1980 Transgender News

Standard Disclaimer: This page is a listing and links to news items regarding transgender persons from 1980. It is ordered by date of appearance in the news, not the date of the event. Note that the text summaries are not transcripts.

January 3, 1980. Washington DC Evening Star, page D3

Dear Abby makes a short but surprisingly good answer to a mother asking about how do tell her 9-year-old about the former father’s gender transition.

January 6, 1980. Cleveland Plain Dealer, page 12-D

A note in an entertainment Q&A column mentions that actress Linda Gray (best known for her role as Sue Ellen on “Dallas”) played the role of a transsexual on a television program named “All That Glitters.”

January 6, 1980. Portland Oregonian, page B1

A large article with a photograph is run on the attempt of Oregon State Penitentiary prisoner Linda Hughes to undergo sexual reassignment surgery whilst incarcerated. The article misgenders her continuously, and notes that she has been denied hormones, despite having been taking hormones and having minor surgery for years prior to her incarceration.

January 13, 1980. Dallas Morning News, page 21; Greensboro North Carolina Daily News, page A-10

Michigan transsexual woman Michelle Strom has announced that she is running for US Congress for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District. Ms. Strom, running somewhat Quixotically as a Republican, underwent her sexual reassignment surgery in 1978. The Greensboro Daily News has a similar story, with a quote that Ms. Strom doesn’t want to bring up her gender identity during the campaign, but is “prepared to deal with” the topic.

January 13, 1980. Portland Oregonian, page 52

In the “letter to the editor” section of the Portland Oregonian, a minister writes to complain of insensitive treatment in the paper towards Linda Hughes, an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary. The complaint is in reference to an article from the January 6 edition of the paper (see above, January 6).

January 18, 1980. Marietta Georgia Journal, 1B

In encouraging news from long ago, a former industrial equipment salesperson who lost her job as a result of her gender transition was awarded Unemployment compensation. What’s really sad about the whole incident is that Rhonda Spindler, the plaintiff, reported that she had faced no harassment nor discrimination – instead, her employer just decided to fire her as a pre-emptive measure.

January 18, 1980. Stamford Connecticut Daily Advocate, page 3

Michelle Strom, transsexual Republican candidate for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, is quoted as saying “I think people are somewhat stunned when they find out…but I don’t think it will make any difference. … I could have easily hidden this. The reason I didn’t is that I’m not going to lie about anything or keep anything from the public.”

January 31, 1980. Omaha World Herald, page 12

In a medical column titled “For Women Only,” Dr. Robert Newman is quoted as opinion that transsexual surgery may not be warranted based on John Hopkins finding of poor social adjustment post-transition. Something which is not too difficult to believe, given that transition only fixes YOU, not everyone around you.

February 1, 1980. Seattle Daily Times, page 14

A large article talks about the trials and tribulations of “gay” prisoners at the Washington State reformatory, but lumps in transsexual inmates with the “gay” ones. One transsexual woman, Sandy Ackert, is interviewed in the article, and there is a photograph of her as well.

February 8, 1980. Cleveland Plain Dealer, page 122

A tiny blurb notes that the Phil Donahue show will feature a transsexual couple. This year was sort of a watershed year, in which we start to see many media critics and “letters to the editor” complaining about the “freak shows” featured on daytime talk shows, with transsexuals and their stories being readily included within this characterization.
Phil Donohue

February 9, 1980. Rockford Illinois Register Star, page 1

An article discussing the trial of serial killer John Wayne Gacy tells of how the courtroom was “electrified” by the testimony of Donita Ganzon, a transsexual woman. The defense attorney used his power to call her to the stand and instead of questioning about the facts of the case, grilled her over whether or not she has had surgery, and why she didn’t consider herself a man. Because, you know, that must be what is important, right?

February 15, 1980. Richmond Virginia Times Dispatch, page 18

The Virginia Legislature considered an amendment to a bill which would ban all sexual reassignment surgeries in state hospitals. The amendment failed after it was pointed out that banning medical procedures based on personal or religious reasons was a dangerous precedent, and that the surgeries were paid for by the patients anyhow.

February 17, 1980. Cleveland Plain Dealer, pages C1 and C7

The Cleveland Plain Dealer once again runs a very large article on gender-variant persons. This time the focus is on transvestites, and the article is both somewhat sympathetic and factual. You can read the first page at this link, and the second page here.

March 27, 1980. Portland Oregonian, page C10

Two transsexual women have been transferred out of solitary confinement and into the general prisoner population at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Although the female names of the prisoners are not given, the male name of one of the women is Robert William Thomas of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

April 6, 1980. Rockford Illinois Register Star, page 13

Reporter Marjorie Ruschau talks about the highs and lows of the John Wayne Gacy trial, and shows she is not above focusing on the discomfort of Donita Ganzon, a transsexual woman who testified for the prosecution, and who was grilled by the defense over her gender identity and surgical status.

April 11, 1980. Boston Herald, page 12

Dear Abby, typically somewhat empathetic towards transsexuals, makes a joke which isn’t totally offensive.
Dear Abby

April 20, 1980. Dallas Morning News, page 185

A book review of Patrick White’s novel The Twyborn Affair is somewhat unique for 1980, as it addresses a duality of gender which the author claims lies within all of us, from the context of a historical fictional drama.

May 10, 1980. Dallas Morning News, page 41

A report from New Orleans is that a Federal Appeals Court has upheld a law which places severe restrictions on massage parlors, attempting to curb the prostitution trade. What caught my eye was that an exception for transsexual massage was made, where the court threw out the restrictions.

May 14, 1980. Dallas Morning News, pages 71-72

A two-page fashion spread contains a small tidbit on the second page. I’ll quote it here entirely so you need not read through the entirety of page 1 and page 2. “Another unique aspect of the Koos show was the transsexual model that minced down the runway in several glamorous evening gowns.”

May 18, 1980. Seattle Daily Times, page 139

An arts feature mentions that a film named In a year of 13 Moons, by R.W. Fassbinder. The film is reportedly about “a transsexual whose sex-change operation has back-fired.”

May 23, 1980. Dallas Morning News, page 3

In refutation of the recent decision by Johns Hopkins University to cease performing sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), under the the impression that it did not help with social adjustment, it’s reported that two new studies show that SRS is beneficial to the health and well-being of transsexuals.

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