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!

31 July 2019

Fatima Djemille (187? – ?1921) belly dancer

In 1893 the 11th World’s Fair was held in Chicago, and named the World’s Columbian Exposition.  It attracted over 27 million visitors and introduced electricity, the zipper, the Ferris Wheel and much more. It included an ethnological section and for North Africa (then called the Orient) introduced North African dancing. Dancing for middle-class Europeans and North Americans at that time consisted of a rigid body and educated foot-work – such as the Waltz. As respectable women were then corseted, this could not have been otherwise. North African dancing consisted of mainly moving the body while not moving the feet, and was considered scandalous, although of course it was a precursor of twentieth-century dancing. A variant of such dancing was already known as danse de ventre, and soon acquired the names belly dance and hoochy-coochy.

Jim Elledge in his The Boys of Fairy Town writes:
“Among the many forms of entertainment available to the fair-goers, one of the most popular acts was the performance of a belly dancer called Fatima. A hit of the Midway Plaisance, which ‘featured over a score of exotic dances,’ Fatima’s was ‘the wildest of them all.’ She danced with such ‘wild abandon’ and her movements were so lewd that the police felt obliged to step in and stop her act almost daily. As Fatima’s act grew in popularity, a rumor began to circulate. She was really a he, the gossipers claimed, a rumor that has been since verified by historian Joe McKennon.” (p33)
So is this true?

Elledge mentions McKennon as above, but not in his notes or bibliography. He does give a citation of Joe Nickell.  McKennon, writing in 1972, said of the Exposition: 
“Maybe he saw Fatima, the wildest of them all, over at the Turkish Village. This female impersonator when last heard of in 1933 was the father of five and grandfather of seven.”
Nickell writing in 2005 simply quotes McKennon.

There is no evidence that any dancer used the name Little Egypt at the Exposition. However the Wikipedia page on ‘Little Egypt’ assumes that one or more did and considers three candidates for being the original Little Egypt – one of whom is Fatima Djemille. Wikipedia is the only source to give her a surname, but makes no claim at all that she might be trans in any way.

The best book on North African dancing, its popularity at the Exposition and the legend of Little Egypt is by Donna Carlton, a dancer herself, and a teacher of dance. She explains that there were both authentic and inauthentic oriental exhibits at the Exposition. The inauthentic included the Moorish Palace and the Persian Palace. The latter engaged a troupe of Parisian dancers who performed to popular songs of the day. There were however three genuine exhibitions of the danse de ventre: the Turkish Village, A Street in Cairo and the Algerian Village.

The Algerian Village featured dancers from Ouled Naïl, a Berber tribe from the Atlas mountains. Modern belly dancing uses their name for a style of dance. Carlton says:
“Female impersonators of the Ouled Naïl also entertained in some cities of Algeria (It is possible that at least two impersonators came to Chicago with the Algerian Village troupe).” (Carlton p29-33)
The Turkish Village featured Mohammed in the costume of a cengi (a cross-dressed dancer). Carlton reminds us that the cengi were so popular in Constantinople that quarrels about them broke out in the Janissaries, the elite guard, and so Sultan Mahmud banned them in 1837. Many then left and continued their trade in Egypt. It is said that this Mohammed remained in Chicago after the Exposition, married and raised children. (Carlton p 36)

A Street in Cairo featured the Ghawazi, although without using that term. As Wikipedia puts it:
“there was a small number of young male performers called Khawals. The Khawals were Egyptian male tradiitonal dancers who impersonated the women of the Ghawazi and their dance. They were known to impersonate every aspect of the women including their dance and use of castanets.” 
We have already considered the cross-dressing belly dancer Hasan el Belbeissi in 1849 who was mentioned by Gustave Flaubert. Most histories of belly-dancing acknowledge the Ghawazi influence in both style of dance and costuming. (Carlton p36-45)

So far no Fatima. Were any of these exhibits raided by the police? Actually the three authentic exhibits were not. However the Persian Palace with its Parisian dancers imitating the oriental dance was singled out and ordered to be shut down – but it was not raided. The Persian Palace obtained a court injunction, and its shows continued.

On p62 Carlton refers again to the Turkish Village Mohammed, and calls her “Mohammed/Fatima” without any explanation. Presumably Fatima was Mohammed’s drag name. Carlton then provides photographs of Fatima in Coney Island, and on the cover of The National Police Gazette.

She says: 
“Some 1896 photographs provide a rare instance of a sideshow dancer who is convincingly genuine: Fatima, a Coney Island performer. Her poses are common ones in the Oriental Dance of today. Her costume has interesting authentic touches and was probably assembled by someone familiar with Egyptian jewelry and traditional Eastern symbols.”
Fatima at Coney Island
This appears to be the same Fatima who was filmed in 1897.

Elledge tells of an elderly man who returned to Chicago in June 1920, tried to get the attention of younger men and claimed to be the Fatima from the exibition – but Elledge assumes that it is a different person.

The Wikipedia page on Little Egypt claims that Fatima Djemille died 14 March 1921. Joe McKennon claims that Fatima was last heard of in 1933.

So. Is Mohammed Fatima? Is the Fatima in Coney Island 1896 the same person? Was s/he a female impersonator, or any other kind of trans. Where does Elledge get the claims of police raids and arrests?

  • Joe McKennon. A Pictorial History of the American Carnival. Carnival Publishers of Sarasota, 1972: 1.34.
  • Donna Carlton. Looking for Little Egypt. IDD Books, 1995. Passim. 60, 62, 78 for Fatima.
  • Erik Larson. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic & Madness and the Fair That Changed America. Vintage, 2004: 312.
  • Joe Nickell. Secrets of the Sideshows. The University Press of Kentucky, 2005: 49.
  • Jim Elledge. The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third-sexers, Pansies, Queers, and Sex Morons in Chicago’s First Century. Chicago Review Press, 2018: 33-4, 89-90

EN.Wikipedia(Little Egypt)    EN.Wikipedia(Ouled Naïl)     EN.Wikipedia(Ghawazi)

24 July 2019

Richard Curtis (1967 - ) doctor, yacht racer

Richard Curtis started life as Vanda Zadorozny,  the child of a Polish immigrant who survived a Nazi forced labour camp and became a mine worker in West Yorkshire.

Vanda had medical training at St. Bartholomew’s Medical College and the Royal London School of Medicine, followed by work in various hospitals. Zadorozny also did an MBA and for three years worked in the pharmaceutical industry bringing medical expertise to sales and marketing, before returning to doctoring as a general practitioner.

Zadorozny had developed a passion for sailing while at university and competed at the national level for 15 years winning several championships. Zadorozny had affairs with men, but they did not feel right: he felt that he was “a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”.

He was working as a locum at a general practice in Richmond, London, when he completed transition as Richard Curtis in 2005, shortly after the Gender Recognition Act came into force. He was the first transsexual to be recognised by the General Medical Council under its terms.

Dr Curtis met Russell Reid, and started to sit in with trans clients, and by the end of the year was taking his own patients. He took over the private practice in 2006, when Reid retired facing complaints that he was too willing to be helpful to transsexuals. Curtis was a member of  professional and activists groups: WPATH, Gendys Network, FTM NetWork, FTM London, Gender Trust and GIRES. He aimed to offer a ‘one-stop’ service wherein trans clients can be assessed, diagnosed, given referrals, prescribed and dispensed hormones, given follow-up and health checks, offered counselling and hair removal treatment and even speech therapy. Ruth Pearce describes his reputation at the turn of the decade: 
“The name ‘Dr Curtis’ was widely associated with a more liberal form of care that centres informed consent rather than placing the burden of proof upon trans patients, a factor that was sometimes linked by participants to Curtis’ own background as a trans man. Transhealth patients such as Ben felt more confident that the possible future of transition would eventually manifest, and within a predictable time frame too. They were less worried about encountering cisgenderism or transphobia from Curtis, or having to prove themselves ‘trans enough’.”
However some complaints were made: mainly about his high fees: as high as £240-an-hour. More significantly, a woman, who had presented as a trans man, regretted taking testosterone and having a double mastectomy; it was alleged that Dr Curtis had prescribed to patients under 18 “without the specialist knowledge or skills to do so”; that he failed to follow “accepted standards of care”. In November 2011, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) imposed a number of restrictions on Dr Curtis’ practice. He "must maintain an anonymised log detailing every case where he prescribes for patients with gender dysphoria and for patients who he refers for gender dysphoria surgery". The panel also ruled: "He must not prescribe hormonal treatment for patients with gender dysphoria, or refer any patients for gender dysphoria surgery, unless those patients have undergone a recent mental health or psychological assessment carried out by an appropriately trained mental health care professional."

In 2013 the General Medical Council opened an investigation into the practice of Dr Curtis. However in February 2015 it announced that the Fitness to Practice hearing originally scheduled for that month would not be going forward.

Curtis maintained the support of trans patients and activists. The Twitter #TransDocFail campaign led to a dossier of over 100 cases of serious and sometimes dangerous mistreatment of trans patients by other doctors. This was formally presented to the GMC, and Jane Fae wrote an article for The Guardian making the same points. However, no action appears to have been taken against a single doctor as a result.

Dr Curtis had made several changes so that his service was more similar to NHS gender clinics, such as requiring a second diagnosis prior to hormone prescriptions, and he stopped accepting patients under 21.

On June 2017 Dr Curtis announced the discontinuance of his practice. This was at the same time as the Welsh physician Helen Webberley who had been offering prescriptions after consultations by Skype, was also investigated by the GMC and put under restrictions.

*not the screenwriter, nor the Washington State representative.

  • Luke McEwan. “Laser 4000 Nationals at Dalgety Bay Sailing Club Report”. Yachts and Yachting, 22 Aug 2000. Online.
  • Nicki May Reid. Dr Richard Curtis BSc. MB.BS takes over from Dr Russell Reid. Angel News 2 Feb 2006 . No Longer available.
  • Elizabeth Day. “Richard, the first transsexual GP, was Vanda, the miner’s Daughter”. The Telegraph, 09 Oct 2005. Online.
  • Curtis, R., Levy, A., Martin, J., Zoe-Jane, P., Wylie, K., Reed, T. and Reed, B.  Guidance for GPs, other Clinicians and Health Professionals on the Care of Gender Variant People. Department of Health Publications, 2008.
  • David Batty. “Doctor under fire for alleged errors prescribing sex-change hormones”. The Guardian, 6 Jan 2013. Online.
  • Martin Evans & Andrew Hough. “Dr Richard Curtis: transsexual doctor faces investigation”. The Telegraph, 07 Jan 2013. Online.
  • Sam Webb. “Transsexual doctor who charges £240-an-hour investigated over sex-change treatments after complaint by woman who regretted having her breasts removed”, The Daily Mail, 7 January 2013..
  • Matthew Jenkin. “Campaign calls for end to trans doctor 'witch hunt'”. Gay Star News, 10 January 2013. Online.
  • Jane Fae. “The real trans scandal is not the failings of one doctor but cruelty by many” The Guardian, 10 Jan 2013. Online.
  • Nick Duffy. “General Medical Council drops case against transgender doctor”. Pink News, February 27, 2015. Online.
  • Tris Reid-Smith. “Is General Medical Council failing trans people as they clear top doctor after four year probe?”. Gay Star News, 26 February 2015. Online.
  • Kamilla Kamaruddin. “What it’s like to be a transgender patient and a GP”. British Journal of General Practice, 67 (600) 2017: 313. Online.
  • “Dr Curtis is closing his Gender Clinic”. Susan’s Place, June 2017. Online.
  • Ruth Pearce. Understanding Trans Health: Discourse, Power and Possibility. Policy Press, 2018: 72, 149-50, 165-7.


An item I did not put in the bibliography is Sheila Jeffreys’ Gender Hurts. She has a half-page on Curtis. Simply citing David Batty in The Guardian. she puts far too much weight on a statement that Curtis was quoted as saying:  ‘I’ve never wanted children, or a white wedding like most women dream of, or a man to take care of me. Instead, you were more likely to find me fitting a kitchen or tiling the bathroom’.  Jeffreys comments: “Her understanding of gender was very constricting and traditional”. Really! A woman who becomes a yacht-racing champion has a constricting and traditional view of gender! Of course Jeffreys does not mention that Curtis was a yachting champion.

Richard Curtis Gender Specialist - Part 1 from Jay Stewart on Vimeo.

12 July 2019

Review of two books about Stonewall

While Stonewall was an iconic event for both the trans and the gay movements, the perspectives of the two movements are quite different.   This is shown in the two books here, which, although both of much merit, do mainly reflect the gay perspective, but not the trans.

Richard Schneider Jr (ed). In Search of Stonewall: The Riots at 50, The Gay & Lesbian Review at 25, Best Essays 1994-2018. 245 pp  G&LR Books, 2019.

The Gay & Lesbian Review is a bi-monthly magazine out of Boston that publishes much that is worth reading.  I read most issues.   Unlike most gay/lesbian organizations and publications from the 1990s, the G&LR never renamed itself as the LGBTQ Review.   Writing from a trans perspective, it is right that they did not do so, as while it publishes occasional pieces about trans issues, they are usually from a gay and/or lesbian perspective.   Many of the issues that a trans reader would look for have not been tackled, so the magazine name is appropriate.

The book contains various essays previously published in the 25 years of G&LR, with new essays by Martin Duberman, Lillian Faderman and Andrew Holleran, and an introduction by editor Richard Schneider.   The book itself is supplemented by the May-June 2019 issue Stonewall Special. 

Schneider writes: ”If nothing else, it is a marker in historical time with a clearly defined ‘before’ and ‘after.’ But to imply that Stonewall interrupted the flow of history, singlehandedly resetting the LGBT calendar, is to pile a lot of responsibility onto a single event or era. Still, something happened, and it happened quite rapidly and even magically after the riots, so in this sense the search for Stonewall can also be a desire to reconnect with the overpowering energy and excitement of this period.”

From this he includes essays about before and after Stonewall, and about elsewhere in the US, although not in Canada nor in Europe.  No one discusses the wave of partial decriminalizations of homosexuality that had swept Europe in the 1960s: 1961 Czechoslovakia, Hungary, 1963 Israel, 1967 England & Wales, 1968 East Germany and Bulgaria, 1969 Canada and West Germany.   In the US, only Illinois and Connecticut followed.   The question of whether the fact that the US had fallen behind other countries contributed to the Stonewall events is not discussed.

Nor are there any essays in the book about how movies, theatre and novels partly prepared the way.  In the few years leading up Stonewall, there were plays by Jackie Curtis, John Vaccaro and Charles Ludlam, films by Andy Milligan, Avery Willard, Jack Smith and Paul Morrissey - not to mention Boys in the Band and Myra Breckinridge. This dificiency is addressed in the May-June issue with a review by Andrew Holleran of Kembrew Mcleod’s The Downtown Pop Underground.

Martin Duberman, in his introduction to Part 1, says:
“A prominent theory about the corrupt Sixth Precinct's uncharacteristic failure to alert Stonewall's Mafia owners to the imminent raid ascribes it to the owners' tardiness in the making their usual payoff. An opposing theory emphasizes instead that the Precinct's new commanding officer was sending a message that henceforth the payoffs had to be higher-or, argues yet another theory, that he was determined to abolish them altogether. And so it goes.”   
Surely there should be mention of the theory presented in David Carter’s book that Ed Murphy was running, from Stonewall, a blackmail racket against gay employees in the financial services and that stolen bonds were turning up in Europe.  Having noted that, I also noticed that none of the writers mention Police Inspector Seymour Pine who was in charge of the Stonewall Raid, and also of the raid on the Snake Pit the following March.  Nor are any of the mafia persons mentioned: not Eddy Murphy (who, in addition to working from the Stonewall later founded the Christopher Street Festival committee), nor Michael Umbers, landlord of STAR House, nor Matty Ianiello who co-ordinated the Stonewall for the mafia, and would in 1974 be behind the opening of the Gilded Grape - a new bar for trans women.

There were four activist groups in New York that emerged in the wake of Stonewall: Gay Liberation Front (GLF), Gay Activist Alliance (GAA) the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and the Queens’ Liberation Front (QLF).   There is significant mention of the first two.  There is a passing mention of the third, and nothing at all about the fourth.  The mention of STAR names Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P Johnson, and Duberman’s Introduction concedes that she may actually not have been at Stonewall.  But that is all.   Not a word about Tammy Novak. Joe Tish, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, Lee Brewster, Bebe Scarpinato, Jayne County, Allyson Allante, Bubbles Rose Lee, Bunny Eisenhower, Kim Christie, International Chrysis, Siobhan Fredericks, etc.  The only trans woman featured is Major Griffen-Gracy, usually referred to as Miss Major.  Griffen-Gracy is not mentioned in either Duberman’s or Carter’s book on Stonewall, and did not particiapte in GLF, GAA, STAR or QLF.  So to choose her as the one and only trans woman to feature is a very odd choice.

I seem to be mainly listing what the book is not.  Much of it is well-worth reading, but do not expect coverage of the trans content of the Stonewall event. 

Jason Baumann (ed). The Stonewall Reader.  316 pp. The New York Public Library & Penguin Books, 2019.

This book is a collection of pertinent documents from the New York Public Library donated by many gay and trans New Yorkers, and as such is invaluable to gay and trans historians. Some of the interviews were previously published in Eric Marcus’ Making Gay History, 1992.

Like the G&LR book, this does before, during and after Stonewall, and spreads out to other cities across the US, but is also totally disinterested in Canada and Europe.

There is much more trans content: Masha P Johnson (twice), Sylvia Rivera, Holly Woodlawn, Jayne County, and again Major Griffin-Gracy.   So the four best known trans women in New Yorks activism and the arts, and Griffin-Gracy who was not in STAR or QLF or in any films, but all the others listed above are again ignored, and in particular there is nothing on the Queens’ Liberation people.  The trans bits are all in the “during” section, with nothing in the “after section” except for the second Masha P Johnson piece which is about STAR.  The “before’ section includes an excerpt from John Rechy’s City of Night, but not the section about Miss Destiny. 

There also is an entry from Transvestia in which Virginia Prince discussed being divorced by wife number 1 and marrying wife number 2 – which is rather out of sync with the rest of the book.   Prince was not a gay-libber in any sense.   Not that I want to wall off the FPE-TriEss people from the rest of the trans movement, but surely  - to take a sample from Transvestia - something by Susanna Valenti would be much more suitable, or perhaps an excerpt from Darrell Raynor’s A Year Among the Girls.  Both Susanna and Darrell were, of course, New Yorkers.

This leads to the question: having included material from Transvestia, a Los Angeles trans newsletter, why is there nothing from the New York trans magazines and newsletters: nothing from Turnabout, nothing from Female Mimics, and most importantly, nothing from Drag, A Magazine of Transvestism (which featured writings by Lee Brewster and Bebe Scarpinato and was by far the most radical of the trans periodicals).


To recap:

None of the trans historians are mentioned or quoted (not even yours truly).   I published a before and after Stonewall, New York trans timeline last month.   The story from a trans perspective is significantly different than that from a gay perspective.   We need to know gay perspective and read their books, but unfortunately, the gay editors are not paying much attention to the trans perspective.

My Timeline:

The four years leading to Stonewall
The five years following Stonewall
The trans geography of New York 1966-74