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.)

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14 August 2017

A review of Peter Ackroyd’s Queer City


One of Ackroyd’s first books was Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag, the History of an Obsession, 1979, which I reviewed in September 2009. Strangely, while the 1979 book is listed in the bibliography at the end of the new book, it is not included in the list of the author’s works opposite the title page.

The new book concentrates on London, and is about all strands of LGBT. Ackroyd is openly gay and a widower: his husband died in 1994 – although this is not mentioned in either the book itself or on the cover. While some have wondered about why he chose transvestism as the subject of his early book, there are no rumours that he is a practitioner. In a 2007 interview in the Guardian, he commented: "Of course people assumed I was a transvestite, but you only have to look at me to know I'm not” – a comment that perhaps demonstrates his lack of knowledge of the subject.
  • Peter Ackroyd. Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the present day. Chatto & Windus, 2017.
Ackroyd finds no trans persons of any flavour in Roman London, neither among the native Celts nor with the occupying Romans (although we do know that some Gallae did come to Britain). The earliest trans person mentioned is the prostitute Eleanor/John Rykener in 1394, and possibly the Pardoner in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. The age of Shakespeare provides a lot more named cross-dressers including the famed boy-actresses, but also female transvestites such as Long Meg and Moll Cutpurse. Into the 18th century and beyond various members of His Majesty’s Army and Navy were sometimes discovered to have been female born – Hannah Snell, Mary Anne Talbot, Mary Knowles, Christina Davies. This was also the age of the Molly Houses, of whose customers the most famous was Princess Seraphina. And also of Charlotte Charke and Peg Woffington who wore breeches onstage and off.

Of the 1979 book I wrote “He repeats the unreliable tales about Edward Hyde and Charlotte d’Eon de Beaumont”. Edward Hyde is not in the new book. Presumably Ackroyd became aware of Patricia Bonomi’s book that showed that all the evidence for his assumed transvestity is quite flakey. He still dubiously claims that d’Eon was “sent as a female spy to St Petersburg”. At which point I checked his bibliography. It contains none of the books by Gary Kates, who surely has become the authoritative source on d’Eon.

In the 19th century there is Walter Sholto Douglas, writer, James Allen, labourer, Lavinia Edwards, actress, the police raid of Druid’s Hall, Fanny and Stella, performers. But there is no mention of James Barry, the first trans doctor.

Discussion of trans persons in the 20th century is amazingly brief. A few minor incidents and the trial of John Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness in 1928. You might expect that Ackroyd would then mention the trial of Victor Barker, only a few months later – but he does not. The two trials together acted as a double warning that masculine women/trans men had better be extra careful. Trans man Joe Carstairs, (not mentioned) among others, took the hint and left England a few years later.

The amazing thing is that this is the last trans item in the book. No later transsexual or transvestite of any gender or flavour is even mentioned. So there is no mention of Betty Cowell, April Ashley, Charlotte Bach, Caroline Cossey/Tula, Yvonne Sinclair, Rachael Webb, Sonia Burgess etc etc etc. And consequently there is no mention of the two big legal changes for trans persons in the UK: Corbett v. Corbett, 1969, which took away the civil rights of trans persons, and the Gender Recognition Act, 2004, which partially restored them.

A book sorely missing from Ackroy’s bibliography is Kris Kirk & Ed Heath’s Men in Frocks, 1984, (review) which is a London-centric account of gay transvestites and trans women who emerged from the gay scene between 1945 and 1984. It is difficult to imagine why Ackroyd chose to ignore this excellent book, and thereby mentions none at all of the many persons featured within it.

In 2009 I wrote that “He always writes ‘trans-sexual’, but has little interest in them as opposed to transvestites”, and “He writes (p107) "Coccinelle, the male cabaret artiste” and nothing else about her, totally ignoring her transition”. This disinterest-aversion seems to be continued in the new book, for it is after 1928 that hormones and genital surgery became available, and apparently Ackroyd does not want to get into any of that.

Furthermore none of the informative books by Peter Farrar such as Cross dressing between the wars: selections from London Life, 1923-1933, 2000 nor Liz Hodgkinson’s Bodyshock: the truth about changing sex, 1987, are in the bibliography and thus the tales of the persons mentioned in them are also missing.

Ackroyd tells of kings who were gay, especially James I of England/VI of Scotland. However he is quite disinterested in 20th century Members of Parliament who were gay such as Jeremy Thorpe, who put on trial for ordering a hit on his boyfriend, Edward Heath, Prime Minister 1970-4, Tom Driberg, Labour MP, Peter Mandelson who was in Blair’s cabinet and Lord Boothby who both had an ongoing affair with the wife of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and consorted with gay criminals especially Ronnie Kray. These and more are discussed in Closet Queens: Some 20th Century British Politicians, 2015, by Michael Bloch. This again is not in Ackroyd’s bibliography

Queer London is easily readable, and is best on the 17th-19th centuries. However as I have indicated there are some serious gaps in the material. Caveat lector.

See also 20 trans Londoners who changed things by example or achievement.

Another review:

Simon Callow in the Guardian

13 August 2017

James Allen (1787 – 1829) labourer.

In London, groom, landlord, and pitch-boiler and then sawyer, James Allen was married to Abigail Naylor, known as Mary from 1807.

In 1829 he died in an accident at work, and examination of his body produced the claim that he was a ‘woman’. He was buried in a private vault, to protect his body from resurrection men.

  • C.J.S Thompson. The Mysteries of Sex: Women Who Posed as Men and Men Who Impersonated Women Hutchinson, 1938. Causeway Books,1974. Dorset Press, 1993: chp XV
  • F. Gonzalez-Crussi. Three Forms Of Sudden Death, And Other Reflections On The Grandeur And Misery Of The Body. Picador. Harper & Row, 1986: 61.
  • "The Female Husband". In Martin Duberman. About Time: Exploring the Gay Past. A Meridian Book, 1986,1991: 24-30.

06 August 2017

Yollada "Nok" Suanyot เกริกก้อง "นก" สวนยศ (1983 - ) activist, politician

The child of a police officer in Nan province, Suanyot transitioned at 13, using the name Yollada and completed surgery at 16. She did a science degree at Thammasat University, followed by a masters in political science and a doctorate in social science at Ramkhamhaeng University.

She worked as a model and as a beauty queen. She also did commercial voice-overs and ran a jewelry business and a home-shopping channel.

In 2005 she won the position Miss Apza Transvestite (Miss Alcazar Purple Star Award). Later that year Sony BMG announced that they would sponsor an all-kathoey pop group, Venus Flytrap, and auditioned 200 applicants. One of the chosen five was Yollada, who took the name Nok, and was known in the group as Posh Venus. They released their first album in November 2006. Nok left in 2007.


Yollada was a founder and chair of the TransFemale Association of Thailand. In 2012 she was elected as an independent (under her male name as required by Thai law) to represent  Mueang Nan District on the Provincial Administration Organization of Nan Province. She had the responsibility to oversee and inspect whether the provincial management's works are appropriate and transparent.

In 2013 she was awarded by the Women's Voice Association of Thailand. The award recognises people who play a crucial role in promoting and improving the role of Thai women.

Her partner is a trans man.


EN.Wikipedia