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!

18 September 2018

On Reading Christine Burns. Part II: 1950-1980

Part I: Introduction
Part II: 1950-1980
Part III: 1980-2004
Reading list for English trans history.

Is There Anyone Else Like Me

  • Christine Burns. “Is There Anyone Else Like Me”. In Christine Burns (ed) Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows. Unbound, 2018: 23-38.
On her first page of this chapter Burns mentions Roberta Cowell in the first and third paragraphs. Which makes it all the more odd that in the second paragraph she writes: “Biographies about trans people were many years away. Conundrum, the first British mainstream trans autobiography by historian and writer Jan Morris, would not appear until 1974.” Equivocation around the word ‘mainstream’ is possible, but surely Roberta Cowell's Story, British Book Centre, 1954, caused enough of a sensation to be mainstream. Burns mentions the running of the story in the Picture Post, but not the release of the book.

Some other trans biographies and other writing by trans persons before 1974:

  • Michael Dillon. Self: A Study in Ethics and Endocrinology. William Heinemann Medical Books, 1946.
  • Robert Allen. But for the Grace: The True Story of a Dual Existence. W.H. Allen, 1954.
  • Georgina TurtleOver the Sex Border. Gollancz, 1963.

The only trans man before 1950 discussed by Burns is the Scottish Lord, Ewan Forbes. Micheal Dillon was the first surgical trans man, but he followed a distinguished line of trans men who had transitioned without medical help: among the rich and titled classes there was Forbes, Walter Sholto Douglas, Wynsley Michael Swan, Joe Carstairs, Toupie Lowther; among the professional classes James Barry, Victor Barker, Robert Allen, Jonathan Ferguson, John Thorp ; and among the workers Harry Stokes, William Holtom, Ernest Wood – not to mention the notorious Bill Allen (executed 1949). There is a brief mention of Robert Allen on p123 where a page of the FTM Newsletter is reproduced, but his biography is still not mentioned.

Burns spends three and a half pages on Virginia Prince and the Beaumont society (BS), but the Manchester TV/TS Group gets only one paragraph and the London TV/TS Group only one page. The leader of the London group, Yvonne Sinclair is dismissed as “a charismatic and opinionated cross-dresser” although she was once within 14 days of the operation. Trans women who turn back are also an important part of trans history. Why is Sinclair described as “opinionated’ while Prince is not?

There is a photograph of the cover of Kris Kirk’s Men in Frocks, 1984 (admittedly not a good title at all) but no discussion of its contents other than to say “primarily concerned with the London drag scene”. Did Burns ever read it? See my review. Amongst other transsexual women it featured Poppy Cooper, Roz Kaveney, Letitia Winter/Fay Presto. I hope that Burns is not one of those who include heterosexual transvestites in the transgender umbrella, but exclude gay transvestites.

We have got to 1984 and two of the major trans groups of the early 1970s have not been mentioned, and in fact are mentioned nowhere in the book at all. The first group was the Gay Liberation Front Transvestite, Transsexual and Drag Queen Group of whom the most prominent activists were Rachel Pollack and Roz Kaveney. In Trans Britain, given that GLFTTDQG and Men In Frocks are largely occluded, Roz does not appear until p307 and 2007 – despite having been a trans activist since the early 1970s.

The other group is, of course, that run by Charlotte Bach. How can anyone write of trans activism in the 1970s and not include Charlotte? Her first group included Della Aleksander who later, post-surgery, did her own activism. Charlotte was adopted by some of the GLF leaders, and later was taken up by writer Colin Wilson who featured her in several of his books.

Also not mentioned is the short-lived UK branch of Transsexual Action Organisation (TAO) which has almost vanished from history – apart from an account by Stephen Whittle included in Ekins & King’s The Transgender Phenomenon.

Burns mentions the first National TV.TS Conference held at Leeds University in 1974. She claims that it was organized by the Beaumont Society. Really? That is not how it is told in Ekins & King’s account presented in 2007. The Leeds University TV,TS Group published the proceedings, and, as Ekins & King say: “The main organisers were Caroline R., a postgraduate student at Leeds University and June Willmott, the local Beaumont Society organiser”. (Actually June was also in the Leeds TV.TS Group and in TAO – so she was not a typical BS member). TAO and GLF were active as were Della Aleksander and a researcher from Charing Cross GIC. This conference also seems to be the first recorded use of the term ‘transgender’ in Britain – I would have thought that worth mentioning.

Then having overstated the role of BS at Leeds, Burns makes no mention of the follow-up Conference at Leicester in 1975, which was indeed organised by the Beaumont Society, with a narrower range of participants.

After commenting on how trans surgery seemed exotic as the most famous trans women, April Ashley and Jan Morris went to Dr Georges Burou in Casablanca, Burns then says “treatment closer to home was already a possibility from the mid-1960s, when John Randell established a clinic at the Charing Cross Hospital”. Except, of course, Randell was appointed at Charing Cross way back in 1950, and was working with trans persons shortly afterwards. (See more on the 1966 claim.)

Burns rightly stresses the importance of Julia Grant’s transition and the CX-GIC’s treatment of her as recorded in the 1979 BBC documentary A Change of Sex.

As I said above, different historians have a different emphasis and selections of facts. The story as told through the entries in my encyclopaedia, is significantly different from that told by Christine Burns. We still await a consolidated history of English trans history. Even more so we need a history of Scottish and Welsh trans history.

16 September 2018

On Reading Christine Burns’ History of Trans Britain: Introduction

Part I: Introduction
Part II: 1950-1980
Part III: 1980-2004
Reading list for English trans history.


  • Christine Burns. “Introduction”. In Christine Burns (ed) Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows. Unbound, 2018: 1-18.
Trans Britain was released in the UK in January 2018, and in Australia in February 2018. It is being  released in Canada and the US in September 2018. It is also available worldwide from Book Depository.

There are not many histories of British trans people, so all additions are welcome, whatever their emphasis or selections of facts. In the new anthology, Trans Britain edited by herself, Christine Burns, includes an introduction to the book, and introductory chapters to each of the three sections, that together constitute a history of the topic.

Despite the word ‘Britain’ in the title of the book, almost all that follows applies to England only. The anthology, Trans Britain, does include a chapter on Scottish trans activism by James Morton, but in Burns’ history chapters the only Scottish mention is of Ewan Forbes.

I don’t know why Burns has to start by listing trans persons and events in the US. They are well known, and surely the reader is coming to this book for a discussion on British or at least English trans persons and events.

The Introduction is more of a run around the world mentioning various trans cultures and events. A lot of the content is well-known: D’Eon, Hirschfeld, Mark Weston, Michael Dillon, Ewan Forbes.

However, I too have been researching British trans history, and there are, unfortunately, significant discrepancies between our respective accounts.  I mention them here so that future historian will combine the best of both.

➤Burns mentions the English historian Peter Ackroyd’s 1979 book, Dressing Up (review), but only to say that he quotes somebody else on the North American two-spirit tradition – and then neither this book nor Ackroyd’s Queer City (review) are mentioned again. Surely she must have found much else of relevance in the two books.

➤She repeats the misinformation that d’Eon “infiltrated the court of the Empress Elizabeth of Russia as a woman” – surely Gary Kates’ 1995 book (the first book based on the previously ignored d’Eon archives in the University of Leeds Library) refuted that canard once and for all.

➤Two pages later she repeats the extremely popular but totally false notion that Magnus Hirschfeld coined the word ‘transvestism’ - how many times does this have to be refuted before writers pay attention?!

➤After talking of pioneering surgical techniques at Hirschfeld’s institute, Burns then totally ignores the successful surgeries on Hirschfeld’s patients ( Carla van Crist who was still alive in New York in 1952; Toni Ebel who lived until 1961 in East Germany; Dörchen Ritcher who was probably murdered by Nazis in 1933) and mentions only the unsuccessful surgery on Lili Elvenes (whom she still calls Lili Elbe) who of course was not a patient of Hirschfeld.

➤Burns correctly makes the point that Alan Hart in Oregon had surgery in 1917, before Hirschfeld’s patients, but says nothing about Karl Baer who had surgery in Berlin in 1906.

➤Burns mentions Liz Hodgkinson’s biography of Michael Dillon, Michael Née Laura, only by its reissue title From a Girl to a Man.

➤Most of the English persons mentioned in the period before 1950 are trans men. It is a shame that she did not mention trans woman Norman Jackson who was famously in the newspapers in 1931. It is obvious to modern readers that she was a transsexual, but unable to get any medical assistance.

➤Nor is there any mention of Mark Weston’s surgeon at Charing Cross Hospital, Lennox Broster. While Broster in the 1930s and 1940s declined to operate on any trans person who was not also intersex, he did pioneer genital surgery at Charing Cross, and his clinic was inherited by John Randell.

10 September 2018

Stuart Lorimer on the Charing Cross GIC

Articles on the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic (GIC)

Part I: 1818-1982
Part II: 1983-now
Part III. Addendum
Part IV. Stuart Lorimer

Stuart Lorimer (born late 1960s) qualified as a doctor at Aberdeen Medical School, with a distinction in psychiatry. He has been involved with the Charing Cross GIC since 2002.

Lorimer has provided a history of the Charing Cross GIC, with emphasis on his own involvement.
  • Dr Stuart Lorimer. “1966 and All That: The History of Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic”. In Christine Burns’ Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows, Unbound, 2018: 51-67.
I have also written a history of the Charing Cross GIC – see the links above. My emphasis is different, discusses more of the patients, and starting much earlier in time. I have adjusted my account slightly, especially in the most recent years with input from Lorimer’s account.

There are two points in his account, however, that I would like to examine closely.

1966 and all that.

British persons over a certain age will immediately recognise the title as a riff on the 1930 classic satire by WC Sellar & RY Yeatman: 1066 and all that, which was published in 1930 and is a satire on how English history was taught at that time. How many readers under 40 would get the allusion is an open question as the content of history courses has changed so much. Peter Hitchins in his The Abolition of Britain says “A modern child, shown Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That, simply wouldn’t get the joke. You cannot laugh at this satire on forgetfulness and confusion unless you, too, share the experience of misunderstanding and mixing up the Wars of the Roses, Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck and the rest. You cannot even be enjoyably confused or forgetful about something which you never even knew in the first place.”

However the important question is what did happen at the CX-GIC in 1966 such that Lorimer and others assume that 1966 was the founding of the clinic, despite it being in operation since the 1930s under a different name.

In Part I of my account, I commented at the end: “The WLMHT GIC web site says: “The West London Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital (CX GIC) is the largest and oldest clinic of its type, dating back to 1966.” But what happened in 1966? Lennox Broster’s work with intersex persons dates back to the 1930s, and John Randell’s with transvestites and transsexuals dates to the 1950s. On the other hand the 1969 symposium reported ‘there is as yet no permanent gender identity unit’.” Lorimer’s account does not answer this.

Lorimer twice mentions 1966. On p53 he writes: “Randell was nonetheless a trailblazer, the originator, in 1966, of one of the largest and oldest trans treatment centres in the world”. On p56 he writes of Harry Benjamin: “Distinguishing his patients from transvestites (a term not coined until Benjamin was twenty-five), he opened the doors of his first proper clinic in 1966, the same year as Randell’s GIC at Charing Cross”. Neither of these assertions answers my questions. What did Randell do in 1966 that is taken as founding the clinic that he had been running since 1950, and was such that three years later in 1969 it was said that reported “there is as yet no permanent gender identity unit”.

(Note also that Lorimer is of the school that insists on ignoring the facts and claiming that Hirschfeld coined ‘transvestism’ despite it being in use from the 16th century and that the Paris Police had been issuing permissions de transvestissement since 1800.)

Russell Reid

Complaints were made against Russell Reid in 2004, and in 2007 there was an investigation by the General Medical Council that led to his resignation. Lorimer mentions this on p62, but does not list the doctors who made the complaint. Here is the list from David Batty’s article "GMC inquiry into gender change expert" in The Guardian, 20 January 2004: “Donald Montgomery, James Barratt, and Richard Green …. Together with Stuart Lorimer, a senior registrar at the clinic, they allege Dr Reid has repeatedly breached guidelines”.

Now of course in 2004, Lorimer had been at Charing Cross only two years, and was the most junior of the four doctors mentioned. However it is naughty (to use a mild term) of him not to mention that he was one of the four doctors.