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05 June 2022

A Rereading of Liz Hodgkinson’s Bodyshock: The Truth About Changing Sex, 1987. Part I- Life

Part I: life

Part II: book

Liz Garret (1945 - ) was raised in Cambridgeshire (where she befriended Amaryllis Garnett, great niece of Virginia Woolf), and read English at Durham University. After a very short stint teaching, she became a freelance reporter/columnist, at first in North-East England, and married fellow journalist Neville Hodgkinson. They had two sons. The family moved to Richmond, London, and both obtained work with the national and London papers then located in Fleet Street. Liz found work at the Sunday People, the Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Times.

Shortly after moving to London, Liz had an encounter with pioneer trans woman Roberta Betty Cowell:

"When I moved to Richmond in 1970, I was told about this strange person who looked like Marilyn Monroe from the neck up and a garage mechanic from the neck down.

Some time later, I was with my son Tom, then aged two or three, in the local Post Office, when I saw somebody who just had to be her. Heart beating wildly, I had just plucked up the courage to say I was a journalist and could I have an interview, when up piped young Tom: ‘Mummy, is that a man or a lady?’

Unfazed, and possibly used to this, Betty invited me for a glass of wine in her dilapidated room just round the corner, decorated with number plates, flying helmets, steering wheels and old car batteries; hardly my lady's boudoir. But she had a bottle of Hirondelle wine waiting, and also a packet of Black Russian cigarettes. This was 1971, after all."(Telegraph, 24 Oct 2015)

Betty took a shine to Liz, and made many of her documents available. They started writing a book together about Cowell's life, but in the end Betty did not approve it for publication.

Neville was the medical correspondent at the Daily Mail, 1977-80 where he “gravitated towards doctors who were the pioneers of more holistic approaches to medical care: those teaching reflective practices and trying to understand the role of our aspirations, feelings, frustrations and thoughts in making us ill or keeping us well”. In late September 1980 he had a religious experience which led to his resigning from the Daily Mail. At the same time, Liz wrote her first transsexual story - on Julia Grant and on Judy Cousins, which was published in The Sun in October 1980. Julia had just been featured in the BBC documentary. Judy had just founded SHAFT and it was to SHAFT that Liz later came to find more trans persons.

Neville was writing a book on mind-body links which was published in 1984. In 1981 he had been introduced to the Brahma Kumaris religious movement, and with time became more involved with them. The Hodgkinsons decided to sleep apart and to be celibate. Liz published a controversial book in 1986 on celibacy as a solution to personal problems. They eventually divorced, although they remained lifelong friends. Liz published a book arguing for the abolition of marriage, and Neville became controversial in the early 1990s as he wrote in the Sunday Times articles critical of the mainstream theory that HIV leads to AIDS.

In 1987 Liz came out with Bodyshock, one of the best journalism books on transsexuality for many

Liz on the back cover

years afterwards. Betty had told Liz about Michael Dillon, and in researching that book she was introduced to Andrew Hewson, the literary agent who had taken over John Johnson Ltd, and who was holding Dillon's unpublished autobiography and others of his documents. In addition to including Dillon in Bodyshock, she wrote a full-length biography of him, based on the autobiography. Her collection and the autobiography of course are a major source of Pagan Kennedy's more recent biography of Michael Dillon, which gives her only the most cursory credit. Her Dillon biography is the partial basis of a play by Phil Kingston, Dr Dillon and Georgia, that was presented in Dublin in 2006, and the film rights to the biography have been sold although the film has not been made.

There are three books on English trans persons at this time. Liz used her contact with Judy Cousins and SHAFT and interviewed several of its members. At roughly the same time, Kris Kirk had made contact with the London TV/TS Group led by Yvonne Sinclair, and was the first to publish with Men in Frocks, 1984 (review); Richard Ekins had made contact mainly with the Beaumont Society led by Alice Purnell and eventually published Male Femaling, 1996 (review). The three books combined form the basis of UK English trans history in the 1980s, although it is remarkable how they document different persons without overlap. Although Ekins was the SHAFT librarian, and received from them the foundation deposit that became the Trans-Gender Archive, he has barely more than passing one-line comments about its members.

Kirk's book is not in Hodgkinson's bibliography. Hodgkinson's book is not in Ekin's bibliography. Ekins does list Kirk's book, but mentions it only once with reference to drag balls and does not otherwise use the wealth of its content. All three books are either ignored or dismissed backhandedly in Christine Burns' Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows, 2018 (review).

Liz has written over 54 books. She previously specialized in books about health. Her 1995 book on snoring was controversial in that it closely resembled a very similar book by Derek Lipman.

In recent years she has concentrated on books about property, and has become a successful property investor and landlord.

Strangely her website does not even mention Bodyshock.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. “Why are Julia and Judy different from other women”. The Sun, 14 October 1980. Online.

  • Neville Hodgkinson. Will to Be Well: The Real Alternative Medicine. Hutchinson, 1984.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. Sex is Not Compulsory. Columbus Books 1986

  • Maureen Messent. “So can there be life after sex?” Reading Evening Post, 27 September 1986.

  • Mary Kenny. “They’ve looked at life from both sides now”. Irish Independent, September 26, 1987.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. "Father, Dear Father: Ex-officer and gentleman Judy Cousins and her daughter Penny Croucher talk to Liz Hodgkinson". The People, ?, 1987. Online.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. Bodyshock: the truth about changing sex. Columbus, 1987.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. Unholy Matrimony: the case for abolishing marriage. Columbus, 1988.

  • Rupert Raj. "Book Review: Bodyshock" Cross-Port Inner View, July 1989. Online. Twenty Minutes, July 1989. Online.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. Michael, Née Laura: The Story of the World's First Female-to-Male Transsexual. Columbus, 1989.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. "Health: Goodbye Samantha, Hello Sam: What Motivates Increasing Numbers of Cross-Dressers To Escape Their Sex? Liz Hodgkinson Investigates". The Independent, 14 September 1992. Online.

  • Review of Bodyshock. The Tartan Skirt, 6, April 1993. Online.

  • Neville Hodgkinson. AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science; how a virus that never was deceived the world. Fourth Estate, 1996.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. Peace and Purity: The Story of the Brahma Kumaris: a Spiritual Revolution. Rider, 1999.

  • “Neville Hodgkinson In Conversation with James Powell”. Oxford Muse, March 2005. Online.

  • Pagan Kennedy. The First Man-Made Man: The Story of Two Sex Changes, One Love Affair, and a Twentieth-Century Medical Revolution. Bloomsbury Press, 2007.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. “Poisoned legacy of the Bloomsbury Set: How one woman is haunted by the tragic lives of her friends - the four dazzling sisters descended from those bohemian artists notorious for their sex lives”. The Daily Mail, 22 May 2012. Online. Tells of Amaryllis Garnett and Liz being at school together.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. "The true story behind Britain's first transsexual woman". The Daily Telegraph, 24 Oct 2015. Online.

  • Liz Hodgkinson. From a Girl to a Man: How Laura Became Michael. Quartet Books, 2015. A second edition of *Michael, Née Laura: 1989.

  • Maggie Hartford. "Liz Hodgkinson explores the history of transgender people in new book". Oxford Mail, 9^th^ February 2016. Online.

  • Christine Burns (ed) Trans Britain: Our Journey from the Shadows. Unbound, 2018.



Daily Mail Columns

See also my Annotated reading list for English trans history.

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