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19 January 2019

Who was Dixie MacLane?

On page xxii of C Jacob Hale’s introduction to Richard Docter’s biography of Christine Jorgensen, we find:
“During the 1950s, others who claimed to be seeking or to have obtained surgical alteration of the genitals – Ray/Rae Bourbon, John ‘Bunny’ Breckenridge, Dixie MacLane, Charlotte McLeod and Tamara Rees, for example – were in the news”.
Bourbon, Breckenridge, McLeod and Rees are well documented and are found in this encyclopedia. But who is Dixie MacLane? There is no mention of her name in Joanne Meyerowitz’ How Sex Changed, which is a thorough account of transsexuality in the US in that period.

On page xxiv, Hale tells us a bit more. She was one of the trans women included in the Worden & Marsh project.
“Dixie MacLane, who had been inspired to seek surgical transformation by the news about Jorgensen, had a more pragmatic goal: she hoped that her participation might lead to surgery at UCLA.”
Meyerowitz admits that the five names that she gave for the participants in the Worden & Marsh project were all pseudonyms. It is quite likely that Dixie MacLane is the real name of Meyerowtz’ Debbie Mayne: same initials, both waiting for surgical approval that never came.

Hale says that Dixie was in the news.   This was in February 1956, when she was 32, two years after the Worden & Marsh project.   Apparently she had obtained completion surgery in Mexico, and successfully applied for a legal name change. The Los Angeles Times reported that a Los Angeles police officer, G.H Nelson of the Pershing Square beat, took her existence as a personal affront. He made threats and made sure that she lost her office job. He then charged her with masquerading as a man, masquerading as a woman and outraging public decency. In a hearing at a municipal court, the judge accepted written testimony from Dr Harry Benjamin of New York, Dr Lyman Stewart of the Elmer Belt Medical Group and Dr Marcus Crohon of the LA County Jail. The judge refused attempts to determine Dixie’s actual sex, and dismissed the charges.

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This was 1956, so Dixie was lucky to get a reasonably enlightened judge.   However justice would have required that Officer Nelson be sanctioned for unprofessional conduct, and that Dixie be re-instated in her job.

  • “Office Clerk Cleared of Charge of Masquerading”. Los Angeles Times, February 15, 1956.
  • Dal McIntire. “News & Views”. One: the Homosexual Magazine, 3/1/1956. Online.
  • C. Jacob Hale. Introduction to Richard F Docter. Becoming a Woman: A Biography of Christinr Jorgensen. The Haworth Press, 2008: xxii, xxiv.
  • Scott De Orio. Punishing Queer Sexuality in the Age of LGBT Rights. PhD Thesis University of Michigan, 2017: 59. Online.

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