This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 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.

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!

30 April 2017

Defenestration in Brooklyn


Duberman’s Stonewall book mentions the gay rights pioneer activist, Bob Kohler (1926-2007):
“Kohler would give the young queens clothing and change, or sometimes pay for a room in a local fleabag hotel; and when out walking his dog, he would sit on a park bench with them and listen to their troubles and dreams. He was able to hear their pain even as he chuckled at their antic. …
Yet for all their wit and style, Kohler never glamorized street queens as heroic deviants pushing against rigid gender categories, self-conscious pioneers of a boundary-free existence. He knew too much about the misery of their lives. He knew a drugged-out queen who fell asleep on a rooftop and lay in the sun so long that she ended up near death with a third-degree burn. He knew ‘cross-eyed Cynthia’, killed when she was pushed out of a window of the St George Hotel in Brooklyn – and another ‘Sylvia’, who jumped off its roof.”
Wallace Hamilton (1919-1983) had an apartment in Greenwich Village where he welcomed many gay persons. In his memoir, Christopher and Gay, he recounts meetings with ‘Wanda’.
“She had brought in the street, the night’s affairs, the reality of the city, and, with a kind of bizarre hyperbole, broke through the shells of private fantasy that had shut the city out. … Wanda was a queen of brash Auntie Mame femininity. Slight, dark-haired, with a chiselled face, she could wear ordinary male clothes and still come on as womanhood personified. She was a queen who didn’t need drag. …
I’d heard about Wanda’s death from someone on Christopher Street early one evening … The story was that he (sic) had fallen or been pushed out of the fifteenth floor of a hotel in Brooklyn. Since he had no identification on him, the body had lain unclaimed in the morgue for several days before any of his friends had been able to trace him down. He had no family in evidence, and was ready for Potter’s field.”

Is ‘Wanda’ the same person as ‘cross-eyed Cynthia’?


Both names seem to be pseudonyms. Hamilton’s account would date the death to 1971. The account in Duberman is placed in the book just before the Stonewall riots, and therefore suggests 1969, but actually the quoted section is a summary of Kohler’s list of street queens that he had known who met unfortunate deaths. Duberman interviewed Kohler many years later for his 1993 book. Thus Cynthia’s death could be in 1971.

Or perhaps more than one street queen was defenestrated from the St George Hotel!

What do we know about the St George Hotel in Brooklyn?


Here is an article on the hotel. It was built in stages between 1885 and 1929. It was once the largest
hotel in New York City. It contains the Clark Street subway entrance. It fell into disrepair. By the early 1970s homeless people and AIDS patients were being placed there by city agencies. In 1995 most of the interior was destroyed by a massive fire. Today most of it is student housing.











  • Wallace Hamilton. Christopher and Gay ; a Partisan's View of the Greenwich Village Homosexual Scene. Saturday Review Press, 1973: 8-9. 57-9 .
  • Martin Duberman. Stonewall. A Plume Book, 1994: 188-9.

24 April 2017

Recurring Untruths: Edward Hyde–Part II


The only detailed biography of Edward Hyde is:


  • Patricia U. Bonomi. The Lord Cornbury Scandal The Politics of Reputation in British America. The University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

She had earlier published articles that became part of the book: in The William and Mary Quarterly and in the Times literary Supplement.










What is the actual evidence, or what passes as such from the 18th century?


Epistles


During Edward Hyde’s governorship, three colonists wrote letters that alleged that the governor did transvest.


Robert Livingstone returned to Albany County, New York in 1706 after three years in London. He wrote to the Treasury office the next year that he had heard such extraordinary stories
“that I durst not attempt to give your honour an account of them as not being possible to be believed … Tis said that he is wholly addicted to his pleasure … his dressing himself in womens Cloths Commonly [every] morning is so unaccountable that if hundreds of spectators did not dayly see him it would be incredible.” (p158)

Lewis Morris, a political nemesis of Hyde, wrote two letters of interest.

The first, dated from internal evidence to 1707:
“the Scandal of his life is … he rarely fails of being dresst in Women’s Cloaths every day, and almost half his time is spent that day, and seldome misses it on a Sacrament day, was in that Garb when his dead Lady was carried out of the Fort, and this not privately but in the face of the Sun and sight of the Town”.
And dated 9 February 1708:
“of whom I must say something which perhaps no boddy will think their while to tell, and that is his dressing publiqly on womans Cloaths Every day and putting a Stop to all publique business while he is pleasing himself with that peculiar but detestable maggot”. (p159-160)

Elias Neau, a catechist, writing just after Hyde’s public dispute with two Anglican ministers:
“My Lord Cornbury has and dos still make use of an unfortunate Custom of dressing himself in Womens Cloaths and of exposing himself in that Garb upon the Ramparts to the view of the public; in that dress he draws a World of Spectators about him and consequently as many Censures, especially for exposing himself un such a manner all the great Holy days and even in an hour or two after going to the Communion.” (p161)


The Painting


Who painted the portrait and when, exactly, is unknown. It was discovered in England, not in New York. It was found in the family collection of the Pakington family in Worcestershire ( a family not associated by either marriage or blood with the Hyde family).

After almost a century the rumours about Hyde had died down, and been forgotten. In 1796, the writer – and lover of gossip, Horace Walpole (himself given to occasional transvesting), and a fellow gossip, Gilly Williams visited Sylvester Douglas, Lord Glenbervie. They talked of the society beauty, Catherine Hyde (1701-1777), Duchess of Queensbury by marriage, the daughter of Henry Hyde, Edward’s cousin, who became the 4th Earl of Clarendon. From there the conversation drifted to Edward.

As Douglas recorded in his diary: Walpole repeated the rumour that Edward Hyde in New York had dressed to represent his queen. Williams added extra, otherwise unrecorded, and not repeated by later writers. His father
“told him that he had done business with him [Hyde] in woman’s clothes. He used to sit at the open window so dressed, to the great amusement of the neighbours. He employed always the most fashionable milliner, shoemaker, staymaker, etc. Mr Williams has seen a picture of him at Sir Herbert Packingington’s in Worcestershire, in a gown, stays, tucker, long ruffles, cap, etc.”


The very next year, 1796, a letter to an art cataloguer from the son of Lord Sandys of Worcestershire described one of the paintings as “The Second E. of Clarendeon in womens’ cloaths”. Edward Hyde was of course the 3rd Earl. His father Henry was the 2nd.

1795-6 was a time was transvesting was topical in that Charlotte D’Eon having returned to England, was living as female and giving exhibition fencing matches.

There was no further claim of a painting of any Earl of Clarendon transvesting until 1867 when the painting that we now know was publically displayed in an exhibition of national portraits at the South Kensington Museum (now known as the Victoria and Albert Museum). For the occasion, a label was attached. However it was not a usual art curator’s description, but a quotation (see Part I) from Agnes Strickland. Strickland, in her books, Lives of the Queens of England, had given only one source [also not repeated in later claims], a letter written in Hanover in 1714 by German diplomat Hans Caspar von Bothmer who was the Hanoverian representative at the court of Queen Anne. Bothmer supposedly repeated a rumour that Hyde, while in ‘the Indies” dressed to represent his queen. This letter is unknown other than for Strickland’s claim.

The New York Daily Tribune reported on the exhibition. It discussed the painting, and repeated the quote from Strickland. This was the first mention of the painting in New York or elsewhere in North America.

Is the painting of a man or a woman?

Bonomi quotes Robin Gibson of the National Portrait Gallery, the expert on the Hyde family paintings known as the Clarendon Collection. Of the painting that we are considering: “I feel certain that the so-called portrait of Lord Cornbury is a perfectly straightforward British provincial portrait of a rather plain woman circa 1710.
” The painting was unlikely to be done on the colonies. .. Although I do not think it would be possible to identify either the artist or the sitter of the portrait in question, it seems to me the sort of portrait which might have been painted of a well-to-do woman living well outside London society, perhaps in the north of England. It is not necessarily of a member of the aristocracy.”
Could it be a caricature of Hyde?
“Caricature portrait paintings (certainly in Britain at this date) are unknown to me and extremely rare at any time. Any caricature would have taken the form of an engraving or drawing.” (p19)

The painting in New York

The painting was put up for auction in 1952, and was then acquired by the New York Historical Society, where it is now on display.

Other paintings

Here is a portrait, probably of Edward Hyde, in 1681, when he was 19. Compare the faces. Does it look like the same person?






And here is a portrait of Henry Hyde, the future 2nd Earl of Clarendon, in 1643 when he was 4.  Could this have been the picture referred to by the son of Lord Sandys?







Evaluation


None of Livingstone, Morris and Neau say that they actually saw Hyde dressed in ‘womens Cloaths’. Nor do they name any person, of any rank who so saw. This despite the claim that Hyde had transvested before the full New York Assembly, and on the city ramparts.

In a court of law ‘evidence’ such as this would be dismissed as hearsay, and not admitted.

Incidentally not one of Livingstone, Morris and Neau is quoted by 20th century writers who tell of Edward Hyde.

The letters, sent to authorities in London, were not acted on. The claims were not consistent with other accounts, and as said, no witnesses were ever named or recorded. Hyde returned to England in 1710 and was appointed to the Privy Council and named first commissioner of the Admiralty. Even his kinship to the Queen would not have permitted this if he were regarded as scandalous.

Bonomi points out (p161) that other Governors in the same period were involved in scandals. Let us take the case of Francis Nicholson who was Governor of Virginia 1690-2, 1698-1705. The account in Encyclopedia Virginia is:
Meanwhile, his persistent and unsubtle courtship of the beautiful eighteen-year-old Lucy Burwell turned Nicholson into a laughingstock: In a speech to the House of Burgesses on September 22, 1701, Nicholson professed his admiration "for the Natives" of Virginia, "in particular but principally for One of them," but his marriage proposal to Burwell, daughter of the wealthy and influential Major Lewis Burwell of Gloucester County, was refused. The governor only made matters worse when he continued to publicly pursue Burwell even after she had become engaged to the equally privileged Edmund Berkeley II of Middlesex County.
Hearing rumors of Nicholson's political and personal missteps, authorities in London requested that a Virginian named Robert Quary investigate the various complaints against the governor. Although Quary's report was highly supportive of Nicholson and dismissive of his opponents, it did give the impression of being so biased toward the governor that it resulted in Nicholson becoming even less popular within the ranks of the colony's most influential residents, among them Robert Beverley II. In May 1703 six members of the governor's Council requested that the Crown remove the governor from office, asserting that he was a man of poor personal character, and thus was not an appropriate choice to serve as the monarch's representative in the colony. Following lengthy debates in London, the imperial authorities dismissed Nicholson from his governorship in April 1705, replacing him with Colonel Edward Nott.
Nothing like this happened to Edward Hyde.

It is well established that the terms ‘gay’ or ‘faggot’ are often used to put down men who are not at all gay. Here are some examples of politicians said to be trans when they were not at all so.

In 1988, Jonathan Falwell, son of Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell, put out a comic book showing the Democratic candidate, Michael Dukakis in drag, (see Marjorie Garber. Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing & Cultural Anxiety, 1992: 54 – there is no longer anything on the web about this comic book).

Also 1988, a painting by a student, David Nelson, showed the recently deceased mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington, in female underwear. This caused a brouhahah, the painting was seized, and damaged before being returned. EN.Wikipedia.

In 2016, Alex Jones got a lot of mileage in the press when he claimed that Michelle Obama is a trans. Online.


Conclusion


It is unproved at best that Edward Hyde did as was said in the scurrilous rumours.

Certainly any claim that he did so made after 1998 that fails to discuss Bonomi’s book is deserving of no attention at all.



  • Cecil Adams. “Did New York once have a transvestite governor?”. The Straight Dope, January 25, 2002. Online.
  • Emily Ulrich. “Biography of Edward Hyde, earl of Cornbury, Governor of New York”. Alma Mater, Spring 2014. Online.


EN.Wikipedia  

15 April 2017

Recurring Untruths: Edward Hyde, Governor of New York & New Jersey - Part I

“The story’s told/ With facts and lies”. Leonard Cohen.

A series of untruths, canards, lies and misinformation that are repeated with regard to trans history.
-------------------------
We are interested in Edward Hyde, also known as Lord Cornbury, and after his father's death in 1709 as the 3rd Earl Clarendon, in that he is repeatedly said to have been a transvestite. However there is considerable difficulty in tracing the claims back to actual 18th century accounts.



There is a portrait, which is said to be of Edward  Hyde in female attire, that can be viewed in the collection of the New York Historical Society.





























Some examples of the claims:


Agnes Strickland. Lives of the Queens of England, 12 vols, 1840-8:
“Among other apish tricks, Lord Cornbury, the ‘half-witted son’ of ‘Henry, Earl of Clarenden’ is said to have held his state levees at New York, and received the principal Colonists dressed up in complete female court costume, because truly he represented the person of a female sovereign, his cousin-german queen Anne.”
Peter Ackroyd. Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag: The History of an Obsession. 1979: 84-6.
“Edward Hyde, for example, cross-dressed while he was Governor of New York and New Jersey (1702-1708). He bore a remarkable resemblance to his cousin, Queen Anne, and was fond of walking through the streets of New York dressed in clothing similar to hers.”
Richard Davenport-Hines. Sex, Death and Punishment: Attitudes to sex and sexuality in Britain since the Renaissance, 1990: 74.
“According to Glenbervie, Clarendon ‘was a clever man’ whose ‘great insanity’ was showing himself in women’s clothes. When New Yorkers complained that he opened their legislative assembly dressed as a woman, he retorted, ‘You are very stupid not to see the propriety of it. In this place and particularly on this occasion I represent a woman (Queen Anne) and ought in all respects to represent her as faithfully as I can.’ Effeminacy and male transvestism were not clearly distinguished at this time, and there was no evidence that Clarendon was a molly. He was undeniably, though, a man who felt false when he dressed and behaved as men were expected to do.
Roger Baker. Drag: A History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts. 1994: 99
“In 1702, the newly-crowned Queen Anne made her cousin, Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, the Governor of New York and New Jersey, a post that he held for six years. To the astonishment and bewilderment of both his colleagues and the general population he persistently dressed as a woman. This was not private or closet transvestism but assertively public. He opened the Assembly in women’s clothes, government business had to be delayed until he had completed his lengthy toilette, he would stroll through the streets in his skirts and dozens of people gawked at him every day.”
Wayne Dynes “Transvestism (Cross-Dressing)” in Wayne Dynes (ed) Encyclopedia of Homosexuality. 1990: 1313.
“In North America Edward Hyde. Lord Cornbury, who was governor of New York and New Jersey from 1702 to 1708 was a heterosexual transvestite”.
Henry Moscow. The Book of New York Firsts, 1995:
“Cornbury’s behaviour seemed odder still when he began dressing in his wife’s gowns and, berouged and bepowdered, flounced daily along the parapets of the fort he commanded, while his sentries smirked. On occasion he sallied along Broadway, where at least once he was arrested and hauled back to the fort; one night, when a patrolling watchman investigated the presence of an apparent prostitute stumbling about the fort, the ‘prostitute’ – Cornbury leaped at him, giggling, and pulled his ears.”
Lawrence M Salinger (ed). Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime, 2004: 409.
“In the simplest of terms, Hyde was a drunkard and an unabashed transvestite, with a penchant for addressing the New York Assembly while wearing his wife’s clothes.”
Gloria Brame. “The Governor Who Wore a Dress”. Bilerico, September 01, 2011. Online.
“One of the remarkable characters I discovered while doing some transgender history research for my book was Lord Cornbury. …. .Cornbury is reported to have opened the 1702 New York Assembly clad in a hooped gown and an elaborate headdress and carrying a fan, imitative of the style of Queen Anne. … It is also said that in August 1707, when his wife Lady Cornbury died, His High Mightiness (as he preferred to be called) attended the funeral again dressed as a woman. It was shortly after this that mounting complaints from colonists prompted the Queen to remove Cornbury from office.”


Who was the historical Edward Hyde

(mainly taken from chapter 2 of Patricia U Bonomi's The Lord Cornbury Scandal, 1998)

Edward Hyde (1661 - 1723) was born into a family with strong links to the Stuart dynasty. His grandfather, also called Edward Hyde, had been a faithful servant to Charles Stuart the younger during his exile under the Commonwealth. When Charles Stuart became King as Charles II in 1660, he appointed Hyde as Lord High Chancellor, Baron Hyndon and then Earl of Clarendon. As a courtesy the eldest sons of the Earls Clarendon were to be Viscount Cornbury. Hyde’s eldest daughter, Anne, married James, the younger brother of Charles II, and gave birth to two future queens, Mary and Anne, before dying at age 34. Hyde, morally inflexible, refused to recognise the main mistress of Charles in 1667, and was impeached and exiled to France, where he died in 1674. His eldest son, Henry then became the 2nd Earl of Clarendon. Thus the Cornbury title went to his son, the younger Edward Hyde. Henry was appointed Lord Privy Seal and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. His first wife had died age 22 of smallpox, a few months after Edward’s birth. Edward attended Oxford University at age 13, and completed his education at l’Académie de Calvin in Geneva. In 1683, he became Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Regiment of Dragoons. When the Catholic James Stuart became king as James II in 1685, there was an uprising, Monmouth’s Rebellion, objecting to a Catholic monarch, led by James’ illegitimate half-brother, the Duke of Monmouth. Hyde commanded his troops in the repression of the rebellion and was promoted to full Colonel. The same year he also became a Tory Member of Parliament. In 1688, against his father’s wishes, he married Katherine O’Brian. By then Henry Hyde and his brother Laurence had been dismissed from office because they would not convert to Catholicism. Later in 1688 Mary Stuart’s husband, William of Orange, invited by MPs of both parties, invaded to save Britain for Protestantism – The Glorious Revolution . Edward Hyde was one of the first commanders to take his men over to William’s side. Despite this he fell out of favour with William, and had his regiment taken from him. He remained out of favour until 1701 when William appointed him as Governor of New York, to which was added the post of Governor of New Jersey in 1702 when Anne became Queen. Hyde acquitted himself well in negotiations with French Canada and with the Iroquois Nations, but was resented by some for running the two colonies in the interests of the monarch. Katherine died in 1706: of their seven children, three then still survived. Henry the 2nd Earl died in 1709, and Edward returned in 1710 as the 3rd Earl. He was appointed to the Privy Council and named first commissioner of the Admiralty. He was also sent as ambassador to George, Prince of Hanover, Anne’s chosen successor. Hyde died in 1723, having outlived all his children. He was interred in the family crypt in Westminster Abbey.

Bonomi p31


Namesakes 


* Edward Hyde was not the cricketer (1881-1941), the royalist priest (1607-1659), the 1st Earl Clarendon (this was Edward Hyde’s grandfather); the governor of North Carolina (1667-1712), and certainly not the alternate persona to Dr Jekyll in RL Stevenson’s novella.

-------------------------

In Part II we will consider the actual evidence. That, we will find, is at variance with the claims quoted above.



06 April 2017

Bambi L’Amour, activist

When 15-year-old Sylvia Rivera was arrested and sent to New York’s Rikers Island prison in 1966, she was in the gay-reserved section where she met a good-looking black queen. They threw shade at each other, and then became firm friends.

Bambi was a natural beauty, unable to be taken as a man, even if she tried. She had been given the name Bambi because of her large eyes. She was almost never seen without a bottle and a bag. Once, in male garb, she was attacked on the subway “for being a dyke”.

After the Weinstein Hall occupation in August 1970, Bambi, along with Sylvia Rivera, Marsha Johnson, Bebe Scarpi, Bubbles Rose Lee, was a founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR). She would often be with Sylvia when they zapped gay or student organizations.

She was part of the commune at the mafia-owned 213 East Second Street. Her method of pan-handling was rather dramatic: she would stand in the street to stop traffic, and then bang on car windows to demand change.

Her age is not specified in any of the accounts, nor what happened to her after 1971.

  • Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Dutton, c1993. Plume, 1994: 123-4, 192, 252, 254.
  • David Carter. Stonewall : the riots that sparked the gay revolution. St. Martin's Press 2004: 56. New York: Griffin 2005.
  • Stephan L. Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: "An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail". Routledge, 2008: 91, 104-5, 106, 122, 127, 128, 132, 147.
-----------------------------------------------------

Was Bambi at the Stonewall riots?  Duberman p192 has a very brief mention that she was, but as part of Sylvia's perception of what was happening at Stonewall,    That is in the most dubious part of his book, as others maintain that Sylvia was not in fact there.   Therefore, we don't know if Bambi was there.   Maybe.