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 November 2023

Tara O’Hara (195? – 198?) performer.

Original June 2011, revised November 2023.

Tara's male persona was raised by a Jehovah's Witness family in New Orleans. In the early 80s, he was working in Berlin as an English teacher.

Tara and Jayne, from Jayne's book.
When he discovered Romy Haag's drag club he came back again and again, and started wearing drag to the club. This lead to a part in the show and Tara gave up both teaching and the Jehovah's Witnesses.

She was in Rosa von Praunheim's 1983 film, Stadt Der Verlorenen Seelen (City of Lost Souls) along with Jayne County and Angie Stardust where they all play versions of themselves.

Some sites including IMDB say that Tara was murdered in 1983, but some say that she was encountered later than that. 

Jayne County writing in 1995 said:
 "Ten years later [after 1983] I heard the tragic story of Tara's passing on. Tara was found in the ladies' room in the Berlin Tiergarten area with her head bashed in. They took her to the hospital and she lay there for weeks and weeks in a coma. Finally the doctors decided that enough was enough and pulled the plug on her. I guess they thought that Tara would never recover, but they should have consulted someone. It caused a stink in the Berlin press. She was dying slowly anyway, but leave it to Tara to go out with a bang!" (p155-6)

However there was in the 2010s another Tara O'Hara  resident in Berlin.  She lived with Edeltraut P., and they were gay and community activists.


28 November 2023

Gabrielle Boulianne-Tremblay (1990) author, actress

Boulianne-Tremblay was born and raised in Saint-Siméon, down river from Quebec City, on the north shore of the St Lawrence River.

Gabrielle came out as trans in 2012. Her first volume of poetry, Le Ventre des volcans, was published in 2015. After appearing in a couple of short films, she was cast in : Ceux qui font les révolutions à moitié n'ont fait que se creuser un tombeau, 2016, and was nominated for best actress in a supporting role at the Canadian Screens Prize

Her second volume of poetry, Les secrets de l'origami, was published in 2018. Her autobiographical novel, La fille d’elle-même came out in 2021 and was awarded a Prix des libraires du Québec, The next year she published a young adult novel, La voix de la nature.

FR.Wikipedia           EN.Wikipedia         IMDB

24 November 2023

Zhao Yede 赵烨德 (1965 - ) sex-change surgeon

It is said but not confirmed that the first transgender operation in China was performed in secret in 1983.

In 1992 Zhao Yede, from Zhejiang province, was working as a resident in a hospital in Beijing, where one of his duties was replying to letters from patients.  When newspapers reported transgender surgery there, the hospital received many requests for similar surgery.  Zhao researched the topic, and decided to move to Shanghai to learn from Dr He Qinglian, known for performing China's first female-to-male transgender surgery that year. 

By 1999 Dr He had performed 11 male-to-female and 39 female-to-male operations – the most by a single doctor at that time.  He had by then received over 4,000 letters requesting such surgery.  He’s major innovation was to use skin from the patient's inner thigh to create the penis, which leaves minimal scarring (other surgeons doing phalloplasty used skin from the patient’s stomach or forearm).

Zhao practicing in Shanghai continued using He’s methods.  He has operated on trans persons from all over China (although not from Xinjiang), and from all occupations. 90% of his patients are trans men desiring phalloplasty.  By his method, it takes at least three surgeries for a trans man, and the price is correspondingly higher: ¥ 80,000-100,000 as opposed to ¥30,000-50,000.

Chinese regulations stipulate that candidates for transgender surgery must not have a criminal record, and must have a certificate from a psychiatrist and a letter of consent from family members.  Since one of his patients returned after a few months demanding a reversal, Dr Zhao asks several probing questions.  He accepts only 10% of those who apply to him.

He argues that whether we think of ourselves as a man or a woman is dependent on directives from the brain: Everything is dependent on these directives.   And likewise for trans persons: “There’s a directive anomaly. It’s not something you can change.”

Graduation diplomas are the only official document in China that cannot be revised after being issued, and thus students, wanting to transition, want to have the operation before graduation.

Zhao has 40-50 consultations on a busy day, and he and his team do up to five operations a day.

Many patients are now coming from abroad, from Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

In 2012, there was media attention to Zhao’s work when twins becoming men were his patients.

*not Zhao Yide, Party Secretary of Shaanxi.

*Not Dr Lee Zhao who is part of the transgender surgical team at NYU Langone in New York.

  • "China's Sex Change Master”. Shanghai Daily. 2 September 1999. 
  • “China: Treatment of transsexuals who have undergone a sex change operation, particularly in Hong Kong (1997-2000)”. Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 4 April 2000. Online.
  • Xu Junqian. “Helping women find their inner man”. China Daily, 2017-03-24.  Online.
  • Cao Xi. “Being true to yourself: LGBT in China”.  CGTN. 01-Feb-2018.  Online.
  • Piper Weiss. “Twins Undergo Sex Change in China. Go from Sisters to Brothers Together”. Yahoo, March 28, 2012. Online.
  • “Identical twins first to undergo gender surgery in China”. Out News, 28th March 2012.  Online.

20 November 2023

Arnold Wyss (1878 - ?) office worker - first Transvestitenschein in Switzerland.

 We know of Wyss only from the police file in Zurich. We do not know Wyss’ female name.


Arnold Wyss was born and raised in Bern, Switzerland. At the age of eight he found a suitcase belonging to a deceased women, and was able to dress as female secretly. As a teenager he visited a coffee house with a female impersonater show, and then encounted the performer on the street in female dress. Wyss married a woman, Maria in 1902, hoping that marriage would cure his inclinations. They adopted a daughter. However after a while, when alone at home he cross-dressed. In 1910 Wyss read an account in a newspaper of a ‘man’ dressed as female who appeared in court, but had a permit, a Transvestitenschein. After a second such newspaper article, Wyss wrote to Dr Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin. The reply introduced him to the term ‘Transvestiten”, and as a law-abiding citizen, he decided to apply to the Zurich authorities for a permit. A later letter to Hirschfeld asked how to apply, but no answer was received. However he was able to obtain and read Hirschfeld’s 1910 book, Die Transvestiten.

After first moving to Zuring in December 1911 where Wyss worked as a porter in a factory, the family had moved to Geneva and then to Brig in southern Switzerland. In January 1914 they returned to Zurich and Wyss was employed as an office clerk. Maria worked from home as a dress-maker. Wyss mentioned to his work supervisor that he was an hermaphrodite and legally entitled to dress as female. Wyss was forbidden to do so at work, however some of the employees had seen him so dressed. Maria had not previously known of her husband’s dress preferences, until this time when he became more and more depressed and she sought to talk to him. After a while she accepted the situation in that dressed as female, Wyss was good-humoured, efficient and capable, but otherwise was suicidal. 

Wyss sought help from a Dr Frank, and applied for a permit from the Zurich Police and Justice Department in 1914 to live as a woman. In addition an anonymous letter signed ‘Bertrand’ denounced Wyss’ cross-dressing as it could only be mischief. The police explained that there was no Swiss law specifying how men and women must dress, and referred Wyss to the psychiatrist Dr Müller. Müller was acquainted with Hirschfeld’s book, but apparently did not understand Hitschfeld’s distinction between transvestism and fetishism in that he described Wyss as an ‘extreme fetishist who not only has an item of clothing as the object of his worship, but the entire female wardrobe”. Müller also interviewed Maria and the daughter, and conducted a physical examination. He concluded: Wyss was a clothes fetishist belonging to the subgroup of transvestites; heterosexual; did not move in an unethical milieu; he was ethically superior, since he had never received financial compensation for his adopted child. Müller considered a permit to be necessary, since Wyss was very depressed and unpredictable consequences might ensue if the permit was refused.

On 30 June 1914, Wyss was granted the requested permit, signed by Heinrich Mousson, Director of Justice, Police and Military.

  • Herbert Benedikt Stieber. Einleitung Transvestismus Cross-Dressing Was bedeutet. Silo.Tips, August 11, 2016. Online.

13 November 2023

Trans Singapore: Part 2 1972 - now

Part 1: to the first sex-change operation in 1971

Part 2: 1972-now

Comments and Mediagraphy

Part 2 1972 - now


New Nation newspaper (Singapore) ran a ground-breaking survey of gay life in Singapore called “They are Different …”. This included “The close-knit community of local transvestites”, “Chance for a new life …” (a drag troope hoping for a tour of Iran) and “Case studies of men who have become women” which interviews four trans women who had recently had surgery at Kandang Kerbau Hospital: Miss X, a civil servant; Miss Y, who was a sex worker on Bugis Street and is attempting to become a model; a cabaret girl; a fourth who had already disappeared. All have new identity cards.

The introductory article, “People who lead very secretive lives”, was less positive:

"The transvestites who have become prostitutes frequent Bugis Street where they usually solicit after midnight and Johore Road, in foul-smelling, oppressive hovels, honeycombed with box-like cubicles big enough only for a double bed and standing space for one or two. At these places, they ply their trade at prices ranging from $3 to $20 or more for a quick time, often fleecing European tourists or resident expatriates. Their clients: Male homosexuals as well as men who also enjoy normal heterosexual relationships and do not regard themselves as homosexuals. The Bugis Street homosexuals often cater for Europeans or tourists, and the Johore Road group for the locals. Such male prostitutes find it extremely difficult to rent accommodation from decent, normal people."


Singapore legalised trans operations, and permitted trans persons to wed. Soon afterwards a policy was put in place that if post-op, trans persons could have their sex corrected in identity cards and other documents - but not birth certificates. This was not specified in any law, but as a directive it functioned smoothly for over 20 years.

Saint Jack, a novel by Paul Theroux, about a US man setting up a bordello in Singapore, with only passing references to Bugis Street.

Russell Heng, speaking in 2005:

“Thirty years ago, the butch he-man type, many of whom were of working class background, could be found buying sex on Bugis Street and not in the gay bars. Let me recount a story about a friend whom I shall call Eugene that best illustrate a certain mindset that was not uncommon in those days. Eugene had a crush on a char kway teow hawker in his neighbourhood. Kway teow seller was also one of the local samseng with tattoo on his body, which drove Eugene wild with lust. Eugene was prepared to pay him for sex but to no avail. Then Eugene wised up to the fact that the only way to hook local butch men was to go in drag and seduce them on Bugis Street. Lo and behold, one night, Eugene in his wig and dress met kway teow seller on the street and tables were turned. He was prepared to pay Eugene for sex. In those years, many butch men could only bring themselves to have sex with another man if the latter turned himself into a surrogate woman by going drag. It probably lessened the guilt for them.”


Dr Ratnam, his assistant Dr Lim and several of his then patients were featured in the exploitation documentary Shocking Asia, which included graphic footage of one of their genital operations, along with midget wrestling, Japanese S&M sex clubs, mass piercings in India and cremains being dumped into the Ganges.

First operation on a trans man, in several stages August 1974 to October 1977.


James Eckardt, ex-Peace Corps, and afterwards married to a Thai woman and living in Thailand, had an affair with a Tamil trans woman Milly, until she left him for a Frenchman who promised to support her. Eckardt wrote an account of their affair in an attempt to win her back. 30 years later the Frenchman contacted him after Milly killed herself. Eckardt then, 2007, revised and published the manuscript as Singapore Girl.


The film of Saint Jack had been shot entirely on location in Singapore, including on Bugis Street. They submitted a fake synopsis to the authorities. It was the first film with a gay Singaporean sub-plot complete including full frontal male nudity and the first to have a Singaporean trans woman nude scene. It includes a scene of a transwoman named Bridgit Ang, playing herself, chatting up a table of Western expatriates on Bugis Street.

It was banned in Singapore and Malaysia shortly after release.

“The police started to harass the transgenders, forcing them to migrate to Orchard Road or Geylang. I found this newsspaper report quoting a Delphine Tan about how hard a life it was operating away from Bugis St: ‘We were beaten and abused by some Singaporeans who despised us. And we were always being raided in Orchard Road. At least here, the foreigners are more broadminded and treat us well’. On returning to operate on Bugis Street, Delphine continued: ‘This is our home. It is where all our friends are. This is the only place we can go where we are accepted and appreciated.’ ” (Heng, 2005)

December: French photographer Alain Soldeville was on a two-year trip to Asia and Australia when he arrived in Singapore. After a few days sight-seeing, he headed out one evening to Bugis Street.

"Within an hour, strange androgynous creatures arrived by taxi. Dressed in sexy, tight-fitting dresses or satiny pants, wearing heavy stage makeup and high heels, they took over the territory. The street seemed to belong to them and their dramatic entrance was followed by scrutinizing eyes. It appeared that most visitors were there to watch the show that had just begun.

Photo by Alain Soldeville
I stroked up a conversation with Anita who was of Malaysian background. She was 23 years old, with a clearly outlined masculine face, tall, thin and muscular. She wanted to know where I came from, how long I was going to stay in Singapore. During the following weeks, I became close to Anita and she introduced me to her friends: Amina, Danita, Delphine, Rosa and Susanna. They liked having me photograph them and would strike natural poses.

After five or six weeks in Singapore, short of money, I had to leave for Australia. I would return in 1984 only to learn that Bugis Street was about to be torn down to make way for the subway."


Wu Mingen 吳明恩 from Taiwan was sent to Singapore for surgery with Professor SS Ratnam, as the operation was then still illegal in Taiwan. This with her father's consent.

Amy Tashiana, not getting on with her father and step mother, ran away and was adopted by a group of older transsexuals who prepared her for her transition.

Abigail Chay, with the support of her parents had completion surgery.


The Malaysian government had previously offered gender-affirming surgeries — the only country in Southeast Asia to provide such operations apart from Thailand and Singapore - and contributed funds towards the Mak Nyah Association (the local term for trans women). However in 1983 a fatwa was issued by the Conference of Rulers banning such surgeries and the hospital that undertook it was shut down, marking the beginning of a repressive, anti-LGBT chapter in Malaysia’s history. Teh Yik Koon: “This decline is tied directly to the revival of Islam, which has become increasingly politicized and institutionalized. The competition between rival political groups to be seen as more Islamic to gain support from the Muslim community has resulted in greater discrimination for the transsexual community.”

The film of Privates on Parade, was released.  It was based on the 1977 stage play, set in Singapore and Malaya in 1948 during the “Emergency”, but filmed at Shepperton Studios in England, . Telling mainly of a British entertainment troope - with lots of drag - and their conflict with the authoritarian officers, along with scenes of the the corruption and violence of the civil war.


October: the very end of the old Bugis Street as bulldozers demolished it. The street hawker stalls were cleared and relocated to other areas of Singapore.

Construction began on the Bugis Metro Station.

The trans women who solicited there were told to relocate to the other red light district, Lorong 6 in Geyland. Some kept returning and were arrested and charged.

Bianca who worked Bugis Street said it was not easy to make a living there towards the closing years. Another transgender who worked there called Bianca said where once they could make $300 a night, now "we are lucky to get $50". (Heng 2005)


The Health Ministry asked hospitals to stop doing such operations [trans] on foreigners. It also discouraged them on Singaporeans. It said “the increased danger of Aids with such patients poses unnecessary risk to hospital staff”.

Psychiatrist Tsoi Wing Foo explained that the failure of psychotherapy alone in the treatment of trans women led to the development of modern sex reassignment surgery. He described our technique, its indications, complications and outcome.


Psychiatrist Tsoi Wing Foo carried out a study on the prevalence of transsexualism in the country, and concluded that the prevalence rate for male-to-female (MTF) transsexuals was 1 in 2,900, and female-to-male (FTM) transsexuals, 1 in 8,300.

Tsoi’s dissertation, A psychiatric investigation of transsexualism in Singapore, was accepted at the National University of Singapore.

Amy Tashiana went to Bangkok for completion surgery. It was cheaper there (S$5,000) and no hassle about psychiatric assessment. She became one of the best known trans models in Singapore.


W. F. Tsoi, E. H. Kua and L. P. Kok published Handbook of clinical psychiatry : a guide for medical students and family physicians.


Dr Tsoi’s study of parental influence in a group of Chinese male and female transsexuals compared with a group of male and female heterosexual controls. The fathers of male transsexuals were found to be less caring, and mothers of female transsexuals were less overprotective than the fathers and mothers of the controls. Parental involvement of male transsexuals showed a weak father figure and an overinvolvement with the mother, and in female transsexuals, an unsatisfactory mother-daughter relationship.

Dr Tsoi’s study of 200 trans women and 100 trans men compared with 100 male and 80 female heterosexuals in Singapore. Transsexuals started their psychosexual development earlier than the controls. Transsexual feelings started in childhood. Trans women went through a homosexual phase followed by a transvestite phase, before they became transsexual. Trans men did not go through distinct phases. Cross-dressing was one of the early signs of transsexualism and started earlier in trans men. None of the transsexuals were married, in contrast to reports showing that up to 50% of Western transsexuals had been married


Court case Lim Ying vs Hiok Kian Ming Eric. Lim discovered after marriage that Eric had been born female, and applied for an annulment. Three important points were decided. First, that marriages under the Women's Charter between parties of the same sex are not permitted; secondly, following the English case of Corbett v Corbett, that the determination of sex was to be by use of biological criteria (chromosomal, gonadal, and genital tests), ignoring any operative intervention; and thirdly, that breach of this requirement renders the marriage void ab initio even though it is not one of the grounds listed in the former section 99 of the Women's Charter. As Eric’s birth certificate still said ‘female’ the marriage was ruled null and void.

Did this invalidate all marriages of trans persons?

S. S. Ratnam, Victor H. H. Goh & Tsoi Wing Foo published Cries from Within: Transsexualism, Gender Confusion and Sex Change, the first Asian book on the topic.

The 15-year-old Leona Lo did not know how she was different until she found Cries from Within in the library.


Tsoi Wing Foo published a comparison of 320 trans women and 130 trans men in Singapore. The subjects were given a semistructured psychiatric interview. The results showed that the trans women were slightly younger, had less education and held lower level jobs. Their occupational preferences were reversed. The trans women started petting, sexual intercourse and having partners about one to two years earlier, but they cross-dressed four to seven years later. Both trans women and trans men were homosexually orientated. Other studies showed that late maternal age was associated with homosexuality, but not with transsexualism. These studies also confirmed that transsexualism had its onset in early childhood, and that cross-dressing was an early feature. The Singapore transsexuals went through a "homosexual" and a "transvestite" phase before they became a transsexual. Western transsexuals exhibited both homosexual and heterosexual behaviour, and some were married to the opposite-sex-by-birth partners. Trans women prostitution was reported in many studies.


The new rebuilt Bugis Street re-opened for business. Some of the former street hawkers and non-chain retailers were permitted back. Initially the sale of illegal and pirated goods sprouted, but they were repressed. The Singapore Tourist Promotion Board attempted to recreate the old atmosphere with contrived ‘Ah Kua’ shows on wooden platforms, but it was obviously artificial, the tourists did not go for it, and it was abandoned after a short while.

Boom Boom Room, Singapore’s only drag cabaret nightclub, was established by owner Alan Koh in 1993 at 4 New Bugis Street in Bugis Village. It later relocated on 2 April 2000 to the second floor of the old 2-storey Chui Eng Free School schoolhouse at 130-132 Amoy Street, Far East Square. The star attraction was risqué comedy routines by local drag superstar Kumar aided by his coterie of cross-dressing toyboys.

Leona Lo did her national service as a combat medic.

Dr Tsoi published a follow-up study of 45 trans women and 36 trans men. The subjects were interviewed before and 1 to 8 years following surgery. The trans women had less education and held lower level jobs, started their sexual life about 1-2 years earlier, but they cross-dressed 4-7 years later than the trans men. 35% were married and all of them had no problems adjusting to their new life. The overall results were 56% very good and 44% good. There are no pre-operative variables that can predict good adjustments for trans mens. For trans women, the earlier age of transsexual manifestation was related to good post-operative adjustments. The trans men were less satisfied with the surgery, but they adjusted as well as the trans women. The results were comparable with those from previous studies.


Prof Ratnam retired. The Gender Identity Clinic was taken over by his nephew, Dr. Anandakumar. In 30 years more than 300 sex change operations had been performed, mainly at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital.

The Bugis Street film, directed by Hong Kong director Yonfan, about a cis teenager from Malacca (but played by a Vietnamese actress) who takes a job as a maid in the Sin Sin Hotel ($3 a night) on Bugis Street. She is initially disconcerted to discover that most of the residents are trans women, but comes to support them. While set in the old Bugis Street, it was filmed in the modern redeveloped version. It was given a restricted rating, which impacted sales. There is an associated book.

There is another book, with a different plot, which came out at the same time: Koh Buck Song’s Bugis Street: The novel, set in the last days of the old Bugis Street, which gives a full chapter to Rosie, a trans prostitute, but her life is secondary to a familial heteronormative melodrama, and she dies. The novel was developed into a theatre musical, cast mainly with cis gay men playing the trans women and only one real trans woman.


A new law was passed amending the Women’s Charter:

“(a) the sex of any party to a marriage as stated at the time of the marriage in his or her identity card issued under the National Registration Act shall be prima facie evidence of the sex of the party; and

(b) a person who has undergone a sex re-assignment procedure shall be identified as being of the sex to which the person has been re-assigned. ”

Leona Lo was doing a degree in English literature at York University in England, and flew from there to Bangkok for completion surgery.


A fire erased most of Johore Road where trans sex workers had previously been available.

Abigail Chay had become an actress in Singapore television and film.


Dr Ratnam died age 73. After his death the Gender identity Clinic was quietly closed on the excuse that the gynaecologist in charge, Dr Anandakumar, had left for private practice. The Ministry of Health had been pushing for closure for some years.


Newly declassified UK naval documents revealed that possibly 50% of its sailors in the 1960s gained “same-sex” experience often with the trans women on Bugis Street.


Petitions from the trans community supported by local media resulted in the Clinic re-opening quietly. However by now clinics in Bangkok were taking most of the business, and were cheaper.

Leona Lo published My Sisters, their Stories, Singapore's first pictorial documentary on transsexuals in Singapore and Thailand.

Hidden Genders on Singapore National Geographic TV.


The Boom Boom Room closed. Gold Dust opened six months later for a similar but more upmarket clientel.

“Sense of Being”. Channel U, April 2005. Singapore's first television programme to feature a local transwoman, 38-year-old Amy Tashiana, who talked about her life as a former model and performer at the defunct cabaret club Boom Boom Room.

Tina Lee, 60 year old, who was sexworker for two thirds of her life said that after she was too old and ugly to have any market value, she worked as a dish washer but lost the job when employer found out she was once a transvestite, fearing she had Aids. Remember Aids came on to the Singapore scene in 1984 with the first reported HIV positive case. She then lived in a rented room on her savings. She said: "no matter what they do, the government should realize there will always be places like Bugis Street. They should help us by giving us a place to stay and ICs so that they will know who we are and we are not criminals. We don't want sympathy nor do we want to be ignored. We just want understanding" (Heng, 2005)

At the First International Conference of Asian Queer Studies, 7 – 9 July 2005, held in Bangkok, one of the keynote speakers, Prof Vitit Muntarbhorn, Professor of Law at Chulalongkorn University, mentioned in his address that until now, no country in Asia has permitted the change of sex to be reflected in personal identity documents after sex-change surgery.

Muntarbhorn didn't seem to be aware that Singapore had recorded the change in status since 1973, and recognised marriages of sex-changed persons as well.


Leona Lo published her autobiography.


Marla Bendini’s first multimedia performance, in Pattaya, Thailand.


The first annual Pink Dot Rally for the LGBTQ+ community


The New Paper, 6 Dec 2010, ran an article on aging trans women who had previously lived by sex work on Bugis Street.

Sisters in Solidarity founded by Leana Lo and two others to oppose the anti-trans discrimination in clubs especially in the Clarke Quay area of Singapore.

The Ah kua show, based on Leana Lo's autobiography, Singapore and then the New York International Fringe Festival.

Fanny Ler, after marriage, a daughter and a divorce, transitioned at age 34.


Tiffany’s Cabaret Show from Thailand, finally allowed to appear in Singapore. It had been refused twice in the 1980s because of ‘sensitive content’.


December: the Bugis MRT (metro) station finally opened.

Fanny Ler to marry again - a man this time.


3 Feb-14 Mar: an exhibition eponymously entitled, "Bugis Street", open to the public, was held by French photographer, Alain Soldeville at the gallery of Objectifs - Centre for Photography and Filmmaking, 56A Arab Street.

21 September: Prof. Tsoi was interviewed in his clinic in the Tanglin Road Shopping Centre by four female team members of The Swan Project, a movement that aims to promote understanding and awareness of transgender individuals in Singapore by providing information, telling stories, providing support opportunities, and dismantling misconceptions about transgender people. Tsoi explained: “the incidence [of transsexualism] is quite high you know; I see about 1 or 2 a month. When they accumulate, combine cumulatively, they will end up in very large numbers. Roughly, I will have seen about 1000 each (male-to-female and female-to-male).” He explained that psychosexual and transsexual development occurs in linear phases, starting from the “homosexual” phase, then proceeding to the “transvestite” and cross-dressing phase, and finally, the transsexual phase. However, there has yet to be a cause identified within medical literature.


Marla Bendini’s solo exhibition, "I’m Nervous", was included in the 10th edition of IndigNation, Singapore’s longest running LGBT festival.


RFH, a 33-year-old Singapore national who lived as female in the UK for a decade, was to be deported home where she faced doing national service as a man, but on appeal was allowed to stay in UK.


Lune Loh did her National Service , and after she said that she was trans, she was subjected to bullying and harrassment.


Li Huanwu, nephew of current Prime Minister and grandson of Singapore’s first Prime minister, married his partner in Cape Town.


Andrea Razali was crowned Miss International Queen Singapore and represented her county at the finals in Pattaya, Thailand.

Singapore-born Gina Chua, an executive editor at Reuters transitioned on the job at age 60. more.


Quen Wong produced and directed Some Women about herself from her days as a teenage boy coming out to her supportive family, to getting married at age 46. The film also includes Sanisa/Anita, a former sex worker from Bugis Street, and Lune Loh, a trans youth activist who is lesbian and has opted not to pursue medical interventions.

Ashlee, 18, the Millenia Institute school in Singapore, where teachers were initially supportive of her transition until she was about to begin hormone replacement therapy, was told that she would be expelled if she did not cut her hair and wear the boys’ uniform.


The largely unenforced 1938 Section 377A of the penal code which made same-sex relations a crime, was repealed. At the same time the constitution was altered to reinforce rules against same-sex marriage.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore called on the government to guarantee the freedom of the clergy to preach against queer sex. The Singapore Buddhist Federation said traditional family values have to be preserved. "(But) we cannot force our values onto others or instil our own ideas, especially in the young. Let them have their own choices when they come to a mature age."

Lune Loh is a poet, and, after graduating from the National University of Singapore, is now doing an MA in creative writing at the University of London.

Andrea Razali is working as a para-counsellor, has a corporate job, and is undertaking a masters in psychology, and is the National Director of Miss Equality World, a new international beauty pageant.


Harvey, an autistic Tamil trans woman who was raped in 2014 at the Singapore Institute of Mental Health while detained in a male ward, and no action was taken against the rapist. She attempted to sue the IMH in 2016. However she experienced a PTSD-induced flashback and destroyed a table in the courthouse. In 2023 she is facing criminal charges and may be sent back to to IMH.

Qatrisha Zairyah Bte Kamsi was the first winner of Miss Equality World Singapore, and also Miss International Queen Singapore. Her stepfather did not approve of her transition, so does not know of her marriage or her pageant successes.

12 November 2023

Trans Singapore: Part 1: to the first sex-change operation in 1971

Part 1: to the first sex-change operation in 1971

Part 2: 1972-now

Comments and Mediagraphy

Part 1: to the first sex-change operation in 1971

The Bugis are a people from south Sulawesi (previously Celebes) that traditionally had five social genders: makkunrai and oroané (cis), calabai and calala (trans) and bissu (androgynous or intersex shamans).

In Malaysia the terms ‘pondan’ and ‘bapok’ have been used in the past for trans persons, but are mainly derogatory. Since the 1980s the terms ‘mak nyah’ for trans women and ‘pak nyah’ for trans men are the preferred terms.

Other terms for trans persons used in Singapore - mainly derogatory but some have have been reclaimed - are "ah kua" (Hokkien),"kidi" (Tamil) and "muffadet" (Singlish),

The Bugis were known in the 17th century and afterwards as they spread across south-east Asia as merchant-adventurers. It is not known how many calabai, calala and bissu were involved in this expansion. A Bugis sultanate was set up on the west coast of Malaya in the 18th century.


The British governor Stamford Raffles arranged for the British East India Company to establish a trading post.

The Bugis were major traders in the British trading post.

The aboriginal Orang Kalland were relocated to the northern Singapore Straits at Sungai Pulau.


After being pushed out of Sulawesi by the Dutch, several hundred Bugis settled in Singapore. With their trade networks, they were welcomed by the British rulers. They were alloted an area south of the Rochor River, which came to be known as Bugis Town.


A further treaty with the Sultan led to the entire island becoming a British possession.


Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements, then under the jurisdiction of British India.


Singapore became the regional capital.


The aboriginal Orang Kalland were wiped out by a smallpox epidemic.


The Straits Settlements were separated from British India, coming under the direct control of Britain.


By this time, with changes in the maritime trade, most of the Bugis had moved elsewhere, and immigrants from India and China were arriving. The British authorities authorised brothels in the Bugis Street area, and Chinese and Japanese women were brought in to work in them. The nearby Malay Street became the place where cis female street-walking prostitutes were found.


The Singapore Mutiny by Muslim sepoys from British India, who were garrisoned in Singapore. After hearing rumours that they were to be sent to fight the Ottoman Empire, a Muslim state, the soldiers rebelled, killing their officers and several British civilians.


The British built the large Singapore Naval Base as part of the defensive Singapore strategy. Originally announced in 1921, the construction of the base proceeded at a slow pace until the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Costing £15 million and not fully completed in 1938, it was nonetheless the largest dry dock in the world, the third-largest floating dock, and had enough fuel tanks to support the entire British navy for six months. The base was defended by heavy 15-inch (380 mm) naval guns, as well as a Royal Air Force airfield at Tengah Air Base. Winston Churchill touted it as the "Gibraltar of the East".

The Bugis Street area further developed as the red light district, until the late 1930s when the authorities attempted to eliminate sexual soliciting.


Noel Coward, on a round-the-world trip, visited Singapore and commented of Bugis Street:

“ubiquitous whores, none of whom were young or even remotely attractive”.

And thus it was in his 1964 book.


Section 377a - an addition to the Singapore Penal Code introduced by the colonial government which criminalised sex between consenting adult males. It was not repealed until 2022, when it had been de facto unenforced for decades.


7-8th December: Japanese forces attacked Thailand, Dutch East Indies, the UK colonies of Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaya, and the US colonies of the Philippines and Hawai’i.


The 60,000 British empire forces in Singapore and Malaya finally surrendered to the Japanese 15 February 1942, what Churchill called "the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". Most UK and Australian troops, and later Dutch civilians, were imprisoned in the Selarang Barracks, near to Changi, an existing prison at the east end of Singapore. The Barracks also became referred to as Changi. 850 died in captivity, others were transported to work as forced labour in Japan or on the Thai-Burma railway (which included a bridge over the river Kwai).

Among the inmates were Bobby Spong and James Clavell, the future novelist.

Morale was inevitably bad, and the officers encouraged sports and theatricals. One of the first were The Mumming Bees concert parties, and it was at these that Bobbie Spong, who had already made somewhat of a name as a performer, first became well-known. Bobbie impersonated comedienne Beatrice Lillie, film star Marlene Dietrich and female impersonator Douglas Byng. From there Spong branched out into comedy sketches and revues, almost always in female parts. Even the Japanese and Korean guards came to watch. One night her appearance was greeted by a roar of applause that was heard across the island. Somehow Spong had managed to bring into the prison camp a full set of female clothing including corsets, and was allowed to grow his hair to a feminine length. Bobbie often stayed in role offstage. In particular she would tour the hospital wards and sing for those too sick to attend the performances. She was so convincing that when she sat on a patient’s bed they would blush and attempt to cover their nakedness.


Late in 1943 when Private Spong returned to the Chungkai camp in Thailand from a work-camp up the line, and converted to Bobbie for a show, she was so convincing that the Japanese officers stopped the show and demanded proof of her manhood. Both Japanese and Korean guards often asked Bobbie to give a private performance in their quarters. This she did, graciously accepting fruit and cigarettes, and then would quickly flee back to her own quarters.

Christmas Day: Bobbie - in a light green and orange frock and hat - was in the hospital to give out cigarettes. Later that day she was at the mock horse races where everybody dressed up the best that they could. She kissed the winners of the races. The day ended with Bobbie under a large tree singing from the Douglas Byng repertoire.


29 April: the Changi theatrical shows were cancelled because the Japanese had taken all the theatrical paraphernalia for the celebration of the Emperor’s birthday. Bobbie was part of a burlesque football match that was hastily arranged instead.

mid-May: Bobbie’s final appearance was in mid-May 1944 at Chungkai camp. Spong then shocked everyone by volunteering for a work detail in Japan because her best friend had been drafted for it. Departure was 8 June. By then Spong had had his hair cut, but managed to pack twenty frocks in his rucksack. 1300 POWs were crammed into an unmarked transport ship. The ship was spotted, torpedoed and sunk by a US submarine - very few survived.


15 August: British military forces returned after the Japanese surrender.


1 April: . British Military Administration ended on 1 April 1946, and Singapore became a separate Crown Colony


“The Mayalan Emergency”. The violent suppression of the Communist-led independence movement, using Agent Orange, concentration camps, forced relocations and slaughter of unarmed villagers.

The British Army all-male Combined Services Entertainment division (which put on drag performances) included Peter Nichols, John Schlesinger, Kenneth Williams and Stanley Baxter - who later became famous in British film, theatre and television. Nichols later wrote up the experience as a play, later film, Privates on Parade (see 1983.)


The 1954 National Service riots, Hock Lee bus riots, and Chinese middle schools riots in Singapore were linked to the ongoing “Malayan Emergency”.


Street hawkers selling cooked food and other sundries came to Bugis Street. Tables with white tableclothes were placed in the street. This became an entertainment area for British troops, and later - as the war in Vietnam developed - US forces also. There were some conflicts between the cis and the trans sex workers - the latter now starting to arrive. The trans women were almost all non-op in that it was far too expensive for Singaporeans to fly to Casablanca or Europe for the new gender operations.

Increasing numbers of Western tourists came for the booze, the food, the shopping and the "girls". Bugis Street became one of the most famous areas of Singapore for tourists. Western men persuaded themselves that they could tell the ‘real’ females in that they were not the gorgeous ones.

Writing in 2005, Russell Heng recollected what Bugis Street had been like:

If you want a mental picture of the old Bugis picture, imagined old shop houses before they were made pretty like they are today. In the evening, the street is closed to traffic and zhi cha stalls set up rows of table. Usually at around 9 pm, the first of the transgenders would arrive but you have to wait till at least 11 pm for the party to start warming up. The transgenders would move among the tables. If you strike up a conversation, they would sit down and chat. You can offer to buy drinks, which were not cheap with Coca Cola sold at $10 a bottle. Yes, t was a time when soft drinks were sold in bottles not cans. The exorbitant $10 was like a cover charge to see a show. However I cannot be certain if there was ever an arrangement for the drink stalls to pay a commission to the transgenders if they get tourists to buy the over-priced drinks. On a busy night, you can have as many as 40 transgenders. I also remember some interesting characters like the little girl who went round challenging tourists to play noughts and crosses for either 10 or 20 cents. She never lost a game.



Singapore granted full internal self-government for all matters except defence and foreign affairs.


Dr Shan Ratnam trained at Singapore General Hospital.


The earliest published account of the trans women on Bugis Street and the tourists who came to gawp was Eastern Windows by F D Ommaney, an officer in the Research branch of the Colonial Service. He gave nine pages to Bugis Street, and in particular:

And now here comes Maisie, tall and graceful too, but perhaps a trifle over-slim and flat-chested. She wears a smart, black, sheath-like cheong-sam with little jet beads sewn in patterns. They shimmer as she walks . . . But there is something not quite right about her feet. They are a shade too large. I will tell you a secret about Maisie. No one is supposed to know it, but it is surprising how many do. She is not a girl at all. She is a boy. Sometimes clients have been known to make quite a scene when they discover their mistake, and Maisie has sometimes had to stay away from Bugis Street for a day or two nursing a black eye. But not for long. Nothing daunted, she will be back again in a day or two with a new cheong-sam and some new ear-rings. (p44)

James Clavell’s novel, King Rat, set in the Changi POW camp, features a character, Sean Jennison, who was selected to play female parts in camp theatricals, was at first reluctant, but then embraced the parts, and lived as female off stage. After the camp was liberated she could not cope and drowned herself in the sea.


After a referendum on a proposed merger with Malaysia which included a choice of different terms for the merger and had no option for avoiding merger altogether, Singapore became part of Malaysia.

Shan Ratnam began teaching at the University of Singapore. He then did post-graduate medical studies in London.

Shonna, 16, worked as a sales girl, and frequented the trans scene on Bugis Street.


Race riots in Singapore involved a series of communal race-based civil disturbances between the Malays and Chinese in Singapore.

Shan Ratnam became Professor and Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Singapore.

Shonna’s father died. She worked as a housemaid for a European man, and had an affair with him. Subsequently she worked in a bank and then in public relations for a hotel.

Noel Coward published Pretty Polly Barlow and other stories, about a young woman who arrives in Singapore with her strict aunt, who conveniently dies leaving Polly to explore her sexuality. Bugis Street is mentioned as a place to visit, but seems to be the Bugis Street that Coward had seen in the 1920s and 1930s, with no mention of trans women.


The Singapore and central Malaysian governments disagreed on many issues. Talks soon broke down, and abusive speeches and writing became rife on both sides.

7 August: the Malaysian government, with the agreement of the Singapore government advised the Parliament of Malaysia that it should vote to expel Singapore.

9 August: Malaysian Parliament voted 126 to 0 to move a bill to amend the constitution, expelling Singapore from Malaysia, which left Singapore as a newly independent country.

King Rat - although set in the Changi POW camp - was filmed in California. The episodes of Sean Jennison acting and then living as female were in the script from the beginning, but at a late stage, Columbia Pictures executives finally realized that they were present, and Sean was completely removed from the film.


Shonna came second in the Miss Singapore Beauty Contest, which led to modelling work.


National service was implemented requiring all 18-year old males to train full-time for two or two-and-a-half years, depending on their educational attainment. Transgender was listed as a condition in a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) 'Directory of Diseases' and recruits who outed themselves to the examining doctors had their 'deployability' denied in sensitive positions. They were assigned only clerical work at army bases.

The film A Matter of Innocence, based on Noel Coward’s Pretty Polly Barlow, was filmed in Singapore, about a young woman (Haley Mills) travelling with a stern aunt who becomes free to explore her sexuality after the aunt’s death. Includes some scenes in the actual Bugis Street of the late 1960s, unlike the straight version depicted in Coward’s story.


Shonna started a cabaret act using the name Mama Chan. However she twice attempted suicide by taking sleeping pills.


Ratnam was pestered by Shonna who was desirous to have sex change surgery. He became intrigued by the possibility, read the literature and finally practised the operation on two cadavers in the mortuary. He had Shonna evaluated by a team of psychiatrists who confirmed that she was indeed transsexual. Legal clearance was sought from the ministry of health and granted.

A secret report for the British Navy after an internal investigation concluded that of gay sailors and officers in the late 1960s "at least 50% of the fleet have sinned homosexually at some time in their naval service life”.

“Service chiefs agonised over the practice of sailors visiting the catamites of Bugis Street. The file says many sailors visited the area ‘for kicks’, got drunk and ‘end up sleeping with male prostitutes known as catamites’ who dressed up convincingly as females.”

This report was not declassified until 2002.


Surgery on Shonna was finally performed by Dr Shan Ratnam 30 July 1971 at the Kandang Kerbau Hospital 竹脚妇幼医院. This was the first such operation in Asia.

Dr Ratnam

A Gender Identity Clinic was set up headed by Prof Ratnam, who ran it until his retirement in 1995. The psychological evaluations were done by Singapore's chief academic psychiatrist Prof Tsoi Wing Foo.

05 November 2023

Gabbi Tuft (1978 - ) wrestler, online fitness advisor

Tuft, born and raised in Sonoma north of San Francico, had childhood yearnings to be a girl, but turned to body building after being bullied at school. 

Tuft married in 2002, and they moved to Southern California, to start surfing and to continue muscle building. Tuft started professional wrestling in 2007 in the independent circuit, and a year later was signed to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), and was assigned to the Florida Championship Wrestling territory as Tyler Reks. 

Over the next four years Reks – 6’2” (188 cm) and 280 lb (127 kg, 20 stone) rose to superstar rank on the WWE. 

However in 2012 after the birth of a daughter and a brother’s suicide, Reks/Tuft retired from wrestling. Tuft set up Body Spartan, an online fitness company promoting the ketogenic diet. In 2019 Tuft had open heart surgery. 

By 2020, the summer of Covid, Tuft had returned to exploring her female side, with full support from her wife. Using her expertise in fitness and nutrition to vary eating styles and sustainable approaches to exercise - a lot of trial and error - she managed to get the feminine body that she desired. 

In 2021 as Gabbi Tuft, she came out as trans. The Tufts now live in Austin, Texas, and Gabbi Tuft is popular on Istragram and Tik-Tok.

  • Jo Yurcaba. “Former WWE superstar Gabbi Tuft comes out as transgender”. NBC News, Feb 5 2020. Online.
  • Gabbi Tuft. “Before my transition, I was a WWE star, weighed 280 pounds, and had 6% body fat. It took a lot of trial and error to get the feminine body I always wanted”. Business Insider, Sep 17, 2023. Online.
  • Alanah Khosla. “WWE's first transgender star Gabbi Tuft admits it 'took a lot of trial and error' to get the 'feminine body' she wanted”. The Daily Mail, 18 September 2023. Online.    EN.Wikipedia    IMDB     WWE