This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 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 right-hand sidebar. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

30 April 2023

Marlene Parker (1930 - ) hairdresser, actor

Parker was born as Siegfried Speck in Dresden in December 1930, in the last years of the Weimar Republic. Speck’s mother being a deaf mute, the baby was placed in an orphanage until adopted in 1937. The adoptive parents were very strict. At age 10 Speck had to join the Deutsches Jungvolk, and at age 14 the Hitler Youth. 

13-15 February 1945 was the Allied bombing and the resulting firestorm of Dresden which killed up to 35,000. Speck’s family lived outside the city and survived. 

Speck trained as a hairdresser, and found work in a fashionable salon in East Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse. In the days before the Berlin Wall, East Berliners could attend parties in West Berlin, and there Speck met Felix, his first boyfriend, also an Ossi, and later they escaped to West Germany. They settled in Hamburg, where Speck was a successful hairdresser.

A job on a cruise ship took Speck to Los Angeles. There was work hairdressing at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and acting in plays at L.A’s German Club, which led to an uncredited part in the 1959 remake of The Blue Angel. The same year, billed as Seigfried Speck, there was a part as a U-Boat crew member in episode 17 of the the first season of One Step Beyond. After that Speck became John Siegfried, and was in the 1962 biopic Hitler with Richard Basehart in the title role – Siegdfried played a gay SA officer killed in the 1934 Night of the Long Knives. Siegfried was in several television programs throughout the 1960s, often being cast as a German, and was again a ‘German Officer’ in the 1973 film, Trader Horn. One of Siegfried’s lovers was Rock Hudson.

However Siegfried was not happy living as male: the urge to be her true self was building and could no longer be denied. 

“I was really getting bigger in the industry. But deep inside I was very, very unhappy. I used to get these attacks, like a panic attack....I wouldn't be alive. I was close to suicide....When you get into this change, you lose a lot of friends.”. 

She completed transitioned in 1978 taking the name Marlene Parker. Afterward she did stand-up comedy and had a cable TV show. She became friends with the younger trans actress Candid Cayne.

  • Sharon Knolle. ”Inside Trans Pioneer Marlene Parker’s Journey From Nazi Germany to Hollywood – and Beyond”. The Wrap, January 6, 2023. Online.
  • Sharon Knolle. “Trans Pioneer Marlene Parker Portraits (Exclusive Photos)”. The Wrap, January 6, 2023. Online.


28 April 2023

US Post Office, censorship, sex and gender - Comstockery

First published March 2013.

Most countries use their postal systems to censor correspondence and publications.   This is in addition to censorship though the court system.  The usual excuse is that of security, but once censorship is in place it often extends to sex and gender topics.   And of course this censorship means that somebody at the post office opens your parcels to check inside.

Anthony Comstock
This article is just about the US.

1872.  Post Office Act, §148 made it illegal to send any obscene or disloyal materials

1873.  The Comstock Law.  An amendment to the Post Office Act of 1872 made it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials “or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles”.  The law was named after Anthony Comstock who became postal inspector,  He was also head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.  He prohibited the sending of anatomy books to medical students.  Comstock bragged in 1913, two years before his death, that he had been responsible for the criminal conviction of enough people to fill a 61-coach passenger train -- over 3,600 people.  He was responsible for the destruction of 160 tons of literature and pictures.

1876. A pamphlet by Edward Bliss Foote, inventor of the rubber diaphragm, was the first US publication on birth control to run afoul of the Comstock law. Foote was fined $3,000 for publishing his pamphlet, Confidential Pamphlet for the Married; Words in Pearl for Married People Only.  Birth control information went underground: even in medical textbooks, contraception was unmentionable.

1895. The English playwright, George Bernard Shaw wrote an editorial for the New York Times making fun of Comstock's rules, and mocked them as 'Comstockery'.

1897.  Henry Addis and Abner J. Pope, publishers of a Portland, Oregon anarchist newspaper, Firebrand were arrested and their paper closed for sending an allegedly obscene poem by Walt Whitman through the mail.

1901.  Lois Waisbrooker of Home, Washington (an anarchist colony) was fined $100 for The Awful Fate of a Fallen Woman.  The postmistress for Home, was also charged for mailing it, but was acquitted.

1902Discontent: Mother of Progress also printed in Home, Washington, an article written by James W. Adams defending free love and criticizing formal monogamous marriage as hypocritical. Federal officials charged the editor, James E. Larkin, the printer, Charles L. Govan, and Adams with mailing obscene literature.   However the judge deemed the article to be, though radical, not obscene.

1903.  Home, Washington, being ‘a settlement of avowed anarchists and free lovers, the members of which society on numerous instances, with the apparent sanction of the entire community, have abused the privileges of the post office establishment and department’ lost its post office and did not get it back until 1958, but even then was not allowed its traditional name.

1911.  A report by the Chicago Vice Commission, headed by Dean Summer of the Episcopal Church, was banned from the mails.

1915.  Architect William Sanger was charged under the New York law against disseminating contraceptive information.  Anthony Comstock, at the height of his power, appointed by President Wilson as the International Purity Congress delegate in San Francisco, testified at his trial. Sanger died shortly after on September 21st.

1916. Ricardo Flores Magón, anarchist and Latino activist, arrested on charges of defamation and sending indecent materials through the mail. He was sent to USP Leavenworth. In 1922, he died in his cell, maybe murdered by a guard.

1918. Sanger’s wife, Margaret similarly charged.  On appeal, her conviction was reversed on the grounds that contraceptive devices could legally be promoted for the cure and prevention of disease.

1920.  The US Post Office seized and burned four issues  of The Little Review, edited by Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, that contained excerpts from James Joyce’s Ulysses. The next year, they were tried and found guilty of obscenity, fined $100 and forced to discontinue serializing the book.

1921.  William Hays appointed new Postmaster General.  He was quoted in The New York Times:  “It is no part of the primary business of the Post Office Department to act as censor of the press. This should not and will not be”.  Mary Ware Dennett met with Hays who implied that he would recommend to congress that contraceptive information be removed from the definition of what is obscene.

1922.  William Hays quit as Postmaster General without keeping his promise to Mary Ware Dennett.  He became president of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America.

Mademoiselle de Maupin by Théophile Gautier, a tale of a cross-dressing woman,was cleared of obscenity in the 1922 case Halsey v. New York.

Mary Ware Dennett’s pamphlet, The Sex Side of Life-An Explanation for Young People, after having been in circulation over four years, was declared unmailable as obscenity.

1927.  The Post Office and the Customs Bureau issued a list of 739 books and pamphlets to be banned by department officials. The arbitrary list included many foreign books that had been published in the US in English for years without prosecution. “Other volumes were passed in the English version and excluded in the French or Italian; or excluded in Spanish while being passed in French or Italian.”  However the list was withdrawn in 1930 after pressure from a New Mexico Senator.

H.L. Mencken, editor of The American Mercury was arrested for selling obscene literature. His April contained “Hatrack”, a chapter from an upcoming book about a prostitute by Herbert Asbury, and “The New View of Sex”, an editorial essay by George Jean Nathan. Mencken was tried and acquitted two days later. The day after the trial and after all the April issues were mailed to subscribers, the Solicitor of the U.S. Postal Service Department, Horace J. Donnelly, decreed the issue obscene and unmailable.

1928.  Mary Ware Dennett was fined $300, for distributing her pamphlet. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), appealed her conviction and won a reversal, in which the judge ruled that the pamphlet's main purpose was to "promote understanding".

1929.  Radclyffe Hall’s pioneering trans man novel, The Well of Loneliness, was published in the US after already having been banned in the UK. It was seized in New York.  This was successfully challenged in court.

1930. Ex-Postmaster General, William Hays, introduced the Motion Picture Production Code, known as the Hays Code, which removed most adult representation of sex and gender for the next few decades.

1932.  Margaret Sanger arranged for a shipment of diaphragms to be mailed from Japan to a sympathetic doctor in New York City. When U.S. customs confiscated the package as illegal contraceptive devices, Sanger helped file a lawsuit. In 1936, a federal appeals court ruled in United States v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries that the federal government could not interfere with doctors providing contraception to their patients.

1933. The Nudist was banned even though genitals were airbrushed.  The US Supreme Court disagreed.

1935.  Ban on contraceptives declared unconstitutional.

1938.  A Catholic Group, The National Office for Decent Literature, was founded with a list of topics including homosexuality and transvestism that were to be proscribed. To avoid trouble most publishers and editors engaged in self censorship, and avoided such topics.

1953.  The August issue of ONE Magazine, a homophile publication, was confiscated by the Los Angeles postmaster.  However the Federal Solicitor General determined in 3 weeks that the issue was not obscene, and the confiscated copies were returned.

1954.  ONE Magazine October issue was seized because of “Sappho Remembered”, an advertisement for a Swiss magazine, Der Kreis “with beautiful photos”, and a poem about homosexuality in England.

1957Samuel Roth’s American Aphrodite, containing literary erotica and nude photography was convicted.   The Supreme Court upheld the ruling.

Attorney Eric Jilber refused help from the ACLU, and lost ONE’s case in the Court of Appeal.  The three judges deemed the issue “morally depraved and debasing”

520 copies of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl, being imported from a printer in London, were seized by US Customs.  Then the manager of City Lights Bookstore and publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, were tried for publishing and selling the book. The ACLU  supported the defendants and nine literary experts testified on the book’s behalf.  It was acquitted on appeal.

1958. The US supreme Court ruled, re One Magazine, in its first ever case involving homosexuality, that the Post Office was discriminating and denying equal protection.  Hence homosexual content is not obscene simply because it is homosexual.

1959. The US publisher of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover won his case and its appeal against the US Post Office’s censorship.

1960. Nan Gilbert in New England, a publisher of petticoat-punishment fantasies, had his mail stopped and was fined $500.

1961. H Lynn Womack, gay erotica publisher, successfully sued the post office for confiscating Grecian Guild magazine.

Susanna Valenti was summoned by postal officials. Two of her correspondents had been charged with mailing obscene materials, and Susanna’s name had come up. Tito, her male persona, pleaded respectability and denounced the obscenities.

Virginia Prince was actually arrested re personal correspondence to another transvestite, thought to be a woman, who was already under investigation. Prince pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to sending obscene material through the mail. With a five-year probationary sentence, he was liable to be imprisoned if caught cross-dressed in public. However his lawyer persuaded the court to include educating the public about cross-dressing as part of the probation order.

1963.  Sanford Aday & Wallace de Ortega Maxey, mail-order erotica publishers, both of the homophile Mattachine Society, indicted on 18 counts of Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material, convicted of 5.  Of the 8 books named, only Sex Life of a Cop was found obscene. They were fined $25,000 each and sentenced to 25 years in prison (although the conviction was reversed by the US Supreme Court a few years later).  There is now a Sanford Aday collection at California State University, Fresno.

1965. The U.S. Supreme Court case Griswold v. Connecticut struck down one of the remaining contraception Comstock laws in Connecticut and Massachusetts. However, Griswold only applied to marital relationships.

1972. Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972) extended its holding to unmarried persons as well.

1973.  Abortion became legal under privacy laws

1996.  The Comstock Act was revived into Title V of the Telecommunications Act.

2023.  Mifepristone, an abortion pill was subject to litigation, and the never-repealed Comstock laws were cited to ban its mailings.  If the right wing succeed in banning mailings of  mifepristone, will viagra, the drugs used by gay men and hormones for trans persons be likewise banned?

  • Darrell Raynor. A Year Among the Girls. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1966. New York: Lancer Books, 1968: 74.
  • Lori Klatt Maurice.  Stamping Out Indecency: The Postal Way. March 8, 2004.   Online
  • Richard F Docter. “Battles with the Postal Authorities”.  Chp 12 in From Man to Woman: The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince. Docter Press, 2004: 109-112.
  • Jed Birmingham. “Obscenity and the Post Office”.  Reality Studio, 18 May 2006.  Online.
  • Lillian Faderman & Stuart Timmons. Gay L. A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians. New York: Basic Books, 2006: 116-120.
  • Susan Stryker.  Transgender History. Berkeley: Seal Press.  2008: 52-3.
  • Stephen J Gertz.  ““Sex Life of a Cop” Chows Down Big Donuts at Paperbacks Show for Record $”.  Seattle PI, 2010/03/22.  Online.
  • Tanya Lewis. "This 19th-Century Obscenity Law Is Still Restricting People's Reproductive Rights". Scientific American, April 28, 2023.

26 April 2023

Lorena Capelli (195? – 1976) performer

Lorena Capelli was born in Rio de Janeiro, and was an early transitioner. Her father initially beat her, but, being in the Brazilian diplomatic corps, obtained for her a passport in her female name and other official documents so that she could travel and live as female even before completion surgery. 

She was one of the first trans Brazilians to arrive in Spain and was one of the few who came to Europe already dressed as female given her father’s pulling of strings. Her ‘feminine’ appearance was noted. This depite the Ley de Peligrosidad y Rehabilitación Social which had been in effect since 1970, and which was used to control and persecute anyone who was different.

She then went to Paris and performed at the Le Carrousel, and then in Germany and Italy. She returned to Spain after genital surgery and other surgical enhancements. She and Yeda Brown – also post-operative – arrived around the same time, and both became celebrities. These were the final years of the Francoist dictatorship – the Caudillo Francisco Franco died in November 1975, and Spain started a transition to being a constritutional monarchy. 

Lorena was a star at the Teatro Victoria in Barcelona and then Micheleta Night Club in Madrid where she was announced in the press: 

“for the first time in Madrid a fabulous supervedette extraordinarily sexy, sexy, sexy; before she did military service, now she is intriguingly sexy, sexy, sexy. gorgeous! Lorena Capelli". 

In September 1976 Lorena was interviewed in Papillón magazine:

 “Yes, I always have a man, one man or another, because it is impossible for a woman to live without ‘love’, but I don't feel the strong flame of the rapport between two people. I have returned to striptease and to restarting my life. I am a woman who is living her beginnings again, although far from my native Brazil”. 


However she was dissatisfied with her vaginal depth, and went to a gynecologist at a clinic in Barcelona – this at a time when all transgender surgery was illegal in Spain. The gynecologist made her sign a paper accepting full responsibility, including her death. Apparently the operation led to complications that led to peritonitis, and she died. Her body was returned to Rio five days later. 

The magazine Lib investigated and published a report «La turbia muerte de Lorena Capelli (The murky death of Lorena Capelli)». It concluded that she would not be the first and not the only victim of the legal and medical situation experienced by transsexual people.

Early in 1977 a sensational film was made entitled El transexual (‘el’ being the male form of ‘the’). Cis actress Ágata Lys played Lona the trans lead, and trans actress Eva Robin’s had a small part. It is said to be based on Lorena, but only in that Lona dies on the operating table -  the story is otherwise different.  Lona pursues the operation in that she cannot tell her lover that she is trans, unlike Lorena who is publicly trans.  A reporter who had been interviewing her then investigates why she has disappeared. Many flashbacks to Lona's cabaret act. IMDB.

There had been a second Spanish film about a transsexual that year, Cambio de sexo with cis actress Victoria Abril as José Maria/Maria José, and the trans actress then known as Bibi Andersen (Bibiana Fernández) in her first film role. This film came out first, and attracted the larger audience.  A17-year-old realizes that she is trans.  She discovers a night club and learns to be a dancer, and is mentored by Bibi.  IMDB


Describing a young trans woman as ‘feminine’ was likely a type of throwing shade, implying that it was known that she was trans.

The practice of casting a cis person as the main trans protagonist in a film, while casting trans persons in minor roles is unfortunately the common way of doing films about trans persons. Recent examples include The Danish Girl, 2015 and Transparent, 2014-19.

None of the sources say where Lorena had her first transgender operation. Both Dr Borou in Casablanca and Dr Seghers in Brussels were active in the 1970s, and are obvious candidates. Olmeda, only, says that this operation was in 1971 – which would imply before her first visit to Spain.

  • “Confesiones de un transexual: Lorena Capelli, nacida Humberto”. Lib, 1,1, 21-28 octobre 1976.
  • “La turbia muerte de Lorena Capelli”. Lib, 1,4, 16-22 nov. 1976.
  • “El caso Lorana Capelli, al cine”. Miércoles. 1 diciembre 1976: 23. Online.
  • Vincente Aranda (dir) Cambio de sexo, with Victoria Abril as José Maria/Maria José and Bibi Andersen as Bibi. Spain 108 mins 1977.
  • José Jara (dir). El Transexual, with Ágata Lys as Lona, and Eva Robin's as Sandra. Spain 78 mins 1977.
  • Maria Cecilia Patricio. « No truque: fluxos migratorios de travestis brasileiras a Espanha sob uma perspectiva transnacional”. Carta International, Marco de 2009, 4,1: 34. Online.
  • Fernando Olmeda. “Nacida como Humberto, fallecida como Lorena” in El látigo y la pluma, Polifemo7, 2013.
  • Óscar Guasch, Jordi Mas and José María Valcuende (ed). “La construcción médico-social de la transexualidad en España (1970-2014)”. Gazeta de Antropología, 30 (3), 2014: 4. Online.
  • Julieta Vartabedian. Brazilian Travesti Migrations: Gender, Sexualities and Embodiment Experiences. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018: 195.
  • Valeria Vegas. Vestidas de Azul: Análisis social y cinematográfico de la mujer transexual en los años de la Transición española. Dos Bigotes, 2019.
  • Valeria Vegas. “Lorena Capelli” in Libérate: La cultura LGTBQ que abrió camino en España. Dos Bigotes, 2020.
  • Andrea Momoitio. “Lorena Capelli no tuvo nada de ordinaria”. Público, no date. Online

22 April 2023

Trans Italy 1986-2000

Trans Italy





Marcella Di Folco moved to Bologna where Movimento Italiano Transessuali had its headquarters. 


US filmstar Ajita Wilson was arrested by the carabinieri in a brothel in Florence and tried to escape running naked through the street.

  • Arduino Sacco (dir). Bocca bianca, bocca nera/Love Boat, with Ajita Wilson as Ramona. Italy 68 mins 1986. Ajita’s last film.


Ajita Wilson died from the complications from a road accident, aged 27.

  • Professione vacanze -  TV, 1 episode with Giorgia O’Brien. (1987).
  • Patrick Conrad (dir). Mascara, with Charlotte Rampling, Romy Haag & Eva Robin’s. Be/NL/FR 94 mins 1987. A thriller with opera, incest and trans women.


Lucy Salani returned to Bologna to look after her elderly parents. 

Marcella Di Folco became president of Movimento Italiano Transessuali.

Fernanda de Albuquerque, a travesti from the Brazilian Nordeste, took the professional name Princesa. She emigrated to Italy in 1988 to earn money as a prostitute and buy a sex-change operation.


Luana Ricci, then still presenting as a man, had a diploma in piano at the Conservatory of Lecce and in jazz at that of Bari, and married a woman, and they had a son and a daughter.

Alessandra di Sanzo, a 20-year-old apprentice hairdresser working in Rome and living with her aunt was recruited by an agency to audition to play a trans teenager in reform school in Mery per sempre (Forever Mary). She became typecast and continued to play similar roles. For her first three films she was listed as “Alessandro”.

  • Tutti in palestra- miniseries TV, 3 episodes with Giorgia O’Brien (1989)
  • Sergio Corbucci (dir). Nightclub, with Dominot. Italy 91 mins 1989. Nightlight in 1960s Rome. Dominot plays a father.
     Alessandra di Sanzo

  • Marco Risi (dir). Mery per sempre, with Alessandro di Sanzo as Mery. Italy 102 mins 1989. A teacher takes a position in a reform school in Palermo. Mery is a trans woman arrested for assault while defending herself. Wikipedia. IMDB.


Fernanda de Albuquerque was convicted of the attempted murder of a woman who had stolen her money, and in Rome’s Rebibbia prison she met Maurizio Jannelli of the revolutionary Brigate Rosse who worked with her to write her autobiography, which was published in 1994 in Italy, and in Brazil in 1995.

Marcella Di Folco was elected to the Bologna City Council, and again from 1995-9.

  • Marco Risi (dir). Ragazzi fuori, with Alessandro di Sanzo as Mery. Italy 110 mins 1990. Sequel to Mery per sempre. The young offenders are released, but cannot find jobs except in crime.


Luana Ricci was the organist at the Lecce Cathedral, but without a contract.

  • Roberto Benigni (dir) Johnny Stecchino, with Roberto Benigni, and Giorgia O’Brien as the minister’s wife. Italy 122 mins 1991.
  • Ottavio Mai & Giovanni Minerba (dir). Il 'fico' del regime (da prendere come esempio in mancanza di esempi peggiori), with Giò Stajano. Italy 59 mins 1991.


Giò Starace published her autobiography La mia vita scandalosa, thus being the first Italian to publish on being gay and the first on being transgender.

The first Brazilian trans sex workers begin to arrive in the small town of Lido di Classe on the Adriatic. Eventually there will be more than 200.

  • Giò Stajano. La mia vita scandalosa. Milano: Sperling & Kupfer Editori 1992. Autobiography.
  • Filippo de Luigi (dir). Errore fatale, Alessandro di Sanzo as Leonardo. Italy/France 100 mins 1992.


Vladimir Luxuria organized gay events, and was director of the Circolo di cultura omosessuale Mario Mieli in 1993. 

Alessandro di Sanzo transitioned as Alessandra.


Robertina Manganaro had met Count Gianfranco Torelli, a wealthy aeronautical engineer, and they dated for a couple of years until he declared that he wanted to have a child with her. The next evening she told him that she was transsexual, and did not see him again for a few years. Eventually she met him again at a dinner party. He chased her and took her to one of his estates for the weekend. Eventually he accepted her, and they were married in 1993. Gianfranco encouraged Robertina to become a fashion stilista. At age 35 she opened a studio in Paris, using her new title Comtessa.

  • Gianna Maria Garbelli (dir). Portagli i miei saluti... avanzi di galera, with Gianna Maria Garbelli as Alessandra, and Giò Stajano as Paolina. Italy 105 mins 1993.


Vladimir Luxuria was a major person in organizing Italy’s first gay pride festival in 1994. Roberta Franciolini gave the rousing cry: “questi vermi che ci vogliono schiacciare devono andare via (these worms that want to crush us must go)”.

Alessandra di Sanzo was hired by the Rome fashion designer Egon von Furstenberg to walk the catwalk in a bridal dress. The Church took umbrage as she was a known transsexual.

Marcella Di Folco opened in Bologna the world's first gender identity clinic managed by transsexuals.

  • Aurelio Grimaldi (dir). Le Buttane, Alessandra di Sanzo as Kim. Italy 85 mins 1994. The lives of a group of prostitutes in Palermo including Kim who is trans.
  • Fernanda de Albuquerque with Maurizio Jannelli. Princesa. Rome: Sensibili alle foglie, 1994.


Princesa (Fernanda de Albuquerque) became the most celebrated transsexual in Italian song when Fabrizio De André (1940-1999) sang about her on the album Anime Salve, 1995.

  • Princesa: depoimento de um travesti a um líder das Brigadas Vermelha. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Nova Fronteira, 1995. The Brazilian edition.
  • Jerry Calà (dir). Ragazzi della notte, with Alessandra di Sanzo as Giovanna. Italy 102 mins 1995. Young people and discos.
  • Maurizio Lucidi (dir). Il prezzo del denaro, with Alessandra di Sanzo. Italy 90 mins 1995.


  • Luciano Manuzzi (dir) La tenda nera, with Alessandra di Sanzo. Italy 90 mins 1996.


Movimento Italiano Transessuale, became the Movimento Identità Transessuale.

Fernanda de Albuquerque’s autobiography was picked up by film director Henrique Goldman. She worked with him on pre-production, but committed suicide before filming started.


Rome hosted the first World Pride 1-9 July. The event was put on by Cultura Omosessuale Mario Mieli along with InterPride. City officials had promised to put up 300 million lire (€150,000) for the event, however, bowing to ferocious opposition from the Vatican and conservative politicians, Rome's leftist mayor, Francesco Rutelli, on May 30, 2000 withdrew logistical and monetary support. Hours after his announcement, Rutelli mostly reversed himself in response to harsh criticism from the left. He restored the funding and promised to help with permits, but declined to back down on a demand that organizers remove the city logo from promotional materials.

The event was staunchly opposed by Pope John Paul II and seen as an infringement on the numerous Catholic pilgrims visiting Rome for the Catholic Church's Great Jubilee. Pope John Paul II addressed crowds in St. Peter's Square during World Pride 2000 stating, in regards to the event, that it was an "offence to the Christian values of a city that is so dear to the hearts of Catholics across the world".

The organisers of World Pride claimed that over 250,000 people joined in the Millenium March to the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus, two of Rome's most famous ancient sites. It was one of the biggest crowds to gather in Rome for decades. Among the scheduled events were conferences, a fashion show, a large parade, a leather dance, and a concert featuring Gloria Gaynor, The Village People, RuPaul, and Geri Halliwell.

Sylvia Rivera was a guest of honour, and was acclaimed as the Mother of all gay people.

Sylvia Rivera & Marcella Di Folco at World Pride


Marcella Di Folco persuaded the Equal Opportunities Minister to set up a Gender Identity Commission.

At age 42 Robertina Manganaro had her first fashion show at the Milan Pret-a-porter, which cost her a million francs. "I do not do fashion to make money. I have money to make fashion". Even so there are limits: "If I have ever been discriminated against as a transsexual, it is as a fashion designer".

  • Gianfranco Mingozzi (dir) Tobia al caffè, with Giorgia O’Brien. Italy 98 mins 2000.
  • Davide Tolu, with a preface by Iole Verde. Il viaggio di Arnold: storia di un uomo nato donna (The Journey of Arnold: Story of a Man born as a Woman). Roma: Edizioni Univ. Romane 292 pp 2000.
  • Walter de Gregorio. "Der raffinierte Schnitt: Die Transsexuelle Robertina Manganaro präsentierte ihre erste Pret-a-porter Kollektion – mit Erfolg". Sonntags Zeitung, 8. Oktober 2000. Online.


For these 3 postings, the following were consulted:

  • Angela Caldarera & Friedemann Pfäfflin. "Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment Surgery in Italy". International Journal of Transgenderism, 13, 2011. 
  • Eleonara Garosi. "Under Construction: Becoming Trans in Italy". E-pistime, 2,2, 2009.
  • Eleonara Garosi. "The politics of gender transitioning in Italy".  Modern Italy, 17, 4, 2012.
  • Amanda Madigan.  "How Italy's Anti-Mask Law was Weaponized". Gay & Lesbian Review, Jan-Feb 2023.
  • Marzia Mauriello. An Anthropology of Gender Variance and Trans Experience in Naples: Beauty in Transit.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.
  • Julieta Vartabedian. Brazilian Travesti Migrations: Gender, Sexualities and Embodiment Experiences, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

20 April 2023

Trans Italy 1971-85

Trans Italy




In this period, trans activism expanded and after lobbying and street demonstrations, the 1982 Act of Parliament led to rights for post-op trans persons. 

Also in this period a good number of trans persons managed to get parts in Italian movies, both EuroTrash and art films:  Marcella Di Folco (screen name Marcello di Falco); Giorgia O’Brien, Dominot, Ajita Wilson, Eva Robin's and Giò Stajano Starace. 


Giò Stajano Starace, Italy’s most famous queer, became director of Men, the fashion and gossip magazine.

FUORI. (Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano) founded in Turin. Fuori! is also Italian for Out! The full name was a clear reference to the French FHAR (Front homosexual d’action révolutionnaire). It was based on the work of gay groups in Milan, Padua, Rome and Turin that had previously met as “Associazione di Studi PsicoSociali”. Founding members included Mariasilvia Spolato, Mario Mieli, Angelo Pezzana and the French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne. Its approach was Marxist, placing the homosexual question in the context of the class conflict.

The Fronte di Liberazione Omosessuale (FLO) was also founded.

  • Mario Monicelli (dir). La Mortadella starring Sophia Loren with Candy Darling in a small part. Italy/France 97 mins 1971. IMDB.
  • Dino Risi (dir). In nome del popolo italiano, with Ugo Tognazzi, and Marcello di Falco as secretario de Santenocito and Giò Stajano as Floriano Roncherini (uncredited). Italy 103 mins 1971.


Activist Mariasilvia Spolato became the first woman in Italy to come out in public as a lesbian, losing her teaching license as a result.

First queer public protest in Italy as activists from Fuori! and the French group FHAR demonstrated at the first International Congress of Sexology in San Remo close to the French border, where they protested against the psychiatric treatment of homosexuality as a disease and, especially, against the use of aversion therapy to "convert" homosexuals to heterosexuality.

Fuori! magazine was started and continued publication for 10 years. Circulation went as high as 8,000 copies.

Roberta Franciolini lived in Turin and founded a trans group there.

Trans woman, La Romanina, was finally allowed to change her legal gender and released from the semi-confinement of a village in the south.

Robertina Manganaro, still only 14, was already taking female hormones, and was even permitted, at her private school, to wear a skirt.

  • Mino Guerrini (dir). Decameron n° 2 - Le altre novelle del Boccaccio, with Marcello di Falco as the Abbot. Italy 98 mins 1972.
  • Flavio Mogherini (dir). Anche se volessi lavorare, che faccio? With Marcello di Falco as the museum keeper. Italy 99 mins 1972.
  • Steno (dir). Il terrore con gli occhi storti, with Marcello di Falco as gangster. Italy/France 93 mins 1972.
  • Gianfranco Parolini (dir). Sotto a chi tocca! with Marcello di Falco as the eunuch servant. Italy/Spain/ West Germany 93 mins 1972.
  • Lucio Russo (dir). I racconti di Canterbury N. 2, with Marcello di Falco. Italy 95 mins 1972.


  • Jacques Demy (dir). L'Événement le plus important depuis que l'homme a marché sur la Lune/ Niente di grave, suo marito è incinto/ A Slightly Pregnant Man, with Marcello Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve. France/Italy 92 mins 1973. IMDB Wikipedia. A driving instructor becomes pregnant, and hormones in chickens are deemed to be the reason. He becomes a model for paternity clothing.
  • Sergio Citti (dir). Storie scellerate, scr: Pier Paolo Pasolini & Sergio Citti, with Marcello di Falco. Italy/France 93 mins 1973. Two condemned prisoners tell each other bawdy tales.
  • Federico Fellini (dir). Amarcord, with Marcello di Falco as Prince. Italy/France 123 mins 1973. IMDB


First gay club in Italy opened in Florence.

Fuori! Allied with the Radical Party, thus becoming reformist rather than revolutionary. Mario Mieli and others left the group.

  • Fernando di Leo (dir). Il poliziotto è marcio, with Marcello di Falco as the killer. Italy/France 94 mins 1974.
  • Alberto Sodi (dir). Finché c'è guerra c'è Speranza, with Alberto Sodi. and Marcello di Falco as Jepson. Italy 116 mins 1974.


Andy Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen (The Drag Queen Paintings) series, was based on an idea by Italian art dealer Luciano Anselmino, using polaroids of trans women recruited at New York’s Gilded Grape which were then silkscreened onto a canvas and painted over. They were first shown in September/October 1975 at the Palazzo di Diamente in Ferrara, region of Emilia Romagna. Online.

February 15: Lou Reed concert at the Pallazzo dello Sport in Rome. Reed was supported by his then spouse Rachel Humphreys who was good in a fight – which was useful when the concert turned into a riot.

  • Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi (dir). Mondo candido, with Marcello di Falco as cavaliere. Italy 107 mins 1973.
  • Sergio Corbucci (dir). Di che segno sei? with Albert Sodi, Paolo Villaggio as the pilot, and Marcello di Falco as Cosimo. Italy 130 mins 1975. Four episodes: in the first a pilot has decided to become a woman.
  • Lucio Dandolo (dir). Quant'è bella la Bernarda, tutta nera, tutta calda, with Marcello di Falco as Arturo. Italy 92 mins 1975.


The Radical Party included Fuori! Activists as list candidates for the 1976 elections – the first time in Italy that openly gay persons ran for public office.

Brigitte Bond was interviewed for a Spanish paper and revealed that she was married and living in Campania, Italy, and that her real name was Giovanna.

A biography of La Romanina was published.

Now post-op, New Yorker Ajita Wilson arrives in Italy, and starts a prolific film career. IMDB.

Mario Mieli with the theatre troupe, Collettivo Teatrale Nostra Signora dei Fiori, put on the play La traviata norma: vaffanculo, ebbene sì (The Corrupted Norm: Go away) in Milan, and then Florence and Rome.  A theatrical pastiche debunking anti-gay stereotypes through a satire of heterosexuality and an ironic deconstruction of straight masculinity.   Mieli's stage persona was Maria M. 

  • R. Cecconi. Io, la ‘Romanina’. Perche´ sono diventata donna. Florence: Vallecchi, 1976.
  • Vincente Minnelli (dir). A Matter of Time, with Liza Minnelle, Ingrid Bergman, Isabella Rossellini and Dominot. Italy/US 97 mins 1976. Aging and beauty in an old Rome hotel. Dominot is the hotel porter.
  • Salvatore Samperi (dir). Sturmtruppen, with Dominot. Italy/France 110 mins 1976. A war satire.
  • Cesare Canevari (dir). La Princessa Nuda, with Ajita Wilson as Princessa Mariam. Italy 94 mins 1976. IMDB. Loosely based on a prominent exile from Idi Amin’s Uganda – with added pornography.
  • Alberto Sordi (dir). Il comune senso del pudor, with Giò Stajano as direttore studio fotografico (uncredited). Italy 123 mins 1976.
  • Fernando di Leo (dir). Gli amici di Nick Hezard (Nick the Sting), with Lee J Cobb and Giò Stajano as Jeweller Steffen. Italy/Switzerland 97 mins 1976.
  • Elio Petri (dir). Todo modo, with Marcello Mastroianni, and Marcello di Falco as Sacca. Italy 130 mins 1976.
  • Mauro Severino (dir). Tutti possono arricchire tranne i poveri, with Marcello di Falco as friend of countess (uncredited). Italy 90 mins 1976.
  • Mino Guerrini (dir). Vinella e Don Pezzotta, with Marcello di Falco as Tony. Italy 95 mins 1976.


Eva Robin’s had become a model and a singer. In 1977, using the name Cassandra, she recorded the disco classic, Disco Panther.

Mario Mieli, himself a gay transvestite, published his theoretical classic, Elementi di critica omosessuale.  He argues that each person is as potentially the other gender as potentially bisexual, were they not conditioned, from childhood by a certain type of society which, through what Mieli called educastration, forces us to consider heterosexuality as "normality" and all the rest as perversion. Mieli uses the term transessualità, but does not mean what is meant today, that is one who seeks permanent changes via hormones and surgery, but rather for the innate polymorphic and "perverse" trending of all people. 

  • Mario Mieli. Elementi di critica omosessuale. G Einaudi, 1977.   English translation by David Fernbach: Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique.  Gay Men's Press, 1980.  
  • Guido Zurli (dir). Gola profondo nero (Black Deep Throat), With Ajita Wilson as Claudine. Italy 83 mins 1977. Claudine, a reporter, investigates an exclusive sex cult.
  • Roberto Montero (dir). La sorprendente eredità del tontodimammà. With Ajita Wilson. Italy 88 mins 1977. A sex comedy about two young girls about to receive a huge inheritance on marriage.
  • Amasi Damiani (dir). Amori morbosi di una contessina. With Ajita Wilson. Italy 89 mins 1977.
  • Roberto Montero (dir). La bravata, with Ajita Wilson. Italy 87 mins 1977.
  • Amasi Damiani (dir). D'improvviso al terzo piano, with Ajita Wilson. Italy 1977. 
  • Mario Castellacci & Pier Francesco Pingitore (dir). Nerone, with Pippo Franco as Nero and Giò Stajano as his involuntary sex-change wife Sporus. Italy 105 mins 1977.


Fuori! activists were able to meet with the mayors of Turin and Rome, and the directors of the national broadcaster RAI.

Robertina Manganaro had moved to Milan with her divorced father, where she was known as his daughter. She became a model for the avant-garde artist, Enrico Baj. At age 20 she had genital surgery at a private clinic in England.

US actor Ajita Wilson having appeared in various French and Italian porno-films, made a crossover into Euro-trash such as women-in-prison flics.

  • Mauro Severino (dir)  Travolto dagli affetti familiari, with Giorgia O’Brien. Italy 100 mins 1978.
  • Claudio Giorgi (dir). Candido erotico, with Ajita Wilson as sex-show performer. Italy 94 mins 1978.
  • Joe D’Amato (dir). Le notti porno nel mondo nº 2, with Ajita Wilson as stewardess. Italy 88 mins 1978.
  • Luigi Batzella & Derek Ford (dir). Proibito erotico, with Ajita Wilson as Julie. Italy 66 mins 1978.
  • Erwin C Dietrich (dir). Adolescenza morbosa, with Ajita Wilson. Italy/Switzerland 95 mins 1978.


The first Italian Gay Pride Parade in Pisa with about 500 people, as a protest against homophobic violence.

A small group of trans women organised a protest in Milan, in order to raise public attention to the issue of trans people’s right to be recognised as their preferred gender. They went to a swimming pool wearing only their bikini bottoms as men do not have to wear tops even if they have breasts.

Roberta Franciolini, Marcella Di Folco, Gianna Parenti and Pina Bonanno, founded Movimento Italiano Transessuali (MIT) in Rome in 1979. Working with civil rights activists, but Roberta as the main animatrice, they struggled for Law 164 ‘Norme in materia di rettificazione di attribuzione di sesso’, which was passed in 1982 and provided legal recognition of a person's acquired gender.

  • Nello Rossati (dir). Una donna di notte, with Ajita Wilson in the ‘lesbian’ scene. Italy 90 mins 1979.
  • Luigi Russo (dir). Pensione Amore - SerVizio completo, with Ajita Wilson as Karina. Italy 85 mins 1979
  • Raniero di Giovanbattista (dir). Libidine, with Ajita Wilson as Mary the maid. Italy 87 mins 1979. 
  • Ron Wertheim (dir) Eros Perversion, based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, with Ajita Wilson as Antonia. Italy 66 mins 1979.
  • Antonio D’Agostino (dir) La cerimonia dei sensi, with Franco Pugi as Messia, and Eva Robin’s as Eva. Italy 90 mins 1979.
  • Bruno Corbucci (dir). Squadra antigangster, with Marcello di Falco as man at funeral. Italy/US 90 mins 1979.
  • Tinto Brass (dir), Caligula. Scr: Gore Vidal, Malcolm McDowell & Masolino D’Amico, with Malcolm McDowell, Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren, and Marcello do Falco as orgy master. Italy/US 156 mins 1979. IMDB.


The first nucleus of what later became Arcigay was formed in Palermo on December 9, 1980 as ARCI Gay. It was later renamed Arcigay, and became one of Italy's most prominent LGBT rights organizations.

Marcella Di Folco had completion surgery with Dr Burou in Casablanca. Her film career was now over.  On return Marcella worked as an intercontinental operator for Italcable. She continued as an active participant in Movimento Italiano Transessuali.

Collette Goudie from TAO in Miami visited Rome.

After the murder in Paris of Brazilian travesti Elisa, many rivalries, envy, scandals, and threats surfaced among the immigrant travesti sex workers themselves. At the same time, the pressure from the French authorities grew: between 1980 and 1984, expulsions were multiplied because of irregularities in their visas. Migration of Brazilian travestis to Italy commenced.

  • Giuseppe Bertolucci (dir), Oggetti smarriti, with Giorgia O’Brien. Italy 110 mins 1980).
  • Edoardo Mulargia (dir) Femmine infernali (Escape from Hell), with Ajita Wilson as Zaira. Italy/Spain 93 mins 1980. Escape from a tropical women’s prison. This film was edited with Hotel Paradise and released in the US as Savage Island,
  • Edoardo Mulargia (dir). Orinoco: Prigioniere del sesso (Hotel Paradise), with Ajita Wilson as Muriel. Italy/Spain 101 mins 1980. Slave women in an emerald mine rescued by revolutionaries. This film was edited with Escape from Hell and released in the US as Savage Island,
  • Lucio Fulci (dir). Luca il contrabbandiere, with Ajita Wilson as Luisa. Italy 97 mins 1980. Gangster film set in Naples.
  • Antonio D’Agostino (dir). Eva man (Due sessi in uno), with Eva Robin’s as Eva and Ajita Wilson as Ajita. Italy 75 mins 1980.
  • Jacques Orth (dir). Pensieri morbosi, with Ajita Wilson as prostitute. Italy 76 mins 1980.
  • Federico Fellini (dir). La città delle donne, with Marcello Mastroianni, and Marcello di Falco as slave. Italy/France 139 mins 1980. IMDB.


The offence of plagio (under which Aldo Braibanti had been convicted in 1968 for having a man in his 20s as a lover) was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court with decision no. 96 of 8 June 1981.

  • Zacarias Urbiola (dir). Pasiones desenfrenadas, with Ajia Wilson as Enrica. Italy/Spain 1981.
  • Francesco Massaro (dir). I carabbinieri, with Marcello di Falco as Aroldi. Marcello Di Folca never worked again in movies after her completion surgery. This was her last film.


Roberta Franciolini struggled against police repression and AIDS.

Norme in materia di rettificazione di attribuzione di ssesso [Norms regulating changes in sex attribution]; Legge 164, 1982, Text. A new law (N. 164/82) regulating the legal possibility of changing sex, resulting from the lobbying by Movimento Italiano Transessuali.

Art. 1 states “The sex change, as per article 454 of the civil code, is made possible by a definitive rulingof the judge attributing to a person a sex different from that declared at birth, after the occurred modification of her/his sexual characteristics” (Gazzetta Ufficiale 1982: 1), and Art. 3 specifies: “If competent experts prove that a person needs to undergo medical and surgical treatments in order to modify her/his sexual characteristics, the judge authorizes this intervention with a ruling. After the surgical operation, the judge allows the rectification of her/his personal data in identity documents”.

The law institutionalised the process through which trans people could transform their gender, and identified medical science as the authority that can carry out a legitimate change in the gender status of trans people. This enabled public hospitals to offer psychiatry, hormones and surgery within the Italian national health system for small fees. The Act mentions neither chromosomes nor hormones, and the legal sex change is permitted only after genital surgery. However its does give legal recognition to the medical authorities as the competent agents in managing a sex-change transition process, thus taking for granted and confirming the perceived pathological nature of the trans condition. Although it does not say so, one of the reasons for the Act is to protect doctors from accusations of mutilating physically sane persons.

  • Dario Argento (dir). Tenebrae, with Eva Robin’s as girl on beach. Italy 101 mins 1982.
  • Zacarias Urbiola (dir). El regreso de Eva Man/El pitoconejo, with John Saxon, and Eva Robin’s as Eva and Ajita Wilson as Ajita. Italy/Spain 88 mins 1982.


Giò Starace transitioned and became Maria Gioacchina Stajano Starace, Contessa Briganti di Panico, although she still used 'Giò' in her public life. Her first interview was with Il Borghese for which he had written as ‘Pantera Rosa’, mainly about Roman aristocracy.

David Tolu was ejected from the women's toilets at age 14, and started using the men's.

Mario Mieli died by suicide, age 30. He had written another book, Il risveglio dei Faraoni (The awakening of the Pharaohs), partly autobiographical, partly religious. He anticipated an adverse reaction. A pirated edition was later published, but his family brought legal action and had all copies destroyed. The book remains the subject of speculation.

The civil rights group, Circolo di cultura omosessuale Mario Mieli, was named in his honour.

  • Zacarias Urbiola (dir). La doppia bocca di Erika, with Ajita Wilson as Erika. Italy 71 mins 1983.
  • Luigi Cozzi (dir). Hercules, with Lou Ferrigno as Hercules, and Eva Robin’s as Daedalus. Italy/US 98 mins 1983.


Tracy Norman, from New York, had been seeking modelling work in Milan, but there was not much, so she returned to New York.

  • Gianni Siragusa (dir). Perverse oltre le sbarre/Hell Behind the Bars/Hölle im Frauengefängnis, with Ajita Wilson as Conchite. Italy 82 mins 1984.
  • Gianni Siragusa (dir). Detenute violente/Hell Penitentiary, with Ajita Wilson as Erica Thompson. Italy 90 mins 1984. 


Lucy Salani made trips to Paris and met trans women there. In the 1980s she accompanied two trans friends to London where they had transgender surgery, and later she also had the operation. 

Dominot ran a bar in Rome, Il baronato quattro bellezze, where he performed in drag singing the French chanteuses from Edith Piaf to Juliette Greco.

  • Teit Ritzau (dir). Paradiset er ikke til salg (Paradise Is Not for Sale). With Giorgia O’Brien and Christine Jorgensen. Denmark 60 mins 1985.
  • Luigi Cozzi (dir). Le avventure dell'incredibile Ercole, with Lou Ferrigno as Hercules, and Eva Robin’s as Dedalos. Italy/US/NL 88 mins 1985.


Trans actors in movies:  Some seem to think that now, the 2020s, is the golden age of trans women getting acting gigs in films.  However if we count the persons and the films, I think that we will find more of both in the late 1960s and the 1970s. 

The Norme in materia di rettificazione di attribuzione di ssesso of 1982 had been preceeded in Sweden by its Lag om fastställande av könstillhorighet i vissa fall, 1972, and in Germany by Gesetz über die Änderung der Vornamen und die Feststellung der Geschlechtszugehörigkeit in besonderen Fäalen, 1980, both of which provided legal recognition for post-operative trans persons.  All three would be criticised later for imposing sterilisation by not providing for trans persons who did not or were not able to take the surgery path.   However this is a full 20+ years before Britain's Gender Recognition Act, 2004, and there were many of us in Britain in that period who would have benefited from a law like the Italian - not to deny that the British Act was better when it arrived. 

10 April 2023

Trans Italy - the 1960s

Trans Italy





The Olympics Games were held in Rome: The Ukrainian sisters Tamara and Irina Press representing the USSR, who were rumoured to be intersex or something, won gold and silver medals. Two British female athletes were accused in the press of being men.

April Ashley (just before her completion surgery) and Kiki Moustica were in Rome with a hotel booking, but when they showed male passports, the hotel manager called the police. After 10 hours in the police station, they were besieged by the press and had to take the train back to Milan. One of these press photographs would be run in the British paper, the Sunday People, a year later, and lead to April’s outing.

Dominot and Carlo Musto

  • Federico Fellini (dir) La Dolce Vita. With Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Nico and Dominot and Carlo Musto as the two trans women at the party. Italy/France 174 mins 1960. Gio Starace quarrelled with the producer and lost his credit. He had inspired Fellini by bathing fully dressed in a fountain, which was copied with Anita Ekberg doing the bathing.


The Ballette Verdi gay scandal, centred on parties at a farmhouse in the Municipality of Castel Mella. It ballooned to 200 suspects in a few days and was blown up by the press. Various famous persons were questioned by the police, and actions for libel were started. However, everything proved to be unfounded and prompted by upcoming elections. 16 were brought to trial, but 15 were acquitted. The owner of the farmhouse, only, was convicted of abetting prostitution. Gio Starace who was working for Lo Specchio, a scandal rag, was interrogated by magistrates, and as a protest, he appeared in court in female mourning drag.


Roberta Franciolini established what was then the largest trans community in the Acqedotto Felice slums.

  • Vittorio Sala (dir). I don giovanni della Costa Azzurra. With Curd Jurgens, and trans stars from La Carrousel, Coccinelle and Capucine. Italy 98 mins 1962. IMDB.
  • Maria Amendola (dir) Totòdi Notte n. 1, with Totò as Nini, Erminio Macario as Mimi and the Spanish Madame Arthur. Italy 100 mins 1962. IMDB


  • Mino Loy (dir). 90 notti in giro per il mondoScr: Guido Castaldo & Nico Rienzi, narrated by Nico Rienzi, documenting Le Carrousel star, Bambi’s show, amongst others. Italy 88 mins 1963. 


After a consultation with Harry Benjamin in New York and another endocrinologist in London, the then James Morris returned to Venice with a box of oestrogen tablets, but, not yet being ready, flushed them down a lavatory.

++ Le Carrousel star Dolly Van Doll went to Dr Borou in Casablanca and became the first known Italian to have completion surgery.


Professor Francesco Sorrentino in Naples was doing a few sex-change operations, and took referrals from Harry Benjamin in New York.


US teacher, Ariadne Kane taught for a year at St. Stephen’s School in Rome, from 1966-67, and transvested for Mardi Gras.


Giò Starace (who transitioned as Maria in 1983) wrote the scandal filled Roma Erotica. This was quickly banned, but not until after it had sold many copies. Stejano was famous. He opened a bar. He worked with the drag star Dominot


Dominot had done drag shows from an early age, studied in Paris at the Comedie Francaise, and paid for the studies by performing as Dominot at Madame Arthur, and at Le Carrousel. He then lived and performed in Teheran. He also worked in avant-garde theatre.

La Romanina, had completion surgery in Switzerland. On return to Italy, she was detained and confined to a small village in the South, being considered morally and socially dangerous. Only after numerous psychiatric and gynaecological inspections, was she finally allowed to change her legal gender in 1972.

Nicola De Bartolo had been convicted for mascheramento, wearing a mask.   Except that she was not so doing.  She was wearing normal female dress without a mask.  However as the court regarded her as a "man", it ruled that her dress obscured her “natural” biological sex and made it impossible to recognize “him” and this amounted to a criminal act. De Bartolo appealed to the Supreme Court of Cassation, but it affirmed the ruling of the lower court.  This led to increased police usage of the mascheramento against queer persons in general.

  •  Giò Starace. Roma erotica, Società Editoriale Attualità, Milano, 1967.


After a controversial trial, the ex-Communist writer and artist Aldo Braibanti was sentenced to nine years in prison for the so-called plagiarism of the mind (plagiofrom the Roman plagium, the crime of stealing a child or a slave), a medieval concept used as a repressive tool in the Fascist legal code. He supposedly brainwashed his younger male lover and another man into communism and homosexuality. Prior to the trial, his lover had already undergone shock treatments during 15 months in a mental institution, but steadfastly maintained that Braibanti had not abused him mentally or otherwise – he was discharged on condition that he live with his reactionary parents, and not read any books less than 100 years old. Braibanti’s sentence was reduced to six years on appeal. He served two in prison, and two were excused for his past participation in the antifascist Resistance. In addition, he was presented in the press as living proof that the communists corrupted Italian youth and traditional family values. Nobody had been convicted of plagio during the Fascist period, and only Braibanti afterwards. His conviction led to heated debate and the offence was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court with decision no. 96 of 8 June 1981.

Giò Starace was writing for Men, a fashion and gossip magazine, as a comical agony aunt, Il salotto di Oscar Wilde. This was the only gay column in Italy at the time.


Marcello Di Folco (who later transitioned as Marcella in 1980) had to deliver a letter to the Cinecitta film studios, where he was spotted by director Frederico Fellini and given a part in Fellini Satyricon. From then till 1980 Di Folca appeared in several more Fellini films, and even more films by other directors. Di Folca was usually credited as Marcello Di Falco (actually the originally spelling of the family name).

  • Frederico Fellini (dir). Fellini Satyricon, based on the 1st century novel by Gaius Petronius, with Marcello Di Folco in aminor role as Proconsole. Italy 129 mins 1969. IMDB.  Some cross-dressing and an intersex demi-god.


Giorgia O’Brien from Palermo, Sicily, completed transition with De Burou in Casablanca. Giorgia worked three years at Milan's Teatro Piccolo, and collaborated with directors Franco Zeffirelli and Guiseppe Bertolucci.


Trans and gay organisings start in the 1970s - coming soon.

Francesco Sorrentino is listed here as doing or arranging sex-change operations in the 1960s in that Joanne Meyerowitz in her How Sex Changed says so based on a letter between Harry Benjamin and Robert Stoller.  However there is a problem in that nothing that I have read re trans in Italy even mentions him.

Eleonora Garosi in her "The politics of gender transitioning in Italy", Modern Italy, 17,4, 2012, also says nothing about Sorrentino.   She claims that La Romanina who had surgery in Switzerland in 1967 was the first Italian trans woman to so.  However there was earlier an Italian tailor of female clothing whom we know of only as "J", who had surgery, also in Switzerland, in 1951, by Dr Charles Wolf

As La Romanina had to go to Switzerland rather than Naples, and as she was semi-imprisoned on return, this does imply that Benjamin-Stoller or perhaps Meyerowitz got something wrong in their claim about Sorrentino.

In 1930 Fascist government had instituted the Rocco Code (named for the Minister for Justice, Alfredo Rocco), which did not actually mention homosexuality – repression of such was mainly a matter for the Church. However the Rocco code did prescribe plagio and mascheramento and even the use of masks on stage performance.  These came to be used only in 1967 and 1968, a generation after the end of the Fascist regime. The Fascisti did oppress male homosexual behaviour however, but mainly with administrative punishments, such as public admonition and confinement.  And more severe persecution of gays came in in the later years of Mussoilini’s regime without legal bases.