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!

30 October 2019

Transgender Lexicons: Morgan Holleb's The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality


Transgender lexicons:

Virginia Prince
Rose White
Raven Usher
Chris Bartlett
Jack Molay
Raphael Carter
John Money – part 1: gender and transexual

Morgan Lev Edward Holleb. The A-Z of Gender and Sexuality: From Ace to Ze. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019.


Morgan Holleb is an immigrant from Colorado who did degrees at the American International University in London and at the London School of Economics, and currently lives in Glasgow. The Twitter page has the description: “yiddish (((anarchist))), bisexual non-binary trans boy”. No preferred pronoun is given up front, but if you persevere to or happen upon page 135, the entry on Gender Identity, you will find: “I transitioned because I’m drawn to queer boy culture; because after years I still get a thrill being called ‘he’; because my body feels better on testosterone”. So ‘he’ it is.

In his introduction Holleb states:
“This book will only cover English-language terms (with a few exceptions), partly to limit the scope, and mostly because as a white American author with no cultural ties outwith the Anglosphere, I am not qualified to define non-English terms, or to fully understand their contexts. However, I want to stress that other languages and cultures have rich histories and wide spectrums of gender variance and sexuality outside the cisgender heterosexuality that is prized as the ‘default’ in our culture. Many other cultures have a long history of third genders or what we might describe as transgender identities and experiences, from hijra to Two-Spirit to Onnabe. The gender binary as we understand it and its coded gender roles—including strict adherence to heterosexuality under punishment of anti-sodomy laws—were exports of European imperialism. English is a language of the colonizer and this book will implicitly reflect that.”
“I anticipate some resistance from queers who want to keep some of these terms secret. I’m not writing this to let outsiders into our safe spaces (and there will always be undergrounds within undergrounds), but for ‘new’ queers and the people who support them. I appreciate the need for safer spaces and exclusion, but if we are to dismantle straightness and cisness and their inherent oppressions, then we must also expand queerness. But if you’re straight and cis, you need to do the work of undoing your privileges! This book will help illuminate and challenge those privileges.”

Holleb, despite having said in the Introduction: “My approach to language is post-structural and descriptivist (not prescriptivist); words do not have inherent meaning signifiers of meanings and these meanings shift across time” starts the dictionary with ‘A’ as in LGBTQIA by insisting that the A is not for Ally but for Asexual, Aromantic or Agender. Obviously he would not be saying this unless some other persons did use A to mean Ally. How is he not being prescriptivist here?

While the book title says ‘Gender and Sex’, four of the first six items in the dictionary are African-American Vernacular English (with a list of which words White people are allowed to use), Ableism, Accountability and Activism. There were times when I felt that this is a dictionary of Political Correctness (in the good sense of the term).


The book has some interesting appendices.

Legislation and Government Communications


These are arranged by country. The longest entry is for the UK. It starts with the Buggery Act of 1533 and continues to the Alan Turing Act 2017 which pardoned men prosecuted under anti-gay laws, especially those in force before 1967. The Sexual Offences Act 1967 is of course there, as is Tony Blair’s 2004 Civil Partnership Act and David Cameron’s 2013 Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. But where is the Gender Recognition Act, also 2004?

Also should not Corbett v Corbett be mentioned given that it banned trans persons from legal gender changes for 35 years?

There is only one entry under Ireland. The Marriage Act of 2015. Where is the Gender Recognition Act of the same year?

How about Argentina? The Same Sex Marriage Act of 2010 is listed, but again no mention of the Ley de Género of 2012.

There is a section for the European Court of Human Rights (incorrectly claimed as an agency of the European Union – it is not, it operates under the auspices of the Council of Europe). However there is mention only of the 1981 ruling on homosexuality which led to decriminalisation in Northern Ireland. No mention at all of the various appeals to the ECHR by trans persons from Britain, France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Malta etc.

It does seem that Holleb is far more interested in gay rights and marriage than in trans rights.

Events Referenced


A four-page timeline. The only trans items are the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, Stonewall and Trump’s ban on trans in the military. The other items are general history or gay or lesbian.

What should I mention as missing? There are so many. The 1870 trial of Stella and Fanny that established that cross-dressing was not illegal in England; the triple whammy 1928/9 of the legal trials of Radclyffe Hall, Victor Barker and Violet Morris; the Pansy Craze 1930-3; the university gender clinics in the late 1960s etc etc.

As expected from the previous Appendix, Corbett v Corbett and its repeal in the Gender Recognition Act 2004 are also not mentioned.

Groups Referenced


Many worthy groups are mentioned: Belfast Gay Liberation Society, Camp Trans, Campaign for Homosexual Equality, Daughters of Bilitis, Gay-Straight Alliance, GLF, Lesbian Avengers, Mattachine, Outrage, Scottish Minorities Group, STAR, Queer Nation. But what about: Queens Liberation Front, Press for Change, SHAFT, Transgender Nation, Tri-Ess, IFGE, Southern Comfort, FACT, l'Association des Transsexuelles du Québec, etc, etc.

Individuals Referenced


42 individuals are listed. The only trans persons are Laverne Cox, Marsha Johnson, Christine Jorgensen, Janet Mock, and Silvia Rivera. All from one country. While Holleb, during his years living in Britain, has learned about British gay notables from Oscar Wilde to Alan Turing to Bob Mellors and even tells us the names of the last two men hanged for sodomy in 1835, he either has not learned anything about British trans notables or chooses to erase them. Even April Ashley and Jan Morris and Juno Dawson are so erased.

Magnus Hirschfeld is not listed here although he is discussed, reasonably, in the Dictionary entry on Sexology. Harry Benjamin is mentioned but in a very peculiar way – only in the entry for Compton’s Cafeteria Riot: “Dr. Harry Benjamin published The Transsexual Phenomenon. He wrote that gender identity was fixed but that the body could be changed, and legitimized the use of hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery for trans women; several of the queens who frequented Compton’s saw him.”



Selected Dictionary Entries


Obviously I cannot comment on all the dictionary entries. Here are some of the more relevant.

Transracial. “Transracial people are generally adopted children who are raised by parents of a different race. … Transracial does not mean ‘someone born in the wrong race’ or someone who feels ‘dysphoric’ about their racial identity.” Except that other writers are indeed using the second definition (see Wikipedia). Of course the former is valid and more politically correct. But there are two definitions in use.

Transsexual. “A generally out of favor term for someone who is not the gender they were assigned at birth. There is an implication of medical transition (previously, and reductively, referred to as a ‘sex change’). Transgender is now the preferred term, but transsexual is still in use by older trans people who have always used it, and anyone who appreciates the confrontation of the word.”
Transsexualism. “A disease according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, (Tenth Revision), published by the World Health Organization.” That is the full entry, not an introductory paragraph.

So if not transsexual and transsexualism, what term does he suggest for those who have completed their journey with surgery? A term in distinction from the non-surgical has been required since it became possible in the 1920s, and continues to be needed. This requirement is emphasised by separatist factions like HBS (not mentioned at all) and Truscum, but is hardly limited to them. Holleb – in the Transsexual entry – merely suggests Transgender instead. He does not mention ‘Transsexuality’ at all – which is taken by many to remove the medical implications. ‘Trans Medical’ is also not mentioned, but has become problematic because of its association with Truscum.

Instead of Transsexualism, Holleb seems to prefer Gender Dysphoria. “Many, but not all, trans people experience physical dysphoria. Dysphoria is not a prerequisite for transness: transness is defined by not feeling unambiguously aligned with the sex you were assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria cannot be relieved through conversion therapy, and attempts to make people not-trans, through coercion or otherwise, are abusive.” However he tells us that “Gender dysphoria is a mental health disorder classified in the DSM-5, replacing gender identity disorder (GID).” He goes on to correctly distinguish Gender Dysphoria from GID, but when you look at the GID entry four pages later, it simply refers you to Gender Dysphoria.

While he writes that Transsexualism is a disease and Gender Dysphoria a mental health disorder, he releases his inner rebel in the entry on Gender Identity where he complains that “Trans people are expected to justify their gender not only with academic texts on feminism, on queer theory, on sexuality and patriarchy and performance and power, but also with psycho-medical material on hormones, surgery, depression, trauma, autism, childhood anxiety, and a catalogue of every single violence we have suffered which has “made us” trans. Fuck that. … Gender identity is personal and should not need to be explained; it’s an issue of bodily autonomy and social respect.”

The entry on Gender is good, combining ideas about social construction and as a system of oppression, and as performance and how gender signalling can fail. Yet in the middle he writes “In addition to performance, gender is an interior sense of self, aligning with or against cultural norms of gender”. And in Gender Identity he writes that it “could also be called ‘gender’. As I have written elsewhere a transgender person is one who changes aer gender to align it with aer gender identity. Otherwise ae would not be transgender. Many today conflate gender and gender identity, and this usually leads to confusion.

There is an entry for Gender Recognition, but it says nothing about the various Gender Recognition Acts – as expected from the erasure of such acts from the Legislation appendix.

In his Transgender entry, Holleb reminds us that “non-binary people feel that they aren’t trans even though they aren’t cis either”. He closes the entry with: “There is no wrong way to be trans. Some trans people have body dysphoria, some don’t; some see transness as mental illness or disability, many don’t. Medicalization is a path to legitimacy but we shouldn’t need that. While some of the language to describe ourselves is new, transgender people have always existed.”

Tranny. No mention of the ‘Transy’ variant. He sees ‘tranny’ as part of the “conflation between gender and sexuality”, not as an umbrella word for transsexual, transvestite and drag as is usually said. The honourable history of ‘tranny’ as a self-designation is erased, and most of the entry is a condemnation of non-trannys who dare to use the word. (More on Tranny)

Trans, Trans*. Holleb sees ‘Trans’ as short for ‘Transgender’ or maybe ‘Transsexual’. ‘Trans*’ he admits can ‘sometimes’ include cross-dressers and drag performers. He erases the common usage that both words are replacements that mean exactly what ‘Tranny’ used to mean.

Transvestite. Holleb says: “There is a great deal of historical overlap between cross-dressers, drag performers, LGBQ+ people, and trans people.” And then refers us to Cross-Dresser. There is no entry for Transvestism or Tranvestity.

Cross-Dressing.
For Holleb, cross-dressers are not transgender – cross-dressing is a gender expression, not a gender identity. He does a small bit of cross-dressing history – mainly about sex workers in the California gold rush. On the other hand the mainstream of US cross-dressing – Virginia Prince, Transvestia, FPE, Tri-Ess, IFGE etc – is totally not mentioned. As is all British cross-dressing – so no word of Charlotte Bach or the Beaumont Society or of Havelock Ellis’ Eonism.


Gender movements totally missing


There is no mention in this book of Cross-Dreaming, as explicated by Jack Molay or otherwise. I have quoted Holleb in that “non-binary people feel that they aren’t trans even though they aren’t cis either”. This is also true of Cross-Dreamers.

Other movements totally not mentioned: HBS, Tri-Ess, Transkids and other self-designated HSTS, self-designated Autogynephiles.

Conclusion


In the entry on Transgender, Holleb says:
“Transness is often reduced to either an illusion of choice, or the ‘born this way,’ ‘trapped in the wrong body’ narrative. Both are overly simplistic and neither is right.”

That I totally endorse.

I suspect that part of our different approaches is generational. This is a book by a Millennial, for his own generation. However that is not an excuse for leaving out chunks of our history. If you are an older person, reading this book may be useful to understand what Millennial trans persons are thinking. If you are a Millennial you may identify with the book and consider me an old fogey. However our history is what it is, and to cut out chunks of it will damage us all.

Another good book for the Millennial outlook is Juno Dawson’s The Gender Games: The Problem With Men and Women, From Someone Who Has Been Both.

22 October 2019

Frankie Jaxon (1895 – 1953) female impersonator, singer, actor

Frank Devera Jackson was born in Montgomery, Alabama,. He and his sister were orphaned. They were then raised by a widowed aunt in Kansas City, Missouri. At age 19, the aunt died, and the rest of the family moved to Chicago.

From age 15 Frankie Jaxon, as he became, toured as a singer and as such joined the Henry McDaniel Minstrel Show. He worked in medicine shows in Texas and then worked regularly in Atlantic City and Chicago. He did a stint in the army 1918-19, and was promoted to sergeant before being honorably discharged.

Within months he was starring; he sang, danced, and performed as a female impersonator in Atlantic City. He returned to his family in Bronzeville (more), Chicago’s  African-American district, which he made his home base. He supplemented successful home-town shows with short tours by small companies of black performers. In 1925 he joined Mae Dix (1895 – 1958) and her Chicago Harmonaders. He was the only black and the only known queer man in the troupe. When they played in southern US states, he had to be escorted to and from the theater and whenever he needed to leave the hotel. Despite this he won rave reviews. This publicity translated into major bookings in Chicago. His appearance at the faltering Grande Theater on South Slate Street is said to have saved the owners from bankruptcy.

He was known as “Half-Pint” because he was only 5’2” (1.57m). At the same time he was a jazz singer appearing with King Oliver, Tampa Red and Thomas Dorsey. He had a small part in the Duke Ellington film, Black and Tan, and in King Vidor’s Hallelujah, both 1929. He had been signed to play a female role in The Mortage Man as a target of an unscrupulous banker – but the film was never made in the aftermath of the Wall Street Crash.

The Pansy Craze 1930-1933 suited his act perfectly, but it ceased to be acceptable after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Jaxon however was on the bill for the opening ceremonies of the Chicago World Fair 27 May 1933.

Through the 30s, he was often on radio with his band, the Quarts of Joy. The shows included bawdy humor, and Jaxon often played the women’s roles in the songs – usually about sexual topics. He had a convincing female voice. It was these radio appearances that made him a household name. Some of his songs were originals, but others were cover versions with more risqué lyrics – such as “My Daddy Rocks Me with One Steady Roll”, previously recorded by Trixie Smith. Jaxon’s last recording was “be Your Natural Self” in April 1940. This was just after the Chicago Defender had repeated rumors insinuating that the Rev Clarence Cobbs was gay, and Cobbs had sued for libel. The song warns [gay men] to "Watch your step" and "Be careful what you say”. Yet despite being cautious, they should still be "your natural self".

Shortly afterwards he walked away from his show-biz career. In the spring of 1941 he moved to Washington, DC. He found government work, some say for the Pentagon.

It in unclear when he died. Most accounts have him dying in a veterans' hospital in 1944. Elledge however dates this as happening in 1953.
  • Jim Elledge. “Play It, Whip It, Pat It, Bang It”. In The Boys of Fairy Town: Sodomites, Female Impersonators, Third-Sexers, Pansies, Queers and Sex Morons in Chicago's First Century. Chicago Revew Press, 2018 : 159-172.
 Red Hot Jazz.    EN.Wikipedia      Discogs    Allmusic    QueerMusicHeritage    
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Unfortunately we have no photographs of Frankie in drag.

Some say that Jaxon’s version of “My Daddy Rocks Me with One Steady Roll” gave its name to the genre Rock and Roll which emerged over a decade later. Anyway it is the first known recording to include an orgasm.

Henry McDaniel Minstrel Show was not black-face minstrelsy. The troupe were real black people. I was unable to find an account of Henry McDaniel to link to. He was a remarkable man, born a slave, fought in the US Civil War, a Baptist minister, a carpenter, banjo player and ran his own minstrel troupe. His is remembered today only as the father of Hattie McDaniel, the first black actor to win an Oscar.

Did Jaxon have a wife? A census taker visited 5149 Calmut Avenue and Evelyn, a white woman, listed herself as Jaxon’s wife. They also had two lodgers: a white woman and a black man. In 1933, the Chicago Defender announced that “Mr. and Mrs. Frankie (Half Pint) Jaxon are expecting a blessed event”. Jim Elledge searched marriage and birth records in Illinois, New York and New Jersey and failed to find any confirmation at all. He suggests that there was a male couple and a female couple living at 5149 Calmut Avenue - and that all the rest was camouflage. In which case we can name Frankie’s husband as Cliff Oliver. Neither Evelyn nor Clifford, nor any child accompanied Frankie to Washington in 1942.







16 October 2019

Two mafiosi

Giovanni Arrivoli (1975 - 2016) 

Post-transition Giovanna Arrivole was arrested with 17 others for drug dealing, and was released in 2012. He still owned a café bar, the Blue Moon in Campania, which was said to be a meeting place for the Pagano Amato crime family – although others say that he refused to be involved with Amato Pagano, and still others say that he wanted to become a Camorrista boss.


In 2016 he went missing, and three days later was found partially buried and face-down near Melito di Napoli. He had been shot three times.

So far nobody has been tried for the murder.
  • Chris Summers. “Transsexual mafia boss who had a sex-change op to become a man is found tortured and killed near Naples”. Daily Mail, 13 May 2016. Online.
  • Dario del Porto. “La vera storia di Giò, eliminata per un rifiuto ai narcos. Non volle mettersi in affari con loro”. Napoli Republia, 17 maggio 2016. Online. Translation.
  • Jean-Philippe Savry. “Napoli: la Camorra dézingue aussi 38 bis”, “ Napoli : la Camorra dézingue aussi 56”, “La Camorra en Espagne partie 6”.  jean-philippe.savry.over-blog.com/search/arrivoli/.




Lucia Aviello (19?? - ) 

Aviello had been raised as Luciano. Luciano and brother Antonio were involved with the Camorra, and in 2007 they were living in Perugia in Umbria.

On 1 November 2007 Meredith Kercher, an exchange student from the University of Leeds was studying in Perugia, and was murdered. Her US flatmate, Amanda Knox and Knox’ boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were charged with the killing, and Rudy Guede, whose fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime was tried separately and found guilty.

Meanwhile Luciano was convicted and in jail, and was Raffaele’s cell-mate. Antonio had been killed. Luciano sent letters to the authorities saying that Antonio with an unnamed Albanian had planned a robbery but went to the wrong address, that of Kercher who was killed when she screamed. Aviello’s testimony was contradicted by other cell-mates who claimed that Aviello boasted about being paid to make the claim. Also he has eight previous convictions for slander.

Aviello was called to testify at the Supreme Court of Cassation on 4 October 2013. By then she had started transition, and asked to be referred to as Lucia. She repeated that her brother had committed the murder, and denied receiving any payments. She said that she knew where the murder weapon and Kercher’s keys were hidden, having been given them to hide. Other cell-mates were called and repeated her boasts of having been paid. Because she was not considered credible, the police did not search for the weapon and keys – another knife, believed to be the murder weapon, had already been submitted for forensic analysis.

Aviello was convicted and sentenced to 10 months in May 2014 for oltraggio (offending the judiciary – similar to contempt of court), and was also charged with slander against her brother.
  • Tom Kington. “Amanda Knox retrial: mafia gangster claims brother was killer” The Guardian, 4 Oct 2013.  Online.
  •  Egle Priolo. “Omicidio Meredith, la verità del pentito: «Confermo, è stato mio fratello»” Il Gazzettino, 4 Ottobro 2013. Online. Translation.
Themurderofmeredithkercher(The Prison Informants)

14 October 2019

Kimberley Elliot (1953 – 1980) TAO, Neo-American Church

Kimberly's story is told from two sources: Susanna Pena's history of TAO and Art Kleps' history of the early years of psychedelism.   Putting the two together we get the following.   However see also the discussion below.



Along with Colette Goudie and Tara Carn, Kimberly Barreiro – originally from Cuba – was one of the original members of the Transsexual Action Organization after Angela Douglas moved it to Miami. They joined in 1973, became officers of TAO and were a major part of its public face. Kimberly served as director for the town of Miami Beach.

Douglas described Kimberly in 1974 when she was 21 as “tiny, bubbly”. She was one of the first in the group to have transgender surgery, and apparently did a full transition in less than a year. In the TAO newsletter Mirage for Autumn 1974, Kimberley is quoted: ‘I don’t regret it all. But the pain was incredible. I don’t know if I could go through it again’.

She married Steve Elliot, and took his surname.

They were both into psychedelic drugs, and having heard of Art Kleps and his drug-based Neo-American Church, decided to drive up to New York state to visit. In his book, Kleps refers to Kimberly Harrison and Stove (“Ah is all stoved in, man”).
Kleps: “Stove and Kimberly had a strange story to tell. They were both from Miami, where Kimberly, a classic blonde beauty, plied her trade as a Miami Beach hooker. She had met Stove after he had freaked out on the most colossal and one of the weirdest bummers I had heard about up to the time. It involved hordes of fleas appearing in his house on some crazy but exact schedule, not being able to take a shower because the water wouldn’t touch his skin, and aimless wanderings during which he was pursued by flocks of blackbirds and was picked up on the road by kindly spades driving white cars who knew all about him even though he had never seen any of them before in his life. 
Kimberly …, had driven Stove up to be cooled out, paying all the bills along the way, in the ancient and honorable tradition of the whore with a heart of gold. She loved every variety of psychedelic drug, and never had anything but splendid and happy experiences while stoned.”
Kleps regarded Stove as as a “well-defended” paranoid in that he did not, “most of the time, do anything particularly bizarre or fail to handle the routines of ordinary life in an acceptable manner”.

Kimberly had to sell the air-conditioner and the radio out of her car for the journey back to Miami. She stopped for a few days in Millbrook and intrigued Timothy Leary who wanted to know more about her.

In 1980 Kimberly was found dead from a drug overdose at Miami Beach’s Midtown Plaza. Angela Douglas considered her death as suspicious. Several of the old TAO people attended her funeral.
  • Susana Pena. "Gender and Sexuality in Latina/o Miami: Documenting Latina Transsexual Activists". Gender & History, 22,3,2010: 763. Reprinted in Kevin P. Murphy & Jennifer M. Spear (eds). Historicising Gender and Sexuality. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  • Art Kleps. Millbrook: A Narrative of the Early Years of American Psychedelianism. Original Klepian Neo-American Chuch, 1975: 85-91. Chp 13 Online.  

Is this True?

Pena says in her footnote 50: “Reportedly Kimberly Elliot and her husband are mentioned in Art Kelps’s Millbrook: A Narrative of the Early Years of American Psychedelianism ... under the pseudonyms Kim and Steve Newell.” Which is why I included a mention of Kleps and the Neo-American Church in my History of TAO: Part 2.

Pena is wrong in identifying Steve Newell with Steve Elliot.  Kleps introduces Kimberly thus: “Then Kimberly Harrison and Stove (“Ah is all stoved in, man.”) arrived, followed by Steve Newell and then Mike and Gai Duncan. It was an entertaining group.” Therefore Kimberly is with her man Stove who is not the same as Steve Newell. Kimberly Harrison and Stove do appear to be Kimberly and Steve Elliot in that both couples are from Miami Beach, both are into drugs. Pena, following Angela Douglas, does not say how Kimberly made a living, but sex work in the context of TAO does seem plausible.

There is no mention in Kleps of Kimberly being trans. Good we say – it is good not to be read. However on page 87 he says: “I had a private trip with Kimberly a couple nights later, or at least she had a trip and I just smoked a lot of hashish while she told me the story of her life, which hadn’t been all that bad, really”. So she told the story of her life while on LSD and did not mention her transition and the painful surgery. Indeed!  The CIA had pioneered LSD as a truth drug.

Kleps is not good at giving dates – at least not in the book version. What jarred for me was the mention of Kimberly stopping in at Millbrook to see Timothy Leary.  I quickly assertained that he was not there after 1968 when LSD was made illegal. In the online version of the book, the section about Kimberly is in Chapter 13, and the Contents Page specifies that Chapter 13 is 1965-6, not 1974-5.

Thus Kimberly Harrison cannot be Kimberly Barreiro Elliot.  To regard them as one is a false positive.