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19 February 2017

Victor Barker: Part III - the trial

Part I: origins: daughter, wife, mother
Part II: husband, actor, manager
Part III: the trial
Part IV: reactions, and afterwards

Victor Barker did not pay much attention to an obscenity trial that took place in November 1928, that of John Radcliff Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness, whose protagonist was a masculine woman. With much brouhaha the book was banned.

A bankruptcy notice and receiving order addressed to Barker was delivered to the Mascot Café, but Barker had left and did not go back. Hence he did not know that he was required to be present for a public hearing on 24 January 1929. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued, Barker’s presence at the Regent Palace Hotel was discovered, and he was there arrested. He was taken to Brixton Prison, where like all new prisoners he was medically examined. He was told to put his clothes back on and was quickly transferred to Holloway women’s prison.

It took a week before the first newspaper article about him appeared in The Times. This was quickly followed by articles in The Daily Herald and The Evening News. Government departments paid attention. The War Office and the Director of Public Prosecutions exchanged files.

Barker’s lawyers raised the issue that a person arrested as a man was being held in a women’s prison – which appeared to be unlawful. In addition they made application in the bankruptcy court that all information in connection with the bankruptcy had now been supplied and thus the offence had been purged. Barker’s immediate release was ordered.

However Holloway insisted that no woman would leave dressed as a man. This despite the fact that they had no women’s clothing that would match Barker, especially in girth. A special purchase was made, and the next day Barker was handed a coat, skirt, blouse, silk stockings and a large hat. A large crowd of reporters and onlookers awaited, but Barker was allowed to leave by the staff entrance at the back.

By now the police had tracked down Valerie’s second husband, Ernest Pearce Crouch, who had spent the last six years working sometimes in France, sometimes in England. He politely declined to give a statement.

Elfrida Haward (Barker) however was talking to the police, and to the press.

In the same weekend, 10 March 1929 both Mr and Mrs Barker published their respective accounts in the press. Victor’s story was in the Sunday Dispatch, illustrated with photographs of both Valerie and Victor.
“A man seems to have a better and easier time. There is, I am certain, more opportunity for a man in the world than a woman – that is why I became a man. I believe that, similarly placed, I would do much the same again. I do not mean that I would deliberately do those things which I now realize were wrong, but they were done in foolishness and not with any wrong intent.” 

Elfida’s account was in the Sunday Express.

 “It could not have been more of a shock to any woman in the world than it was to me to find myself utterly deluded, utterly alone in experience, in a position that made my name known to every man and woman in the country.” 
The Director of Public Prosecutions was considering whether they could charge Barker under the Army Act for impersonating an officer and wearing medals that had not been awarded to him. Instead they settled for charging him with “wilful and corrupt perjury in an affidavit” re his bankruptcy “in which affidavit she swore that she was truly named Leslie Ivor Victor Gauntlett Bligh Barker”.

Wisely or not, Barker turned up for the hearing on 27 March in female clothing including a large hat and a large feather boa, so that he could hide his face.

Barker’s lawyer made the obvious point that there was no law against a woman dressing as a man, and in the affidavit Barker had used the name by which ‘she’ had been known for some time, and thus that was the name given. This was allowed in English law. The magistrate agreed.

However the prosecution than asked the magistrate to hear evidence and commit the defendant for trial on a different issue. In violation of the Perjury Act, 1911, the defendant had “knowingly and wilfully caused a false statement to be entered in a register of marriage”. The doctor from Brixton prison and Elfrida were called as witnesses. A copy of the marriage certificate was produced. Barker’s lawyer attempted the argument that “as two persons of the same sex could not marry there has been no marriage, and therefore no offence”. The magistrate was not having that.

The perjury in an affidavit charge was dropped, but Barker was formally charged with the second offence re the marriage register. £50 bail was granted, and the trial was set for 24 April at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey).

The judge was to be Sir Ernest Wild, KC, Conservative MP, Freemason, Recorder of London, who had been a strong supporter of the failed attempt in 1921 to criminalise “any act of gross indecency between female persons”, and who was firmly opposed to female jurors, especially in cases where the defendants were homosexual. The Prosecutor would be the same one Barker had faced in 1927 on a false firearms certificate charge.

On the day of the trial there was large queue for the public gallery. Victor Barker appeared dressed as his true self, but was summoned under the name of Lillias Irma Valerie Arkell-Smith. The prosecutor admitted, with some embarrassment, that the defendant had been prosecuted in this same court as a man two years previously. He made the comment
 “If she wanted to marry another woman she could have gone through a ceremony in a registry office. There is no justification for her abusing the Church to go through this ceremony”. 
And then:
“Your Lordship will appreciate how important it is that marriage registers should not be falsified. That is an aspect of the case which is of considerable gravity”.

Elfrida was the main witness. Despite admitting that she first met the defendant as Mrs Pearce Crouch, she claimed that she did not truly know Barker as a woman until she saw it in the newspapers. Barker's lawyer in summing up concentrated on Barker’s need to earn a male wage, and once having taken that step she had to keep it up or lose the employment. He did not defend the point about a false statement being entered in a register of marriage.

Sentencing was delayed until the next day when Recorder Wild commented:
“Without expressing any view as to the truth or falsity of Miss Haward’s evidence, I am assuming in your favour that Miss Haward must have known before the alleged marriage that you were a woman”. He concluded: “I have considered and carefully pondered on everything which can be said in your favour, and the result at which I have arrived is this. You are an unprincipled, mendacious and unscrupulous adventuress. You have, in the case before me, profaned the House of God, you have outraged the decencies of Nature, and you have broken the law of man. You have falsified a marriage register and set an evil example which, were you to go unpunished, others might follow. So grave in the eye of the law is the offence which you have committed that the maximum penalty for it is seven years’ penal servitude. In all the circumstances of this case, showing all the leniency that I can, I pass on you a sentence of nine months’ imprisonment in the second division.” 

The police considered action against Ernest Pearce Crouch who had made a false declaration in applying for Valerie Arkell Smith to be added to his passport; however they decided not to pursue the issue.

In Holloway prison, it was found that they had no uniform large enough to fit the new inmate known as Valerie Arkell Smith who weighed 16st 8 lb (105kg). It took a fortnight for the uniform to be ready, most of which Arkell Smith spent in the prison hospital. In the regular prison he was dismayed by the sanitation, by the food and by the non-recognition of class. The required work was tedious.

While Barker was in jail, Violet Morris, in Paris, also a masculine woman who always wore male clothing, sued the women's sporting authorities for rejecting her.   She insisted that she was not at all like Barker in that she did not attempt to pass as male.

Overall Arkell Smith was regarded as of good behaviour, and was release 15 December 1929. By now his weight was down to just above 13 st (82.5 kg).

Not only was there no law against a woman dressing as a man, there was no specific law against any cross-dressing. This had been established in the trial of Fanny and Stella in 1870. Those persons arrested while transvesting were charged with ‘disturbing the peace’, ‘mischief’ etc.

Women’s fashions during the 1920s approached very close to transvestity. Barker, of course, had gone much further than making a fashion statement.

The second Mrs Barker seems to have quietly disappeared.  Only the Sunday People speculated about her: "'Col. Barker's' Red-Haired 'Wife' Vanishes: She Was 'His' Second".  Front page, 10
March 1929.   Despite a detailed series of articles on Barker, The People strangely carried no account of the actual trial.

The prosecutor made the comment “If she wanted to marry another woman she could have gone through a ceremony in a registry office”. Now this is odd in that such a ceremony, for gay men, lesbians or a couple containing a trans person, in a registry office would not be legal until the government introduced civil unions in 2004. Even after the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 such a ceremony is still not allowed in an Anglican church.

Barker’s lawyer focused on the practical aspect of men getting jobs more easily and earning more. The issue of Barker being a congenital invert (to use the language of the time) did not come up, and as we will see in Part IV, this led to misunderstandings.

The three trials, that of The Well of Loneliness, of Victor Barker and of Violet Morris, marked the end of the 1920s acceptance of female masculinity.    The 1930s would be very different.

15 February 2017

Victor Barker: Part II - husband, actor, manager

Part I: origins: daughter, wife, mother
Part II: husband, actor, manager
Part III: the trial
Part IV: reactions and afterwards

Sir Victor Barker DSO settled in at the Grand Hotel, Brighton. He visited a gentleman’s outfitters and purchased two or three suits, including a dress suit for evening wear, shirts, collars ties, etc. The asset sales from the farm and the sale of his mother’s jewellery, and his small annuity would carry him for the time being. His three-year-old son was cared for elsewhere in Brighton. He participated in tennis, swimming and horse riding with the other hotel residents.

Elfrida Haward arrived on the second day. Barker had explained:
“I told Miss Haward that I was not what she thought I was; I told her that I was a man who had been injured in the war; that I was really a man acting as woman for family reasons. I made some excuse about it being my mother’s wish, and she believed it.”
The son was explained as with a first wife who had died, and the daughter was of Peace Crouch and his wife from whom he was now separated. Barker did concede though that
“I think that she had some doubt as to my being a baronet. I explained that I had dropped the title while living on my farm, but had assumed it again in the hope that it might help me get a job. I don’t think she swallowed this tale, though she never said much.”
Elfrida would later claim that she did not know that he was a woman until the trial and she understood that Victor could not have 'normal relations' because of an abdominal wound received during the war.

However Victor's previous persona, Mrs Peace-Crouch, had patronized the shop. Victor Barker was able to convince Elfrida's father that he had lived much of his life as a woman because his mother had always wanted a girl and had taken advantage of the death of the father to impose this whim. However he had also been an army Colonel, had served with the British Expeditionary Force in France, and had been awarded a DSO.

However, once this tale was digested, a new problem arose. The young man – albeit supposedly a woman – had spent a night with Elfrida in her bedroom. To avoid scandal they must marry. For Elfrida, this was a good match: a tradesman’s daughter and a knighted military man. However her parents, while permitting the marriage did not care for Sir Victor. They cancelled their plans to settle a sum of money on Elfrida at marriage.

Because the parents did not care to wait through the customary reading of banns on three consecutive Sundays, Victor applied for a marriage license. To do this he had to produce both their birth certificates, and make a sworn affidavit that
“he believeth that there is no impediment of any kindred or alliance or of any other lawful cause, or any suit commenced in any Ecclesiastical Court to bar of hinder the proceeding of the said Matrimony according to the Tenor of such licence”.
The impediment of alliance was not mentioned, nor was his biological sex; and a forged birth certificate was produced. Victor and Elfrida were married 14 November 1923 at St Peter’s, the parish church of Brighton. The ceremony was performed by the curate as the vicar collapsed and died while running for a bus that very morning.

From a meeting at the Grand Hotel, Barker became involved in the Brighton Repertory Company where he was paid 10/- a week. However his lifestyle required more. He opened an antiques and second hand furniture shop in Andover, Hampshire. He also bought a .32 Webley pistol and obtained a certificate for it. He sang in the Andover choir and played with the local cricket club. However he did not know much about antiques, they left town owing £457 to a fellow officer.

Barker did have some success as an actor. Using the stage name of Ivor Gauntlet, he obtained parts in touring productions playing against famous actresses such as Mrs Patrick Campbell and Dolores. However his voice broke down after the strain of singing in a low register.

And Ivor Gauntlet soon had creditors. A tailor in Birmingham was claiming £40/13/-. An actor was public and easy to trace. Victor Barker resorted to paid employment: farm manager (3 months), kennel manager (1 month) and labourer in a brick works where he contracted chicken pox. Elfrida nursed him back to health.

However by this time she had had enough and went back to her parents, and working in the chemist shop. Barker took rooms in Soho.

the boxer
Either because of a misdelivered letter, or on the suggestion of a fellow resident, in late 1926 Barker came into contact with Colonel Henry Rippon Seymour, the leader of the National Fascisti, a splinter group from the British Fascists. He became the live-in secretary of the group and gained the flat above their offices at 5a Hogarth Road, Earls Court. At that time the National Fascisti had a membership of less than 400.

Barker was in his element. He often wore his medals (actually those of Pearce-Crough), gave fencing and boxing lessons to the young recruits, and advised them of the folly of getting mixed up with women. On 8 March 1927 a small group of fascisti, mainly from the Croydon branch, dissatisfied with Seymour’s usurpation of leadership, burst into the offices. Seymour grabbed his sword, and the Webley pistol from the drawer of the desk and threatened to shoot the first man.

The police arrived. They took possession of the pistol. Seymour appeared at the West London Police Court the next day and pleaded guilty to common assault and possessing a firearm. However the magistrate directed that the second plea be withdrawn when it was clarified that the gun was Barker’s. It was a Webley pistol, but not the same one as on Barker’s certificate from Andover. He was charged with “uttering a forged firearm certificate”.

At the trial in July Barker presented with his eyes swathed. His counsel explained that ‘temporary blindness owing to war wounds’ had flared up. He was found not guilty and discharged.

His firearms certificate was cancelled; he quit the National Fascisti; the Public Prosecution Office wrote to the War Office to ascertain Colonel Barker’s war record; they discovered rumours from Andover about a woman masquerading as a man. However the Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the rumours about a woman, and did not proceed.

Also in July 1927, Tom Barker died of tuberculosis, age 28. He left £1,000 to his sister Valerie. This enabled Barker, and a second Mrs Barker, to rent an expensive flat (£295 per annum) in Mayfair, and employed a valet. His son came to visit regularly, but the current Mrs Barker was always sent away on these occasions.

Barker often held dinner parties for officers whom he had met while in the National Fascisti. From this grew the idea of a fellowship for the British survivors of the Battle of Mons, August 1914. The inaugural dinner was held in Barker’s flat 17 December 1927 with fourteen veterans. However the events proved so successful, that they had to be moved to a hotel.

This was done in association with Colonel Neave, who in fact had been present at Valerie's wedding to Harold Arkell-Smith, but who was completely convinced by Colonel Barker's knowledge of military manoeuvres. Some thought that Barker looked a bit odd, but when he talked about his experiences in the war, he was completely convincing.

With of the success of the Mons dinners, Barker felt that he could run a restaurant. In February 1928, he found one to lease just off Charing Cross Rd, and renamed it Mascot Café. The Daily Sketch received an anonymous tipoff that Colonel Barker was really a woman, and sent a reporter. Twice he engaged Barker in conversation, but was unable to fault his manhood.

However the café did not thrive. He owed a considerable sum in back-rent and the landlady was losing patience. He surrendered the café, moved to cheaper accommodation and found a job as reception clerk at the Regent Palace Hotel.


Rose Collis' biography of Barker, the most reliable source, definitely states that the two guns were Webleys.   However the EN.Wikipedia on the National Fascisti insists it was a colt,   It does not cite Collis at all, but relies on Martin Pugh's Hurrah For The Blackshirts!: Fascists and Fascism in Britain Between the Wars, 2006, but this merely says 'revolver'.  (Pugh, for some reason refuses to be polite, and uses female pronouns throughout). This EN.Wikipedia article summarizes Barker's involvement:  "In 1927 a leading member was "Colonel Victor Barker", who was actually a cross-dresser by the name Valerie Arkell-Smith. Her fellow National Fascisti members did not know she was a woman and treated her as a man and she became secretary to Rippon-Seymour as well as training members in the boxing and fencing clubs."  This of course distorts the issue and misses the point.

Surely Seymour could have pleaded self-defence.

The EN.Wikipedia page on English Fascists includes Valerie Arkell-Smith but not Victor Barker.

13 February 2017

Victor Barker (1895 -1960) part I: origins

Part I: origins: daughter, wife, mother
Part II: husband, actor, manager
Part III: the trial
Part IV: reactions and afterwards

James Barker was a prosperous businessman in Oldham, Lancashire. His son Thomas (1857 – 1918) became an architect in Brighton, Sussex. In 1887 he wed the 18-year-old Lillias Hill (1868 – 1923), the fourth daughter of a country parson, and a distant relative of Olave Baden-Powell.

James Barker died in 1889, and Thomas, coming into his inheritance, abandoned his career and with his wife moved to the parish of St Clement, Jersey. Their daughter Lillias Irma Valerie Barker was born in 1895.

The family moved back to England in 1899, and settled in Bramley, Surrey, where a son, Thomas Leslie was born later that year. Later they moved to nearby Milford.

As it developed, it was Valerie who grew up with a love of dogs, horses, sports and pranks. Mr Barker, disappointed with his son, taught his daughter fencing, cricket and boxing. After attending two schools for young ladies, as a finishing, she was sent to a convent school at Graty, Silly near Brussels. Both at the convent school, and back home, Valerie would dress male whenever she could. At age 19, Valerie had her formal coming out ball.

During the First World War she was a nurse, an ambulance driver and then a horse trainer. Particularly the last position entitled her to dress in khaki breeches, tunic, cap and riding boots. At the end of the war she was working with horses at an estate in Kent, where she met the recuperating Harold Arkell-Smith, an Australian who had been successively promoted from private to lieutenant and awarded three medals. They were married in April 1918. - however the marriage lasted only six weeks, although they never did divorce.

In August using her married name, Mrs L I Valerie Smith enrolled in the newly established Women’s Royal Air Force. The WRAF was considered to have the smartest uniform of all the women’s services and it made no concessions at all to femininity. The women in the WRAF liked to refer to each other with male nicknames. Valerie Smith worked as a driver and was paid 38/- a week.

Thomas Barker died in October, age 63. His widow went to live in London with their son. The WRAF was disbanded after the Armistice. Valerie found work in a tea-shop in Warminster.

There she met another Australian, Ernest Pearce Crouch. He also was separated from his wife. Crouch was offered a job in the Paris office of The Times, and Valerie having agreed to join him, he applied for his wife, Valerie Pearce Crouch to be added to his passport. They lived in Paris just over a year. Valerie continued her preference for masculine attire, and they had a baby son. However The Times had falling sales, and Ernest was made redundant. They rented a house in Hook, in the London borough of Kingston, not far from where Valerie’s brother was living. However Ernest was unable to find work, and a daughter was born in June 1921. Neither child was ever registered.

The Pearce Crouches became tenant farmers at an estate outside Littlehampton, West Sussex, intending to also run it as a guest house. Valerie, as usual wore men’s clothing to do farm work, including a collar and tie, and was even spotted in a dinner suit. Ernest took to drink, and sometimes violence.

Valerie was developing a friendship with Elfrida Haward who worked in her father's chemist shop in Littlehampton.

Lillias Barker had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for six years, and died in September 1923, age 55. She left her daughter an annuity of £9 a month for life.

After an assault that put her in hospital for a few days, Valerie threatened legal action if Ernest did not leave. She agreed that he could take their daughter.

She sold off what she could of the farm’s assets. After purchasing some new men’s clothes, she bicycled to the next railway station, not Littlehampton, where she would be recognised. She then took the train to Brighton, and a taxi to the Grand Hotel, where a reservation for Sir Victor Barker DSO was waiting.


The Grand hotel in Brighton in 1923 was one of the finest in England.   It was one of the first, outside London, to have lifts, electric lights and external fire escapes.

11 February 2017

Nina Arsenault (1975–) sex worker, performer, journalist

Rodney Arsenault was raised in a trailer park in Beamesville, Ontario, where he identified with beautiful women. He gained two masters degrees and became an instructor in acting at Toronto’s York University.

Arsenault started having plastic surgery during holiday breaks and reading weeks, and became Nina. At a staff Christmas party, a grad student proclaimed:
“Aren’t you victimizing yourself by constructing your new identity out of the oppressive misogynistic values that you were socialized with as a male?”
Nina conceded the point, but embraced the image anyway.

Early on, Nina dated Eric Newman, the future Luka Magnotta, who later became a porn actor, and had plastic surgery such that when he was a contestant on COVERguy on OUTtv and Nina was a judge, she failed to recognise him.

In 2003, she had a small part in the film Soldier’s Girl.

In 2005, Nina’s talent agent was Eugene Pichler, who was also advocating against funding for transgender surgery at the same time.

After nine years, 60 cosmetic surgeries and $160,000, financed mainly from working in the actual sex trade, working as a cyber-whore, and writing a ‘t-girl’ column in Fab magazine, Nina was chosen for one of eight Unstoppable awards, that year’s theme in the 2007 Toronto Pride Gala.

Sky Gilbert, drag queen and playwright, wrote a play, Ladylike, around her persona, and it opened in November 2007. In 2010, she starred in the solo piece, I Was Barbie. In 2012, Nina’s play in seven monologues,  The Silicone Diaries, was professionally produced. She has also done performance pieces in art galleries.

In May 2012, Luka Magnotta murdered Lín Jùn, 林俊, a student at Concordia University, posted videos of the crime online and physically posted body parts to politicians and to schools. He fled to Paris and Berlin, but was arrested, returned to Canada, tried and sentenced to life in prison. His earlier relationship with Nina attracted press attention.

Later that year, the book TRANS(per)FORMING Nina Arsenault: An Unreasonable Body of Work, a series of essays on her work, was published.

In 2013, while on a flight to Edmonton with fellow performer Lexi Sanfino, a flight attendant asked for makeup advice “because you used to be guys, right?” In response, Sanfino decided to strut topless down the aisle. She was arrested when the plane landed, and Nina who filmed the arrest was also arrested, but released without charges. They were addressed as male based on the ‘M’ in their passports, and Nina was questioned about whether she had had genital surgery. They pointed out that it was not illegal for a legal male to remove his top. Lexi was charged with causing a disturbance.

In 2015, Nina appeared at TEDxToronto.

05 February 2017

Mina Caputo (1973 - ) musician

Keith Caputo grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Mother OD’ed at age 20. Father was a drug dealer, in and out of prison, a tattoo artist, and able to rebuild old cars.

Caputo was mainly raised by his paternal grandparents, and was experimenting with female clothes from age eight or so. The teenage Caputo took classical piano lessons, but then, at the urging of a cousin started singing with garage bands. By age 18 Caputo was going out as her female self, to New York nightclubs such as Escuelita.

While in college Caputo sang with the heavy metal group, Life of Agony, and was on their 1993 album, River Runs Red. After the third album in 1997, Caputo controversially left.
 “People started to resent me because I quit the band at the height of our — we were about to explode on radio. … I was different by nature, and it really wasn’t my style to be sleeping with a million different girls. I’ve experimented with some drugs, but I wasn’t really like seriously addicted to any substance, you know?”(Petros)
Caputo had girlfriends, was usually faithful, but also experimented with men.
A new group, Absolute Bloom lasted only a year.

Caputo’s father was released from jail for good behaviour in 2002, and died that same night after taking drugs. He was 56.

Caputo worked with the Brazilian band Freakx which had broken up a decade earlier. They put out an album in 2003. The same year Caputo did a reunion with the original Life of Agony, and formed a new band which recorded as Live Monsters. Caputo also put out solo albums.

In July 2011 at age 39, Caputo announced transition, and started female hormones.

“There is no right or wrong way of how to express your human nature. It was odd growing up identifying as a woman. My subconscious sex is female, living in a male body — it was difficult. It was confusing. It was depressing.” (Petros)
She continued to perform with Life of Agony, and her first solo album as Mina was As Much Truth as One Can Bear.

29 January 2017

Some recurring untruths in trans history: Hirschfeld as trans

“The story’s told/ With facts and lies”. Leonard Cohen. Nevermind – theme song to True Detective.

This is a new series analysing repeated untruths, canards, lies and misinformation with regard to trans history.

Tim Armstrong in his Modernism, Technology, and the Body: A Cultural Study, 1998, page 167, writes of Magnus Hirschfeld “Himself homosexual (Like Haire) and transvestite, he was less dogmatic than Krafft-Ebing had been”. Of course Armstrong gives no citation or quote to support this.

Where does this canard come from, that Hirschfeld was trans. Yes, he was gay. We know of his two lovers, Karl Giese and Li Shiu Tong. But there is actually no gossip dating to Hirschfeld’s lifetime that suggests that he was trans. Christopher Isherwood lived in Hirschfeld’s institute and has no such gossip in his autobiography Christopher and his Kind: A Memoir, 1929-1939, published 1976.  And of course if there had been any such rumours, the Nazis would have delighted in repeating them.

Can we find this idea in a book or author that should know? There is Vern Bullough. Only a few months apart Bullough published two books that discuss Hirschfeld and crossdressing: Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993: 207-213, and Science in the Bedroom: A History of Sex Research, Basic Books, 1994: 62-75. Given the vagaries of publishing we cannot know which was written first. In Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender, Bullough starts his 6-page essay with “A physician, Hirschfeld was a self-avowed homosexual and reformer of sex laws, as well as a pioneer in the study of sexuality”. In Science in the Bedroom, Bullough starts his 14-page essay with “Undoubtedly influenced by his own homosexuality and transvestism ….”.  Again there is no footnote or any other citation for the claim that Hirschfeld was trans.

So did Bullough add the claim that Hircshfeld was trans in Science in the Bedroom, or did he have second thoughts and remove it in Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender? Nobody seems to have discussed this issue.

The other source is Find a Grave. Its Magnus Hirschfeld page says: “As a Jew living in a historically anti-Semitic country, and as a gay man and transvestite living at a time when homosexuality was still believed to be a form of mental illness, he knew the importance of being organized and having a voice …”. Of its nature, Find a Grave does not do citations.

Then of course there is the fact of Hirschfeld’s bushy moustache. Which is always there – not shaved off and grown back.   Now Edward D Wood had a trick at parties of disappearing and reappearing en femme, sometimes even shaving off his moustache to do so, but Hirschfeld's was a much more significant growth, and there is no record of it ever not being there.

Here is a photograph from Ralf Dose. Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, 2014. Review  

25 January 2017

H.H. (185? - ?) musician, circus performer

From 1899 to 1923 Magnus Hirschfeld was editor of the  Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen.   In 1901, volume 3, he published "Vom Weibmann auf der Bühne" (Women-man on the stage), by Dr W.S.*, a study of 15 Damenimitatoren (female impersonators).   They are referred to by a series of double initials: A.A.,  B.B., etc.    The 8th is therefore H.H.  We have no no other name for her.

According to H.H.'s own account, his parents died when he was young.  He left school and Germany, and worked his way to the US as a ship's boy.

In New York he became a musician, a flautist, but was unable to find a  place in a men’s orchestra. However, presenting as female, H.H. was engaged by a women’s band and chorus (Damenkapelle). She travelled for several years with this band as a flute player, without being read.

Eventually, H.H. left this post, but she felt so natural in female clothes that she continued so. She worked in succession as a chambermaid, a soda-seller, a waitress, and a buffet-maid.  She then joined a circus, and advanced quickly from an extra to performing as an equestrian acrobat.  A fall from the horse, which stretched a tendon, put an end to this. However she then became a female musical clown in the circus, and later formed a singing group with other women, in which she sang the second voice.

In later life, back in Germany H.H. worked as a Damenimitator.

Dr W.S. commented that H.H. was  "A very strong character, when dressed as a man he was almost tough.  Not at all sweet or affective. Dressed as a woman, as he now preferred on the street, he was graceful, amiable, and so confident that one would hardly believe his story."

  • Dr. med. W.S.  "Vom Weibmann auf der Bühne".  Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, 3, 1901: 313-325.  Online.
  • Vern L. Bullough & Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. University of Philadelphia Press 1993:  223n16,

The Bulloughs - who claim 'no author' for the article although it clearly says 'Dr. med. W. S.', further propose that Hirschfeld "was probably also the author of the article, since it was his custom to write articles without attribution for the journal".  

Modern readers would want to know how H.H. managed to pass, at close quarters with a travelling band, without electrolysis and without female hormones.   Dr W.S. shows no interest in this aspect.
Possible she was one of the lucky few like Rachel Harlow or April Ashley who appear female even before attempting transition.

I hope that H.H. getting a job only in a female band does not imply lower standards in female orchestras.   Just as likely is that as an immigrant, H.H. was not accepted by the male musician unions.

Would a cis male disguise as female in this way to get a job and keep up the disguise day and night (when travelling) for several years?   While such a situation is a common trope in fiction, and also in cross-dreaming, I am not able to find a real-life example of such,   However if H.H. were trans she would be delighted with the opportunity. 

There is a passing resemblance to the plot of Some Like It Hot, 1959, but that was 70 years later.