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!

29 February 2020

Judy Bowen (1944 - ) business woman, activist

Judy Bowen was assigned male and so raised in Virginia and Tennessee despite feeling otherwise.  The family was religious – church three times a week – and Bowen was a teenage reporter for the local evangelical paper, The Daily Beacon.

This led to a journalism scholarship at the University of Tennessee. Bowen became involved with the civil rights movement where she found greater acceptance as a trans woman. There were several transsexuals at a racially mixed party when three white men came in and started stabbing people. Judy escaped through a window. However they could not call the police because racial mixing was then illegal in the State, and those who were stabbed had to be taken to hospital in separate cars.

A male friend was moving to New York to be a teacher, and Judy went with him. They lived on Long Island. Judy started going to transsexual clubs and one night won a contest at the Queen of Hearts club in Garden City, Long island, when it was raided and they were all arrested. As her friend was a teacher, he would have lost his job if seen with her.

She and three others found a third floor studio apartment at Christopher Street and Gay Street in Greenwich Village, a short walk from the Stonewall tavern. In 1967 Judy became a patient of Harry Benjamin. For a while she worked, as a bookkeeper in male guise, always keeping her jacket on to hide her newly grown breasts. Then she found that she could make good money as a taxi-dancer in the Times Square mafia establishments.
“I started in the dance clubs, like the Tango Palace. It was usually 60/40; 60 percent cis female and 40 percent trans. It was a place where lonely men with problems would go, and they would pay to sit with a girl for an hour. They had to buy champagne and we’d drink water. From there, I graduated to a gentleman’s club in the Times Square area. I was the only transgender person, that I knew of, who worked in that place.” 
She also had a wealthy benefactor.

Judy was not at the Stonewall riots in July 1969 because she was working, but she was part of the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade a year later. Afterwards she organized two short-lived groups. Transvestites and Transsexuals (TAT) was formed in 1970 but lasted only a couple of months. Bowen was quoted as saying that she found the transvestites “too politically radical”. Transsexuals Anonymous had its inaugural meeting in the office of surgeon Benito Rish in early 1971. About twenty attended, the most prominent of whom was Deborah Hart.
“I started Transsexuals Anonymous because we needed to talk and we had to be anonymous or we might be murdered if someone found out. As transsexuals we were motivated to become as close to genetic females as possible. Transsexuals were living, working, and transitioning into female roles. That's what made us different from transvestites. Some transsexuals go through with the surgery, and some don't. In that group [TA] we basically gave each other confidence. We helped each other with jobs and school. That sort of thing. Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson had STAR. They had no desire to become female.” 
Judy had surgery from Drs George T Whittle and John Clarke at the Jersey Shore Medical Center in 1971. There were complications and then litigation that continued for many years. The Jersey Medical Center discontinued transsexual surgery in response.

Judy in 1974
In 1974 the Gilded Grape announced a Miss Gilded Grape Contest. The most sensational contestant was Judy who spoke for ten minutes about her operations. However her operations seemed to count against her. Drag Magazine commented that rules against surgery should be spelt out clearly in advance. The winner was Eddie, a bartender at the Grape, in drag for the first time.

The FBI were going after the mafia dance halls, and Judy was warned by a lawyer to get out. She had been buying property since before Stonewall:
“I ended up owning an Italian restaurant in Queens for 35 years. I added an art gallery. Eventually I had four buildings on the block and started publishing the Western Queens Gazette, a community-based paper which is still going today, and the Long Island City News. I raised money for youth and senior programs and I got appointed to the community board. I worked to get a gymnasium converted into a youth center to keep the kids off the street. I was and am very community minded.” 
During this period she was mainly non-disclosing of her gender history.

In the late 1970s Judy became a regular at Studio 54, and met Andy Warhol, and was an extra in a couple of Woody Allen films. In the mid-1980s she met the man who became her husband.

In 1998 Judy’s mother passed on, and Judy and her husband decided to move to Las Vegas.

Today, in her 70s, she is an active member of The Center in Las Vegas, which supports the needs of LGBTQ people, as well as a champion of the Safety Dorm for transgender individuals at The Salvation Army, which houses and provides professional support for homeless transgender people in Las Vegas.
  • “Drag Drops in on New York’s Drag Oasis: Beauty at the Gilded Grape”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 4, 14. 1974: 32, 38. 
  • “Transsexual nears trial in malpractice suit”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 7, 26. 1978: 4. 
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 236.
  • Brendan Zachariah O’Donnell. Definition and Redefinition: Alliance and Antagonism in Homosexual and Trans Communities in the U.S. BA Thesis, Wesleyen University, 2014: 59. Online
  • Owen Keenen. “Trans pioneer Judy Bowen looks back at community changes”. Windy City Times, 2016-11-30. Online
  • Zackary Drucker. “Transgender Activist Judy Bowen Recalls the Stonewall Riots”. Vice: Identity, Nov 29 2018. Online.
  • Daniel Villarreal. “This trans activist recently shared her memories of the Stonewall uprising and early life in NYC” LGBTQNation, December 2, 2018. Online
  • Enzo Marino. “Local transgender woman recounts experience during Stonewall Riots”. Fox5Vegas, Jun 28, 2019. Onine
  • “Judy Bowen: Center Legacy Award”. The LGBTQ Center of Southern Nevada, 2020. Online.

24 February 2020

George Traver Whittle (1927 – 2017) sex-change surgeon

George Whittle was raised mainly in New Jersey. His father, a Naval Commander, was in command at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 when the airship, the Hindenburg, crashed and burned. Ten-year-old George was among the witnesses.

Whittle graduated from Princeton in 1948 with majors in psychology and chemistry, and acquired a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania two years later. He did an internship at the Graduate Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania and surgical residencies at the Bronx VA and Columbia Presbyterian Hospitals in New York. In 1952 he was called to active duty in the US Navy and served in Korea. On return, he and his first wife moved to Long Branch, New Jersey and raised four children. He started the first renal dialysis unit in central New Jersey. He performed lithotripsy surgery, and was on the teaching staff of Hahnemann Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. He was a Diplomat of the American Board of Urology and elected a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

In the early 1970s, Whittle attended a symposium in Elsinore in Denmark on Transsexuality. Upon return, at the request of Johns Hopkins University, The University of Minnesota and the UCLA Medical Center he volunteered to surgically treat transsexual patients at the Jersey Shore Medical Center. He completed eight such operations assisted by Dr John Clark, both male to female and female to male operations. In his obituary he is quoted as saying that it was one of the most gratifying and challenging aspects of his medical career. His nurse Gloria, who was with him from 1970, helped provide aftercare and counselling. One of his patients was the New York business woman Judy Bowen who was in pain for years afterwards and later sued. This led to the Medical Center barring any more such operations.


The Ashbury Park Press in 1981, quoted Whittle that he was only too happy to give up the work with transsexuals because of “the day-to-day headaches and aggravations” and because it was a “losing proposition”. Of ‘male transsexuals’ [that is trans women] he said that they “have all the usual things wrong – emotional instability, financial difficulties, bad work habits and rehabilitive potentials. They are largely being supported by welfare; they don’t pay their bills”. On the other hand, “The female transsexuals [that is trans men] who have been assigned to male identity are exactly the opposite: they are generally stable, responsible and often productive persons who can be depended upon to pay their bills, have good work habits and normally wind up as a responsible member of the community”.

George and his first wife divorced in 1975. Gloria became his second wife in 1994 on his 67th birthday. They retired the next year and moved to Florida. Whittle died age 90.
  • “Transsexual nears trial in malpractice suit”. Drag: The International Transvestite Quarterly, 7, 26. 1978: 4. Online.
  • “Doctor still believes in sex changes: A decade ago, area physician did controversial surgery”. Ashbury Park Press, 29 November 1981: 51. Online.
  • “Memorial: George T Whittle ‘48”. Princeton Alumni Weekly, September 13, 2017. Online.
--------------------------

Legacy.com says that the symposium was in Elsinore in Norway. Neither Wikipedia nor Google maps knows of such a place. Elsinore, the English name for Helsingør, the location for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is of course in Denmark. Unless what is meant is Helsingborg, just over the water in Sweden - but again not Norway. However the Danish town is more likely, and I have adjusted the account accordingly.

Legacy.com says of Whittle’s transgender surgeries: “This led to him becoming one of the leading surgeons of transsexuals in the country, completing both male to female and female to male.” Really! Eight surgeries makes a surgeon a national leader?  Stanley Biber, who started transgender surgery only a few years earlier, went on to complete several thousand such operations.  Biber was a national leader.

21 February 2020

Carolyn Mercer (1947 - ) headteacher

Mercer was raised by working-class parents in Preston, Lancashire, and left school at 16 with minimal qualifications to work for a plastering and tiling contractor. Mercer also played rugby and did weight lifting and boxing.

At 17 Mercer spoke to the family doctor about feeling as if in the wrong body but was told “Stop bothering your mother”. The vicar arranged a referral to a psychiatric hospital where Mercer was subjected to ‘five or six’ sessions of electric shock aversion therapy while seeing pictures of women’s clothes. It took 40 years to get over that experience.

Mercer was married at age 19, and they had two children. Voluntary work in a youth club led to training as a primary school teacher, but as there was a shortage of maths teachers, Mercer ended up in a secondary school. By age 26 Mercer was head of mathematics, and did a degree at the Open University followed by a masters in Education Management at Sheffield Hallam University.

Mercer became deputy head, acting head, and then headteacher at a school in Blackpool at the age of 37 and thereby the second youngest headteacher in the country.

In 1994, Mercer had begun transition by taking estrogen. Word and got around, and a news photographer came to the door and took a photograph that then appeared in the tabloids. Mercer was suspended and investigated for not having “the honesty or integrity to be a headteacher”. However there was no case to answer – but it did intimidate her into having her newly grown breasts removed.

Mercer finally met a supportive psychiatrist in 2000, retired in 2002 at age 55 and this time did complete transition as Carolyn.

Since retirement Carolyn has been a hospice trustee and vice-chair, trustee of a national hospice charity, a member of Lancashire Constabulary Independent Advisory Group and chair of Lancashire LGBT.

  • “Ex-headteacher 'pretended to be a man' for 55 years”. Lancashire Post, 4th April 2016. Online.
  • Unity Blott. “Transgender headteacher, 68, reveals she was forced to endure brutal electric shock therapy as a teenager to try to 'cure' her”. The Daily Mail, 4 April 2016. Online
  • Alice Evans. “Trans conversion therapy survivor: 'I wanted to be cured so asked to be electrocuted' “. BBC News, 23 August 2019. Online.

18 February 2020

M J Bassett (196? - ) film director

Michael Bassett was raised in Newport in Shropshire. Aspirations of being a wildlife veterinarian were dashed by low grades. At 16 Bassett left school and worked as a wildlife filmmaker’s assistant.

From there Bassett became a science-nature presenter on children’s television, and then was a children’s puppeteer. After quitting that, Bassett bought a VHS camera and made short films, some of which won amateur awards. A funded film was broadcast. Meanwhile Bassett spent years writing screenplays and attempting to get attention for them.

Finally a script for a horror movie set in the trenches of the Great War attracted attention from several financiers, although all but one dropped out when Bassett insisted on directing the script. It ended up being called Deathwatch, and was fairly successful. This led to another horror film, Wilderness, and the heroic fantasy Solomon Kane, and then to an adaptation of the video game Silent Hill. Bassett both wrote and directed, and for Silent Hill was in social media contact with the fans as the project developed. From 2013 Bassett began directing episodes in television series, first as a guest director, and the next year as lead director for Starz’ Strike Back.

In 2016, Bassett announced that she is trans. She is still working on major films and television. Since 2016 she is credited as MJ Bassett, and posts as emjaybassett.


  • Christina Radish. “ ‘Strike Back’ Director Michael J. Bassett on the Show’s Final Season, ‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’ ”. Collider, August 28, 2015. Online.
  • Mekanie McFarland. “"Strike Back" brings women into the action”. Salon, February 9, 2018. Online.
IMDB     EN.Wikipedia   ins-tag-ram  Twitter   Biography(archive)

16 February 2020

Sophie White (1957 - ) filmmaker, actress

Sophie, originally from Houma, Louisiana, was previously known as Rory, and under that name had been a motorcycle racer, a boxing promoter, and a chiropractor, at first in Roswell, Georgia, and then, with a wife and three children, in Houma.

White invested in a brother’s new local television station, but it went bankrupt and White was left with a lot of equipment. Instead of selling it at discount, it made more sense to learn how to use it. White obtained camera work, and worked up to director of photography and then producer.

By 2017, White could no longer suppress her feminine side and had begun to transition as Sophie. That year she won an International Screen Writers Association award. She also pitched a film called Hummingbird loosely based on her own story of almost being pushed to suicide. They started filming with Sophie in the lead role. However another trans woman brought in as a consultant died by suicide, and they did not have the heart to finish post-production. 

Based on what had been filmed and seen, an agent signed Sophie as an actress. Since then she has had several film and television acting roles.


  • “Transgender Filmmaker Transitions into New Career Roles” Ambush Magazine, October 8, 2019. Online.
  • Eve Kucharski. “Transgender Actress Sophie White Talks Acting Origins, Upcoming Projects”. PrideSource, October 23rd, 2019. Online.




14 February 2020

Ernest Marples (1907 – 1978) Minister of Transport, businessman

​Ernest Marples was raised in Manchester by parents active in the Labour Party. In 1941 he was commissioned into the Royal Artillery and rose to the rank of Captain, before being medically discharged in 1944.

He joined the Conservative Party and was elected Member of Parliament for Wallasey in the 1945 election – despite the winning Labour Party surge. Around the same time he became a director in a construction firm. In 1948, with civil engineer Reginald Ridgway he founded Marples Ridgway and Partners which went on to build roads, dams and power stations.

He was appointed Postmaster General in 1957 by Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and then Minister of Transport in 1959, where he stayed until the transfer of power to Labour in 1964. MacMillan remarked that Marples was one of only two in his cabinet who was self-made.

Mr & Mrs Marples
Marples had resigned as a director of Marples Ridgway in 1951 when he became a junior minister, but continued to hold 80% of the company’s shares. He still held them in early 1960 when Marple Ridgway won a tender to build the Hammersmith Flyover despite not being the lower bidder. After a kerfuffle in the press, he attempted to sell his shares to his former partner, Ridgway, but the Attorney-General rejected this as he would be able to buy them back. But he was allowed to sell them to his wife instead. Marples Ridgeway, although not the direct contractor, was involved in the building of the M1, Britain’s first motorway.

In 1962 Marples oversaw the Transport Act which simplified the closure of railways, and appointed Richard Beeching to recommend such closures which amounted to 55% of stations and 30% of track.

It was an open secret that Marples engaged prostitutes, however he was not involved in the Profumo Scandal of 1963 wherein the Secretary of State for War was found to be sharing a mistress with a Soviet naval attaché. A senior judge, Tom Denning was appointed to report on the scandal, and also investigated rumours about other ministers.

His investigation was close to its conclusion when on 9 July a woman using the name Mrs Ann Bailey, but sometimes Mrs Smith, came forward. She explained that she was a full-time prostitute and had for a long time been paid by Marples. She described how he bought women’s clothes and wore them when he met her. She described his further tastes of which, she said, ‘whipping was the least sickening’.  Their meetings often took place at Marples' home at 33 Eccleston Square, (map) previously inhabited by Winston Churchill and close to Victoria Station, and Mrs Bailey was able to give a detailed description of the interior of the house. She further testified that even after their relationship ended, a series of ‘annoying, obscene and filthy’ letters signed by the Minister with the initial E were sent to her, describing services and practices he still required.

It was felt that this very much exposed Marples to a risk of blackmail. It was also felt that Bailey had been encouraged to approach the Denning inquiry by a national newspaper so that once her evidence was authenticated and published in Denning’s report, the newspaper would be clear to pay her and publish the story. Denning arranged a meeting in his office of Marples and Bailey. He acknowledged that he knew her, and they shook hands.

On 14 August there was a crisis meeting of Denning with Prime Minister Macmillan - but they did not mention the Marples situation.  Macmillan hinted at a curious compromise, suggesting to Denning that it might be ‘appropriate at a later stage to write confidentially to the Prime Minister drawing his attention to suspicions of discreditable conduct on the part of Ministers in their private lives’.

The slightly expurgated Denning Report was published in September 1963, and very unusually for a judicial report was a best seller.  A few weeks later Macmillan was hospitalised with prostate cancer, and he used this as an excuse to resign.  He was replaced by Alec Douglas Hume who took the Conservative Party to defeat in the election of October 1964.

Marples was not a minister in the next Conservative Government, that of Edward Heath, 1970-4, and he retired at the 1974 general election. Later that year he became a life peer as Baron Marples of Wallesey.

However his business activities were catching up with him. The tenants of a block of flats he owned in Putney were demanding that he repair serious structural faults; he was being sued for £145,000 by the Bankers Trust merchant bank; Inland Revenue was demanding that he pay nearly 30 years of back taxes on his residence in Eccleston Square; and that he pay capital gains tax on other properties.

In early 1975 he fled to Monte Carlo, and the Treasury froze his assets in Britain. In November 1977 he made a payment of £7,600 to the British government and was able to return.  He spent his final years in France, and died in hospital in Monte Carlo in July 1978 age 70.

In 1994 as per standard practice the official archives relating to the Macmillan government were released, but without the archives relating to the Denning Report.  The then Prime Minister John Major questioned this and was invited to read them.  He then agreed that they remain closed to the public until 2048.

In 2020 Denis Bedoya/Tom Mangold obtained access to the diaries of Thomas Critchley, Denning’s secretary. On this basis they were able to reveal the evidence of Mrs Bailey.  They conclude that she was paid off with an amount equal to what she could expect from a major newspaper for the story.
 “Such a deal would have involved taxpayers’ money buying off a prostitute to keep her quiet to save the government of the day. I calculate that the amount would have been equivalent today to about £250,000. Now that really would have been a scandal.”

  • Richard Davenport-Hines. An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo. William Collins, 2013: 20-2, 328-9.
  • Martin Rosenbaum. “Profumo scandal evidence still secret in 'cover-up' “. BBC News, 1 february 2020. Online.
  • Tom Mangold. “How the official report into the Christine Keeler affair covered up a FAR more sensational sex scandal... and Tory Minister Ernest Marples' kinky antics made Profumo look like a choirboy!”. The Daily Mail, 25 January 2020. Online.
  • Denis Bedoya. “How report into the Christine Keeler affair covered up a FAR more sensational sex scandal”. Infosurhoy, January 25, 2020. Online.

______________

The reports by Mangold and Bedoya are word-for-word identical including the use of the first person.

09 February 2020

Glen or Glenda but not Virginia Prince

First a reminder of previous postings.

Virginia Prince

Part 1 – Youth and First marriage
Bibliography
Part II – Second Marriage
Part III – Femmiphilic activist
Part IV – Full-time Living
Part V – Transgenderist dowager
Jargon terms and general comments

Edward D Wood

Edward D. Wood, Jr (1924 - 1978) film-maker, pornographer

I commented in the latter: "Ed was active in heterosexual transvestite groups in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s. So was Virginia Prince. But neither appears in the books about the other."

I also wrote in Virginia Prince Part 1, re the initial contacting of Los Angeles transvestites in 1952-3: "However there were cross-dressers who were not invited such as fellow Angeleno and heterosexual Edward D. Wood, Angeleno Sascha Brastoff, José Sarria who was starting to organize fellow drag queens in San Francisco, and the majority of female impersonators, such as those who performed at Finocchio's in San Francisco. Nor was the invitation extended to female cross-dressers."

Prince was heavy on pseudo-respectability, and Wood was not 'respectable'.

Glen or Glenda not inspired by Prince

In 1953 the divorced Arnold Lowman (Prince's male persona) was in the newspapers attempting to modify his visiting rights and reduce his alimony, and was again named in the press as a transvestite and his father threatened to disown him. This was at the same time that Christine Jorgensen was in the news after returning from Denmark, and it was announced that Bela Lugosi’s next film would be called Transvestite. The director, Edward D Wood, announced that the film, which was eventually called Glen or Glenda, would have no relation to the transvestite divorce story then in the Los Angeles newspapers.

Aftermath

In 2011 Michael Franklin at the University of Minnesota in his PhD thesis, Spectacles in Transit: Reading Cinematic Productions of Biopower and Transgender Embodiment, includes a footnote 35 on p28 which refers to Rudolph Grey, Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Ed D. Wood, Jr. 1995 p39-40, and makes a dramatic comment: "Incidentally, this oral history biography contains a photograph of Ed Wood standing in a group of people on the set of Glen or Glenda with Virginia Prince, whom the photo caption describes as an 'unnamed transvestite.' ”

That is it. No reasoning is given for this identification.  No reference to a mention in Transvestia magazine, to a comment by someone who would know or anything else.

Laura Horak, "Tracing the History of Trans and Gender Variant Filmmakers", Transmedia, Spectator, 37,2,Fall 2017,  has a endnote 47.  "See photo of Prince on the set of Glen or Glenda in Grey, Nightmare of Ecstasy, 39-40", and uncritically cites Franklin.

Here is the photograph in  Nightmare of Ecstasy on p41 (not 39-40).   Ed Wood is second from the right standing, and the 'unnamed transvestite' at the right.



Here is 'unnamed' next to a photograph of Virginia Prince a few years earlier (1948).




















Hypothesis not confirmed!!!