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.

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!

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)

09 June 2018

Evan Burtt (1900-?) servant

Eva Mary Burtt, a domestic servant in Tisbury, near Salisbury, Wiltshire, came to doubt her sex in the late 1920s. Burtt wrote to the Salvation Army in London seeking help.

This led to an examination by a doctor in Salisbury. Following this the Salvation Army solicitors appealed to the legal authorities, and the Registrar General of Births, Marriages and Deaths agreed to change the registration of Burtt’s birth from female to male.

Evan Montague Burtt, as he now was, announced his engagement to Sarah Edwards, a friend since childhood, and they were married Saturday 30 March 1930.

The case was much reported in the local and national press, almost all accounts quite positive and mentioning that both medical and legal authorities had approved the change. The Wiltshire News reported:
“But on Friday last she bought an outfit of masculine clothing, and to-day she may be seen wearing a smart lounge suit, trilby hat, and carrying a walking stick as though to the manner born. Her bobbed hair has been cropped short, and she speaks in the deep voice of a man. The metamorphosis is complete!”
This was very different to how Victor Barker had been reported only the previous year.

There was no further mention of Evan Burtt subsequent to the wedding, not even in the local register of electors. However in 1939 Sarah Edwards was listed again at her parents’ home and using her maiden name.
  • “Amazing Mystery of a Man-Woman”. Daily Express, 24 March 1930: 1.
  • “Man’s Twenty-Nine Years as a Woman”, Daily Mirror, 25 March 1930: 1.
  • “A Wiltshire Man-Woman”, Wiltshire News, 28 March 1930: 2.
  • “Evan Burtt Married”. Sunday Pictorial, 30 March 1930: 2
  • Clare R. Tebbutt. Popular and medical Understandings of Sex Change in 1930s Britain. PhD Thesis, University of Manchester, 2014: 19, 21, 86, 89-92, 100-111, 170, 204-5. Online.


Tebbutt lists 37 articles in the press about Evan Burtt.

03 June 2018

Julia Doulman (1963 - ) farmer, car racer, bus driver

Paul Doulman grew up in Bathurst, New South Wales, a farming community known for the Mount Panorama motor racing circuit. Like most males in Bathurst he became involved in the car-racing culture. He later moved to Sydney and became a bus driver.

In 2001 film producer-director Ruth Cullen approached Sydney’s The Gender Centre and interviewed a number of persons beginning transition. She chose Paul.
"Paul's initial appeal to me was that he seemed to epitomise the typical Aussie bloke in so many ways yet she had no doubt that she was a woman. I was interested in exploring the contrast between the butch, male exterior and her inner feminine world."
Ruth and Julia
With a camera, Ruth followed Paul who became Julia over a period of two years. Julia was filmed having her hairline lowered, having voice lessons, makeup lessons and dress advice. She changed her legal name, and then changed bus garage so that her new co-workers knew her only as Julia. It is stated but not shown in the film that her family have rejected her. The film also shows her realizing that becoming a woman does not mean that she has to reject her past as a petrol-head, and she is shown attending a race meeting, where she gains the fastest lap time, and is addressed by one and all as Julia. However she does exchange her off-track car for one that she considers to be more ‘girly’.

After filming was complete, Julia lost her bus driving job after abuse from passengers led her to respond. However she then found a job driving for a private bus company.

The film, Becoming Julia, was shown at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2003, where it received a standing ovation. In October Julia returned to Bathurst for a screening which again was well received (although her family stayed away). In April 2004 the film was shown on the SBS television channel.

*Not to be confused with Being Julia, a 2004 commercial film based on a Somerset Maugham story; nor with the novel Becoming Julia by Chris Westwood; nor Becoming Julia de Burgos by Vanessa Perez Rosario; nor the play Becoming Julia Morgan, about the California architect; nor Just Julia, the autobiography by UK trans woman Julia Grant (who was featured in the 1980 BBC pioneering documentary A Change of Sex).
  • Katherine Cummings. “Julia: In Control of her Life”. Polare, 52, June 2003. PDF.
  • Ruth Cullen (dir). Becoming Julia, with Julia Doulman. Australia 50 mins 2003.
  • Alex Mitchell. “Bus driver's quest to become a woman captured on film”. Sydney Morning Herald, June 19 2003.
  • “Julia’s Hometown Welcomes Her Back”. Polare, 55, January 2004. PDF.
  • David Coad. “The politics of Home in Becoming Julia: Transsexual Experience in Australia”. In Chantal Zabus & Davif Coad (eds). Transgender Experience: Place, Ethnicity, and Visibility. Routladge, 2014: 123-136.