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.

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30 January 2024

the person who rejected the White Goddess

In 1948 Faber and Faber published an adventurous book by Robert Graves, poet and mythologist: The White Goddess: A historical grammar of poetic myth. Graves had been working on the book since 1944. The book, although perplexing to many readers, quickly became one of the the century’s classics of creative mythology.

The Faber and Faber director, one T.S. Eliot wrote a blurb for the first edition: “This is a prodigious, monstrous, stupefying, indescribable book; the outcome of vast reading and curious researches into strange territories of folk-lore, religion and magic”.

In February 1957, Graves gave a lecture in New York in which He said:

“I offered The White Goddess in turn to the only publishers I knew who claimed to be personally concerned with poetry and mythology.

The first regretted that he could not recommend this unusual book to his partners, because of the expense. He died of heart failure within the month.

The second wrote very discourteously, to the effect that he could not make either head or tail of the book, and could not believe it would interest anyone. He died too, soon afterwards.

But the third, who was T. S. Eliot, wrote that it must be published at all costs. So he did publish it, and not only got his money back, but pretty soon
was rewarded with the Order of Merit, the Nobel Prize of Literature, and a smash hit on Broadway. 

Very well. Call these coincidences. But I beg you not to laugh, unless you can explain just why the second publisher should have dressed himself up in a woman's panties and bra one afternoon, and hanged himself from a tree in his garden. (Unfortunately, the brief report in Time did not specify the sort of tree.) Was that a blind act of God, or was it a calculated act of Goddess? I leave the answer to you; all I know is that it seemed to me natural enough in its horrid way.”

This was generally dismissed by biographers as Graves perhaps spinning some magical promotion for the book. 

However Graves scholar Grevel Lindop who also wrote a book on Charles Williams (who was an Inkling along with J RR Tolkein and C S Lewis, and also an editor at Oxford University Press) noticed that Williams’ unexpected death in 1945 would fit as that of the first publisher. He died during an emergency operation for stomach complaint 15 May 1945 – the operation presumably having caused heart failure. 

This was just ten months after he had declined Graves’ book: “thrilling description of the way the poetic mind works, and very valuable on that account…I do very profoundly regret that we can’t do it. I have said all this here, and pressed it as far as I can”.

Lindop was intrigued and wondered if the second editor could also be discovered. He considered that Graves may have confused Time and the New York Times. He asked a friend to search the New York Times archives. 

The following was found in the 20 July 1946 edition:


IRVINGTON ON HUDSON NY July 19—Alexander J. Blanton, 45 years old, a vice president of Macmillan Company, publishers, was found this afternoon hanging from a tree behind his home on Riverview Road here. Dr Amos O. Squire, Westchester medical examiner, listed the death as a "suicide while mentally disturbed."

Lindop used another personal connection who had a son who is an attorney to file a Freedom of Information request to obtain the medical examiner’s report re Blanton’s death.

This did confirm that Blanton was dressed, not in ‘panties and bra’, but fully dressed in his wife’s clothes.

Lindop and his associates thought to consult the New York Times, but missed the account in the New York Daily News.

  • “Publishing executive found dead”. New York Times, July 19, 1946.
  • “Hangs Himself in Wife’s Garb”. New York Daily News, Jul 20, 1946.
  • Grevel Lindop. “The White Goddess: Sources, Contexts, Meaning”. In Ian Firla & Grevel Lindop. Graves and the Godess: Essays on Robert Graves’s The White Goddess. Associated University Presses, 2003: 35-8.
  • David Holzer. “Vengeance of The White Goddess?”., 2024.. Online.

If we allow the idea that the White Goddess may have smited the two editors for impiety, then - as gods often do - she mis-aimed in that it was Charles Williams' boss who had rejected the book.

Blanton seems to be on the trans spectrum with the misfortune of having lived slighty too soon.  Seven years later Christine Jorgensen was in the news; a few years after that Virginia Prince had started organizing.  If Blanton had been 20 years younger there would have been the options of  socializing in meetings in New York organized by Susanna Valenti or Siobhan Fredericks.

I wonder if Blanton ever met Donald Wollheim who became an editor at Avon Books in the mid-1940s.

18 January 2024

Martine O'Leary - gay liberation activist.

Original: May 2011.

Martine was a member of Leeds Gay Liberation Front and also of the International Marxist Group. In 1974 she was active at the Third Gay Marxist Conference in Leeds and also at the First National TV.TS Conference sponsered by Leeds GLF.

She was mentioned in The Guardian report on the Conference where she was described as
"a radical drag queen at Leeds, says that he buys old dresses from Oxfam shops, wears neither make-up nor substitute breasts, and tries to shake people out of their preconception of what a man is, a woman is, or more important, what he is."

At the conference those in attendence divided into separate discussion groups, but before they dispersed, two documents were handed to each delegate:  "Competition" by Martine O'Leary and "Attitudes to homosexuality" by N S Love (about the Beaument Society's exclusion of gay persons).  It was considered that the content of these documents was so thought provoking and so excellently set down that as time did not permit the use of them as 'Discussion Topics', they should be reproduced in their entirity in the Conference report.

O'Leary in her document wrote:

" The only way in which our society can cope with us is by treating us as products - as entertainers, as drag contest entrants. It has been frequently enough observed that once a transvestite has got past the stage of only being dressed at home and wants to go public, then practically the only possible outlet is some form of participation in a commercialised scene. This, ultimately, is disastrous. I do not say it is disastrous because I am opposed to commercialism. I say it is so precisely because the commercial situation frustrates and inhibits the essence of transvestism. The transvestite pushes out her feelings, and her public situation promptly pushes them back. In the ensuing conflict, humanity starts to flow away."


"Transsexuals, who by their very nature, are forced to break the magic circle of commercialism, find their lives full of harassment and difficulties. It is important to understand that those attacks are defences of the economic system and that defending the economic system entails such attacks.  Transvestites, on this understanding, face the appalling dilemma of 'Shall I stay in the trap or shall I sink in society's hate?' " 

O'Leary also published a 16-page pamphlet that was originally a paper for the London School of Economics Gay Culture Society the same year entitled, Gay Liberation, reformism and revolution.  It is mainly a call to reclaim the revolutionary impetus of GLF which was already in 1974 being replaced by reformist groups such as Gay News and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality(CHE):
"We have to reclalm our movement from the reformists. A large critically aware Gay Movement has to come in to being out of the shambles that is GLF. This aim needs to be energetically pursued both within the existing groups and outside them.  The sort of GLF needed must have a firm social base founded perhaps on discos and so forth.  Most importantly women must play a central, indeed a determining role.  Transvestism and transsexualsm are very much part of the issue whether we like to face up to it or not, and much heightening of consciousness over that could profitably be done."
*not the Montréal choreographer.
  • Michael Parkin. "Mixed Feelings". The Guardian, 4 March 1994. Reprinted as Appendix F(i) of Conference Report: First national TV/TS Conference, Leeds, 1974: 36
  • Conference Report: First national TV/TS Conference. Leeds 1974.  Online.
  • Martine O'Leary. "Competition" included in Conference Report: First national TV/TS Conference:26-8.
  • Martine O'Leary. Gay Liberation, reformism and revolution. LSE-Gay Culture Society. Isophile Pamphlets, 16pp 1974. Online.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King. The Transgender Phenomenon. London: Thousand Oaks; California: Sage. 2006: 3.
  • Charles Smith.  The Evolution of the Gay Male Public Sphere in England and Wales, 1967-c.1983. PhD Thesis, Loughborough University, 2014: 154. Online.
  • Rob M. "Gay Marxist". Splits and Fusions, July 21, 2023.  Online.

A forgotten pioneer.  I wonder what happened to her?

Gina Chua (1960 - ) journalist

Chua was born in Singapore, educated in the Philippines, did a bachelors’s degree in mathematics at the Universityof Chicago and a master’s in journalism at Columbia University in New York. Chua worked at the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation and the Straits Times, was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Manila and Hanoi, and later served as editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal Asia and the South China Morning Post. Chua served as a senior editor for The Wall Street Journal in New York, and began working for Reuters in 2011, where Chua introduced new tools and built top-class data and graphics teams.

After earlier confiding in her boss and a few others, she transitioned, at age 60, in late 2020 while working at home during the Covid lockdown. She informed her colleagues by email, and Reuters changed her profile photo and gender on their website. Chua changed her English name from Reginald to Gina, but left her Chinese name, which she chooses to keep private, unchanged.

Following new reports about her transition, Chua has been getting emails from parents about their trans children, about themselves, and from colleagues themselves thinking about transition.

She was appointed executive editor of Reuters in April 2021, a newly created role. A year later she left Reuters to become the executive editor of Semafor, a new media startup.

In December 2023 she wrote:

If 2023 is anything to go by, 2024 will see a continued wave of attacks on trans people, driven by politicians who believe they can weaponize our existence as a wedge issue to electoral success and victory in the “culture wars.”

And if 2023 is anything to go by, I predict 2024 will continue to see many mainstream news organizations unwittingly and unquestioningly accept and adopt those right-wing frames and talking points in their coverage, contributing to falling public support for trans rights, and more broadly for LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized communities.

I hope desperately that I’m wrong. But I fear I’ll be right.”

  • “Reuters appoints Gina Chua as executive editor”. Reuters, 21 April 2021. Online.
  • Jillian Eugenios. “At the helm at Reuters, this trans executive says she's finally living in the light”. NBC News, June 1, 2020. Online.
  • Katie Robertson. “A Top Editor Becomes Her ‘True Self’ “. New York Times, June 4, 2021. Online.
  • Juwan Holmes. “Reuters’ Gina Chua is hoping to stage a future where trans people flourish in media”. LGBTG Nation, July 21, 2021. Online.

Singapore LGBT encyclopedia Wiki     EN.Wikipedia     Thomson Reuters    LinkedIn

  Muck Rack    Twitter   

11 January 2024

Stella Angel (1870 - ?) tailoress

This is the same person that I wrote about as a Patient of Austin Flint in August 2023.

The 1890s were a difficult time to be a trans woman. The first books on ‘transvestism’ would not be published until 1910 (Hirschfeld) and 1928 (Ellis). Nor were there any mutual support groups - although the secretive Cercle Hermaphroditos is said to have started in New York in 1895. There is no mention that Stella Angel met any other trans person, although the press several times compared her to the trouser-wearing Mary Walker.  And of course external estrogens were not available until over 40 years later.

She was arrested several times in various cities simply for being herself. The stories that she gave to authorities and to doctors vary and some are obviously falsifications – which is understandable for a person in her situation. 

She also gave different names: Mary Cullen, Miss Logan, Stella Angel, Estelle/a Angel, Estelle Date, Estelle Culton, Estelle Lawrence, Stella Lawrence, Viola Estella Angell. In addition she claimed that she had performed on stage as Violet Dell or Violet Deacon. Moreover, when arrested she was pressed for her male name, and gave variously Thomas Cullen (her actual birth name), Reginald Culton, Cullin or Cullon, Theodore Lawrence or Laurence.

I will most often refer to her as Cullen or Stella.


Special thanks to Ashley Sinnis and Walter Delong whose research in family and provincial records in Nova Scotia and in online newspaper files I am greatly indebted to for this account.


Thomas Cullen and his wife Mary née Turnbull of Little Habour, Pictou County, later of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, had 13 children. The child they had in 1870, they named after the father. The child had eight sisters and was frequently dressed by them in girl’s attire – to the extent that wearing men’s clothes came to feel awkward. He was also bullied at school as a sissy, even though dressed as male.

In November 1893, young Thomas visited Halifax – in male attire – and was hassled by members of the public on suspicion that he was female and the police had to intervene.

The next May, that person was again in Halifax, this time as Mary Cullen, and she was able to open a music shop. She attracted the attention of various young men, including a ‘city clubman’ who paid her rent for several weeks. However by August it had come out that her sex was maybe not as assumed, and the police became involved. Mary Cullen admitted that she had moved around the Maritimes the previous two years. She had attracted the romantic attentions of a police officer in St John, New Brunswick, and had worked as a servant girl or nurse in other towns in Nova Scotia.

Cullen acquired counsel, a Mr Bulmer, who instructed her to strike any doctor or officer who dared to inspect her body, and was asserting the right to dress as she pleased “as long as he does not shock public morality”. The counsel cited law that there was no code of dress, and that if there were “the bicycle girls on our streets can be arrested”.

Some of the young men who had expressed interest in Mary Cullen urged a cessation of the investigation, and Cullen was be sent away quietly, perhaps to Boston.

According to her later testimony, Cullen arrived in Boston 2 October that year. She enquired at police headquarters if there were any law re how to dress, and again was informed that if there were women cyclists would be stopped. Again she was popular with young men. She found lodging and work in a tailoring shop in Boston’s Back Bay as Miss Logan where she sewed coats. There was no problem at work, but a man at a neighboring business got it into his mind that she was a man after she winked back at him, and insisted that a patrolman escort her to a police station. There she was touched and bullied until she confessed to being a man, and was then taken to police headquarters. She explained that she was from Nova Scotia, and that if in men’s clothing she was hooted at and taken to be a woman. However there was no charge on which she could be held and she was allowed to leave.

On ruturning to work he was immediated dismissed for going away with a strange man, and leaving a coat half finished.  When she returned to her lodgings, the police story had preceded her and she was evicted.

In court Dec 1894, Boston
The stress of that arrest was followed by a period of sickness.  In December, on the advice of a fellow lodger, Stella entered the Temporary Home for Women, a Florence Mission, on Shawmut Avenue. She stayed four nights and was given three pounds of bread, one pound of beef and one pound of butter – to the value of 35 cents. This led to her being charged with intent to cheat and defraud in that the mission was for women only. She gave her profession as ‘tailoress”. It was put to her that she was really Reginald Cullen. She explained her position: “If I dress up in man’s garb, I am liable to arrest; if I assume a woman’s my chances are no better. I cannot see what I am to do.” The judge asserted that the case was one of fraud in taking a donation from a charity that was for women only. Bail was set at $200, which Cullen did not have. She was passed to the State Board of Lunacy and Charity for three days, then to have her hair cut short, be furnished with male clothing and sent back to Nova Scotia.

In May 1895 Cullen was on a train from Halifax to New York, but got off in Lowell, Massachusetts. She found lodging for the night, but suspicions as to her sex were roused, and the police put her in a cell for the next night. In court the day after it was established that there was no complaint against the accused, and she was sent on her way.

O’Dell’s Employment Agency in Manhattan placed Cullen, under the name of Estelle Lawrence, as a chambermaid in a hotel in the resort town of Mountaindale, Sullivan County. New York. References were supplied to the effect that Estelle had been a lady’s maid for three years to a fashionable mistress, Mrs Henry Paul, in Boston’s Back Bay or maybe Newton Heights. This went well, but Estelle found Mountaindale a dull place and went back to New York.

Estelle took to loitering in the Rambles in New York’s Central Park, flirting with any men who passed – even lifting her skirt. This attracted the attention of a park policeman who noted the unladylike nature of her behavior and arrested her. She was arrested and sent to the Mount Sinai hospital for an opinion on her sex. She then gave the name of Reginald Coulton, and repeated the claim that she had given to the O’Dell’s Employment Agency of being a lady’s maid in Boston. She also claimed to be from Ohio.

Photograph in Flint's paper
She was sent to Bellevue hospital and placed in what would later be called the Psychopathic Ward, where she was compelled to wear masculine clothes. Austin Flint, the noted Professor Emeritus of Physiology visited Bellevue and examined her. He found a scanty beard, the manner of “a silly girl”, a feminine voice and a good singing voice. He noted her disinterest in sex with either men or women. Flint returned the next day intending to make a laryngoscopic examination, but found that she had been discharged and sent to her home “in the West”. 

Stella was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, where, in the police jail, she was examined by Dr Schueller, who noted that her ‘parts’ were ‘covered with condylomata’ (warts). Again she was released.

In May 1896 Cullen travelled from Columbus to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she was again arrested, gave a male name of Theodore Laurence and spent five days in jail.

Stella was briefly in Philadelphia, and then returned to New York City, where she was presumably destitute, for – despite her conviction for fraud in Boston – she applied to a New York Florence Mission giving her name as Viola Estella Angell. She was examined by Dr Charles W Allen, formerly genito-urinary surgeon to the City Hospital. He decided “that the applicant was not a suitable subject for the mission; but, being destitute and friendless, and seemingly desirous of having the question of sex definitely settled, he was taken to Dr. Sherman's sanatorium”, which was in Yonkers. There he and a Dr Grandin saw her together “in consultation“, and a number of physicians who it was thought would be interested were invited to be present and take part in the subsequent examination”.

He later presented a paper on his inspection of her. His summary of her life prior to his meeting her is at variance with the account given above. His version states:

“In Boston he was engaged for a long time as a machine operator with a large number of girls in a factory, until, casually meeting in the streets one day a man from his native town, he was denounced as a man masquerading in female attire, and was placed under arrest. He states, however, that after he had told his story to the police, despite an examination made by the matron of the prison, he was released and went to Philadelphia, where he was employed as a female domestic and associated with women.” 

There is no mention of Stella being charged with fraud, of her arrest in New York and examination by Dr Flint, or of the arrest and examination by Dr Schueller in Columbus. Nor of the warts.

In his account:

“Fearing that he was to be compelled to put on male attire before leaving the sanatorium, he absented himself in the night, leaving behind a note, in which he promised at the earliest opportunity again to resume men's clothing and get along in the world as best he can”.

In March 1897 Dr Allen presented the case to a medical meeting, and wrote up an account for the Journal of Cutaneous and Genito-Urinary Diseases. Two months later Medical Record contained a longer account.

After that, it appears, that Stella managed to stay out of the press.

Dr Flint wrote up his 1895 examination of her for the New York Medical Journal in December 1911 but made no mention of C W Allen’s 1897 paper.

  • “Neither Man nor Woman”. Halifax Herald, 24 Aug 1894:6.
  • “Cullen as a Woman: He was so much of a success that he got all the young men in love with him”. Boston Daily Globe, August 24, 1894: 2.
  • “He used paint. Man in Woman’s Dress Puzzled Police. Objected to being searched and at last confessed sex. Worked Beside women in a tailor’s shop. None suspected identity but neighbor caught on. Culton says he has toyed with the affections of many”. Boston Daily Globe, Oct 24, 1894.
  • “Mr. or Miss? Man in woman’s dress works havoc as Station 4”. Boston Post, Oct 25, 1894.
  • “May wear what he chooses: But Reginald Culton must not masquerade for fraud”. Boston Herald, Dec 11, 1894.
  • "Mary Walker's Rival: An effeminate Nova Scotian Masquerades as a woman".  Montreal Daily Herald, October 27, 1894:5.  Online.
  • “Broke Hearts. Reginald Culton had a gay time. Had many devoted lovers while dressed as a woman. Boston policeman and doctor among them. Looked like a charming girl of 20. Received rich presents from susceptible youths”. Boston Daily Globe, Dec 11, 1894.
  • “No garb for him: As man or woman Stella gets arrested”. Boston Post, Dec 11, 1894.
  • “Stella Angel”. National Police Gazette, Jan 12, 1895 : 7.
  • “A man in skirts. Masquerades as a Woman with little success. Bluffs women but lands in the station house. How he fared in court – his antics”. Lowell Sun, May 4, 1895:1.
  • “Years in masquerade. Man arrested in New York City for wearing dresses. Had worked as a lady’s maid”. Waterbury Evening Democrat, Aug 10, 1895. Online.
  • “Reginald Culton’s woe: Magistrate Simms sends to the workhouse the man to whom no attire is proof against arrest”. New York Herald, Aug 11, 1895.
  • “Was flirting: and dressed as a woman when taken in by a heartless copper”. Saint-Paul Daily Globe, Aug 12, 1895:3.
  • “In woman’s attire: Nova Scotia arrested in New York”. Halifax Evening News, Aug 14, 1895.
  • “Stella, the new woman. Lawrence again arrested on masquerading charge. Pittsburg Officials puzzles when he told then the old story. ‘Sissy,’ as he was called in school, claimed a home in Boston”. Boston Sunday Globe, May 10, 1896: 1.
  • “In woman’s attire. This Montaindale maid turned out to be a man. Brought up as a girl – served three years as a lady’s maid, but his ex was not suspected”. Sullivan county Record, Aug 16, 1895.
  • “This man a mystery. He masqueraded as a woman and was arrested in Pittsburg. His strange story”. Philadelphia Inquirer, May 10, 1896.
  • “Theodore’s woe. Once more arrested while in female attire. Said his name was Stella. Told same old story of life-long misery. Arrested several times”. Boston Post, May 11, 1896:16.
  • C W Allen. “A case of Psycho-sexual Hermaphroditism”. Journal of Cutaneous and Genito-Urinary Diseases, March 9,1897 :235, Online.
  • C W Allen. “Report of a Case of Psycho-Sexual Hermaphroditism”. Medical Record, 51,9, May 8, 1897. Online.
  • Elizabeth Reis. Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009: 63-6.

Reis summarises the account in Medical Record, but nothing at all about Flint’s paper.


  • Austin Flint. “A Case of Sexual Inversion, Probably with Complete Sexual Anaesthesia,” New York Medical Journal, 94, 23, December 2, 1911: 1111.
  • Edward Podolsky. “Transvestism” in Encyclopedia Of Aberrations - A Psychiatric Handbook. Philosophical Library, 1953: 531. Revised as “Introduction” to Transvestism Today: The Phenomena of Men Who Dress as Women. Epic Publishing Co Ltd, 1960: 12.
  • George Chauncy. Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, , and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940. Basic Books, 1994: 98.
  • Leila J Rupp. A desired past : a short history of same-sex love in America. The University of Chicago Press, 1999: 82-4.

Podolsky, Chauncy and Rupp mention Flint’s paper, but say nothing about either of Allen’s papers.


Stella’s lawyer in Halifax in 1893, a Mr Bulmer, was likely John Thomas Bulmer (1845-1901) a lawyer, librarian and social reformer who started as a Conservative, but later advocated for prohibition, female suffrage, equal pay and a fairer distribution of wealth; and successfully fought against the exclusion of black children from Halifax public schools and mentored James Robinson Johnston, the first black lawyer in Nova Scotia. Dictionary of Canadian Biography


Knowing of her arrests in 1894 and 1895, we can be sure that Stella’s claim of being a lady’s maid to Mrs Henry Paul (apparently a real person) was not true. In addition, either she equivocated or the journalists fumbled – in either case Boston’s Back Bay is right down town while Newton is a suburb to the west of the city.

In several news articles the male name is given as Reginald Culton rather than Cullen. Culton and Cullen are different names, and different families, although I am informed by Ashley that later there was intermarriage between the two.

While it seems that Stella was actually born in 1870, she often claimed 1874.

I presume that Dr Schueller gave Stella an ointment for the warts as they are not mentioned by Dr Allen.

Stella claimed that she left Mountaindale as it was ‘dull’. There is another possibility. Some male guests regard chambermaids as fair game, and so it is quite possible that Stella left before a persistent guest revealed her sex.

Columbus, Ohio passed a municipal law against cross-dressing in 1848. Was Stella arrested there under that law?

Halifax, Boston, New York, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia – unlike many US municipalities - did not have local laws against cross-dressing.