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30 September 2020

Trans London in the 1960s: part III - 1968-1971

Part I: 1960-3
Part III: 1968-71


After a long wait, during which Peter Stirling had worked as a female bus conductor and a store detective, her divorce became final, she had her hysterectomy, started taking male hormones, started wearing male clothes. He took the name 'Peter' which his mother had said would have been his name if born male. The hospital arranged for a national insurance card, medical card and tax form in his new name, and also arranged for the Australian High Commission to issue a new passport, but the High Commission informed them that birth certificates were never altered. Mrs Branch commented: “[This] I think is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard! It's a pity you weren't British, there would be no hassle here.” Peter married co-worker Jennifer in an Anglican Church.

Private Eye magazine jested that if Morris were invited to a function 'dressed informally', it was Jan who was expected. With the support of wife Elizabeth, Morris lived as a woman in Oxford, but travelled the British Empire androgynously, sometimes being taken as male, and sometimes as female. Jan was issued a new passport 'without any indication of sex at all'. Word of course got around. Morris' old tutor at Christ Church College had heard from a colleague at Harvard before being told directly. Some in London knew of Jan but others only of James. At their other home in Pwllheli, Gwynedd in North Wales, Jan and Elizabeth presented as sisters-in-law to explain why two women had the same surname.

Despite having completed transition, ventriloquist and magician Terri Rogers appeared in the drag review Boys Will be Girls at the Theatre Royal Stratford East.

Jean Fredericks and Ron Storme started to organize five or more drag balls a year in London, mainly at the Porchester Hall. Legend has it that gangsters, the Krays, had suggested what turned into the drag balls.

The future Petra Henderson had a short gig as a DJ/news reader on a pirate radio station under the name Anne Kennedy.

Charlotte Bach was more or less living full-time as female.

David Palmer was introduced to the band Jethro Tull and did orchestral arrangements for them.

Grant Williams, urologist, joined the staff at Charing Cross. He would later object to transgender surgery.

27 April: The Abortion Act came into effect.

May: the Kray twins and their associates were finally arrested, and interviewed separately until one agreed to co-operate. The operation was conducted by Detective Chief Superintendent Nipper Read after a new Police Commissioner was in place, and Read insisted on conducting the entire operation away from Scotland Yard itself. The trial was in March 1969. Both twins were found guilty and sentenced to a non-parole period of 30 years – the longest sentences ever passed. Ronnie died in prison; Reggie was released in 2000 and died a few weeks later.

July: Lord Chamberlain's authority to license plays was finally abolished by the Theatres Act, 1968. The London premiere of the musical Hair was delayed until this was in effect.

December: James Callaghan directed that Ewan Forbes be entered in the Roll of Baronets. Ewan Forbes was to assume the Scottish Baronetcy after the death of his elder brother in 1965. His cousin, John Alexander Cumnock Forbes-Semphill, had contested the inheritance on the grounds that Ewan was female. The court case in May 1967 was technically in the Scottish Court of Session, although held in a solicitor’s office and no papers were filed. The result was that Forbes inherited the title and the estate. No decision or judgement was ever issued, and no Press report of the case was therefore possible. The case was then referred to the Home Secretary (the future Prime Minister), James Callaghan in London. Callaghan, after consulting with the Lord Advocate, directed in December 1968 that Ewan should be entered in the Roll of Baronets as The 11th Baronet of Craigievar and The 20th Lord Semphill, Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar. All public records of these events were removed, although knowledge survives in newspaper archives. The case was not available as a legal precedent – in particular April Ashley’s barrister in Corbett vs Corbett was forbidden to mention it. The Statement to the press was simply: 

"In an effort to settle the dispute Dr Forbes and his cousin agreed to make use of the summary procedure available under Section 10 of the Administration of Justice (Scotland) Act. 1933. and to petition the Court Session for a finding as to whether Mr John Forbes-Sempill was the heir-male. After evidence had been heard in Chambers the court found that- Mr Forbes-Sempill was not the heir-male."


An appeal against the ban on Last Exit to Brooklyn was issued by the writer John Mortimer and resulted in a reversal of the ruling. This, following the trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover some years earlier, led to a relaxation in British censorship of books.

Gaiety Box Revue, produced by Jack Lawrence, with drag artists Rogers & Starr and Larry Grayson. It ran 3 months at Stratford East.

  • “Sir Ewan gets the verdict: on the roll as eleventh baronet”. The Press and Journal, December 4, 1968: 1.
  • May –The Beatles: “Ob La Di, Ob La Da“ track on the White Album. " Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face/ And in the evening she's a singer with the band." Wikipedia
  • James Morris. Pax Britannica: The Climax of Empire. Faber and Faber, 1968. Published under Jan’s male name, although she had started transition.
  • Roy Ward Baker (dir). The Anniversary. Scr: Jimmy Sangster, based on the play by Bill MacIlwraith, with Bette Davis as Mrs Taggart and James Cossins as Henry. UK Hammer 95 mins 1968. A dysfunctional family in the construction business. As in the stage version, we are told that Henry is a transvestite, but never see him in a dress, but we do see him stealing female underwear from washing lines. Wikipedia.
  • Robert Aldrich (dir) The Killing of Sister George. Scr: Lukas Heller based on the play by Frank Marcus, with Beryl Reid. US 138 mins 1968. The radio soap has become a television soap. A very British story filmed in Los Angeles. The lesbian content is much more explicit and includes scenes in the real Gateway nightclub, Chelsea. Wikipedia
  • Roger Baker. Drag: a History of Female Impersonation on the Stage. Triton Books, 1968. The performativity end of the spectrum. Features tales of impersonators who later transitioned, but also many who did not.
  • Donald Zec. “Well, there was this railwayman called Yvonne ..: Donald Zec looks at the Drag trade”. Daily Mirror, September 26, 1968: 9.
  • Quentin Crisp. The Naked Civil Servant. Jonathan Cape, 1968. Autobiography of a flamboyant gender queer, definitely not homonormative, who was flouting gender norms as early as the 1930s. The book would be filmed in 1975 and make him into a media star.
  • Scott Walker. Scott 2. LP 1968. 3 tracks arranged and conducted by Wally Stott(the future Angela Morley), including the single “Jackie” which contains ‘authentic queers and phony virgins’ and which was banned by the BBC.
  • Shirley Bassey. Love for Sale. LP 1968. Arranged by Wally Stott.
  • Jethro Tull. This Was. LP 1968. French horn and orchestral arrangements by David Dee Palmer.


January: a medical article in the doctors' weekly newspaper, Pulse International, compared Georgina Somerset to Christine Jorgensen as being transsexual, "implying that I was homosexual, would have had breast implants, electrolysis and was probably not legally married, I had no choice but to instigate libel proceedings for, indeed, all these premises were totally false". The proceedings continued for two years.

January: The photograph of the engagement of Dawn Langley Hall and John-Paul Simmons in Charleston, South Carolina was printed on the front page of the News of the World. The Wedding was international news featured in The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express and the Sussex Express. The People paid her ₤3750 for a series on her life, and supported her claim to have been examined by a Harley Street surgeon (Dawn later said that this was Dr Elliot Phillip) who said that she had been wrongly sexed at birth and was capable of becoming pregnant. She was also on radio and television in the UK and Canada, but not in the US where her story was too hot. Margaret Rutherford enabled a blessing of their marriage in an Anglican church in Hastings, Kent.

25-7 July. The First International Symposium on Gender Identity was held at the Piccadilly Hotel. It was sponsored and organized by the Erikson Educational Foundation (EEF) and the Albany Trust. This symposium brought together various London hospitals that had trans patients, with similar specialists from other countries. Arguments arose between the team from Chelsea Women's Hospital who regarded transsexuals as a form of intersex, and the team from Charing Cross Hospital who regarded them as having a psychological disorder. The only known trans persons in attendance were Reed Erickson and Virginia Prince, both from the US. The program for the symposium reported the situation in Britain as follows: “The treatment of transsexuals has also been undertaken by specialising teams of psychiatrists, physicians and surgeons but there is as yet no permanent gender identity unit” – despite the clinic At Charing Cross Hospital having been functioning since the 1930s.

Papers given:

CJ Dewhurst Opening Address

Peter Scott (Maudsley Hospital) “Clinical Aspects and Introduction”

John Randell (Charing Cross Hospital) “Indications for Sex Reassignment Surgery”

Fred Oremland (Los Angeles) “Surgical and Psychiatric Treatment in Private Practice of Transsexuals in California”.

Margaret Branch (Guy’s Hospital), “Social Aspects of Transsexualism”

Richard Green (UCLA Medical Center) “Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. The Diagnosis and Treatment of Gender Identity Disorders during Childhood”.

John Money (Johns Hopkins Hospital) “The Transsexual’s Female Image. Male Partners are not Homosexual”.

David Green (Manchester lawyer) “Gender Identity. Some Legal Problems”.

Zelda Suplee (EEF) and Doreen Cordell (Albany Trust) “Private problems and Public Attitudes”.


After reading about the symposium in The Times, Mark Rees contacted the Albany Trust, which passed him onto Dr Randell, at first at his Harley Street Rooms for a fee, and then at the Charing Cross Clinic on the NHS.

Della Aleksander had been a teacher in Bermuda when started taking female hormones, and was paid to resign. She had then returned to England became a patient at Charing Cross Hospital. Through Charlotte Bach she came to know the writer Colin Wilson and visited Wilson’s home. While Wilson learned much from her, he concentrated on Bach in his books, and reduced Aleksander to a footnote.

Virginia Prince visited the Beaumont Society. She visited members in Scotland and Leicester, and there was a formal dinner in London with 9 members and three wives.

November-December: the main hearings of Corbett vs Corbett. Arthur Corbett was tired of his marriage to April Ashley, and sought to have it declared void ab initio. Roger Ormrod, doctor and lawyer, presided. As Ashley had not had her birth certificate amended, she was legally male, and nullification could easily ensue. However, despite her freely admitting that she was transsexual, she was medically examined by three doctor-professors for the plaintiff and three for her defence (despite she being on legal aid). Although some of the doctors and lawyers knew about the 1965 Ewan Forbes case, Ashley’s lawyer was strictly warned that it was not to be mentioned.  In many ways the event was a show-trial to establish that the aristocrat Ewan Forbes and the commoner April Ashley were not of a kind.  

November: Dawn Langley Hall and her husband were in England, and got a lot more press attention than the concurrent Corbett vs Corbett trial.

Mrs Shufflewick was the star of an ‘adult pantomime’ in Brighton called Sinderella, but the police closed it after two nights because of complaints about the material. That year her male persona, Rex, met David, a labourer in his 30s who would stay with him until his death in 1983.

The Black Cap pub in Camden was becoming known for its drag-queen cabaret.

Petra Henderson, then 15, worked in pirate radio broadcasting on and off the Isle of Wight. She dressed as a hippy chick and on the air was Anne Kennedy, the only female on the station. During a police raid she and four others escaped in that the police found four men and a boy when they were looking for several men and a woman.

Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) formed as the first British gay activist group.

The Divorce Reform Act passed. Couples were able to divorce after they had been separated for two years if they both desired a divorce, or five years if only one wanted a divorce. 

David Raven and James Court founded the Trollettes.

Danny La Rue did a Royal Command Performance.

Danny La Rue appeared in a film version of Charley’s Aunt,

Noted choreographer Frederick Ashton did his dame performance in the film Cinderella.

Cavalcade of Drag at the Horseshoe Hotel, Tottenham Court Road, 1 April, with Bobbie Kimber (returning after an absence of eight years), Roy Rolland’s Old Mother Riley, Terry Bartlett and others.

Kenneth Tynan created the stage show Oh! Calcutta! With sex and nudity (and Tony Blair's future father-in-law, Anthony Booth, in the cast), it became one of the longest running shows both in the West End and on Broadway. (The title is a bilingual pun from O quel cul t’as = ‘what a lovely bottom you have’)

Patrick Clarkson, the New Zealand surgeon had specialised in hand surgery, and did one sex-change operation, that of Georgina Turtle in 1957 - no doubt drawing on the experience of his colleague Harold Gillies. He died age 58.

  • John B. Randell. "Preoperative and Postoperative Status of Male and Female Transsexuals" in Richard Green & John Money (eds), Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969.
  • January - The Beatles “Get Back” . Single and then on the Let it Be LP. “Sweet Loretta Martin thought she was a woman/ But she was another man/ All the girls around her say she's got it coming/ But she gets it while she can”
  • July – The Beatles. “ Polythene Pam” a track on the Abbey Road album. “Well you should see Polythene Pam/ She's so good-looking but she looks like a man/ Well you should see her in drag/ Dressed in her polythene bag/ Yes you should see Polythene Pam/ Yeah, yeah, yeah”. Wikipedia.
  • July – The Rolling Stones. “Honky Tonk Women’ a 45 single. “I met a gin soaked, bar-room queen in Memphis/ She tried to take me upstairs for a ride/ She had to heave me right across her shoulder/ cause I just can’t seem to drink you off my mind … She blew my nose and then she blew my mind”. Wikipedia
  • Brigit Brophy. In Transit: An Heroicycle Novel. Evelyn Hillary, called Pat is in transit at an airport, but has forgotten which sex s/he is. Review.
  • Joseph McGrath (dir) The Magic Christian. Scr: Terry Southern & Joseph McGrath, with additional material by Graham Chapman, John Cleese & Peter Sellers, based on the novel by Terry Southern, with Peter Sellers as Sir Guy Grand and Ringo Starr as Youngman Grand. The only film that has cameos by Beatles, Goons and Monty Pythons. Famous for its uncredited sequence where the female singer being watched by film director Roman Polanski is revealed to be Yul Brynner. UK 92 mins 1969.
  • Stanley Donan (dir). Staircase, scr: Charles Dyer, with Rex Harrison and Richard Burton. UK 96 mins 1969. Wikipedia. 2 cishet stars attempt to show how liberal they are by playing an aging and bickering gay couple, one of whom is about to go on trial for dressing as female in public. Set in the East End of London but shot in Paris. 
  • Scott Walker. Scott 3. LP 1969. All but 2 tracks arranged and conducted by Wally Stott.
  • James Hill (dir). Captain Nemo and the Underwater City, with music by Wally Stott. UK 105 mins 1969.
  • Richard Benner (dir). Black Cap Drag, with Shane and Laurie Lee.  UK/US 42 mins 1969.  

  • Jethro Tull. Stand Up. LP 1968. String arrangements and conducting by David Dee Palmer.


January: Guy’s Hospital hosted an international convention on sex conditions. Peter Stirling was interviewed by a panel of doctors.

2 February: final hearing of Corbett vs Corbett. The decision was not rendered until a year later.

Charlotte Bach changed her name by deed poll in 1970. She started writing the enormously long Homo Mutans, Homo Luminens which presents the transsexual urge as the key to human evolution, but could not interest any publishers. She also wrote an autobiographical novel Fiona which also has never been published. Charlotte started giving weekly talks in a friend’s flat. One of her acolytes, Don Smith, produced several pamphlets on Bach’s ideas, each of which sold between 500 and 1,000 copies. She was several times invited to speak to gay and lesbian groups. She wrote to television programs and the science editors of The Times offering her assistance, but was not taken up. She wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury to advise him that god is a human invention.

Della Aleksander, who had been seeing Dr Randell at Charing Cross, had completion surgery in Casablanca instead.

Sociologist David Riddell, married and with a daughter, was a lecturer at the University of Lancaster, when he co-authored Approaching Sociology: A Critical Introduction, 1970, a work inspired by humanist Marxism, symbolic interactionism, phenomenological sociology and ethno-methodology. Two years later Riddell completed transition to Carol with surgery from Dr Georges Burou in Casablanca. She was in the clinic there the same time as Jan Morris. The revised edition of Approaching Sociology in 1972 names the co-author as Carol S. Riddell.

Wally Stott, by then a widower, met a female singer and they married in May. The second wife was a major support as Wally became Angela Morley with surgery from Dr Burou in Casablanca a few weeks after the marriage.

The Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was established at London School of Economics on 13 October. At first there was no drag. Later "It started with jellabas and kaftans and long hair and flowers ... then we discovered glitter ... and the nail varnish. Later some of us - a quarter of the men, I'd say, at some time or other - would get a nice new frock for the next Gay Lib dance. Then a few people began wearing it to meetings. It just evolved." -- Michael James.

Two old-fashioned books were published together.

  • Gilbert Oakley. Sex change and dress deviation. London: Morntide, 1970. Review.
  • Desmond Montmorency. The Drag Scene: The Secrets of Female Impersonators. London: Luxor Press, 1970.

Both books are the same size and shape, both are predominantly yellow and both have a partial title but no author on the spine. One is published by Morntide and the other by Luxor. However both Morntide and Luxor give their address as 50 Alexandria Road, London SW19. 

Oakley was the author of the hoax trans biography, Man into Woman, 1964, and several books on self confidence and psychology. He was also a stage female impersonator. Offers a typology and concludes: “From his observations, the author is convinced that the transvestite is far happier than the trans-sexual. Life is by no means so complex, so painful, or so embarrassing for them. The future is not obscured by a mist of hopefulness and doubt. The best of two worlds lies within the transvestite's grasp, for he can change from male to 'female' at will. The author concludes, therefore , that the sex-change phenomenon is wholly and completely disastrous, and that medical bodies the world over are seriously at fault in encouraging it in any way when other means of therapy are surely at their disposal to help these unfortunate people." Reaches a conclusion similar to Virginia Prince without having heard of her. He also claims in his chapter 12: "it is said that at Hammersmith Hospital alone no less than twelve sex-change operations are performed every month".

Montmorency’s book is mainly a survey of drag performers in London and abroad with lots of photographs. It lists 18 pubs in London that put on drag shows. It has an entire chapter on the theatre show Birds of a Feather. It devotes another chapter to a film made that year starring Joanna Lumley and Jeremy Lloyd for which 42 well-known drag performers were recruited for the drag ball scene. He calls the film Two Girls (presumably a working title), but it was released in 1971 as Games That Lovers Play. IMDB. However none of the 42 were credited, and the drag ball scene is far less significant in the film than Montmorency makes out.

  • Dawn Langley Simmons. Man into Woman: A Transsexual Autobiography. Icon Books, 1970. The first of her three autobiographies.
  • E. Bates. The Triple Echo. Michael Joseph, 1970. Bates had struggled with this story, of a WWII army deserter who takes a female persona on a farm run by a woman, since 1943. The novel was published in instalments in the Daily Telegraph December 1969. It was released as a film in 1972.
  • The Kinks. “Lola”. 45 single, Pye, June 1970. “Michael McGrath … used to have this place in Earl's Court, and he used to invite me to all these drag queen acts and transsexual pubs. They were like secret clubs. And that's where Ray [Davies] got the idea for 'Lola'. When he was invited too, he wrote it while I was getting drunk”. “Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls/ It's a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world/ Except for Lola, lo lo lo lo Lola”. Went to no. 2 in UK Singles chart. Wikipedia.
  • Jethro Tull. Benefit. LP 1968. Orchestral arrangements by David Dee Palmer
  • Paul Raymond's Birds Of A Feather, drag revue with Ricky Renee, Les Lee, Barry Scott and others., ran for only 5 weeks. The British début of Les Lee from Le Carrousel
  • Jim Clark (dir). Every Home Should Have One, with Marty Feldman, and a cameo by Gladys Shufflewick. UK 94 mins. A satire about sex in advertising and prurient opposition to it.
  • Frank Pierson. The Looking Glass War, based on the novel by John le Carré, with music by Wally Stott. UK 107 mins 1970.
  • Auriol Stevens. “The sexual misfits”. The Guardian, 7 Jan 1970. Online. Actually about Betty Cowell. It accepts her claim to be intersex. “Perhaps the change is usually from male to female because, as Roberta Cowell thinks, it is much easier to live as a woman than as a man. ‘A man must prove his masculinity and go on proving it; a woman just has to be.’ She also finds that people are much nicer, kinder and more friendly to women than to men. On the other hand it is harder she thinks for a woman to work and make a living.”


2 February: Justice Roger Ormrod finally read his judgment on Corbett vs Corbett. Arthur Corbett was found that morning in a coma at his villa in Spain and thus did not attend the hearing. Ormrod redefined legal intersex status as the discordance at birth of chromosomal, gonadal and genital sex, and only then are psychological factors to be taken into consideration. The Corbett marriage was annulled; and April’s £6 a week alimony payment was cancelled. Corbett v Corbett became case law in the UK and in Australia. The correcting of birth certificates for many intersex and all transgender persons ceased, and such persons lost the legal right to be treated as their new gender – in particular to marry a person of the now opposite gender.

April Ashley rallied by opening a restaurant just round the corner from Harrods, which was an immediate sensation, and continued to run it for five years until she had a heart attack.

Ina Barton was having problems, and passed on. April Ashley commented that she: “had recently died from a combination of booze and pills. I believe an open verdict was recorded but that's splitting hairs - in effect she killed herself.”

Caroline Cossey, then 17, started living as female, and working as a showgirl and topless dancer.

Michelle Confait was working as a trans prostitute, and in 1971 was arrested for importuning and served five months in HMP Wormwood Scrubs (a men's prison) where she was protected by and provided sexual favours to Douglas Franklin – who would murder her after release.

Rachel Pollack and her wife moved to London, and Rachel became the contact person for the Gay Liberation Front TV, TS and Drag Queen Group, and soon after was joined by Roz Kaveney.



  • Duncan Fallowell & April Ashley. April Ashley's Odyssey.Jonathan Cape, 1982. London: Arrow 1983. Online.
  • Kris Kirk with photographs by Ed Heath. Men In Frocks. Gay Men's Press 1984.
  • Peter Stirling. So Different: an Extraordinary Autobiography. Simon & Schuster 1989.
  • Alkarim Jivani. It’s Not Unusual: A History of Gay Britain in the Twentieth Century. Indiana Press, 1997.
  • John Pearson. “The Lords of the Underworld”. The independent, 15 June 1997. Online.
  • Colin Wilson. The Misfits: A Study of Sexual Outsiders. Grafton Books,1988.
  • Georgina Somerset, with a Forward by Grant Williams. A Girl Called Georgina: An Illustrated Autobiography, with Study Update. The Book Guild, 1992.
  • Francis Wheen. Who was Dr Charlotte Bach? Short Books, 2002.
  • Pierre-Henri Castel. Chronologie et bibliographie représentative du transsexualisme et des pathologies de l'identité sexuelle de 1910 à 1998. Online.
  • April Ashley with Douglas Thompson. The First Lady. Blake, 2006.
  • Zoe Playdon. “Who’s Offensive Now? Trans law at the time of the Sexual Offences Act. SEXing the Past. 3-5 March 2017. 
  • Christopher Hutton.  The Tyranny of Ordinary Meaning:  Corbett v Corbett and the Invention of Legal Sex.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.  
  • Haydon Bridge. “The Mysterious East: East London has generally kept its gay history secret … until now”. QX London Gay History. Online.
  • Haydon Bridge. “Go West, Young man: Pretty and fashionable – West London is just like the gay men who’ve lived there!”. QX London Gay History. Online.
  • Haydon Bridge. “Northern Exposure: For London’s newest gay village and most famous cruising ground head north …” QX London Gay History. Online.

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