This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1200 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing - especially in the year-end summaries (see links in right sidebar.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

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 page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

29 April 2013

Julian Schutting (1937 - ) academic, poet.

Jutta Schutting was born in Amstetten in Lower Austria. In despair at being female she attempted suicide at 16.

She trained as a photographer and then read history and German at Vienna University. From 1965 to 1987 she was a college teacher.

From 1973 Schutting was a published writer of prose, poetry and philosophy. In 1989 he transitioned to male. He did this to realize "Übereinstimmung mit meinem lebenslangen Lebensgefühl (my lifelong sense of life)“ and also said: "Ich werde ein bißchen mehr der Mann, der ich schon immer gewesen bin. ('I'm a little more of the man I've been always been)".

Julian has won several prizes for his novels.
  • Harriet Murphy (ed) Critical Essays on Julian Schutting, Riverside CA, Ariadne Press, 2000.
  • "Dichter Julian Schutting ist heute 75". NOE, 25.20.2012. http://noe.orf.at/news/stories/2556037.
DE.WIKIPEDIA       IMDB     GOODREADS

27 April 2013

Christine White (1949 - ) construction boss, bank robber

Anatoli Misura was born in Belgium to Ukrainian refugees, who later ran a dairy farm in Mont St. Grégoire, Quebec. By age 18 Anatoli was reading about and identifying with transsexuals. He trained as a mechanical designer and worked as a manager of a construction crew, and was married for seven years.

She transitioned as Christine White in 1993, reportedly spending $60,000. She had genital surgery with Dr Michel Seghers in Brussels, a nose job, breast implants and three operations on her vocal cords. She was then unable to obtain work in the construction industry. She worked a little in Edmonton, Alberta as an escort and manicurist.

However she felt that she was entitled to recompense. She robbed 31 banks across Canada taking an estimated total of $80,000 between May 1997 in Edmonton and November 1998 when she held up the Scotiabank in the Quinte Mall, Belleville, Ontario, and was pursued in a high-speed chase.

Her initial approach was to disguise as a man, and pass the teller a note from a day-timer book. Sometimes she had a fake bomb. The robber was described as an effeminate man, or a masculine woman in men's clothes: the Toronto Police referred to her as the Unisex Bandit. However the police had been looking for a man, and she was living as a woman.

After a protracted trial during which White successively fired five lawyers, she pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to eleven years minus three for pre-trial custody. In Burnaby prison and then Joliette prison outside Montréal, psychological counselling brought out her feelings of persecution. She studied computers and construction health and safety. She also sued her arresting officers for assault, the doctors who initially treated her after her arrest, and Legal Aid Ontario when it refused to finance her suits. She befriended notorious killer Karla Homolka.

She was granted parole in 2007.

*Not the racing commissioner, nor the actor, nor the anthropologist.
  • Don Campbell. "Transvestite arrested in robbery rampage: Gender-bender allegedly looted 31 banks in two years". The Ottawa Citizen, 20 Nov 1998.
  • "Unisex robber pleads guilty in bank heist". Kingston Whig-Standard, 18 Sep 1999.

25 April 2013

Rejoinder to Kay Brown 2: the gynephilics

See also A Rejoinder to Kay Brown's What is a Transsexual?

Kay’s description of typical gynephilic transsexuals is:

“The prototypical autogynephilic transsexual was accepted as a boy as a child.  She was often a “loner”, finding her hobbies and reading to be more rewarding, but still willing and ready to participate in rough & tumble play.  She often envied girls and observed them more often than most masculine boys.  As she entered puberty, she began erotic cross-dressing in private, often masturbating while dressed, usually with lingerie.  She found this shameful and hid her cross-dressing as best she could.  She entertained thoughts of living as a woman, often in very idealized situations.  As a young adult, she dated women, often finding it necessary to imagine that she was female to “perform”.  She typically hid this fact from her dates.  She fell in love and found that the previously growing desire to live as a woman abated for a while.  She married and had children.  Her need to cross-dress and use autogynephilic ideation grew, as the first blush of their romance matured into committed love.  She agonized about it obsessively, trying alternatively to push it out of her thoughts and trying to appease it by cross-dressing.  At one point, perhaps in her early 30s, or in her late 50s, a set-back or other significant personal change brought all of these feelings to the fore… and she made the fateful decision that she could no longer ignore her sexuality.  After having tried to ignore the cognitive dissonance between her successful social identity as a man, husband, and father, and her obligatory autogynephilic image of being female, concluded that the female image is her “true” image.  She then made steps to begin counseling with a gender therapist, obtained prescription for feminizing hormones, and then began the painful steps to living full time as a “transsexual”, since she didn’t pass very well and had too many social connections who know of her previous status as a man to be truly stealth.  She had SRS within a short time of nominally living as a woman, as she was impatient, feeling like she had waited long enough in her previous life as a man.  Her wife may or may not have demanded a divorce.”

Just as the previous type had to be ‘homosexual transsexual’ rather than just ‘androphilic’, this type must be ‘autogynephilic’ rather than just ‘gynephilic’.  I find it very difficult to accept that an entire category of people should be defined by the details of how they masturbate.  In addition to the common sense rejection of the notion, as a historian I also know that I rarely have information of how people masturbate.

What I do have though is mention that people marry and have children.  Thus I can identify gynephilic persons who later progress to being women.   There are many of these, more than gay transsexuals.  As more people are heterosexual and not gay, it is not a surprise that more trans women previously had a wife than previously had a husband.  Some examples of transsexuals known to be gynephilic before transition:  Jan Morris, Rennee Richards, Katherine Cummings, Gloria Hemingway, Jane Fae, Nancy Hunt, Rachel Webb, Susan Huxford, Judy Cousins; a surprisingly large number of the better known HBS women: Rose White, Cathryn Platine, Jennifer Usher, Tabatha Basco; and the soi-disant or professional autogynephiles: Anne Lawrence, Willow Arune, Maxine Petersen.

Are these women autogynephilic as opposed to gynephilic, now or pre-surgery? I certainly would not say that, and I really don’t think that Blanchard or Brown would come out and say it either, although their theoretical position implies that they should be willing to say that.  But if they are not willing to say that, what does it mean to say that late transitioners are autogynephilic?

Aspersions have been cast against a few of the women, the term ‘autogynephile’ has become an insult term, especially from the HBS women whom others suspect of trying to divert attention from themselves, but where something has been said about a person it is rarely other than hearsay, and as such not admissible as evidence.

It is common sense that cis men and cis women vary in the degree that they are aroused by being the man or the women that they are.  This is particularly intense in teenagers after puberty.  If we are to have concepts such as autogynephilia and autoandrophilia then the concepts should be applied to cis persons as well.  There has been a small amount of investigation of cis autogynephilia in recent years, but the Blanchardians are still in the situation of applying the term to trans women without any idea of how the phenomenon manifests in cis women.  Brown poo-poos a study done by Charles Moser who used a semi-Blanchardian approach to the question.

Brown and Blanchard reject the idea that there is such a thing as cis autogynephilia, because if there were, trans autogynephilia would also be normal.

Brown and Blanchard take the abnormality of trans autogynephilia even further.  They regard it as a subtype of Erotic Target Location Error (ETLE).  The other two types that they identify are autopedophilia and the desire to be an amputee.  It is of course heterosexist to assume that the correct erotic target for a person born male is an woman of similar age.  It is sexist to insist that there is any correct erotic target.  Nature is full of variations and gynephilic transsexuality is as natural as homosexuality.

Their heterosexism also comes out when Brown criticizes the “obvious lack of naturally feminine behavior” in gynephilic trans women – she writes as if the feminist critique of the social construction of artificial femininity had never happened.

In summary, the concept is not at all useful to anybody writing biographical and history essays.

See also:  A Blanchard-Binary Timeline
          What is Autogynephilia?

23 April 2013

A rejoinder to Kay Brown’s “What is a Transsexual?”


Last week Kay Brown, the one-time author of Transsexual, Transgender, and Intersex History (which she later took down) and pioneer in liquid crystal displays who has become the major lay advocate of the Blanchard binary, posted a short and straightforward account of that two-type model.  For those who would like to read a succinct and uncritical account of Blanchardianism I would recommend it.  It is probably the best such account.
This is Kay’s description of a “homosexual transsexual”:
“The prototypical feminine androphilic (“homosexual”) transsexual was called a “sissy” by her peers growing up.  She avoided rough & tumble activities.  Her primary social circle consisted of one or two girls.  She actively participated in girls games and imaginary play.  Her parents were embarrassed by her femininity, and may or may not have sought professional help in trying to discourage her behavior.  As a young teen, she became interested in girls fashion and make-up, often exploring how she might look as a girl by dressing up and experimenting with make-up.  This did not, of course, involve erotic cross-dressing.  She had crushes on boys at school.  Her peers thought she might be homosexual.  She was hassled, perhaps even bullied, by homophobic boys, but otherwise was reasonably popular in her chosen circle.  She was considered very neat and well dressed in boy’s clothes.  She sought out opportunities to interact with small children and infants, taking on babysitting jobs.  As she approached adulthood, looking at her own nature, her potential future, both romantic and economic, made a rational decision to transition to living as a girl so as to grow up to be a woman socially.  Her family may or may not have disowned her in late adolescence.  As she is naturally feminine and passes quite well, she found that she was socially and romantically more successful as a woman.  She actively dated men while pre-op, but assiduously avoided direct contact with her penis, finding that emotionally uncomfortable.  Being young and lacking capital, she lived several years as a woman, taking feminizing hormones, before having SRS to improve her sex life, replacing genitalia that she didn’t use with those that she did.  She may or may not have found a husband and adopted children.”
You may care to compare this description with Kay’s autobiographical sketch that she provided for TS Roadmap at a time when she and Andrea James were on better terms.  You will notice that the two accounts are similar.  It is always easier to believe in a theory that matches your own life experience.

The distinctive characteristic of Kay’s life is that she was an early transitioner.  Other such are April Ashley, Caroline Cossey, Diane Kearny, Rachel Harlow, Suzan Cooke, Margaret O’Hartigan, Matene, Romy Haag, Hedy Jo Star, Kim Petras,  Veronique RenardLauren Foster etc.   While many of these persons acquired a husband at some point in their life, I would not describe any of them as ‘homosexual’.  Their quickly abandoned male persona did not either have a male lover or indulge in gay sex.

On the other hand there are gay transsexuals, many of whom are not early transitioners.   This is a common pattern among trans men, many of whom spend some years as lesbians, often gaining a female lover who stays with them when they become men.  Similarly many trans women spend some time as gay men on their way to womanhood:  Jennifer North, Poppy Cooper, myself, Roz Kaveney, Dawn Langley Simmons.    ++And there is Susan Cannon, science historian, who went to Dr Biber at age 55 after decades of sex with men.

Kay Brown embraces the Blanchardian model because it matches her life experience; I reject it because there is nowhere in it for me or anyone like me.  And, unlike Kay, I made the mistake of actually applying to the Clarke Institute, as it then was.  They did not know how to categorize me.   I was then 36 and working in computers so they therefore presumed that I was autogynephilic – except that there was a problem in that I had a husband.  Their solution was to refuse me all help, to ignore my husband and tell me that I would meet a woman and change direction !!!

The two groups that I have just summarized, the early transitioning trans women and trans women who spend some time as gay men on their way to womanhood are obviously two different types of trans women – that is if you want to divide us into types.

However Kay insists on labelling the former group as ‘homosexual transsexuals’.  This is obviously confusing.  Blanchard uses the term as he is working in the tradition of cis sexologists who have been doing that for over a century now.  These sexologists also refer to trans women as ‘male transsexuals’ and trans men as ‘female transsexuals’.   John Randell in the 1960s and 1970s upset many of his mtf patients by referring to them as ‘he’ and saying to them ‘you’ll always be a man’.  Even Harry Benjamin in The Transsexual Phenomenon refers to trans women as ‘male transsexuals’ and trans men as ‘female transsexuals’.   This terminology of course reveals that the very sexologists who were arranging surgery for trans patients did not actually accept that transgender surgery constitutes a gender change.  It is also downright rude.  For many years Ray Blanchard was urged to say ‘androphilic’ rather than ‘homosexual’ for heterosexual trans women, but would not do so.  The transkids.us site, previously edited by Kiira Triea and now by Kay, includes a defense of this refusal to be more descriptive and polite.  Trans activists have been talking to the professionals for some time and many are now using more polite language.  Kay is obviously sensitive to this issue and uses the cumbersome ‘strictly homosexual with respect to their natal sex’ rather than simply ‘homosexual’, but like Kiira refuses to drop the word.

However there is a bigger issue: The ongoing erasure of gay transsexuals.   In 1966 Benjamin accepted Virginia Prince’s typology of transvestites as Pseudo, Fetishistic or True (Femmiphilic) which eliminated all gay transvestites.  Vern Bullough systematically ignored all transvestites and transsexuals who had male lovers. Blanchard and Brown misapply the term ‘homosexual transsexual’ to early transitioners, and thus totally ignore the existence of trans women who spend some time as gay men.  Excuse me for protesting, but I feel that for most of my life sexologists have been telling me that I do not exist.

See also Rejoinder to Kay Brown 2: the Gynephilics.

____________________________________________________________

There are other important aspects that I could bring up including the crude positivism of Blanchard’s axioms; the disinterest in different types of homosexuality;  the biased selection by taking as subjects only those trying to get approval under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan so that it will pay for surgery; the disinterest in other theorists such as Frederick Whitam; the disinterest in history; the rudeness of the concept of autogynephilia and even more so of that of Erotic Target Location Errors;  the equivocation between behavioural criteria and identity criteria.  I will return to some of these, but today I am just doing the above.

++See also my discussion of Anne Vitale's similar typology.

22 April 2013

Harvey Goodwin (1912 – 1992) performer

Harvey Wilson Goodman was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. He suffered from tuberculosis from an early age. He was interested in theatre and his father made a makeshift stage for him out of canvas and drapery.

After he graduated from high school in 1930, he quickly made his way to Washington, DC where he was employed as a clerk in the Bureau of Public Health. He also studied music and dance, and built up a female wardrobe. He first appeared as a female impersonator at a dance recital in 1933.

The City Slicker, 1936
He resigned from the Bureau of Public Health in 1934 when he was hired by Club Richmond in New York City, where he adopted the stage name of Harvey Lee. Lee played the part of a female performer in a Warner Bros-Vitaphone movie, The City Slicker. He was billed as the male Jean Harlow.

However in 1936 he was rushed to hospital with a 104-degree fever and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was in a sanatorium until 1941. Harvey then returned to Arkansas and worked as a clerk at an army base.

Word got out about his show-biz experience and he was coaxed to perform, which his drag persona did in 1942 at the Arkansas Ordnance Plant to a capacity crowd of 5000 with two full orchestras. He did three more victory balls.  In 1943 he moved to San Francisco and became a performer at Finocchio's night club. In 1945 Harvey acquired a white borzoi (Russian wolfhound) whom he then featured in his act. He toured with the Jewel Box Revue, performed at the My-Oh-My club in New Orleans and the Moroccan Village in New York, and won first prize for female
impersonation at the 1952 Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.

In 1952 he had another bout of tuberculosis. Until 1957 he worked in clerical positions in New York. Harvey Lee performed on stage in France and Germany, but he returned to clerical work again the next year. In 1964 Lee returned to Finocchio's to be the MC, and then worked sporadically in California. He retired in 1984.

After the 1989 San Francisco earthquake Goodwin returned to Little Rock, where he was honored as a judge of the Miss Gay Arkansas Pageants.

He died at age 81.

18 April 2013

Les Lee (1929 – 2010) performer.

Les Lee from Québec became a female impersonator at age 19, emigrated to Paris in 1954 and stayed there for the rest of his life.

A glamorous performer Les Lee worked many years at Le Carrousel and frequently appeared in Japan and West Germany. He worked with Australian Tracey Lee as the Dolly sisters, and was like a big sister to April Ashley: he translated for her, found accommodation for her and went to visit when she had surgery:
Les Lee, Margaret Lockwood, April Ashley, 1957
"Les was always enormously kind to me. He had all the old-fashioned vices, but all the old-fashioned virtues too. He sent money home to his parents every month. He saved, had a budget for everything, made all his own dresses, sewed every sequin on himself.”

His début in England was in Paul Raymond's Birds of a Feather, 1970, a show that was ahead of its time.

Les Lee designed and modelled a collection of women's cloths with some success, such that the models union was able to persuade the French Government to pass a law forbidding female impersonators working as models.

He died at age 81.
  • Desmond Montmorency. The Drag Scene: The Secrets of Female Impersonators. London: Luxor Press. 1970: 96-7.
  • Peter Kenna and Steve J. Spears. Drag Show. Woollahra, N.S.W: Currency Press, 1977: 67.
  • Anthony Slide. Great pretenders: a history of female and male impersonation in the performing arts. Lombard, Ill.: Wallace-Homestead Book Co, 1986: 46.
  • April Ashley with Douglas Thompson. The First Lady. London: Blake. 383pp. 2006: 82, 86-8, 96, 98-9, 101, 103, 106, 114-6, 125, 132, 191.
  • "Drag History Diva-Les Lee" A Day with the Mistress Borghese, January 23, 2011. http://mistressmaddie.blogspot.ca/2011/01/drag-history-diva-les-lee.html.

16 April 2013

A review of Kris Kirk & Ed Heath - Men in Frocks, 1984

There are three books on trans people in the UK in the 1980s: this book, Richard Ekins' Male Femaling and Liz Hodgkinson's Body Shock.  I have all three side by side on my shelf.  Each book focuses on a different group:  Hodgkinson on SHAFT, Ekins on the Beaumont Society and Kirk and Heath on the TV/TS group.  Somehow this results in no one person appearing in more than one book, although in reality there was migration among the three groups - for example we have seen that Janette Scott moved from the executive of the TV/TS group to the executive of the Beaumont Society.

Christopher Pious Mary Kirk (1950 – 1993) was a journalist for Gay News in the early 1980s. Later he was an openly gay music journalist writing for Melody Maker, The Guardian and other publications. In 1984 he published Men In Frocks, with photographs by his lover Ed Heath. In 1986, Channel 4 television broadcast a documentary-drama about Kris Kirk entitled A Boy Called Mary. In 1988 Kris and Ed moved to rural Wales to open a bookshop, but three years later Kris found that he had Aids. He went blind in 1992, and died in 1993. Other works: A Boy Called Mary: Kris Kirk's Greatest Hits, 1990 - a collection of his music journalism.

  • Kris Kirk with photographs by Ed Heath. Men In Frocks. London: Gay Men's Press 1984.


Note: this book was written in the early 1980s and thus, inevitably, it does not conform to the expectations of the 2010s.   The title was perhaps ill-chosen even then.   Kris, several times in the book has to apologize that a person (Poppy Cooper, Roz Kaveney, Letitia Winter) is not a man in a frock, they having become a woman.  However the book is of major historical interest, and many of its observations are still valid.



Introduction

Kris asks where you would have looked if you wanted to wear drag in the 1940s?
"Well, if you were lucky enough to be on one of the few gay grapevines - and the right gay grapevine at that - you might hear of a secret party in somebody's private home where you could slip on a frock on arrival and slip it off again when you left.  There was little else. ... So what happened between then and now? What triggered off the rise of drag in Britain?"  
His answer is that
"The evolution of modern drag goes hand in glove with the increased visibility of those gay men who not only enjoy debunking the traditional male image, but also enjoy doing it in public."
Vivian Namaste has claimed that the pioneering for trans people was mainly done by sex workers, but has declined to provide a supporting narrative for her claim.  Kris' claim for the pioneering by gays is found in this book.

The Chorus Queens

Following the Second World War a venue of sorts did open up for the isolated few who wanted something other than the stereotyped male role.  In California Louise Lawrence was introducing trans women to each other, as was Marie André Schwidenhammer in Paris.  However in Britain the only option was the soldiers-in skirts revues, and of course to get into those you had to have some inclination, if not actual talent, towards singing and dancing, although you did not have to have actually served in the forces. The first such show was actually a US import, Irving Berlins' This is the Army, which played the London Palladium for four nights in 1944.  The going wage in the British versions was £6 or £7 a week and half of that went on draughty digs where they sometimes had to share four-to-a-bed.  We have already noted Poppy Cooper whose path to womanhood was via these revues. Other performers included Terry Gardener and Canadian Loren Lorenz.  Shelley Summers did drag while with HM forces in Burma until 1947 (for which he got sergeant's stripes) but did not join any soldiers-in-skirts revue because of family, but did become a drag performer in the 1960s.  While most books on either theatre or on cross-dressing barely pay any attention to these shows, Kris points out that while Lena Horne could not fill the Theatre Royal in Leeds, Men in Frocks played to capacity houses; Sophie Tucker's box-office record at the Golders Green Empire held for years until it was broken by Forces Showboat.  There was a significant difference from the drag acts of the 1930s such as Bartlett & Ross or Ford & Sheen and the pantomime dames all of whom had been doing cod drag, that is being funny.  Terry Gardener, who was in the first We Were in the Forces in 1944, explained:
"The general idea of the first show was to put men into dresses to make them look dreadful, but that soon started to change because the audience liked the prettiest ones best" - which much suited the performers. 
Most were gay:
 "Heterosexuals? In the choruses?  I can't say I ever met any.  I guess it was possible" - Loren Lorenz. 
 Men who were not queens were 'hommes' ('omnies' in Polari).  A surprising number of omnies wanted to bed the queens, but
"If you ever suggested to an homme in those days that he was homosexual, even bisexual, he would have killed you" - Poppy Cooper.

Did somebody say: what about Gillies, Dillon, Cowell?  They don't fall within the pervue of this book.  Not only were none of them gay, and to be a trans patient of Gillies you had to be the child of either one of England's top doctors or of a Baron.  Anyway he stopped after two patients.  Hoi polloi need not apply.  

Gay Paree and the Sea Queens

By the mid-1950s the forces drag shows had run their course, and the audiences were no longer coming - many of them had acquired televisions.  There were other things happening that were a bit of a surprise to the queens: those who took being female more seriously.  There were stories in the press: Christine Jorgensen, Bobbie Kimber, Roberta Cowell.  

Basically the show queens had nowhere to turn to.  The few exceptions were Terry Gardener who partnered with Barri Chat and found work in regular variety shows, as did Phil Starr and Terry Dennis.  Danny Carrol changed his name to La Rue and in 1955 started a residency at Winston's Club in Mayfair that lasted for six years.  Mrs Shufflewick pursued an idiosyncratic career on the wireless and also did eight seasons at the Windmill Theatre - many of her audience took her to be a woman. However Roy Alvis, not finding any drag work, became a meat porter at Smithfield Market until the pub drag boom in the late 1960s.  Some like Poppy Cooper went to Paris where Le Carrousel and Chez Madam Arthur were hiring.  Tommy Osborne remembers
"I liked Paris, but I wasn't too happy in the show.  I was a singer and I used to go out there and belt out the numbers big and loud and forget about being in drag, but most of the audience was there purely for the sensation of seeing boys with tits.  The boys were all incredibly beautiful.   But they just couldn't do anything, bless them."   
1953-4 was a particularly good time to not be in England.  In addition to the Coronation, David Maxwell-Fyfe, Home secretary 1951-4, and John Nott-Bower, Commission of Scotland Yard(1953-8), under US pressure and in the shadow of the Guy Burgess defection to Moscow, started a purge of homosexuals.  In 1953, the actor John Gielgud, the writer Rupert Croft-Cooke and the MP William Field were all convicted.  In 1954 Edward Montagu, Lord of Beaulieu, the writer Peter Wildeblood and Michael Pitt-Rivers were convicted and imprisoned.  On release Rupert Croft-Cooke moved to Morocco, and drag entertainer Ron Storme worked in Tunisia.  

The other destination for show queens was the merchant navy.  Lorri Lee recalls:
"The sea was an ideal life for queens in those days.  There were hundreds of us, literally.  Competition was very stiff if you wanted an homme.  ... The Sea Queens were all drag queens and had a frock tucked away, just in case.  We did shows on a little stage on the ship: the crews got the dirty version, while the passengers got the cleaned up version."  
On layovers in London, a popular place to stay was Stella Minge's.  Other sea queens were Loren Lenz and Yvonne Sinclair.

However there were drag gatherings in Britain that were not bothered by the police, such as Blackpool at Easter, and the Vic-Wells Costume Balls (Old Vic and Sadler's Wells) although it had signs posted saying "No Drag Allowed", and later the Chelsea Arts Ball, which had a similar sign.

The Pub Queens

There was very little pub drag before 1960 except for a few tolerant, mainly straight, pubs in the East End, such as the Bridge House (which later became a heavy metal/punk/goth pub) in Canning TownThrough the 1960s the number of pubs doing drag increased.  Roy Alvis returned to doing drag, although he was arrested by the police for doing so more than once.   Gay men started going to drag shows in straight pubs in that that was a good way to meet gay men.

The drag scene was helped by the various youth homeovestic fashions - the Teddy Boys, The Mods, the Rockers - which opened up clothing options so that short-back-and-sides, jacket and tie were no longer so overwhelmingly demanded
.  The iconography was upended in the mid 1960s, following the Beatles and the Stones when long hair on men became acceptable.  Swinging London came and went, as did the Permissive Society.   Drag was never central to either but it benefited from the further loosenings of required dress.  The first edition of Roger Baker's  book Drag: a history of female impersonation on the stage came out in 1968.

In London, the Union Tavern, the Vauxhall Tavern and Black Cap became established as drag venues.  A similar situation happened in Manchester, where the Union Tavern was the place.   Danny La Rue opened his own club in 1964, performed for royalty and for a while was Britain's highest paid performer.  Gays who were not queens were arguing in public for changes in the law, and the law really was changed in 1967 as part of a liberal package from the Labour Party which included abortion and divorce law reform.  While a significant number of the drag performers did continue their journey and become women, the majority did not.

On p48 Kris notes that

"Whatever their reason for donning drag in the first place, dragging up soon became 'just a job' for most of the regular Pub Queens.  One of the many ironies of professional drag is that, for many performers, what began as a giggle or as a pleasure soon became a chore.  And then drag queens come to realise what women have always known: that the fun of dressing up quickly evaporates when you feel obliged to do it." 
Another change in the 1960s was the innovation of miming to records.  The act Alvis and O'Dell are credited with being the first when they mimed to Susan Maughan singing Bobby's Girl, a 1962 single that went to number 3 in the UK and number six in Norway.  Alvis and O'Dell were then one of the hottest acts in town -- until every body else got a tape recorder.

Kris. a gay man who loves drag, but was unhappy about what the pub scene had become,  finishes the pub chapter with a regretful survey:

"I have spoken to drag performers who have been genuinely hurt at the suggestion that they are satirising women because they feel  - however mistakenly - that they are paying homage to their female idols; and while there are Diana Rosses and Shirley Basses in this world I cannot see how they will ever be dissuaded of this.  ... There are also drag acts like Dave Dale who consider themselves to be character actors who do caricatures of both men and women.  There are acts who are still doing the pregnant bride routine which they were doing twenty years ago.  And there are acts which prey on the basest instincts of their audience, perpetuating the notion that women smell like fish and that black men swing from trees.  What the latter acts do is unforgivable and I prefer to reserve my venom for them and those unthinking audiences of gay men who appear to share their brute misogyny and racism."
The Ball Queens

The problem with the Chelsea Arts Ball was that officially drag was not permitted, and if you did not pass well, or drew attention, there was a risk of being ejected.  By the mid-1960s there were balls that were really drag balls.  After trying different locations the Porchester Hall was selected as the place.  Prominent among the organizers were Jean Fredericks and Ron Storme.  At first most of those who went thought of themselves as drag queens,   A fair number of them didn't bother at first with female underwear, and in fact would rush home afterwards to change and then go out to pick up a bloke. But then they realized that there are lots of men who went to went to the balls to pick them up, and that these men expected them to be wearing stockings and frilly knickers. (1)

As the balls continued, those better described as transvestites or transsexuals starting coming.

"The drag queens thought the TVs were peculiar for wanting to dress like an ordinary woman does, and the TVs thought it peculiar that the queens like to go over the top.   In those days you could always tell them apart by the clothes.  -- Ron Storme

TV and TS (2)


In this chapter Kris discusses the differences between DQ, TV and TS.  The stereotypes, and that many do not fit the stereotypes.  He concludes:

"If there is any one lesson to be learned from studying this field it is that the individual is individual.  People define themselves and the self-definition must always takes priority over the received wisdom.   I have met self-defined draq queens whom others would describe as TV either because they enjoy 'passing'; or because they 'dress' so often that it could be seen as a compulsion; or because they wear lingerie, either to turn men on or to make themselves feel sensuous.  I have met drag performers who have grown to dislike drag, and men who insist on being called 'cross-dressers' because they dislike what the word 'drag' stands for, and men who wear part-drag in order to create confusion and doubt amongst others, but who would never wear full drag because that would defeat their object.  I know self-defined TVs who are gay or bisexual or oscillating, some of them having learned to cross this sexuality barrier through their cross-dressing.  I have met TVs  who dress like drag queens and drag queens who dress like TVs, and TVs whose cross-dressing has encouraged them to question their 'male role', which in turn has made them examine their idea of 'femininity'.  And perhaps most important of all, I have learned how marshy a terrain is the middle ground between our earlier clear-cut distinction between transvestites and transexuals."

Theatrics

Until 1968 theatres had to obtain a license for each production from the Lord Chamberlain.  This was of course inimical to innovation.  John Osborne's A Patriot For Me at the Royal Court Theatre in 1965 was banned because of the drag ball scene – it became a private theatre club to continue the performance.  The previous year, Douglas Druce, whose imitation of Elizabeth Windsor was regarded as stunning, was invited to close the first half at a show called Sh... at the New Century Theatre in Notting Hill Gate.  This was met by great applause, in that Druce had got HRH absolutely right.  The next night the Lord Chamberlain in person appeared and would close the theatre if the scene were not cut.  (3)

The Lord Chamberlain also did not approve of any drag shows.  Chris Shaw managed to get some staged by disguising them as Old Tyme Music Hall.

The 1970s, however, were very different. Tim Curry got the role of his life in The Rocky Horror Show which opened in 1972.  Lindsay Kemp opened Flowers, based on Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers at the Edinburgh Festival in 1974.  The Cocteau inspired Grande Eugene appeared at the Roundhouse.

The US histories tell us how San Francisco's Cockettes were such a flop in New York.   The same thing happened to the Ballet Trocadero and the Cycle Sluts from the US and the Australian Simon and Monique's Playgirls Revue when they came to London.  However Hot Peaches were successful and an inspiration to the Brixton Faeries and Bloolips.   Divine played the warden in Women Behind Bars, 1976. Hinge and Bracket started their career.


The Rad Drag Queens

London Gay Liberation Front was established in 1970.   At first there was no drag.

"It started with jellabas and kaftans and long hair and flowers ... then we discovered glitter ... and the nail varnish.  Later some of us - a quarter of the men, I'd say, at some time or other - would get a nice new frock for the next Gay Lib dance.  Then a few people began wearing it to meetings.  It just evolved." -- Michael James.
It then became street theatre, notably the Miss Trial demo outside the Old Bailey in support of the women who were on trial for disrupting the Miss World contest, and then the disruption of the 1971 Christian Festival of Light. Some GLF queens wore drag because it felt right, some for fun and some for political reasons.   

Generally the queens were living in communal squats and in poverty in Brixton and in Notting Hill, and wore drag all day every day. They aligned themselves with lesbians against the masculine gay men who were dominating the GLF meetings. When the women finally split from GLF in February 1972, the Rad Fems began to dominate at the All-London meetings at All Saints Hall in Powis Square, which was a bit intimidating for newcomers.

However the RadFems also demonstrated against the launch of the feminist magazine Spare Rib, which allowed The Sunday Times to run an article on the irony of feminist men telling women how they should behave. The fledging Gay News used this to disassociate from what they referred to as 'fascists in frocks'. The initial issues of Gay News were hostile to GLF in general and even more so to the queens.


There was also a Transvestite, Transsexual and Drag Queen group which met separately.


And Now?

The 1970s and 1980s had a lot of drag on record and stage: David Bowie and Boy George.  The punks initially went to gay bars because they weren't accepted anywhere else, and some of the gay bars evolved into punk bars.   The New Romantics and the Blitz crowd came and went.

Kris provides a profile of many who were active in the 1980s.

Endpiece

"In general, people do not like complexity.  That is why when they come across something like transvesting they look to science to provide them with cut and dried answers.  But science, for all its valuable contributions to understanding, has little to tell us about the human spirit.  To learn about that you have to talk to and observe human beings.  If the people in this book are saying anything at all with one voice, it is that there is no overall psychological compulsion for cross-dressing. There is nothing that the men we have spoken to have in common except that they dress in the clothes associated with the opposite sex.  They are the most extraordinarily  wide range of people, they see all sorts of different reasons for why they dress, and they dress in all sorts of ways.  We are left, as we always knew that we would be, with more questions than answers.  This might appear confusing, but of course confusion is what drag is all about.  And confusion can be a very valuable tool, because when people are confused, they are sometimes obliged to think.  And perhaps the more they think about it, the more they will find an understanding of why men sometimes discover a wish or a need to play sometimes at being 'not-men'."

_________________________________________________________________________________

(1) Indifference to underwear can be argued either way 1) that it is a marker of a lack of a female gender identity; 2) that it is marker of a non-erotic gender identity. Either way it is not confined to self-identified drag queens -- see Felicity Chandelle.  Also some cis women insist on sexy underwear, while other choose what is practical.

(2) We have already seen Virginia Prince's unlikely claim to have coined the abbreviations TV and TS.   I think that their use here demonstrates  that they are the obvious abbreviations and were arrived at independently by different people.

(3) This of course is long before Helen Mirren essayed the part.

April Ashley, while androphilic, is not featured here because she did not go to any of the places discussed.

None of the people in this book appear in any book by Vern Bullough.  It was realizing that that led me to perceive the systematic exclusion of gay/androphilic trans persons from Bullough's work.


Probably Ray Blanchard would regard these persons as "homosexual transsexuals" as he uses the term, although many of them defy his stereotyping.  However he never does discuss work by other writers outside a small circle of psychologists.   The one person in the world who does self-identity as a "homosexual transsexual" in the Blanchardian sense, ie Kay Brown, is not such that she would would be featured in this book even if she were British.  In the autobiographical accounts that she has published there is no mention of participating in gay events, nor does she express similar sentiments to the ones found in this book.


Like - well actually very unlike - Darryl Hill's Trans Toronto, this book is an oral history.  Hill seems to think that all his interviewees must be confidential.  In some cases there is such a need, but some of Hill's interviewees are well known to trans readers.  He should have given them the option to be identified by their full name.  Also they are encouraged to talk using their own term rather than just to affirm or dissent from theory points.

Jennifer North (1953 – 1989) pageant winner

Steven Renner from Texas moved to St Louis and became a transgender performer as Bobbie Holliday, and winner of many gay pageant titles.

Bobbie was Miss Gay Missouri 1978 and Miss Gay Arkansas 1981, and also Miss St Louis, Miss Tri-State, and was chosen a top ten finalist at Miss Gay America numerous times.

She then moved to Atlanta, had gender surgery, and changed her legal name to Jennifer North. She died of complications from Aids.

*Not Jennifer North in Valley of the Dolls.

______________________________________________________________________________

It is rather insentive of LGBT St Louis to put the Find-a-Grave entry under her boy name rather than either her legal name or her professional name.

06 April 2013

A Review of Darryl Hill's Trans Toronto: An Oral History

Darryl Hill did his BA and MA at the University of Saskatchewen, and his PhD at the University of Windsor. He was for a while in the Psychology Department at Concordia University, where he would have met Vivian Namaste.  He is now an Associate Professor in the Psychology Department at the College of Staten Island, which is part of the City University of New York.  He is also a co-founder of TransNYC.  He has previously published a paper, "Sexuality and gender in Hirschfeld’s ‘Die Transvestiten’: A case of the 'Elusive evidence of the ordinary.' ". Journal of the History of Sexuality, 14, 2005, 316-332, which points out that the distinction in his work between homosexual and transvestite is less sure than generally assumed.

  • Darryl B. Hill.  Trans Toronto: An Oral History. New York: William Rodney Press, 2012.  
Or from Lulu.com.


In 1996-7 and again in 1999-2000 Hill interviewed a variety of trans people in Toronto, 28 in all.  However despite the book's title this is not simply an oral history of being trans in Toronto.  The final paragraph of the book is a summation: "A new model of gender generalisable beyond trans-identified people presents challenges, but I have found that postmodern feminist queer theory offers a compelling proposal for gender in the postmodern context, assertions widely supported by the life stories of some trans Torontonians at the start of the 21st century".

He tells us (p12) that "Many interviewees had questions about me (e.g. What's a straight guy from Saskatchewan doing interviewing trans people?), my goals for this research (e.g. Was I seeking, like some psychologists, to pathologise trans people?), my gender (Was I a female-to-male transsexual?) and so on.  When they asked questions, I was open and honest."   Except that he does not tell us, the readers, what answers he gave to those questions.

The book really does need to have 'postmodern' in its title.  I imagine that there will be three kinds of reader:
1) those of the postmodern persuation.  Even these I think will find the 50 (out of 180) or so pages explaining postmodern theory to be a bit much, as presumably they already know it.
2) those unpersuaded by postmodernism.   I suspect that many of these will give up once they hit the heavy theory section starting in chapter 3.
3) those who want a history of trans Toronto, for there is no other book on the topic.  By a mixture of skipping and using the index these readers will find the bits of interest.
This book would be much more readable if the theory sections had been moved to an appendix.  The major history discussion does not happen until chapter 8, after the theory chapters.  Fortunately the postmodern sensibility as it has seeped into public consciousness has removed the obligation that people used to feel that a book should be read sequentially. 

Let us return to the 28 interviewees.  They are referred to only by first names or pseudonyms for obvious reasons of confidentiality.  However Darryl does taunt us a bit on that.  He tells us (p93) that Laura, Sarah and BC "were a significant presence on the Internet: they each had popular and widely accessed web pages dedicated to some aspect of trans life", and that (p161) "one narrator had been a leader in trans politics, truly a leader, but had since been keeping a lower profile and was not currently involved in any political project."   I  had previously visited BC's web page, and so recognized her non-standard name immediately.

Another of the 28 used the very unusual spelling Miqqi.  Google 'Miqqi' - simply that even without any extra words like 'transgender' and you immediately find the web page of Micheal Gilbert who is a professor at York University, Toronto and, as Miqqi Alicia, an open tranvestite who has been profiled as such in Toronto Life, has written for Transgender Tapestry and is a frequent participant at Fantasia Fair.  The index has an entry for each of the 28 interviewees, and therefore an entry for Miqqi.  However it also has an entry for Michael Gilbert.  It is never admitted that they are the same person.  In addition Hill mentions Xpressions (p27), a transvestite social group, without mentioning that Miqqi is active in it.    And further (p9) he mentions that he met a key informant at an academic conference - at a guess this is Miqqi again.   While I am open to the Buddhist-postmodernist notion that the unitary self is a delusion, to split a single person into parts like this is misleading.

There are no sketches of each of the 28.  Apart from Miqqi, I was unable to develop any feeling for them as individuals.   As I said, there are index entries for them which enable you to flip and read all the comments from a single person, but this is awkward at best.  They are quoted in response to aspects of theory, sometimes supporting it, sometimes questioning it.  On page 5, Hill mentioned that Namaste had rightly argued - in particular against Garber -  that trans persons are more than literary devices illustrating the the crisis of gender through discursive perfomatives.  Likewise they are more than talking heads to be juxaposed against theory points.  Without a proper sketch of each of the interviewees, it is not really fair to describe what Hill is doing as 'oral history'.

The book contains a short account of Toronto trans history before 1995, when Hill began his interviews.

However there is nothing on the 1950s when Jean Fredericks started her career before moving to London nor on the 1960s when Katherine Cummings was a student in Toronto and socializing with John Herbert Brundage.  The periodical Justice Weekly, which was published in Toronto, acted as a contact point for closeted transvestites. The transsexual, Dianna Boileau, was dramatically outed after a car accident, and later became the first transsexual accepted for surgery at the Clarke Institute Gender Identity Clinic.  Nor is there mention of Betty Steiner who became the first head of the Clinic when it was founded in 1969.  

Rupert Raj, founder of FACT, Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation etc is very ill-served by being reduced to one factually-incorrect sentence: "Rupert Raj, who was active in in the Calgary-based FACT between 1982 and and 1988, went on to cofound (with Mirah-Soleil Ross) the Meal Trans program in 1999)" (p150).  On the previous page Hill had told us that "the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals (FACT) [was] also known as the Federation of American and Canadian Transsexuals".  This really won't do.  Rupert moved to Toronto from Calgary in 1979 which therefore became the base location of FACT.   In 1982 he permitted Susan Huxford (not mentioned anywhere in Hill's book) to take over FACT.   Huxford renamed FACT as the Federation of American and Canadian Transsexuals as there was a branch in the US. 

Two paragraphs later Hill is telling us that "By the late 1980s, the main newsletter was Transition Support News".  His removal of Huxford from the story creates more problems.  In 1986 both FACT-Toronto and FACT-Hamilton rebelled against Huxford's authoritanism (much as FPE Alpha Chapter had rebelled against Virginia Prince in 1974).  The Toronto chapter reconstituted itself as Transition Support, and has continued with name changes and is still going. 

The in-between paragraph tells us: "In July 1979, a group claiming to be Ontario's only group for 'TV/TS' produced their first newsletter, Skirting the Issue".  The group was the short-lived Transvestites in Toronto, a social group.  Why doesn't Hill name the group? Is he being prudish about its acronym?

Hill does not mention that FACT-Toronto had a member who is world-famous for her sporting achievements: Michelle Duff.  Nor does he mention the Toronto performers such as Craig Russell, Rusty Ryan, Michelle DuBarry (who did attend a few meetings of Transvestites in Toronto), nor the musicans Barbra Amesbury and Toby Dancer (whom the Ontario trans rights bill was named after).

Unlike the chapter in Namaste's book which discusses the Clarke Institute Gender Identity Clinic but says not a word about autogynephila, Hill does quickly summarize it (139) and ask his interviewees what they think about it.  There is no mention at all about Kurt Freund, its inventor and Ray Blanchard is referred to only by his surname, and only his late 2005 paper is listed.  Michael Bailey is not mentioned but Alice Dreger's defence of Bailey is.  Of the transsexuals who embraced the concept, Anne Lawrence in the US is mentioned, but the major Canadian who did so, Willow Arune, is not.  Nor is there any mention that the Clarke Gender Clinic is the only clinic in the world where a staff member has also changed gender: Maxine Petersen. There have been extensive discussions of the Clarke Institite (later called CAMH) and autogynephilia on this site, on BC's site, on TS Roadmap and on Lynn Conway's site.  As Hill's account is so short it would help if he referred his readers to these sources.

On p67 Hill cites Docter and Prince in successive sentences as both regarding the sex-gender syster as binary.   Surely he should have mentioned that they were personal friends and therefore this does not count as two independent researchers coming to the same conclusion.

In the 1980s one of the most dispiriting aspects about reading books on transgender was that almost all of them cited Janice Raymond, even for small details.  One would have thought, at least hoped, that that was bygone.  But she is cited 4 times in this book without any warning that her book is a transphobic tirade which does not attempt to be objective in either a modern or a postmodern sense.   If Hill did not figure that out himself, surely some of the 28 interviewees pointed it out.   Also Raymond is not a postmodernist.  She is not only an unreconstructed essentialist, her positions in all her books are fully compatible with the doctrines of the Holy See.  This is not a minor point.  After all the damage that Raymond did, the many who died because her advocacy denied them needed medical care, it matters that we should stand up and call out any who purport to be pro-trans and yet uncritically cite Raymond.

Most of the deficiencies in Hill's knowledge of the history of trans in Toronto could have been fixed by perusing this site.  Should I take umbrage that he declined to do so?  From internal evidence it is apparent that he wrote the first draft in his book at the beginning of the 2000s, years before this site existed.  However he revised it later for publication in 2012 - see the (very small number of) items in his bibliography with dates in the last five years.

What you think of this book will depend on where you situate yourself with regard to postmodernism.  I have flirted with it, mainly in the 1990s.  People do tell me that some of my positions are definitely postmodern, and I don't mind being labelled so.  However I have generally been quite disappointed by postmodernist book on trans topics.  Other examples are by Namaste and Ekins (not mentioned at all by Hill).  To do postmodernist theorizing (or theorizing for any other school) it is necessary to get the facts fairly close to being right, and Hill, Namaste and Ekins have come up short on this criterion.

Unfortunately we do not yet have a history of trans in Toronto, or even in Canada.  This is much needed.  Hill's book is inevitably going to attract readers looking for such a book, and unfortunately they will have to plough through a long theory section, or practice their skipping skills.