydney. Macquarie University MA Hons Thesis, 1988.
  • Interviewed by Phil Jarratt. "The working girl's friend. -Interview with Roberta Perkins, founder of the Australian Prostitutes Collective". Bulletin (Sydney). 140-141,143-144, 13 September 1988.
  • "Wicked Women Or Working Girls: The Prostitute on the Silver Screen". Media Information Australia, 51, 1989: 28-34.
  • "Working Girls in ‘Wowserville’: Prostitute Women in Sydney Since 1945". In Richard Kennedy. Australian Welfare: Historical Sociology. Macmillan, 1989: 362-389.
  • Working Girls: Prostitutes, Their Life and Social Control. Australian Inst. of Criminology, 1991.
  • With A. Griffin, & J. Jakobsen. Transgender Lifestyles and HIV/AIDS Risk. University of New South Wales, 1994.
  • With G. Prestage, R. Sharp & Frances Lovejoy. Sex Work, Sex Workers in Australia. University of New South Wales Press, 1994.
  • With Frances Lovejoy. "Healthy and Unhealthy Life Styles of Female Brothel Workers and Call Girls (Private Sex Workers) in Sydney". Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. 20, 5, 1996: 512-6.
  • “The Drag Queen Scene: Transsexuals in Kings Cross". In Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. Routledge 1996: 53-62.
  • With Frances Lovejoy. Call Girls: Private Sex Workers in Australia. University of Western Australia Press, 2007.
About Roberta Perkins
  • Katherine Cummings. “Vale Roberta Perkins (1940-2018)” Gender Centre, 2018. Online.
  • “'Trailblazer' to be remembered in Sydney”. Australian Associated Press, 28 June 2018. Online.


It is a shame that Roberta's books are so hard to find.

She was a pioneer in what we now accept as normal, that trans people write about trans people, but until the 1980s this was regarded as heretical, and writings by trans persons were dismissed simply because the person was trans.

29 June 2018

Charles Wolf (? – 1965) sex-change surgeon

Charles Wolf was a prominent surgeon in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the famed watch-making town in the canton of Neuchâtel, in French-speaking Switzerland.

In 1941 he received a referral from a Geneva psychiatrist who had treated Arlette Leber with psychotherapy supplemented with ovarian hormones, but without success. Leber, who had read of earlier surgical sex changes, threatened suicide if not so changed. Dr Wolf was struck by Leber’s feminine contour of the body and her developed breasts. He agreed to operate. He did an orchiectomy in October 1941, a penectomy in January 1942 and a vaginoplasty in October 1942. The method was that of Dr WF Sneguireff of Paris who had created a vagina for a cis woman in 1898 using a segment of her rectum – Wolf used a segment of Leber’s intestine. The operation did not go well and Leber had to spend five weeks in hospital and then another five weeks under close medical supervision at home. In 1944 a Cantonal Court approved her petition for a change of civic status to female.

Wolf’s next trans patient is known only as S. S., born 1908, despite a strong yearning to be female from an early age had married, and they had a son in 1935. In 1947 S. did an auto-penectomy with an axe, and a summoned surgeon did an emergency completion. In 1951, Dr Wolf put finishing touches to the plastic procedures. However vaginoplasty was not deemed to be necessary. Despite being married and a father, S. was granted a change of civic status in 1951.

J. is the name given to an Italian tailor of female clothing who had moved to Switzerland, because they knew ‘how to do that sort of thing’. While living in Geneva, he heard of the work of Dr Wolf, and rushed to La Chaux-de-Fonds and secured an appointment. J. like Leber threatened suicide if denied surgery. Despite financial problems (J. being Italian was not financed by the Swiss state), an orchiectomy and a penectomy had been done by July 1951. J. continued to pester Wolf and his colleagues until they agreed to do a vaginoplasty, which was done in October 1953. However the sutures did not hold properly and J. was left with a small unhealed area that was still present in January 1956.

Dr Wolf comments in his appendix to de Savitsch’s book:
“A good prognosis can only be made in the case of those true transvestites whose sexual appetite is very slight, and whose modest ambitions may save them from any lack of affective satisfaction. Such patients will be happy after the operation, because their occupations and social environment will at last be in harmony with their nature. The patient who dreams of leading a woman’s life after undergoing the operation is likely to regret his decision bitterly. Only those who propose to become old maids can submit to the operation without fear of the consequences.” …
“Once it has been decided that there is a proper case for a change of sex and civic status, castration and amputation of the penis are necessary and, in my opinion, sufficient. Plastic surgery to provide an artificial vagina is a useless luxury: the operation involves considerable risk; if it is to remain serviceable in spite of the natural tendency for the tissues to retract, it will require constant care; even then will it ever be used? If used, it will certainly give more pain than pleasure. For the man who has been turned into a woman, the artificial vagina will be a purely mental satisfaction.”
  • Eugene de Savitsch. Homosexuality, Transvestism and Change of Sex. Springfield Ill: Charles C. Thomas 1958: 60-71, 80, 83, 113-118.

In my timeline of transgender surgery, I stated that Colin Markland at Minnesota Medical School was the first surgeon to use an intestinal segment in creating a vagina for a trans woman. This was wrong in that he was pre-dated by Charles Wolf. The timeline has been corrected.

In the first quote from Wolf he says of a trans woman, "his decision".  This would be a translation from the French "sa décision" which can be translated as his or her decision.   However most doctors in the 1950s did use male pronouns for trans women.

27 June 2018

Arlette-Irène Leber (1912 - ?) first Swiss gender surgery

Original version: October 2009.

Arnold-Lèon Leber was Swiss although born in Germany. Leber’s father disappeared during the Great War, and was replaced by a step-father given to drunkenness who in turn disappeared when Leber was 11.

By then Leber was already praying, to God and to the fairies, to be turned into a girl.

Leber completed high school and became a clothing salesman (a position that required an apprenticeship). In 1932 Leber was called up to do military service and was pleased to be assigned to be a nurse. However rheumatic fever brought this to an end, and Leber returned to selling women’s clothing. This facilitated cross-dressing although it remained very private.

With the depression Leber was no longer able to earn enough, and was arrested 22 times for non-payment of debts and petty larceny. After release he worked for some time in Germany. On return he was arrested as a spy and served 18 months in gaol.

After unsatisfactory sexual affairs with both men and woman, Leber was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in Berne. He threatened suicide if they did not turn him into a woman. He had read about such changes in a Prague newspaper – he read up on the scientific literature of the day about sex changes. The doctors regarded him as a morally defective transvestite, and were considering committing him to an institution. Warned of this he escaped to Geneva.

A psychiatrist there treated Leber with psychotherapy supplemented with ovarian hormones, but without success. In 1941, he referred the patient to Dr Charles Wolf, the noted surgeon in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Leber threatened suicide if not changed into a woman. Dr Wolf was struck by Leber’s feminine contour of the body and her developed breasts. He agreed to operate. He did an orchiectomy in October 1941, a penectomy in January 1942 and a vaginoplasty in October 1942. The method was a variation on that of Dr WF Sneguireff of Paris who had created a vagina for a cis woman in 1898 using a segment of her rectum – Wolf used a segment of Leber’s intestine. The last operation did not go well and Leber had to spend five weeks in hospital and then another five weeks under close medical supervision at home.

Leber, now using the name Arlette-Irène, quickly applied to the legal authorities that she be able to call herself a woman, and to dress so. Her psychiatrist formally supported this request. The court appointed two experts to study and to decide the matter. They were Dr Jean Clerc, Professor of Legal Medicine at the University of Neuchâtel, and Dr Otto Riggenbach, Psychiatric Consultant to the Physician-in-Chief of the Swiss Army. They took two years. They considered the precedent of Margrith Businger who was able to change her civic status in 1931 after only an orchiectomy.

Clerc described Leber as a constitutional invert. As surgical changes were complete, the bearing of a masculine name was likely to be a source of continual trouble and a change of civic status was justified.

Riggenbach found that Leber was a psychopathic personality with little moral sense, hysterical and masochistic tendencies, but would not have pursued a change of sex unless a powerful biological urge had driven him to do so. However he seemed much happier and calmer since assuming the role of a woman. Riggenbach said that Leber should be permitted to change civic status, but be kept under constant supervision and be forbidden to marry.

The Cantonal Court decided that the issue was medical and not legal. By a majority of one, Leber’s request was granted (despite the refusal of the judge to sign the verdict). Riggenbach’s constraints were not imposed. Leber’s civic status was changed to female, she was removed from the voters’ roll (Swiss women did not get the vote until 1971), and she got a partial tax refund.

For two years she was unemployed, but then found a full-time job in Biel/Bienne.

In 1956, Riggenbach evaluated her and concluded: ‘The operation, on the one part, combined with the permission of the authorities to change her civic status, on the other, has turned an unstable and unhappy individual into a useful and contented member of society’.

 It is not known what happened to Mme Leber after that.

  • Eugene de Savitsch. Homosexuality, Transvestism and Change of Sex. Springfield Ill: Charles C. Thomas 1958: Chp 10, 11.
  • Katrina C Rose. “Desperately Seeking Arlette (and the Precedent She Set)”. Online.
  • Annette Runte. Biographische Operationen: Diskurse der Transsexualität. Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1996: 528-9, 569, 573, 579. 

23 June 2018

Diana Sacayán (1975 – 2015) activist.

Amancay Diana Sacayán, one of 16 siblings of aboriginal Diaguita descent, was born in Tucumán in northwest Argentina at a time of a state emergency in the province declared by President Isabel Perón.

Later the family moved to Gregorio de Laferrère, a suburb of Buenos Aires.

Diana came out as trans at age 17. She was arrested several times for being herself and in jail joined the Partido Comunista de la Argentina. In 2011 she left the Party and founded the Movimiento Antidiscriminatorio de Liberación (MAL) which was particularly concerned with human rights for LGBTI persons.

She worked with the health services of La Matanza Partido (which contains Gregorio de Laferrère) so that trans persons could access health care. She also made trans persons, aboriginals and the prison population aware of their rights – in particular she pushed for the state to recognize a person’s declared gender identity. She also got Buenos Aires to introduce a work quota whereby one percent of jobs in public administration are reserved for trans persons. She worked with other persons to lobby the Argentine state, a process that led to the Ley de Identidad de Genero in 2012.

Sacayán was the first trans activist to get a female ID card, and was given it personally by President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

In 2012 she ran for the post of Ombudsman on behalf of the La Matanza party, and was one of three finalists – the first trans person in Argentina to achieve this level of recognition. In 2014 she was elected Trans Alternate Secretary of the ILGA Council at its World Conference in Mexico City.

In October 2015 she was brutally stabbed to death in her apartment while bound hand and foot, and gagged.

This created an outcry among human rights and LGBTI activists. The Comisión de Familiares y Compañeros de Justicia por Diana Sacayán- Basta de Travesticidio was created and the word
‘Travesticidio’ put into common use. In May 2016 the Amancay Festival was held in La Matanza in her memory, and 28 June 2016 the First National March against Transvesticidio was held in Buenos Aires.

Gabriel David Marino was arrested and charged with the murder of Diana Sacayán. He was convicted of transvesticidio "aggravated homicide due to gender violence and hatred of gender identity" - first person to be sentenced under a legal provision specifically targeting anti-transgender crimes.

Police believe there may have been a second person involved in the murder, but he has never been identified.

Marino was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2018.
  • “Argentina transgender killings spark outcry”. BBC News, 15 October 2015. Online.
  • Frances Jenner. “Man who killed Diana Sacayán receives a life sentence for ‘travesticidio’ for the first time in Argentine history”. Argentina Reports, Jun 18, 2016. Online.
  • Nick Duffy. “Man who murdered Argentina transgender activist Diana Sacayán jailed for life on hate crime charge”. Pink News, 19th June 2018. Online.

ES.Wikipedia        EN.Wikipedia

20 June 2018

La Bella Otero (187?–?) performer, sex worker

Luis D, from Madrid, sometimes said that he became homosexual after being seduced by a neighbour. On arrival in Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century, she took the name La Bella Otero after the celebrated Spanish actor-dancer.

However in the life history that she wrote for Dr Francisco de Veyga she said that she always considered herself a woman, and had worn female clothing all her life. She had married a man and borne two children before being widowed. De Veyga commented:
“Only exceptionally does he wear male garb, preferring feminine accoutrements, which he wears with ease and even elegance. He leaves his house seldom and generally in a carriage, to avoid tiresome street incidents that would be impossible to evade, given the relative notoriety among the aficionados of the genre”.
Her account was published by de Veyga separately from that of Aurora and Rosita. He commented that Otero did not
“hide very well his desire to figure as a case history in the book on sexual inversion that we are preparing”.

  • Francisco de Veyga, "La inversion adquirida-Tipo profesional:' Archivos de Psiquiatria y Criminologia, II, 1903: 493-4.
  • Francisco de Veyga, "La inversion sexual congenita:' Archivos de Psiquiatria y Criminologia, I, 1902.
  • Jorge Salessi. “The Argentine Dissemination of Homosexuality, 1890-1914”. Journal of the History of Sexuality, 4, 3, Jan 1994: 356-8, 361.
  • Jorge Salessi & Patrick O’Conner. “For Carnival, Clinic and Camera: Argentina’s Turn of the Century Drag Culture Performs ‘Woman’”. In Diana Taylor & Juan Villegas Morales (eds). Negotiating Performance: Gender, Sexuality, and Theatricality in Latin/O America.Duke University Press, 1994: 266-8.
  • María Belén Ciancio & Alejandra Gabriele. “El archivo positivista como dispositivo visual-verbal. Fotografía, feminidad anómala y fabulación”. Mora (Buenos Aires), 18,1, ene/jul 2012. Online.

17 June 2018

Thomas de Croismare (1779-1847) soldier, book-keeper, civil servant, musician

Thomas de Croismare was a lieutenant with Napoleon’s army at the Battle of Borodino 1812 outside Moscow (Bataille de la Moskova) the deadliest day of the Napoleonic Wars.

He was also present when Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo 1815. de Croismare was wounded in the shoulder and the mouth.

With the creation of Belgium in 1830, de Croismare became a book-keeper, and later an employee at the Ministry of Finance, where he rose to a post of considerable trust.

He was noted for his playing of the violoncello, and for the attentions that he paid to women, although he never did marry.

He died at the age of 68. This resulted in an astonishment in that, when his body was being washed prior to interment, it was discovered that it was of the female type.

  • “Life-Time Disguise of Sex” various newspapers May 1847. Reprinted in William Arthur. The Antiquarian and General Review, Vol 3, 1847: 264 Online; reprinted in The Western Literary Messenger, 1847: 354 Online; reprinted in the Port Tobacco Times, 13 May 1847 Online;  

15 June 2018

Peter Farrer (1926 - 2017) tax inspector, trans historian

Peter Farrer’s father was a Church of England vicar and schoolmaster who lived in various parishes, and during the Second World War had a parish in the Isle of Man, where Peter and his twin sister attended the independent King William’s College. Peter was head of the cadet force and captain of the rugby team. It was at this time that he found that he was interested in wearing female clothing.

He did his national service 1946-9 in the Army and was posted to Trieste. He then went to Oxford University where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics.

In 1952 Peter married his dance teacher, Joan – his father officiated. He also became a tax inspector, where he remained until retirement. Peter and Joan had one son.

From 1964-6 they were in Nairobi where Peter helped set up an Inland Revenue system for the newly independent Kenya. In 1968 he was posted to Formby outside Liverpool, where he stayed. He was promoted to Senior Inspector and dealt with the tax affairs of major Liverpool companies.

His wife knew of his cross-dressing and research thereof, and permitted it only when she was elsewhere. Unfortunately Joan was afflicted with early-onset Alzheimer’s and died in the 1970s.

Peter began building a collection of dresses, but apparently never cross-dressed outside his home. In his lunch breaks he visited Liverpool museums to study Victorian dresses and corsetry. He joined the Costume Society and the Northern Society of Costume and Textiles. Through the former he met his second wife, Anne Brogden, a lecturer in art and fashion. They married in 1982 and bought a house in Garston, south Liverpool, where they created an outstanding fashion library that included complete runs of Vogue, Queen, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine and other fashion magazines.

Peter had a particular interest in dresses made of taffeta. He had such dresses especially made by the Brighton-based dressmaker Sandi Steyning, owner of the Kentucky Woman Clothing Company. He was also a collector and editor of primarily letters to newspapers re enforced cross-dressing of young boys, mainly in England, and during the early 20th century, but also regular cross-dressing.

In 1985 Peter contacted The Glad Rag, the publication of The Transvestite/ Transsexual Support Group run by Yvonne Sinclair and became a contributor, mainly of historical letters.

In 1987 Farrer published a 44-page pamphlet Men in Petticoats: A Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers. It features letters and photographs from 19th-century publications such as The Family Doctor, Modern Society and Society. Central attention is devoted to Fanny and Stella and their trial in 1870, but there is also discussion of the joys of tight-lacing. The pamphlet and the books that followed were self-published under the publisher name of Karn Publications Garston: Karn was Peter’s mother’s maiden name.

After retirement he was able to visit major libraries in London and Oxford, Richard Ekins’ Transgender Archive in Ulster and the Kinsey Institute in Indiana.

In 1992 Farrer published In Female Disguise: An Anthology of English and American Short Stories
and Literary Passages, which featured prose stories from 1475 to 1900 by authors such as Walter Scott, Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling etc. but not poetry or drama (so nothing by Shakespeare).

Men in Petticoats was followed by The Regime of the Stay-Lace, which paid more attention to ‘petticoat punishment’ (forced femininity) in Victorian newspapers that the first booklet, and also Borrowed Plumes, which found much cross-dressing content in newspapers 1989-1912 (some of which had already been published in Glad Rag).

Richard Ekins, in both his books, thanks Farrer for his contributions. Farrer contributed two papers to Blending Genders, 1996 (ed Richard Ekins and Dave King), one on cross-dressing in literature and the other on the newspapers that he was analysing in his books with examples of the correspondence from readers.

Farrer had been doing an MA in Victorian literature at the University of Liverpool on ‘Women in Control’ and was awarded his degree in 1996.

In 1997-8 Farrer published in two volumes, Confidential Correspondence on Cross Dressing, 1911-1920 taken from the publications New Photo Fun, New Fun, Fun, Bits of Fun – and referring to the mentions in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Some of the letters had been published in Glad Rag.

There remained other contributions to Glad Rag that did not fit in Borrowed Plumes or Confidential Correspondence, and that was published as My First Party Frock in 1997.

Through a chance reading of an article in a 1902 magazine, Farrer had become aware of Maurice Pollack (1885-1918), son of Polish immigrants in Birmingham, who became an accomplished child female impersonator but enlisted during the war and died of wounds in the latter stages of the Palestine campaign. Peter was able to reconstruct Pollack’s life with the help of his family, and published the research as a book.

He then turned his attention to London Life 1923-41, the major publication between the wars that paid
attention to cross-dressing and similar topics and printed readers’ letters on such. This research was published in two volumes, 2000 and 2006.

Farrer also gave papers at the Gendys conferences. In 2002 his Gendys paper was a response to Gary Kates’ Monsieur d'Eon is a Woman, 1995, the first book based on the d’Eon papers in the Brotherton Collection at Leeds University. Farrer challenges Kates’ conclusion that d’Eon did not wear female clothes until ordered to do so by the French king.

In 2004 his Gendys paper was on the Louise Lawrence Collection at the Kinsey Archive. In this he gives a summary of Bessie/William Beck and his wife. William had been subjected to petticoat punishment in the 1920s, found that he liked female clothing and as an adult married a dominant woman who continued his forced femininity. While one does assume that such stories are fiction, Peter investigated further and found letters by Bessie and wife to Transvestia (despite Virginia Prince’s noted aversion to fetishism), and to Toronto’s Justice Weekly.

In 2006 Farrer wrote a summary of his work for Transgender Tapestry. He had already been attending to the Toronto publication Justice Weekly, 1956-1972, and its continuation of the tradition of London Life, and published a book on in in 2011.

Farrer had obtained Bessie’s autobiography, edited it and published it in 2012. That was his last book.

Peter’s second wife, Anne, died in 2014.

In 2015 the Liverpool Homotopia festival featured Transformation: One Man’s Cross Dressing Wardrobe, based on Peter’s life-time collection, and with the books and magazines, they have become a permanent exhibition at the National Museums Liverpool.

Peter died at age 90.

* Not the member of the board at Scottish Water; nor the visual-effects film person; not the chartered surveyor;

by Peter Farrer: (all published by Karn Publications Garston except where otherwise stated)
  • Men in Petticoats: A Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers.1987.
  • In Female Disguise: An Anthology of English and American Short Stories and Literary Passages. 1992.
  • Borrowed Plumes: Letters from Edwardian Newspapers on Male Cross Dressing. 1994.
  • The Regime of the Stay-Lace: A Further Selection of Letters from Victorian Newspapers. 1995.
  • “Men in Petticoats: the letters of ‘Grateful’, ‘A Lover of Lingerie’ and ‘Victim of Stays’ to reveal the extent of Cross-dressing in Victorian England”. Antique International, 25, Autumn 1995: 44-9.
  • “In Female Attire: Male Experiences of Cross-Dressing – Some Historical Fragments” and “120 Years of Male Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing in English and American Literature”. In Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Blending Genders: Social Aspects of Cross-Dressing and Sex-Changing. Routledge 1996.
  • Women in Control. MA thesis in Victorian Literature, The University of Liverpool, 1996.
  • “Letters on Cross Dressing”. Gendys Conference. 1996. Online.
  • Confidential Correspondence on Cross Dressing, 1911-1915. 1997.
  • “Boy Ballerinas and Swinging Skirts”. TV Scene, 23, April 1997: 36-8.
  • Confidential Correspondence on Cross Dressing Part II, 1916-1920. 1998.
  • With Christine-Jane Wilson. My First Party Frock: And Other Contributions to The Glad Rag, 1985 to 1991. 1997.
  • The Life of Maurice Pollack, 1885-1918: A Birmingham Actor. 1998.
  • Tight Lacing: A Bibliography of Articles and Letters Concerning Stays and Corsets for Men and Women:, 1999.
  • Cross Dressing between the Wars: Selections from London Life, 1923-1933. 2000.
  • 'D'Eon De Beaumont: New Facts, Or Fiction?', Gendys 2002 Conference, 2002. Online.
  • “The Louise Lawrence Collection”. Gendys Conference, 2004. Online.
  • Cross Dressing between the Wars: Selections from London Life, Part II 1934-1941. 2006.
  • “Petticoat Punishment in Erotic Literature: Part One: Before 'Gynecocracy'“. Petticoat Discipline Quarterly, March 2006. Online.
  • “Letters on Crossdressing, 1867-1920”. Transgender Tapestry, 110, Fall 2006: 48-55. Online.
  • “Letters on Crossdressing, 1867-1920, Part Two”. Transgender Tapestry, 111, Winter 2006/7: 46-8. Online.
  • Cross Dressing Since the War: Selections from Justice Weekly 1955-1972. 2011.
  • William Edward Beck (ed Peter Farrer). Happenings: The Story of Bessie. 2012.
about Peter Farrer:
  • Richard Ekins. “The work of Peter Farrer: women’s clothes and cross-dressing with a provisional list of novels in which mention of cross-dressing is made, 1901–1951”. Archive News: Bulletin of the Trans-Gender Archive 3(1), 1992: :3–20.
  • Richard Ekins. “Building a Transgender Archive”. Cross-Talk, 47, September 1993: 19-22.
  • Richard Ekins. Male Femaling: A grounded theory approach to cross-dressing and sex changing. Routledge, 1997: 7, 40, 45.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. Sage Publications, 2006: xv, 61, 106.
  • “Revealed: The secret frills of the Liverpool taxman”. Confidentials, 12 October 2015. Online.
  • “Grayson Perry Outdone: Transformation Exhibits Peter Farrer’s Cross Dressing Wardrobe”. Artlyst, 16 October 2015. Online.
  • “Obituary: Peter Farrer” The Sunday Times, April 22 2017. Online.
  • Anthea Jarvis. “Obituary: Peter Jarvis”. Costume: The Journal of the Costume Society, 51, 2, 2017. Online.
  • “Obituary: Peter Farrer 20-05-1926 to 10-02-2017”. Beaumont, 98, June 2017: 08. PDF.
  • Victoria Haddock. “Transformation: One Man’s Cross-Dressing Wardrobe”. The Costume Society, December 19, 2017. Online.

Peter Farrer is thus a major trans historian, although some would prefer that there be a greater distance between transvestity, petticoat punishment and fetishism.

Farrer's books were self-published, and Karn Publications Garston has closed down. Some of the books have become very expensive.  I hope that his executor is making some arrangement for the books to remain available.

Lisa Sigel explains the significance of London Life:
‘The combination of low illiteracy rates and the broad suppression of books on sexuality made magazines a particularly important source for information about sex during the interwar years.The generation coming of age in the 1920s and 1930s saw reading as a part of their lives, but books about sex remained hard to access. Libraries refused to stock risqué novels and sexological works by Havelock Ellis, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Richard von Krafft-Ebing. Fearing fines, imprisonment, and hard labour, most booksellers stocked only legal books. As a result, those who actively looked for information about sexuality often had a hard time finding it. One source of information proliferated, however: individuals could eke out a sense of sex from materials at the newsagent’s shop. “Every district, even the poorest,” had a few newsstands that sold magazines and newspapers. George Orwell offers a compelling description of the place of such shops in the local community: “You never walk very far through any poor quarter in any big town without coming upon a small newsagent’s shop. The general appearance of these shops is always very much the same: a few posters for the Daily Mail and the News of the World outside, a poky little window with sweet-bottles and packets of Players [cigarettes], and a dark interior smelling of liquorice allsorts and festooned from floor to ceiling with vilely printed two penny papers, most of them with lurid cover illustrations in three colours.” Intellectuals recognised that periodicals shaped the tastes and minds of the population. “Probably the contents of these shops is the best indication of what the mass of the English people really thinks and feels. Certainly nothing half so revealing exists in documentary form. Best-seller novels, for instance tell one a great deal, but the novel is aimed almost exclusively at people above the £4-a-week level.” A newsstand magazine, London Life boasted a circulation at over fifty-five thousand before the Great War, according to David Kunzle, and this figure rose throughout the interwar years. Advertisements for the magazine were placed on “1,000 cinema screens throughout Britain” in 1928, and it was available in railway stations across India.’ (“Fashioning Fetishism from the Pages of London Life”, The Journal of British Studies, 51, 2012: 667-8)