Category Archives: History

Una Nowling to Speak on “Trans 101” at Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ

Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ
Hello everyone,

I will be speaking about the basics of the transgender experience, along with giving a transgender history lesson, at 7:00 pm, August 19th, 2015. The venue will be the Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, which is located at 205 W 65th St, Kansas City, Missouri 64113 (there is a map link below). Anyone who wishes to come and hear a little bit of “Trans 101” is welcome!

The electronic flyer put out by the Church reads as follows:

Trans 101 with Una Nowling
August 19th at 7 p.m.

Are you interested in learning more about the transgender community and how to be an ally to transgender individuals? If so, you are invited to an evening with Una Nowling on Wednesday, August 19th at 7 pm!

Una Nowling will share her own story and also speak about issues affecting the transgender community. Una is a transgender activist, researcher and historian who mentors local transgender folks, especially throughout the coming out process. She is the hostess of “Trans Talk” on KKFI. She also spends her time working on Transas City, a non-profit educational website and blog for the transgender community in Kansas City. This is an important educational opportunity for our church as we continue to evolve in our understanding and celebration of the LGBTQ community.

Please contact Bethany at bethany@cccucc.com for more details.

New York Times Runs Factual Article About Transgender Issues

Sylvia RiveraIt’s not just about Caitlyn Jenner.

The article and accompanying 11 minute video is an overview of the present day and a very brief history of transgender people since the Stonewall Era. What struck me most about it was the lack of hysteria and the (mostly) non-judgmental approach. Transgender women interviewed are not celebrities nor are they sexpot hyper-feminine stereotypes, nor are they “men in drag”.  They are much more ordinary, and in my opinion that’s what the public needs to see, that transgender people are human beings trying to live normal, ordinary lives.

The article and video covered some of the appalling violence transgender people experience, stories those of us reading this blog have heard before, but that get left out of the typical news story featuring people like Caitlyn Jenner or Chaz Bono. It mentions how transgender people were and continue to be the marginalized sub-group of the larger group of LGBT. The people in this article do not have happy Hollywood or Hallmark movie of the week endings that the mass media seems to be in love with, no, these are real lives with real suffering along with whatever good also occurs.

In other words, ordinary people trying to survive.

Link to article

Minor Update to a Charlotte McLeod Resource

McLeod_Charlotte

As some of you know, I purchase old media (photographs, magazines, prints, and books) relating to transgender history and post them here as full resolution scans, free of watermark, restriction, or charge. Recently it was pointed out to me that on page 2 of Charlotte McLeod’s autobiography, published in Mr. magazine’s 1956 Winter annual, one of the photographs had a piece of loose paper covering it (it was a piece of the magazine which fell off during scanning). And another reader asked if the autobiography could be uploaded in higher resolution.

To that end, I’ve rescanned the article in higher resolution, and fixed the damaged photograph. Those of you who have downloaded a copy to host elsewhere will need to download a new copy this page.

A Personal and a Website Update

Ashley_April_1970_03_03_post

Hello everyone. I know several folks believe that after all the hard work which I’ve done that Transas City is in the doldrums. It has been, but not due to activism fatigue.

Since I had my liposuction surgery in April of this year something has gone horribly wrong with my body. I have been suffering from pain and fatigue, chronically, which is only slowly going away. This last week and a half, as I was working overseas, I thought I would have a lot of spare time to catch up on updates and actually try to post some current and topical posts, most importantly about Caitlyn Jenner. However, it appears I developed pneumonia right as I came to England, and have been so severely impacted that I’ve even been to the hospital here. Let me tell you, it’s really scary to go to a hospital for any reason when you’re alone and 5,000 miles from home.

I could make some promises about what I plan on doing, now that I’m recovering, but instead I’ll just start doing rather than talking. I’m going to start at the oldest part of my backlog and work my way forward, along with some news updates.

The photograph at the lead of this post is a new archival photograph which we’ve purchased, showing famous British transwoman April Ashley receiving a kiss at the opening of her new Chelsea, London restaurant. This occurred shortly after Ashley lost her infamous divorce case, which helped set the stage for a high court ruling that transsexuals in the United Kingdom must be considered their birth gender with respect to marriage – something which was not changed until the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. The full-sized image, as well as other information about Ashley can be found at this link on Transas City.

Two New Historic Photographs, and Thoughts on Transgender Stereotypes

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I’ve recently purchased two more original archival photographs for Transas City’s research division, and you can see one of them as the lead image of this post. The photograph shows Tamara Rees, the third “Atomic Age” transsexual woman, in a stereotypical domestic setting (for more information and photographs about Rees, including a copy of her incredibly rare autobiography which we were able to obtain, please visit our Tamara Rees page). The other photograph follows, and shows Rees both before and after her gender transition.

Rees_Tamara_Before_After

Tamara Rees, from Army paratrooper to housewife.

At first blush the vacuuming photograph looks quite silly and pointless – why on earth, when she has gone through so much in her gender transition, did the press think it was newsworthy to portray her vacuuming her floor? To a 21st-century eye, this photograph smacks of silliness at best, and a rigid bowing to paternalistic stereotypes at worst. But because we study history, and do not go by first impressions only, we can tell some of the back-story behind the lead photograph.

Jorgensen_Andrea_DoriaChristine Jorgensen, in a typical “starlet” pose on the deck of the Andrea Doria.

When Christine Jorgensen entered the public eye on December 1, 1952 as the first of the Atomic Age transsexual women, she was heralded as a wonder by many reporters; a triumph of Western science. And when the blonde-haired and svelte Jorgensen landed in New York in February of the following year, she was greeted by a nova of flashbulbs and untold levels of publicity. Most of the publicity was positive, albeit there were some detractors and naysayers. Jorgensen continued to maintain this image of a starlet, impeccable in dress, poise, and manners; with that bright smile and great figure through almost all of her career.

McLeod_Charlotte_1954_05_12_MCharlotte McLeod with her father.

Charlotte McLeod was the second of the Atomic Age transsexual women, and she immediately discovered that being the “second” in something is not nearly as exciting as being the first. McLeod returned to the United States fully expecting the Jorgensen treatment, and instead ran into a crowd of reporters who were much more skeptical, with one of them even having an altercation with her which dumped her to the floor of a hotel. McLeod was pretty, but she was not the smiling, socially-conscious blonde beauty that Jorgensen was. McLeod was a quiet and reserved person, who shunned the press and did not react with grace and poise when confronted about her gender identity. At the same time, McLeod resented her second-place status bitterly, and has been quoted in several historical documents in our Transgender Newsbank stating just that.

So then Tamara Rees arrived on the scene, and the public was starting to wonder: OK, Jorgensen was an interesting case, but now…where is science leading us? Boys becoming girls; where does it end? Instead of gender transition being a once-in-a-billion thing, it now is showing up regularly in the news. Every dad and mom in America had to start wondering, as they looked at their little boy playing with the gender-typical trains, guns, and baseballs – is he going to be wearing a dress some day? It’s at this time in history that the backlash against transsexual women begins to foment.

Rees_Tamara_1954Tamara Rees in an unflattering pose.

It did not help that Rees was also much less able to “pass” than Jorgensen or McLeod. Being of a larger frame and not having the dazzling looks of Jorgensen, or the petite darkness of McLeod, Rees was much more of an average transsexual woman. She did not turn heads, despite her being much more amenable to the press and publicity than McLeod. She was not nearly as polished in her speech as Jorgensen, and fumbled through the couple of interviews which I’ve seen of her. Like McLeod before her, Rees also resented Jorgensen, and again we have quotes of Rees lashing out at her “rival.”

Rees tried very hard to present herself as a typical American woman, and thus she appeared in several photographs showing her doing stereotypical female activities – such as vacuuming the floor in a dress and heels. This is similar to the photographs found in the autobiography of British transsexual woman Roberta Cowell (q.v.), which featured her playing the piano at home, cooking, shopping, etc. All to try to create a better image for herself and to portray an air of “just another woman; nothing to see here…”

Cowell_Roberta_CookingRoberta Cowell in a stereotypical setting.

At that era in history, transsexual women were required to be strongly gender binary. Remember, there were perhaps less than 5 surgeons in the world performing sexual reassignment surgery (the exact number is not known), and each of them and their associated psychiatrists demanded that a transsexual woman be rigidly gender-binary in their thoughts and feelings, or else surgery would be disallowed. Recall that even the late, great Dr. Harry Benjamin denied Renee Richards estrogen in the late 1960’s because she expressed that she was lesbian.

Richards_2Renee Richards – denied estrogen for insufficient heteronormativity.

Now yes, in truth to the best of my research it appears that Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees were in fact all strongly gender-binary transsexual women. But if they hadn’t been, they would have still had to go through the same theater – Jorgensen flashing her legs, McLeod dressed in a fur stole, and Rees running her Eureka. It would have been a matter of survival – doing anything, absolutely anything, so you can have your body aligned with your brain.

New to the Archives: An Original Photo of Coffee with Christine

Christine Jorgensen

Christine Jorgensen, the first of the American “Atomic Age” transsexual women, is one of the most famous transsexual women in history. Born George Jorgensen, she suffered through gender dysphoria until her 20’s, when she traveled to Denmark and had the first of the modern sexual reassignment surgeries performed upon her by Dr. Christian Hamburger (Christine often said she chose her feminine name as a tribute to her surgeon.) I have a page with a collection of photographs and other material at this link, and recently I’ve purchased an original photograph dated March 30, 1953, to add to the collection.

The photograph shows Jorgensen relaxing with coffee at her parents home, possibly from early that March. Jorgensen had many advantages in her life, namely that being the “first” gave her tremendous publicity and uniqueness. One of the biggest advantages which she had was the support and love of her family, which as we all know, can make or break a transition process. She did experience her share of discrimination, as she writes in her autobiography, but overall her life turned out pretty well for her.

You can download a high-resolution scan of it at this link here.

Join Us for a Free Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Kuma Hina
On Saturday, April 11 at 11am, Community Cinema presents Kumu Hina.

Imagine a world where a little boy can grow up to be the woman of her dreams, and a trans boy can rise to become a leader among men. Welcome to Kumu Hina’s Hawai’i.

During a momentous year in her life in modern Honolulu, Hina Wong-Kalu, a native Hawaiian māhū, or transgender, teacher uses traditional culture to inspire a student to claim her place as leader of the school’s all-male hula troupe. But despite her success as a teacher, Hina longs for love and a committed relationship. Will her marriage to a headstrong Tongan man fulfill her dreams? An incredible docudrama that unfolds like a narrative film, “Kumu Hina” reveals a side of Hawai’i rarely seen on screen.

After the film, a panel will discuss recent events impacting KC’s transgender community as well as its history. Una Nowling from Transas City, and community partners from The Transgender Institute will be on the panel.

Please note: The program and film start at 11 a.m., so please plan to arrive at least a few minutes early.

Kumu Hina
Saturday, April 11 at 11am
Tivoli Cinemas – 4050 Pennsylvania Ave Kansas City, MO 64111

You may RSVP by this link.

Transgender History – Georgina (Turtle) Somerset

Turtle_Georgina_1962_10_13_01
Georgina Turtle (born George Turtle, later Georgina Somerset) was a transsexual woman who claimed to be intersex, bearing an ovary and rudimentary womb. She was born March 23 1923, and died November 30 2013. She lived her life in England.

Although her earliest recollections were of wanting to be a girl, these were suppressed as she entered young adulthood being trained in her father’s profession as a dentist. After being called up as the war in Europe ended, Turtle served as a surgeon-lieutenant in the Royal Navy until 1948, at which point she established a dental practice in Croydon. In the mid-1950’s, Turtle began taking estrogen and living as a woman, and underwent her first surgery for gender confirmation in January, 1957. Later that same year she was attacked and raped, an event which she never completely recovered from and which led to a gender back-lash for her.

In 1960 Turtle’s birth certificate was finally corrected to show “him” as a girl named Georgina Carol Turtle. Two years later, she married Christopher Somerset, a design engineer. At her 13 October 1962 wedding at St Margaret’s in Westminster, Gina (as she liked to be called) asked her brother to give her away. When he declined, she asked two uncles, and then her family doctor: all declined. Her landlord stepped in, and the wedding went ahead. The couple settled at Hove, where Turtle ran a busy dental practice until her retirement in 1985.

At the link below, I have collected 8 photographs for my readers, three in high-resolution.

Transas City’s Georgina Turtle Page

Equality House Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary With ‘Plant One For Peace’

o-EQUALITY-HOUSE-570

It’s always good to see events that promote a positive image in the LGBT community. Last Saturday one such event was held as the Equality House celebrated its 2nd Birthday in Topeka, Kansas. For those of you that may not know the house is located across the street from the infamous and much publicized Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) that was once headed by the now deceased Fred Phelps. The people who were in attendance seemed to be filled with a positive sense of fellowship and joy as they mingled and participated in the fundraising events of the day. Everything culminated in a giant group kiss or “Planting one for Peace” as it were.

We did this to remind the world what we stand for at the Equality House: individuals celebrating and taking pride in who they are, and never being afraid of showing acts of love, even in the face of bigotry. “Planting Peace” President Aaron Jackson told The Huffington Post

We are happy to report all kinds of people — queer couples, straight couples and families showed up to participate and ex-members of the WBC even dropped by including Libby Phelps who, organizers told The Huffington Post, was in the crowd with her husband kissing her baby.

For more information on Equality House and how to participate go to Equality House

In the end this was a very positive event for both the Topeka LGBT community and the LGBT community at large. For more information on Planting Peace and current fundraising efforts, follow the link Planting Peace

Meet Mildred M., 1942

Mildred_1942

If one wanted to characterize the history of transgender persons prior to December 1, 1952, one might be hard-pressed to arrive at a better moniker than “the dark ages.” Very little is known about transgender persons and their treatment prior to the dawning of the Age of Christine [Jorgensen], with the greatest amount of data being either from medical journals and textbooks, or in the exceedingly rare biographies and autobiographies which exist (such as that of Lili Elbe and Ralph Werther, q.v.).

Meet Mildred M. (unknown last name), a clearly transgender woman born in 1908 who had an unhappy and turbulent life. All we know of her story thus far is contained within a single medical report from 1942, after she approached the University of Illinois Psychiatric Clinic asking for a letter certifying her gender identity. Unfortunately for Mildred, she was misdiagnosed under an array of psychiatric qualifiers, and is featured in a series of 8 photographs and commentary on the page which is linked below.

This report represents a rare snapshot of how a transgender woman was viewed by the medical profession in the 1940’s, and it’s definitely a sobering but interesting read.

A Distant Mirror – Mildred M., 1942

New to Transas City: Pictures of Bambi

Bambi_Mirror_sm
Marie-Pierre Pruvot (born Jean-Pierre Pruvot, 11 November 1935) is an Algerian-born French transsexual woman who performed under the stage name Bambi. She performed in a transgender showgirl revue at Le Carrousel de Paris for approximately 20 years, and appeared in several documentary films, such as Costa Azzurra (1959) and 90 Notti in Giro per il Mondo (1963). While working as an entertainer she attended the Sorbonne in Paris, receiving several degrees and becoming a teacher of literature in 1974. She was profiled in Sébastien Lifshitz’s documentary film Bambi, which won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film at the 2013 Berlin International Film Festival.

Featured at the link below are several pictures of Bambi from her career.

Bambi

The Lost Autobiography of Tamara Reese – FOUND!

Rees_Tamara_1955_Reborn_Frontis_Crop

Exclusive to Transas City, I have acquired an incredibly rare copy of the lost autobiography of Tamara Reese, the third American “Atomic Age” transsexual woman. Working with the support of the Mayo Clinic History of Medicine Collection, I am presenting a high-resolution scanned copy of this public domain work for everyone in the world to read, archive, and preserve as a part of our shared transgender history.

You may find the link to the book on my Tamara Rees page.

The work starts out intriguingly with the information that she was born in Kansas City – I confess to getting goosebumps when I read that! – and lived in Wichita for a while. The book tells of a youth filled with gender dysphoria and failure, as well as several attempts to escape into some service or corps (she spent time with both the Navy and the Army), and finally takes her to WWII and her service as a paratrooper in the conflict. From there we learn of her being wounded in action, her stunt-diving and airplane-flying career, her marriage of convenience, and again a directionless life. The details of her actual medical transition, both the procedures and the processes, is very sparse. Her tales of being mobbed by the press and learning how to act and live as a woman in public are somewhat interesting, and some light is finally cast on her suicide attempt (she claims it wasn’t, however) which led to her suddenly being evicted from the Netherlands.

I admit I felt like there was so much else which could have been written, so many details which were missing, and so much opportunity lost to preserve more of our early history. However…the work is what it is, and as such it nonetheless provides an enormous amount of information about Rees which was unknown by myself, and I’ll wager by even most transgender researchers. Especially interesting are some notes by the book’s prior owner, Dr. Alvarez, which explain that he knew Reese personally, and that she had married and adopted a daughter – the latter fact being something I never knew. But still, I wanted to know so much more…and the search for more information will continue, as always.

A Few Photographs of Karyl Norman

Norman_Karyl
Karyl Norman was born George Francis Peduzzi (June 13, 1897 – July 23, 1947), and was an American female impersonator who was popular in vaudeville, nightclubs and on Broadway in the 1920s. Karyl was known for his elaborate gowns, mostly made by his mother with whom he traveled. He made his New York City debut as a female impersonator in May 1919 and was an immediate success. He specialized in Southern songs, and was known for his quick changes of clothes and gender. One critic wrote: “Not only does this impersonator wear his feminine toggery in tiptop shape, but has a voice that fools ‘em at the start. Then to a lower register he descends – a lusty masculine voice….”. He wrote many of his own songs, including “Nobody Lied (When They Said That I Cried Over You)”, “Beside a Babbling Brook”, and “I’m Through (Shedding Tears Over You)”.

In later years Karyl performed at the famous San Francisco club “Finocchio’s,” along with many other crossdressing and transsexual women. he died at the young age of 50.

A couple of photographs of Karyl Norman.

Two Flashbacks – 1942 and 1954


I’ve added many old photographs of transgender and crossdressing women to the Transas City archive lately, and continue to add them. I thought as a random update I’d show you these two photographs, and give a little history of them.

The main photograph above is a mug shot of Neville McQuade (age 18) and Lewis Stanley Keith (age 19), at the North Sydney Australia Police Station, early June 1942. Arrested for “being idle and disorderly persons, having insufficient means of support, and with having goods in their possession believed to be stolen,” they were almost certainly transgender prostitutes. They served one week in jail, a surprisingly lenient sentence.

Charlotte McLeod

This second photograph is a very rare one showing the second Atomic Age transsexual woman, Charlotte McLeod, at work as the receptionist at an all-night beauty counter, circa late 1954/early 1955. Unlike Christine Jorgensen, Charlotte McLeod did not receive the fame and attention which she desired, and after a short attempt at a show business career, disappeared into relative obscurity.

Another Piece of Recovered History – Coccinelle’s Story

Coccinelle_01
Coccinelle (French for “ladybug”) was born in Paris under the name of Jacques Charles Dufresnoy on August 23, 1931. Having known she was transgender since a very early age, she lived as a boy through her teen years, working a few odd jobs here and there and fighting gender dysphoria. She eventually decided to start transition, and made her debut as a transgender showgirl in 1953 at Chez Madame Arthur. She later performed Le Carrousel de Paris, where she worked with an array of crossdressers and transsexual women (including April Ashley).

In 1958 she underwent her sex reassignment surgery in Casablanca, under the care of the famous Dr. Georges Burou. She returned to the stage and to greater fame, and the first transsexual woman to become a “star” in France. She released several albums of songs, and later wrote several autobiographical works focusing on her life on the stage and her transition. Her first marriage was the first transsexual union to be officially acknowledged by the government of France, establishing transgender persons’ legal right to marry.

Coccinelle was a tireless advocate and activist for transgender persons, and even though she could have gone “stealth” due to her classic cisgender female appearance, she refused to hide who she was. She founded a transgender support and advocacy organization named “Devenir Femme” (To Become Woman), and helped establish the Center for Aid, Research, and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity. Sadly, this glowing light of transgender triumph was taken from us on October 8, 2006.
Biographical Information

The piece of history which I am highlighting is a lengthy interview, with photographs, that Coccinelle gave to Confidential magazine for their September, 1962 issue. I have scanned the entire article and placed it here for the purpose of preserving out history. It’s a good read, so please download it and store it somewhere safe.

Coccinelle “How the Sex-Change Operation was Performed on Me” Confidential (1962): 18.