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13 September 2021

Trans London in the 1970s - Part II: 1976-80

 See also:

Part 1: 1971-5
Part II: 1976-80


April Ashley retreated to the book-shop town of Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border. She reconnected with Duncan Fallowell, and they worked together on her first autobiography. YouTube.

Alice Purnell became Vice-President of the Beaumont Society.

Rachel Pollack, after the demise of the Gay Liberation Front TV, TS and Drag Queen Group had moved to Amsterdam, where she started on hormones and then had surgery from Philip Lamaker..

Anita Verig Sandor, from Hungary, a cinema usherette met 17-year-old Peter, a building labourer. They socialised and went on holidays with the other building workers. The major problem was his parents who objected to Anita being so much older. She had applied for a sex-change operation as it was then known. Peter accepted this and they were able to get a council flat in Islington, north London. In 1976 they decided to get married at an Anglican church in Hackney. She explained that she had lost her birth certificate in flight from Hungary. So they had to go to a solicitor and swear a declaration that she was Anita Verig Sandor born in 1940 (removing 6 years from her age).

Judith Halberstam, the future academic who will specialise in female masculinity, was at school in Nottingham. She was frequently taken to be a boy: "Nearly every day. I didn't go around correcting people. … [I] just though I was a boy. I thought that eventually somebody would figure that out." This created problems with school classmates. She kept her hair as short as possible and fell into the punk rock scene.

Genesi P-Orridge was condemned by the then Arts Minister Harold Lever as a ‘wrecker of civilization’ following the show ‘Prostitution’ at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA).

David Palmer, the future Dee Palmer, having scored arrangement for the band Jethro Tull for several years, became a full member as keyboardist and arranger.

Kenneth Tynan, theatre critic and transvestite, had modelled himself on Louise Brooks in the 1929 film Pandora’s Box.

The London TV/TS Group (sometimes called Friend TV/TS Group) started in 1976 as an offshoot of London Friend, which in turn was an offshoot of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality. London Friend sublet space at 274 Upper St. Soon Yvonne Sinclair took over the running, supposedly for a month at first. Any trans person could just turn up for a small admission fee (at first £2.00), no questions asked, and the doors were open every weekend. The premises consisted of two small rooms and a single toilet on the first floor and a changing room on the top floor. Food and drink were provided, but more importantly advice, straight talking and the chance to meet other trans people. There was of course a telephone support line.

21 April: South London Gay Community Centre - finally the legal owners asserted their position and bailiffs and police arrived to take the property so that it could be sold to Lambeth Council for £25,000 for redevelopment.

3 June. Gay News published a poem about Jesus and gay sex. Mary Whitehouse, the anti-sex campaigner, brought a private prosecution alleging Blasphemous Libel.

The US idiosyncratic female impersonator Divine was In London to star in Tom Eyen's Women Behind Bars.


Rachael Padman arrived from Australia to do an astronomy PhD at Cambridge’s all-male St John College, and also got a referral to the Charing Cross GIC, where was started on oestrogens.

Alice Purnell became President of the Beaumont Society. She also trained as a nurse,

Jayne County – as she was becoming – arrived in London in March. County’s band played the Roxy. She renamed the band to The Electric Chairs. New Musical Express journalist Julie Burchill (who in later years would express anti-trans opinions) was very supportive of the band. They were the only punk act at the Reading Festival that year and played to an antagonistic audience. 

County was cast as a transvestite rock star in the film Jubilee.

4-7 July: Whitehouse v. Lemon. Private prosecution of Blasphemous Libel for the poem, The love that dares speak its name. This was the first prosecution for the offence since 1922. It was also the last successful prosecution for the offence ever. By a 10-2 majority, the jury found for Whitehouse. Both Gay News and editor Denis Lemon were fine and ordered to pay 80% of Whitehouse’s legal costs, and Lemon received a 9-month suspended sentence. No evidence was called re the merits of the poem as literature or as theology. The 9-month sentence was quashed on appeal in 1978, but the convictions otherwise stood. The Law Lords concurred by 3 to 2. The European Court of Human Rights declined to hear the case in 1982. Blasphemous libel ceased to be a common law offence in England and Wales with the passing of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.

Arthur Corbett, the ex-husband of April Ashley, became 3rd Baron Rowellan.

Ernest Marples made a payment of £7,600 to the British government and was able to return to England.

Sam Winter, who would later become a prominent sexologist in Hong Kong and then Perth, Australia, working with trans women, had done a BSC in Psychology at the University of Southampton in 1973, a post-graduate certificate in Education at Coventry College of Education, 1974, and an M.Ed at the University of Exeter in 1977.

Angels Carter’s new novel was set in a future dystopic New York and western US desert. English male chauvinist academic Evelyn is writing about Tristessa de St Ange, silent film star. After abandoning a lover whose abortion went wrong, he moves to the desert and is captured by a feminist cult and surgically converted to female. Taking the name Eve, she tries to adapt to her new body. Tristessa turns out to be a non-op trans woman.  Wikipedia.

  • John B. Randell. “Transsexualism and its management”. Nursing Mirror, 24 March 1977,:45-47.. Randell’s last publication.
  • Mark Rees writing as 'John'. 'Rebirth', Nursing Mirror, 24 March 1977: 48 - 9.
  • Angela Carter. The Passion of New Eve. Victor Gollancz, 1977. Wikipedia.
  • Philip Casson (dir). Come Spy With Me,Scr: Bryan Blackburn with Danny La Rue and Barbara Windsor. A TV movie version of the West End stage musical. La Rue as an MI6 agent in a series of female disguises so as not to be recognised.


The third volume of Jan Morris’ Pax Britannica, Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat, came out in 1978, again with 'James Morris' on the title page for consistency.

Charlotte Bach had sent the 521 page version of Homo Mutans, Homo Luminens, all in capitals and on orange paper, to the writer Colin Wilson, who eventually read it, and became an enthusiast. Her theory assumes that all persons have an attraction to be the other sex. However some deny this and fight against it, while others ‘asserverate’ it, that is embrace it and go with it. Wilson interviewed Bach for the magazine Time Out, and featured her prominently in his book, Mysteries.

Brian Lewis, a professor at the Open University used his research budget to print 100 copies of Bach’s book, and she sold it at her weekly meetings. She was invited to give seminars at a few universities, and she upstaged the featured speakers at a debate at the Royal Institution. A wealthy doctor, Michael Kirkman, endowed the Kirkman-Bach College of Human Ethology, and Charlotte wrote to the eminent ethologist Desmond Morris to be a patron, but Morris was quite puzzled by the approach.

Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle: Surgery on intersex and trans persons ceased in late 1978 when the surgeon, Mr Edwards, retired and was not replaced. This was to the chagrin of Mark Rees who had just been accepted as a patient.

Bobbie MacKenzie was diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea.

When the second marriage finished in 1978, Rachael Webb was prescribed hormones by his family doctor in King’s Lynn, and saw Dr Randall at Charing Cross Hospital and started transition. Female long-distance lorry drivers were not permitted at that date. Rachael became an active feminist, and was a member of the Militant Tendency in the Labour Party. She moved to London and worked as a housing officer with the Borough of Southwark.

Jayne County had had a nose job in Berlin, but when she returned to England press reports suggested that she had had the full sex change, but she tired of explaining and let people assume as they liked. "It bothered people. There was a distinct cooling of attitude, even among the fans; underneath that liberal attitude exterior, a lot of punk fans were really straight-down-the-line conservatives, and they hated the fact that I was actually living out the implications of my songs. Some of them even said 'You've betrayed your sex'." (p131) Late in the year the band went to a farm in Wales to write the third album. Things Your Mother Never Told You came out to good reviews and was followed by a gruelling tour of Europe.

Keith Moon, drummer with The Who, flamboyant drag queen, died at age 32 from an overdose of Clomethiazole (Heminevrin), a medication taken as part of a programme to wean him off alcohol. He died in the same apartment that Mama Cass Elliot had died in four years earlier.

Ernest Marples had spent his final years in France, and died in hospital in Monte Carlo in July age 70.

Danny La Rue another Royal Command Performance.

Gay serial killer Dennis Nilsen started to pick up victims at The Black Cap, Camden, the Palladium of drag.

  • James Morris. Farewell the Trumpets: An Imperial Retreat. Faber and Faber, 1978.
  • Ruth Rendell. A Sleeping Life. Hutchinson, 1978. A woman is murdered and eventually found to be the same person as a younger male novelist. The mystery is more about the victim rather than the killer who is treated sympathetically.


An episode of the BBC Inside Story documentary series was “George”, directed by David Pearson, about a pre-op transsexual, later to be known as Julia Grant.

The refusal from the Church of England spurred Mark Rees to consider a challenge through the legal system. A friend told him of Daniel van Oosterwijck who had applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on the same issue. In 1979 he found a lawyer, David Sonia Burgess (1947 – 2010), also transgender, who would take the case.

The News of the World was told of Anita Verig Sandor’s wedding, three years previously. However even the article in that paper finished on a positive note with Peter declaring “But whatever happens in the future our ambition is to continue to be as happy as we are now. If anything ever happens to Anita, I know that I’d never marry again.”

First known usage of the word ‘transgender’ on BBC Radio. Agony aunt Clare Raynor  from The Sun Newspaper interviewed on the radio one MTF transsexual, one FTM transsexual and one male transvestite (a part-time cross-dresser) including them all under the term ‘transgenderist’. As the Radio Times (6 June, 1979: 5) put it: ‘It is estimated that about one person in 2,000 is a transgenderist; someone who feels an overwhelming need either to dress in the clothes of the opposite gender, or … to “change sex” completely.’

Jayne County’s transition can be seen on the album covers of the first three albums. On The Electric Chairs, 1978, Wayne has a masculine appearance; on Man Enough to be a Woman, 1978, the two personae are juxtaposed; on Things Your Mother Never Told You, 1979, there is only a feminine version.

The future Jane Fae was Britain’s youngest parliamentary candidate at age 21 in 1979 standing as the unsuccessful Liberal candidate in Newham South in London.

Jeremy Thorpe, the ex-leader of the Liberal Party and three others were charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott, Thorpe’s ex-boyfriend. Actually only Scott’s dog had been shot. The judge pushed the jury to dismiss the witness accounts (including that of the gunman and the intended victim) as unreliable. The defendants were acquitted on all charges. Thorpe lost his seat in the election later that year. Wikipedia.

Anthony Blunt, Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures, gay, outed as Soviet spy and stripped of his knighthood.

Harry Brierley’s Transvestism: A Handbook with Case Studies for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counsellorsregards itself as enlightened, but still regards Transvestism as a disorder to be treated by professionals. He consulted with the Beaumont Society and the Beaumont Trust.

Peter Ackroyd’s first non-fiction book was Dressing Up, a study of transvesting and drag. While openly gay, he describes himself as an outsider to this subject. “Some transvestites are exclusively fetishistic; they dress, in other words, to obtain some kind of sexual arousal. Psychoanalysts believe this to be the dominant mode of transvestism and, indeed, many transvestites remain fixed at this stage, assuaging their obsessions by frequent or intermittent cross-dressing. But there are other transvestites who move out of the fetishistic stage; they cease to be sexually excited by the act of cross-dressing itself, and go on to a more comprehensive form of feminine ‘passing’.” This book was in the bibliography of almost every book on trans in the 1980s alongside Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire. 

  • Harry Brierley. Transvestism: A Handbook with Case Studies for Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counsellors. Pergamon Press, 1979.
  • Colin Wilson. Mysteries: An Investigation into the Occult, the Paranormal and the Supernatural. Putnam, 1978, Grafton Books 1979. Section on Charlotte Bach pp 514-523.
  • Peter Ackroyd. Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag, the History of an Obsession. Simon and Shuster. 1979.
  • Bob Mellors (ed). Extracts from an unpublished Work: An Outline of Human Ethology by Charlotte M. Bach. 4 Pamphlets London: Another Orbit Press. n.d.
  • Ray Chapman. “Secret of the bride in white: she’s the father of two sons”. The News of the World, 25 March 1979. Aita Verig Sandor.
  • Amanda Lear. “Fabulous (Lover, Love Me)”. 45 single, 1979. “the surgeon made me so well that you could not tell that I was not somebody else".


Carol Riddell wrote a critical pamphlet reviewing Janice Raymond’s 'The Transsexual Empire' criticizing its factual errors, its betrayal of feminist ideals and its use of masculinist ideas. This was well received and much reprinted.

Judy Cousins, sculptor and the inventor of the Shattaline process, established SHAFT (Self-Help Association For Transsexuals) in 1980 and ran it for many years. It was the major UK group for transsexuals for the next decade

The BBC episode about Julia Grant in 1979 had generated sufficient interest that this was expanded into a ground-breaking documentary, A Change of Sex, which followed the social and medical transition of Julia Grant (George) and also provided a snapshot of the Charing Cross Hospital Gender Identity Clinic. John Randell is the unnamed doctor who shocked most reviewers by his attitude to his patients.

The News of the World (12/10/80) claimed that Randell and his surgeon, Peter Phillip, had made London the ‘sex-change capital of the world’.

Kenneth Tynan died of pulmonary emphysema.

Ron Storme opened a nightclub, Club Travestie Extraordinaire, in Stepney. This became an east-end institution, attracting both gay and straight trans persons, and as it lasted into the 21st century is arguably the UK’s longest lasting gay night spot.

In 1980 a high-level police report re the Michelle Confait murder finally identified her prison cell-mate Douglas Franklin as the killer. It also confirmed that the time of death was 48 hours earlier than stated at trial. It had been assumed that rigor mortis started after the discovery of the fire. In fact, Confait had been dead for 48 hours and rigor was wearing off. The report concluded that had the three boys not been arrested, Douglas Franklin would probably have become a suspect at an early stage of the original murder enquiry. Franklin committed suicide shortly afterwards.

  • Carol Riddell. “Divided Sisterhood : A Critical Review of Janice Raymond's 'The Transsexual Empire' “. Liverpool: News from Nowhere, 1980.
  • Della Aleksander. Theocratic Socialism Is Here! 1978-1979. A New Day Publication 1980.
  • Aubrey Walter (ed). Come Together: The Years of Gay Liberation, 1970-73.Gay Men's Press, 1980: 164-7.
  • David Pearson (dir). A Change of Sex. With Julia Grant. BBC TV. 1980.

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