Articles on this Page
- 06/25/17--18:37: _Joe Tish (1924 –) p...
- 06/30/17--07:57: _Other trans persons...
- 07/03/17--07:10: _Bobbie MacKenzie (1...
- 07/07/17--10:05: _William Sidney Holt...
- 07/18/17--08:49: _Stefánie Faludi (19...
- 07/19/17--06:38: _Julie Bindel and Ja...
- 07/22/17--18:00: _Toby Meltzer (1957–...
- 07/24/17--07:32: _Ellie Zara Ley (197...
- 07/27/17--17:26: _Jamie Clayton (1978...
- 07/30/17--16:14: _Biographies with th...
- 08/06/17--09:25: _Yollada "Nok" Suany...
- 08/13/17--12:57: _James Allen (1787 –...
- 08/14/17--12:04: _A review of Peter A...
- 08/19/17--18:31: _Sorrawee "Jazz" Nat...
- 08/23/17--08:08: _11 trans persons in...
- 08/28/17--16:14: _Babette Ellsworth (...
- 09/05/17--11:59: _Sylvia Rae Rivera (...
- 09/08/17--13:13: _Sylvia Rivera Part ...
- 09/10/17--05:33: _Sylvia Rivera Part ...
- 09/12/17--05:38: _Sylvia Rivera Part ...
- 06/25/17--18:37: Joe Tish (1924 –) performer.
- Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Plume, 1994: 188,197, 290n.
- Daniel Penny. “The Last Queen of Greenwich Village”. The New Yorker, July 2017. www.newyorker.com/culture/persons-of-interest/the-last-queen-of-greenwich-village
- Phillip Crawford, “Joseph "Tish" Touchette: The Last Queen of Greenwich Village”. Friends of Ours, 06/25/2017. http://bitterqueen.typepad.com/friends_of_ours/2017/06/joseph-tish-touchette-the-last-queen-of-greenwich-village.html
- 06/30/17--07:57: Other trans persons in New York 1969-72
- 07/03/17--07:10: Bobbie MacKenzie (1948 – 1987) sex worker, activist
- Lisa Power. No Bath But Plenty of Bubbles: An Oral History of the Gay Liberation Front 1970-3. Cassell, 1995: 244.
- Mair Davis. My Recollections of Bobby MacKenzie, 2006. http://maironline.com/bobby/index.htm. No Longer Available as such, but archived at: https://web.archive.org/web/20080426221334/http://maironline.com/bobby/index.htm.
- Stuart Feather. Blowing the Lid: Gay Liberation, Sexual Revolution and Radical Queens. Zero Books, 2015: 319-21, 323, 332, 356, 368, 370.
- 07/07/17--10:05: William Sidney Holtom (1886 – 1929) haulier, navvy
- “An Evesham ‘Col Barker’: A Man-Woman Timber Haulier”. Evesham Journal, 11 May 1929:2.
- “Another Man-Woman: Amazing Fortitude of Masquerader”. News of the World, 12 May 1929:5.
- “Man-Woman’s Pose for 15 Years”. The People, 12 May 1929:3.
- Rose Collis. Colonel Barker's monstrous regiment: a tale of female husbandry. Virago, 2001: 182-3, 189-93.
- Alison Oram. Her Husband was a Woman!: Women's gender-crossing in modern British popular culture. Routledge, 2007: 1-2, 68-73.
- 07/18/17--08:49: Stefánie Faludi (1927 – 2015) photographer
- Susan Faludi. In the Darkroom. Henry Holt and Company, 2016.
- Marcie Bianco, Raewyn Connell, Jay Prosser, Susan Stryker & Judit Takács. “Short Takes: Susan Faludi's In the Darkroom”. Signs Journal, 2016. Online.
- Laura Miller. “Susan and Stefánie”. The Slate Book Review, June 10, 2016. Online.
- Michelle Goldberg. “Susan Faludi’s ‘In the Darkroom’”. The New York Times, June 16, 2016. Online.
- Rachel Cooke. “In the Darkroom review – an elegant masterpiece”. The Guardian, 19 June 2016. Online.
- Kay Brown. “In the Dark Room”. On the Science of Changing Sex, June 23, 2016. Online.
- Louise Adler. “In the Darkroom, Susan Faludi: dealing with Stefanie, her father”. The Australian, September 3, 2016. Online.
- Stacia Friedman. “book review: susan faludi’s ‘in the darkroom’”. Women’s Voices for Change, October 24, 2016. Online.
- 07/19/17--06:38: Julie Bindel and Jane Fae agree that 'real women' a nonsense term
- 07/22/17--18:00: Toby Meltzer (1957–) gender confirmation surgeon.
- “Interview with Toby E Meltzer, MD”. In Dean Kotula (ed). The Phallus Palace: Female to Male Transsexuals. Alyson Books, 2002: 173-7.
- “Portland Gender Reassignment Surgeon Plans To Move”. National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, August 22, 2002. Online.
- A A Lawrence. “Factors associated with satisfaction or regret following male-to-female sex reassignment surgery”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 32, 2003: 299–315.
- A A Lawrence. “Sexuality before and after male-to-female sex reassignment surgery”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 2005: 147–166.
- Sarah Brown. “Surgeon pioneers gender reassignment surgery”. The Misc. 11/11/05. http://misc.vassar.edu/archives/2005/11/surgeon_pioneer.html. No Longer Available.
- Anne A Lawrence. Men Trapped in Men’s Bodies: Narratives of Autogynephilic Transsexualism. Springer, 2013: 27.
- Amy Saunders. “Change/MD”. Phoenix, April 2016. http://www.phoenixmag.com/lifestyle/change-md.html
- Susan Faludi. In the Darkroom. Henry Holt and Company, 2016: 134.
- 07/24/17--07:32: Ellie Zara Ley (1974–) surgeon
- “Border experience has profound impact on Dr Eleazar Ley”. Tucson Medical Center, October 23, 2013. https://tmcaznews.com/2013/10/23/border-experience-has-profound-impact-on-dr-eleazar-ley.
- Amy Saunders. “Change/MD”. Phoenix, April 2016. http://www.phoenixmag.com/lifestyle/change-md.html
- “Dr. Meltzer is excited to welcome a new talent, Ellie Zara Ley MD to his practice!”. Tmeltzer.com. http://www.tmeltzer.com/news_events.html.
- 07/27/17--17:26: Jamie Clayton (1978 - ) actress
- Spencer Morgan. "Has Fame Changed Jamie Clayton?"New York Observer, 7/20/10. http://observer.com/2010/07/has-fame-changed-jamie-clayton.
- Erik Piepenburg. “Helping Gay Actors Find Themselves Onstage” The New York Times, December 12, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/13/theater/13actout.html?_r=1&ref=arts.
- Jillian T Weiss. “Why I'm Impressed By Jamie Clayton”. The Bilerico Project, November 07, 2011. http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2011/11/why_im_impressed_by_jamie_clayton.php.
- Laverne Cox. "Hung Up on Our Bullies: Internalized Transphobia ". Huffington Post, 11/08/11. www.huffingtonpost.com/laverne-cox/hung-up-on-our-bullies-in_b_1079271.html.
- 07/30/17--16:14: Biographies with the pre-transition name in the title
- Marion Bill Edwards. Life and Adventures of Marion-Bill-Edwards. 1907.
- Herculine Barbin with an Introduction by Michel Foucault. Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite. Harvester Press, 1980.
- Suzanne Falkiner. Eugenia, a man. Sydney: Pan Books 1988.
- Liz Hodgkinson. Michael, Née Laura: The Story of the World's First Female-to-Male Transsexual. Columbus, 1989.
- Michelle Duff. Make Haste Slowly: The Mike Duff Story. mad8 Pub., 1999.
- Richard Moore. In Search of Robert Millar. HarperSport, 2007.
- Leona Lo. From Leonard to Leona: A Singapore Transsexual's Journey to Womanhood. Select Pub, 2007.
- Patrick Winn. “Thailand: striking, transgender and running for office”. PRI, Apeil 25, 2012. https://www.pri.org/stories/2012-04-25/thailand-striking-transgender-and-running-office.
- Trudy Ring. “Thai Transgender Activist Wins Provincial Election”. Advocate, May 28 2012. www.advocate.com/news/world-news/2012/05/28/thai-transgender-activist-wins-provincial-election.
- “A world of difference”. Bangkok Post, 6/04/2013. http://www.bangkokpost.com/print/344198.
- 08/13/17--12:57: James Allen (1787 – 1829) labourer.
- 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.
- 08/14/17--12:04: A review of Peter Ackroyd’s Queer City
- 08/19/17--18:31: Sorrawee "Jazz" Nattee (1989–) beauty contestant, monk
- 08/28/17--16:14: Babette Ellsworth (1928 – 2002) academic
- Ross Eliot. "The Enigma of Dr. Ellsworth". TGForum, Jun 17, 2013. www.tgforum.com/wordpress/index.php/the-enigma-of-dr-ellsworth.
- Ross Eliot. Babette: The Many Lives, Two Deaths and Double Kidnapping of Dr. Ellsworth. Heliocentric Press, 2014.
- 09/05/17--11:59: Sylvia Rae Rivera (1951-2002) activist - beginnings
- 09/08/17--13:13: Sylvia Rivera Part II: GAA & Weinstein Hall
- 09/10/17--05:33: Sylvia Rivera Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
- 09/12/17--05:38: Sylvia Rivera Part IV: Other activities to 1973
Joseph Touchette, often known as Tish, was raised the eldest of seven children in Dayville, Connecticut, in a French Catholic family.
Soon after World War II, Joe met Norman Kerouac, a first cousin of Jack Kerouac the beat writer. They decided to have a wedding in Providence, Rhode Island – despite their being no gay marriage at the time. A minister officiated, friends who worked in a bridal salon provided outfits for the bridesmaids, and a lacy white wedding gown for Joe – the first time that he was ever in drag. He liked it, and someone said that he should be a female impersonator.
He was working in a factory, but took dance and singing lesson in Providence. He then performed in local clubs. When Joe and Norman broke up in the early 1950s, he moved to New York City.
For forty years Tish worked as a female impersonator, sang and danced across New York and along the East Coast, often in Mafia-owned establishments. In particular he performed at the Moroccan Village at 23 West 8th Street (owned by the Genovese family). In the late 1960s he had a long-running show at the Crazy Horse. He was also in the 1960’s travelling act, French Box Revue.
|Tish, on the right, at Crazy Horse. Supplied by Queer Musical Heritage|
Tish was one of the few performers who sometimes left the club dressed as female. Once a club where he was performing was raided by the police, but they shooed him away assuming that he was a woman. Joe would be refused admission to the Stonewall Tavern when in costume, although he was so admitted at some uptown straight clubs, where his artistry was recognized. It was to Joe’s apartment that Tammy Novak ran after escaping from a police paddy wagon on the first night of the Stonewall riots; however Tish was performing in upstate New York.
In the 1970s one of Joe’s lovers, being of the next generation, went beyond stage performance, and transitioned as Eve. Tish was not keen that she should do so, but he continued to take care of her. She was a sex worker and died during the Aids epidemic. Tish still has her urn.
He continued doing drag shows after retirement, even performing at retirement homes. Tish is now in his 90s, and being taken care of by his room-mate.
Out of the Stonewall riots 27-30 June 1969 grew two pioneering trans organizations: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) and Queens Liberation Front (QLF), and two gay organizations Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and Gay Activists Alliance (GAA). Of course at that time ‘gay’ was the umbrella word that included bisexuals and trans persons, but GAA and GLF were not usually focused on trans issues.
There are already articles in this encyclopedia on the major persons in both trans groups:
STAR - Bubbles Rose Lee, Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Bebe Scarpinato, Bambi L’Amour
QLF: Lee Brewster, Bunny Eisenhower, Bebe Scarpinato (again), Vicky West, Chris Moore.
This article is about other trans persons who were around them, but of whom there is insufficient information to do a full article, although in a few cases a short article has been done. While I say trans, from the perspective of 2017, most of them look more gender queer than transgender. Harry Benjamin had been treating transsexuals in New York for many years, and had published his definitive book in 1966, and Johns Hopkins had done a very few transgender operations starting in the same year. There were cheaper doctors in the New York: Leo Wollman, David Wesser, Benito Rish, Felix Shiffman, Peter Fries. However to progress down the transsexual path required both money and some degree of stability in life. Holly Woodlawn was given the money by her boyfriend, but she quickly found that Johns Hopkins would require a multi-year evaluation as well as the money. It was possible but not easy to go from selling your body on 42nd Street to being a completed transsexual. Patricia Morgan is a salutary example of how that could be done.
Some regard gender queer as second best to transsexual, but others regard it as an equally valid identity or choice. The persons below didn’t use either of these terms. They were homosexual, transvestite, drag queen, street queen etc.
How was the word ‘transvestite’ used? Here is Marsha P Johnson’ definition: “A drag queen is one that usually goes to a ball, and that’s the only time she gets dressed up. Transvestites live in drag. A transsexual spends most of her life in drag. I never come out of drag to go anywhere. Everywhere I go I get all dressed up. A transvestite is still like a boy, very manly looking, a feminine boy. You wear drag here and there. When you’re a transsexual, you have hormone treatments and you’re on your way to a sex change, and you never come out of female clothes.” The QLF magazine was called Drag: a magazine about the Transvestite.
Certainly this definition is radically different from the usage of Virginia Prince, Ethel Person and DSM III that attempted to limit the word to heterosexuals, and even regarded transvestism as a type of fetishism.
The persons below are mentioned in the books about Stonewall, STAR, QLF etc, but the pictures of them are far from complete. They are but snapshots, and in almost all cases we do not know which of them lived only a few years more, which of them lived a normal life expectancy, nor do we know if any of them later did a successful transition.
· Martin B Duberman. Stonewall. Plume, 1994.
· David Carter. Stonewall : the riots that sparked the gay revolution.: St. Martin's Press 2004.
· Stephan L. Cohen. The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: 'An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail'. Routledge, 2008.
AndorraAndorra lived at STAR House, and went with Sylvia and Bambi in the demonstrations at New York University, and to the state capital, Albany.
Duberman: 252, 254.
Cohen: 91, 111, 122, 127, 132, 139, 147, 159, 253n212,
Birdie RiveraFrom the age of 11, Birdie was the lover of a police officer who beat him and made him wear dresses. Birdy and other gays at school formed a gang, the Commando Queens. They staked a claim to Riker’s, a restaurant at Christopher Street and Seventh Avenue, which they took over from the winos. He was active at Stonewall.
Boom Boom SantiagoBoom Boom was one of the street transvestites whom Bob Kohler brought to the early GLF meetings (1969). “Here are the people that you’re supposed to be helping. Meanwhile they’re starving, they’re dying, they have no clothes, they have no food. They’re the ones who started the goddamn [Stonewall] riot”. Kohler’s appeal was actually met with hostility.
Chris ThompsonChris was a dancer, and aspired to be a dance therapist. Chris was also black, gay, trans and asthmatic. She sought treatment for asthma at New York’s Bellevue Hospital in 1970, but was locked in the psychiatric wing. She was ridiculed by the staff for sexual and gender deviance, and was threatened with transfer to the state mental hospital, but was quite accepted by the other patients. Arthur Bell& Sylvia Rivera discovered her and were able to do an interview. “When I came into admitting office, I told the doctor I had congestion and asthma. Because of me wanting to be a woman so much, he asked me did I ever have a fear of cutting my penis off. I didn’t tell him one way or the other, but on my record they have it down that I have a fear of cutting my penis off, to become a woman. I want to become a woman that bad, so they asked me these questions — do I still have a fear of taking a razor and cutting my penis off and I told them no, and if I did decide to have a sex change I would go through the legal procedures and go to the proper physicians and have it done.”
Arthur Bell & Sylvia Rivera. “Chris: Gay Prisoner in Bellevue.” Gay Flames, Nov. 14, 1970: 1, 2, 7. Online.
ChristineChristine was described as a ‘hard old queen’. She was once bailed by Bob Kohler, the GLF activist.
Cohen : 98.
Congo WomanCongo was regarded as ‘nasty’. She used to throw a brick though a display window to grab a dress or a wig.
Ivan ValentinIvan, also Hispanic, was a friend of Sylvia from 1966, and also a friend of Ed Murphy of the Stonewall Inn. He is quoted: “A drag or transvestite is somebody who always dresses as a woman. A female impersonator is someone who claims to actually be a woman. I’m just a man who likes to dress up.”
Ivan was at the first night of the Stonewall riot where he was hit in the knee by a policeman’s billy club, and had ten stitches at St Vincent’s Hospital. He credits Sylvia with jumping a cop and starting the Stonewall riot – however he is alone in this claim.
Ivan later headlined a drag troupe “Leading Ladies of New York”. This show was shut down in Spring 1975 in West Hartford by the Connecticut state liquor authorities. Valentin took the case to the University of Connecticut School of Law, and got the law changed.
Eric Gordon. “An Imitation of Images,” The Hartford Advocate, Oct. 27, 1976, Feb. 9, 1977.
Duberman : 125, 182-3, 192, 201, 290n25, 297n14, 300n40.
JosieA friend of Sylvia’s from the mid-1960s. When Sylvia first went to a GAA meeting, it was Josie who went with her.
Duberman : 235,
Cohen: 102, 109
Lola MontezListed, but no further details.
Cohen : 99,
Cohen : 99
NellyAlso known as Betsy Mae Kulo, a young Latina, who passed very easily.
Carter : 56
Orphan AnnieWith white skin, a red afro and prominant eyes, Annie was said to resemble the comic-strip character. She had a habit when in cheap hotels of throwing radios or lamps out of the window. It was apparently Annie, giving out GLF leaflets in Greenwich Village, who gave one to Arthur Evans and his lover Arthur Bell – which brought them into the group.
A character in the 2015 Stonewall film was given this name.
Carter : 56, 60, 227
Cohen : 99, 101
Miss PixieMiss Oixie lived in STAR House. She was at the March 10, 1972 conference on transvestism attended by STAR, QLF and GAA.
Cohen : 91, 132, 145.
Raquel WilsonRaquel was known as the ‘queen of sex’.
StanleyDespite her name, Stanley was always in drag, and given to claims such as that she had attended a famous school, which she would not name.
Wanda/cross-eyed CynthiaShe was pushed out of a window of the St George Hotel in Brooklyn. More.
Wallace Hamilton. Christopher and Gay ; a Partisan's View of the Greenwich Village Homosexual Scene. Saturday Review Press, 1973: 8-9. 57-9 .
Carter: 56, 60 refers to a cross-eyed Sylvia, who would liberate hotel curtains to make dresses, and who fell from the roof of the St George Hotel.
Zazu NovaZazu was from upstate New York, and a staunch Unitarian. She had a violent temper and had been in prison more than once. It was rumored that she had done time for murder. She often carried a large chain in her purse for self-defense.
David Carter writes of the Stonewall riots: “we can name three individuals known to have been in the vanguard: Jackie Hormona, Marsha Johnson and Zazu Nova”.
Nova was active in Gay Youth and GLF – she wrote for GLF News. Cohen quotes Perry Brass: “the divine Nova, a great transgendered creature whom I adored back then: totally original young man, who was maybe 19 or 20, and gorgeous, I mean Fab-u-lasss in the most intense way. I have no idea what happened to him (or her, in the more pc language). Nova was not strictly speaking a “she.” He often dressed as much young male as female. But he was a great dancer, and I can still hear his voice and the way he spoke—hugely poetic, outrageous, and very sweet. He was tall, about 6’, and looked wonderful.” She disappeared a few years after GLF folded.
Carter : 64-5, 162, 261, 298-9n11.
Cohen : 38, 41, 47-8, 88, 99-100, 116-7, 234n5, 236n30, 247n60.
Bobby was born in a small fishing village in Scotland. At the age of nine he was put in a children’s home when his mother came down with Huntington’s Chorea, a genetic condition for which there is no cure. She died of the condition. Bobby left the home at 15, and found out that his elder brother had contracted the disease. Later he died also.
By 1970 Bobbi was in London, living mainly as female, a declared lesbian, and after discovering the newly established Gay Liberation Front, promptly joined, and attended the Women’s Group meetings. She made a living turning tricks on Park Lane.
At a women’s commune, Bobbi met the artist and film maker Mair Davies. Bobbi made a pass at Mair, but explained that she was transsexual and that they would have to wait until after her operation. Several of the women in the group made it clear that Bobbi was not welcome. Later Mair attended a gay event where Bobbi did a striptease and, because she was so feminine, the crowd gasped when she revealed her genitals. Mair went on a date with Bobbi, and they were kicked out of the pub after kissing.
Another friend was Bob Mellors, one of the founders of London GLF and who was also associated with Charlotte Bach who was writing a book arguing that the transsexual urge is the key to human evolution. Influenced by both women, Mellors became fascinated by transsexuality and wrote a couple of theoretical books on the subject.
At some point Bobbi went through a crisis and had her breasts removed. Bobbi started confusing Mair by wearing male clothing, usually leather trousers and a t-shirt, which she described as ‘drag’, also saying that she was ‘heterosexual’ – and as such fancied Mair. Mair even took Bobbi to her home in Wales where they met her husband. They last saw each other in 1976.
Bobbi regained her breasts, but this time by implants.
Bob Mellors starting visiting with Mair, but never mentioned that he also was a friend of Bobbi.
Bobbi was diagnosed with Huntington’s Chorea in 1978. She chose to end her life 1987 at the age of 38 by jumping from a high window. Her body was cremated by Social Services at Kensel Green Cemetary, and only her probation officer attended. Mair did not find out about her death until years later. An open verdict was returned. As nobody claimed the ashes within twelve months they were scattered among the other graves as per standard practice.
Sarah Withers married a farm labourer, William Holtom at the age of 18. However Sarah felt quite wrong in the situation, and after two years left. “The idea struck me that it would help me if I dressed as a man, as I did not like the idea of domestic service. I spent the few shillings I possessed in buying men’s clothing, and then tramped to Birmingham.” The one thing that Sarah took from the matrimonial home was her husband’s name. Sarah was now William Holtom.
In 1924 William Holtom was working on a coal wharf in Birmingham where he met Mabel, the sister of his employer. He was already living with a woman, and Mabel had a young daughter. They met again in Worcester, where Mabel was in service. Although he refused to marry her, they both left their existing partners and set up common-law in Evesham, Worcestershire.
William worked as a coal heaver, a cow-man, a road mender and a timber haulier. In the latter he had been employed taking large trees from the Cotswold hills, driving four or six shire horses. In 1927 his best workmate was killed under the wagon that he was driving, and his nerves went to pieces. This led to his quitting that work. After medical treatment he worked as a navvy in a team building a bridge. He also did odd jobs and repaired boots.
William smoked the extra-strong Black Twist, specially ordered by the local tobacconist. He drank cider, and went with mates from the pub to the English Football Cup Final. He was also a thoughtful and considerate husband and father. In 1928 Mr and Mrs Holtom had a baby son, whom they named William after his father. In April 1929 the Colonel Barker story was prominently in the newspapers, and Holtom expressed indignation at the masquerade.
However two weeks later, Holtom was taken ill, and admitted to the Evesham Poor Law Hospital men’s ward with enteric fever. He was then 42. This led to a discovery of strapping around his chest, and he was hastily transferred to the women’s ward. The story was quickly picked up by the local, and then the national press. He was moved to a private ward for privacy.
As William recovered, the police considered charging Mabel with making a false statement to the Registrar of Births and Deaths at Evesham with regard to the father of her second child. Holtom, under the name Sarah Holtom, was called as a witness before Evesham Borough Police Court and admitted that he did not know who the father was. Mabel appeared at the Birmingham Assizes 11 July and plead guilty. The court heard that her estranged husband, abandoned five years before, was willing to take her back, if he could find work where they were not known. Mabel was bound over in the sum of £30 ‘to be of good behaviour for two years’.
István Friedman was raised by prosperous Jewish parents in Budapest. However with the coming of anti-Semitic fascism in the 1930s, all was lost. 17-year-old István became a legend in his family when in 1944, wearing a stolen armband of the fascist Arrow Cross, and carrying an empty gun, he removed his parents from a holding building for Jews, and supplied them with with false papers which enabled them to live in an abandoned flat in Pest.
At the end of the war, István changed his surname to Faludi (Magyar for ‘of the village’), and was part of a youth film club, and he and two other members were able to get to Denmark, initially to replenish the Hungarian film stock.
After an idiosyncratic alteration to their passports, they were able to get on a ship to Rio de Janeiro. Through Hungarian expatriates and luck they were able to talk themselves into a team that did photography for the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística, which involved journeys by canoe and plane across the Mato Grosso. They applied for visas to the US, but when they came through after three years in 1953, only István used it. His childhood sweetheart had also survived the war, and was living in New York. However on arrival he found that she was engaged to another.
Faludi, now calling himself Steven (English for István) lived in a cheap room in the Upper West Side, and found darkroom work for the photo departments of Manhattan advertising agencies. He met his wife Marilyn at a Jewish émigré cocktail party in 1957. They married six weeks later in a Reform synagogue. They acquired a house in Yorktown Heights, outside New York City, and had a son and a daughter. From the 1960s onward Faludi largely worked in the Condé Nast’s art production department doing difficult darkroom alterations for the photography that appeared in Vogue, Glamour, House & Garden, Vanity Fair, Brides. Susan Faludi (p7): “I’d always known my father to assert the male prerogative. He had seemed invested—insistently, inflexibly, and, in the last year of our family life, bloodily—in being the household despot. We ate what he wanted to eat, traveled where he wanted to go, wore what he wanted us to wear. Domestic decisions, large and small, had first to meet his approval.”
By 1976 the Faludis were separated. Later that year he broke into Marilyn’s house, and badly assaulted the man she had started seeing. He then claimed he had saved his family from an intruder, and got off with a small fine. He even claimed to be the wronged party at the divorce trial, and avoided alimony. After the 1977 divorce, Faludi moved into a Manhattan loft that was also his commercial photo studio.
In 1990, after the end of the Communist regime, Faludi visited his parents in Israel, the only time that he ever did so. He then moved to Budapest. He attempted to get the deeds of the buildings that the family used to own in Budapest, and then attempted to reclaim the buildings, but without success.
In 2004, at age 76, Faludi, now using the name Stefánie, had vaginoplasty and breast augmentation with Dr Sanguan Kunaporn in Phuket, Thailand. At this stage she had minimal experience of going out as a women – she had done this mainly in Vienna, rather than Budapest. As she did not have psychologists’ letters that approved her for surgery, Faludi wrote a letter as if from a Hungarian friend, and this was accepted by Dr Kunaporn. She also deducted 10 years from her age, in case she was rejected for being too old. Faludi flew out in men’s clothes and with women’s clothes for after surgery, and with several cameras, a tripod, a videocam, a computer and DVD player, and a suitcase full of films, music, and opera recordings. Faludi was able to persuade Kunaporn’s staff to film the operation.
Afterwards she spent time recovering in Melanie’s Coccon in Phuket, a guesthouse run by Melanie Myers from Portland, Oregon, who had had the same operation from Dr Kunaporn as well as facial feminization from Douglas Ousterhout in San Francisco, which resulted in her losing her job as a commercial printing salesman. The guesthouse was aimed at trans women, and Mel passed her business card to Kunaporn’s patients. Stefánie was by far the oldest guest.
As Dr Kunaporn’s Post-Operative Medical Certificate specified 1937 as birth year, Stefánie used her professional skills to make an altered copy with the correct birth year so that she could change her Hungarian birth certificate.
|Susan and Stefánie|
Stefánie died at the age of 88.
While there is some information about the trans scene and persons in Hungary, there is nothing about Hungary's best-known trans persons: the 19th-century novelist Sándor Vay; the artist Anton Prinner who left for Paris in 1927; Charlotte Bach who left Hungary at about the same time as Faludi pere and became a theorist of gender. Nor is there any mention of Desiré Dubounet, an immigrant from the US who settled in Budapest.
A few years later Melanie reverted to being Mel so that he could marry his Thai girlfriend and get her into the US.
In 2003, as part of the preparation to join the European Union, Hungary passed the Equal Treatment Act. They were so eager that they added extra categories: in addition to race, religion and sex they included ‘family status’, ‘motherhood’, ‘fatherhood’, ‘circumstances of wealth and birth’, ‘social origin’, ‘state of health’, ‘language’, ‘part-time work status’, and ‘trade union representatives’. They also added ‘gender identity’, which made Hungary the first country in the world to do so. However the legislation was very far in front of public opinion, and while gender changes are legally recognized, public acceptance is low. Susan Faludi does not mention any case of a Hungarian trans person being able to use the law.
Susan Faludi, as is to be expected, gives a potted history of trans surgery. Then very briefly, p151, she brings in Michael Bailey and takes his side. Transgender activists ‘hounded’ him and his supporters. Why they would do so is not explained. Susan has entered an ongoing controversy and given only one side. She is, of course, on thin ice here. If she thinks that Bailey’s position is defensible or even cogent, then she must think that her father was an autogynephile, but she quite avoids saying so. Kay Brown of course makes this explicit, and reasonably complains that she leaves “the reader with the notion that perhaps ALL MTF transfolk are like her father” - but then it is probably true that most biographies of their nature present their protagonist as some kind of exemplar.
Stefánie Faludi was a photographer. There are a lot of descriptions in the book of photographs, but the book itself contains no photographs at all except for one of the author on the back flap.
Twice in the book, Susan tells us why we say Hallo on the phone: “Hallo. As my father liked to note, the telephone salutation was the coinage of Thomas Edison’s assistant, Tivadar Puskás, the inventor of the phone exchange, who, as it happened, was Hungarian. ‘Hallom!’ Puskás had shouted when he first picked up the receiver in 1877, Magyar for ‘I hear you!’.” I was unable to confirm this.
Toby Meltzer graduated in medicine and did his residency at the Louisiana State University Charity Hospital, and then did a plastic surgery residency at the University of Michigan. He became clinical professor of plastic surgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), in Portland, where he completed a fellowship in burn injuries.
He was a year out of plastic surgery residency when two doctors, a plastic surgeon and a urologist, about to retire, suggested that he take over their transgender surgeries. Meltzer accepted the challenge of learning. However because the two doctors performed such surgery only a few times per year, Meltzer’s training consisted of observing only one surgery by each doctor. He also traveled to Trinidad, Colorado to observe Stanley Biber. In addition, he interviewed pediatric urologists who had worked on intersex children.
He almost gave up after his first transgender surgery discovering how much he did not know. The patient required additional surgery, but sent a thank-you note. He persevered, and began performing vaginoplasty at OHSU in 1993.
“Previously, my patients came to me in terrible condition after something like a car accident, and after I had literally put the pieces of their face back together, all they could focus on was the way they used to look, and would complain about the little scar they had right above their lip. GRS patients are always extremely grateful that someone is finally helping them, and it is refreshing to feel so appreciated in my work.”Anne Lawrence describes the technique that Meltzer was using from May 1994:
“creation of a neovagina lined with inverted penile skin, and construction of a sensate neoclitoris from the glans penis using a dorsal neurovascular pedicle”.He also performed Cricothyroid approximation (CTA) surgeries to raise the vocal pitch, and facial feminization surgery. He is also one of just a few surgeons in the U.S. who performs metiodioplasty (clitoral release). Unlike many other plastic surgeries, GRS with Meltzer requires a team of several professionals and patients are required to undergo a lengthy process, which adheres to the WPATH standards for GRS and ancillary procedures. Patients must see a psychologist or psychiatrist, an endocrinologist and a social worker in addition to their work with Meltzer. They must also spend one year in therapy, receive medically-supervised hormone therapy, and spend one year in a “real-life test,” passing as the other gender. Meltzer will perform surgeries only after patients have passed this “test” and have obtained a letter from a psychiatrist saying that they are prepared for the operation.
Anne Lawrence had been able to observe Meltzer do a transgender operation. The next year, 1995, she returned to Dr Meltzer as a patient for her own operation, only six months after social transition. Later she published photographs of his work on her site.
There were sometimes problems finding beds for his patients at OHSU, and in 1996, Meltzer opened his private practice at the Eastmoreland Hospital, a 100-bed medical center also in Portland, and over the next few years expanded to take more than 50% of the surgical workload. In the early days of the internet word about his work spread in transgender chat rooms.
In 2002, Eastmoreland Hospital was purchased by Symphony Healthcare, a for-profit hospital company founded in Nashville Tennessee in late 2001. Meltzer received a certified letter advising that he would not be allowed to perform any type of gender transition surgery after July 2002 (this was extended to December 2002), and that his patients must leave the hospital after three days. Meltzer asked around Oregon, at hospital after hospital, but was unable to get the hospital privileges that he required. A former patient, a doctor, suggested Scottsdale, Arizona, and in 2003 Meltzer, his wife and three children, and four members of his office staff, relocated there.
In 2003, Anne Lawrence published the results of a survey of 232 MtF transsexuals who had undergone SRS with surgeon Toby Meltzer during the period 1994–2000 (Lawrence, 2003).
“I observed that about 86% of respondents had experienced one or more episodes of autogynephilic arousal before undergoing SRS and 49% had experienced hundreds of episodes or more. Two years later, in a second article based on data from the same survey, I reported that 89% of the respondents classiﬁed as nonhomosexual on the basis of their sexual partnership history reported one or more experiences of autogynephilic arousal before undergoing SRS, vs. 40% in the small number of respondents classiﬁed as homosexual (Lawrence, 2005); there was evidence that some of these supposedly homosexual participants had misreported their partnership histories and were actually nonhomosexual.”By 2004, Symphony Healthcare was bankrupt and they sold the entire site to Reed College for $52 million, and auctioned off everything inside the hospital. After acquiring the property, Reed College razed the buildings.
In 2010 Rhiannon G O'Dannabhain, who had had surgery with Meltzer in 2001, won in court against the US tax authorities to the effect that the cost of transgender surgery was tax deductible.
A 2015 patient, Ellie Zara Lay, also an experienced surgeon, joined Meltzer’s practice in 2016, and it is hoped will continue the practice after Dr Meltzer retires.
Meltzer has kept a low profile in Scottsdale. He does not promote his practice, and rarely grants media interviews, but his patients find him on the internet. It can take up to seven months for a first meeting with him. Dr Meltzer has done over 3,000 sex change operations. Out-of-town and out-of-country patients account for more than 85 percent of his caseload. He operates Monday through Thursday, with two 12-hour days, he does at least five male-to-female and two to four female-to-male procedures each week.
Babette Ellsworth 1994
Andrea James 1998,
Anne Lawrence 1995,
Robyn Walters 2000
Rhiannon G O'Donnabhain 2001
Christine Beatty 2002,
Jamie Clayton 2003.
Donna Rose 2005
Kaitlin Sine Riordan 2007
Sheela-Marie Padgett 2008,
Andreja Pejic 2013
Ellie Zara Ley 2015
Eleazer Ley was born in San Luis, Sonora. His mother was Chinese, and his father half-Chinese. Shortly after birth he developed a medical complication that the local doctors did not know how to deal with. Despite not having the correct papers, his mother was able to take the child across the US border to a hospital in Yuma, Arizona, purely with a doctor’s letter.
Ley grew up to be a doctor. He did undergraduate work in the US as a foreign student, returned to Mexico for medical school, and immigrated to the US. He worked at New York Medical College in Valhalla, NY and in the general surgery program at the University of Arizona. He then completed a fellowship in pediatric craniofacial plastic surgery at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles he received fellowship training in hand and microsurgery, and then returned to the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, to complete a fellowship in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
He considered extending his skills into gender surgery, and researched how it was being done in Thailand. He had also married, and they had two daughters. He took a position in Tucson where his wife is from. Approaching 40, Ley had 14 years of medical school, residency, and three fellowships. He opened the Ley Institute of Plastic & Hand Surgery, LLC and the Arizona Craniofacial & Pediatric Plastic Surgery. He also did work in Nogales, Sonora, for the border community.
Then Ley had a damascene moment. Helping the two daughters with nail polish, it was suddenly apparent what was missing from life.
“It just stirred something inside of me that wouldn’t stop, this force. It was relentless after that. My feminine side just completely came out.”Ley transitioned and was divorced in 2015. Ellie Zara Ley had surgery from Dr Toby Meltzer, who
|Drs Meltzer & Ley|
Clayton was raised in San Diego, with a defense attorney and an event planner as parents. At age 19 she moved to New York to transition and to work as a make-up artist. She had completion surgery with Dr Toby Meltzer in Scottsdale in 2003, one of his first patients after he moved from Oregon.
For a while Jamie had a problem in that known as trans, she could not get cis parts, and yet when she went to auditions for transgender roles she would be rejected in that she did not look the part. In December 2010 she was featured in an article in the New York Times about an acting class for gay actors. This led to her being cast as a secondary character in Hung, 2011, which was primarily about a male prostitute.
She played the role of "Michelle" in the interactive web series Dirty Work. Clayton is also a member of the performance art–rock group Roma! She now works regularly in movies and television, and was featured in Sense8, 2015-now (directed by the Wachowskis) and the Neon Demon, 2016.
(auto)biographies that are almost unobtainable
French and Belgian (auto) biographies and Histories
Biographies with the pre-transition name in the title
While it is standard practice to mention the pre-transition name in a book-length biography, it is unusual to put the name actually in the book title. The authors below, two of them being the person discussed themselves, have different approaches, but somehow ended up doing this one thing.
This is a set not previously defined.
William Ernest Edwards. GVWW. Farm Worker, labourer.
Camille Barbin. GVWW. School teacher compelled to become male.
Harry Leo Crawford. GVWW. Labourer, convicted of killing his wife.
Michael Dillon. Doctor, world’s first surgical trans man.
(this book has recently been released with the slightly adjusted title: From a Girl to a Man: How Laura Became Michael: The Story of the World's First Female-to-Male Transsexual)
Michelle Ann Duff. GVWW champion motorcycle racer
Philippa York. Tour de France champion cyclist
Leona Lo. Singapore activist
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simon Callow in the Guardian
Nattee was urged by her parents to enter, and became the winner of the Miss Tiffany’s Universe 2009 contest in Pattaya, Thailand.In 2013 it was announced that Sorrawee was to become a monk. He had breast implants removed and took the name Phra Maha Viriyo Bhikku.
‘‘It’s not that I’ve become a monk to run away from problems, but I’ve studied dhamma for two years and now know what it truly is.’’He entered the Wat Liab temple in his home province of Songkhla. Sorrawee was quite open about his past as a beauty contestant, and the abbot of Wat Liab declared him to be 100% a man.
· Terry Fredrickson. “Miss Tiffany becomes a monk”. Bangkok Post, 14 May 2013. http://www.bangkokpost.com/learning/easier-stuff/349892/miss-tiffany-becomes-a-monk.
· “Buddhism won't be harmed by ex-drag queen”. The Nation, May 18, 2013. www.nationmultimedia.com/opinion/Buddhism-wont-be-harmed-by-ex-drag-queen-30206369.html
SurgeonsSanguan Kunaporn, in Phuket, trained by Preecha Tiewtranon. WebPageSusan’s Place – patients include: Melanie Myers, Stefánie Faludi, Racheal McGonigal,
Preecha Tiewtranon in Bangkok. Been doing transgender surgery for over 30 years – over 35,000 surgeries. Trained several other surgeons. WebPageNewsarticle. - patients include: Donna Lee
Thep Vechavisit in Bangkok is one of the cheapest, but not all are satisfied. Beware – WebPageTSRoadmap, Sydney Morning Herald, BBC, Susan’s Place, Patients include: Rose Venkatesan, Alexis Reich
Suporn Watanyusakul, in Chonburi, has been doing transgender operations for over 25 years, and has done over 25000 operations. He does 130 operations a year. WebpageYahoo Group
Chettawut Tulayaphanich has done 3,000 transgender operations. Webpage
PersonsChoochat Dulayapraphatsorn (1962 - ). Kathoey elected village chief in Tai Ban Mai, Thailand 2008.
Kokkorn Benjathikoon โกโก้ กกกร เบญจาธิกูล (1969 - ) model, actress. GVWW.
Parinya Charoenphon ปริญญา เจริญผล/Nong Tum (1981–) boxer, actress, singer. GVWW.
Nicky Kiranant (1983 - ) air hostess. GVWW.
Yasmin Lee (1983 - ) Thai born US immigrant, started in porn videos and broke through into mainstream Hollywood. GVWW
Nuntita Khampiranon นันทิตา ฆัมภิรานนท์;/Bell Nunita (1983 - ) performer EN.Wikipedia
Yollada "Nok" Suanyot เกริกก้อง "นก"สวนยศ; (1983 - ) performer in Venus Flytrap, elected in Nan province, 2012, also founder and chair of TransFemale Association of Thailand GVWW
Nuntita Khampiranon/ นันทิตา ฆัมภิรานนท์/ Bell Nuntita (1983 - ) performer in Venus Flytrap, singer. EN.Wikipedia
Peche Di/Pitchadapha Phasi (1989 - ) Thai emigrant to US founded Trans Models, NYC. EN.Wikipedia Newsarticle Newsarticle
Sorrawee "Jazz" Nattee (1989 - ), , winner of the Miss Tiffany Universe 2009 contest, has had breast implants removed and has become a monk under the name Phra Maha Viriyo Bhikku. 2013. GVWW
Mimi Tao/ Phajaranat Nobantao (1993 - ) ex-Catholic, 6 years a Buddhist monk, now an in-demand lingerie and fashion model. NewsarticleNewsarticle
Events and institutionsTiffany’s Cabaret Show, since 1974. Webpage
Miss Tiffany’s Universe/ มิสทิฟฟานี่ยูนิเวิร์ส, a beauty contest for Thai trans women, held in mid-May, in Pattaya, since 1998. EN.Wikipedia
Miss International Queen contest is held annually in Pattaya, with contestants, both pre-op and post-op, from around the world. Must be 18-35. EN.Wikipedia
Thai Transgender AllianceWebpage
Iron Ladies (สตรีเหล็ก, satree lek) volleyball team won the national championship in 1996. This was then portrayed in two films. EN.Wikipedia
Apple Model Management Agency, Thailand's leading modeling agency, announced the worldwide launch of its new Transgender board in 2015. Webpage
Westerners in ThailandWillow Arune (1946 - ) Canadian lawyer and autogynephilia activist, was – before transition – arrested in Bangkok after becoming involved in a dubious $1million financial transaction with two Americans. GVWW
Melanie Myers (19?? - ) ran a guesthouse, Melanie’s Cocoon, in Phuket, Thailand in the mid 2000s aimed at trans women, and Mel passed her business card to Kunaporn’s patients. GVWW
Alexis Reich (1964 - ) US schoolteacher arrested in Thailand and charged with JonBenet Ramsey murder. GVWW
Veronique Renard/Pantau (1965 - ) Dutch writer, Buddhist activist, has been living in Bangkok since 2005. GVWW
Albert Ellsworth was born in Yakima, Washington State, to a teenage mother, Mildred Sweet (1911-1955) and her husband Albert Ellsworth (1906-1990). They were told that the child was not expected to live, and relocated to Redmond, Washington. Subsequent enquiries to the hospital re the child went unanswered.
Neglected, the baby was cared for by a French aristocrat, Germaine Bonnefont (1894-1983) a teacher of French and Spanish, and her US husband, Robert Brown, and in the 1930 census he was listed as their son Bobby Brown. They took the young boy to France, although without the formality of adoption.
|The Bonnefonts - Albert on left|
Brown returned to the US alone in 1932, and to his work in the forestry service, but came down with liver damage, and died.
Albert was raised in Narbonne close to the Spanish border and grew up tri-lingual. He was educated as a Catholic and lived at the Chateau du Lac south of Narbonne. The Bonnefont clan were acquainted with exiled Russian aristocracy, including Felix Yusupov (1887-1967) transvestite and assassin of Rasputin. They had connections with the Francoist regime in Spain and were supporters of the Vichy regime during the German occupation: some joined the Waffen SS and died defending France from the Allied invasion in 1944; others were killed after the Liberation of France.
In the ensuing chaos, Albert came to the attention of the new government in Paris, and after scrutiny of his documents, it was determined that he was a US citizen and he was sent back to Yakima on the SS Argentina in 1946. He was upset that US customs confiscated his portrait of Hitler.
He was then 17, and had no memory of his birth mother who was still only in her mid-30s. They had sex and a sister-daughter Rosalyn was born, although by then Albert had left and did not know about the child. After living rough, Albert was saved by the Portland, Oregon Catholic charity, Blanchet House. They arranged educational scholarships and Ellsworth was able to do a BA and a masters at the Catholic University of Portland (not to be confused with the Methodist Portland University or with Portland State University).
Germaine reinvented herself as a veteran of the French Résistance, and arrived in Portland in 1947. She later lived in British Columbia.
Ellsworth did a doctorate at the University of Bordeau. He was employed to teach history, French and Spanish at Portland State University. He took a wife, Helen, and they had three daughters. In 1964 Ellsworth was hired at the newly formed Portland Community College, and stayed the rest of his life.
Albert was cross-dressing in private.
One of his students was Billie, the wife of the progressive judge Raymond Shoemaker. They fell in love and Albert abandoned Helen. The Judge and Mrs Shoemaker welcomed him and the three lived ménage a trois, and traveled together until the Judge died in 1977. Billie came down with cancer in 1990. Albert and Billie married so that he would inherit the house.
Shortly after Billie’s death, Albert married Sandra, a close friend whom he had known for decades, who worked in administration at Portland Community College. However Ellsworth started talking about changing sex, and in 1994, transitioned on the job at the age of 66. She was one of the first patients of surgeon Toby Meltzer who had started performing vaginoplasty in Portland, only the year before. Her legal name became AJ Bobbie Ellsworth, but she was from then generally known as Babette.
Sandra could not relate to this and they were divorced shortly afterwards.
In 1998, Babette made an arrangement with one of her students, Ross Eliot, food and board in exchange for chauffeuring and other assistances. Bills and other mail arrived addressed to Albert Ellsworth. "My professor smiled mischievously when I asked about this. Albert? Oh, he was my husband. Some people suspected I had him murdered. This suggestion made her laugh."
In 2002 Babette was contacted by the long lost Rosalyn, who came to visit her sister-father. While she was there, Babette died of a massive heart attack while entering a bus for a student tour that she was to lead. She was 74.
AJ Ellsworth is not listed among the Notable alumni of the University of Portland, nor among people from Portland nor among the faculty at Portland Community College.
Ross Eliot does not find out until p118 that Albert Ellsworth is Babette rather than her dead husband. "Oh please! Ross? You've seen her without a wig. Ladies don't go bald that way. And you know how deep her voice is. Plus, come on, no real woman her age has tits that perky."
According to Ross Eliot, Ellsworth had three wives:
Craig Snyder apparently omits the middle wife, and gives a different name for the 3rd.
Craig Snyder’s page on Germaine Bonnefont says that she and Robert Brown adopted two sons, the other named as Robert John Pierre. Ross Elliot in his blog entry on Ellworth’s FBI file (http://profellsworth.com/news: May 4, 2015) gives this name as an alias of Babette.
I cannot find any account of Judge Raymond Shoemaker.
Part I: early lifeRay José Christian Rivera Mendoza, was three years old when his mother, aged 22, facing death threats from her husband, drank rat poison mixed with milk and gave the same mixture to her children. They would not drink it, but she, after two days of agony, died.
Ray’s Puerto Rican father had already disappeared. He came back only once, and never paid child support. Ray’s Venezuelan-born grandmother, called Viejita (‘old lady’, even though she was only in her forties) took Ray and his younger half-sister to live in Jersey City, where she raised them on less than $50 a week. In 1958 Viejita fell ill for a matter of months, and afterwards sent Ray to live with friends.
He returned at weekends and holidays. By now Viejita was living in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Ray had had sex with an older cousin at age seven, and at age 10 was having regular sex with a married man down the street. He also wore Viejita’s clothes and makeup when Viejita was out. Ray wore makeup at school from the fourth grade, apparently with no-one noticing except for one teacher who seduced him.
Ray was a noted athlete in track and gymnastics. In the sixth-grade there was an incident when a larger classmate called him a ‘faggot’, and Ray won the resulting fight.
However at age eleven, in 1962, Ray discovered 42nd Street where he had heard that the maricónes were to be found. However a neighbour spotted him, which led to a row with Viejita, a suicide attempt and two months in Bellevue Hospital.
A few months later Ray left and moved in with Gary, a lover that he would stay with for seven years. They both hustled and did drugs, and became well-known around Times Square. Ray was urged to take a new name. ‘Sylvia’ was proposed: “There is no Sylvia around”. So with a formal christening, a white gown and a preacher from a Pentecostal Hispanic church, she became Sylvia Lee Rivera.
By now she had met Marsha P Johnson, who – although only seven years older – acted as a drag mother and showed Sylvia how to survive on the streets. Marsha got her a job at the Childs restaurant chain, first as a messenger. Sylvia was then promoted to billing clerk, and then, working in suit and tie with full makeup, in accounts payable.
Sylvia still did hustling, and after her first arrest she was in the Brooklyn House of Detention for three days. Sylvia was welcomed by Gary’s family, but Viejita was resistant.
“You can’t love another man!”, and later “Why can’t you have a Spanish boy?” – to which Sylvia came back: “Oh, sure, sure – so I can go kill myself like my mother did?”
By the time that she was 15, Sylvia was hustling as a woman. Several times guns were pulled on her, but she never had more than $20 in her purse – the rest was in the hem of her skirt. Sometimes her gender was challenged, but with a wig hair on a tight gaff, she was able to bluff it through. However one night with a trick, her penis did pop out. He beat her hard, she pulled the gun from her purse, and had to use it. After he recovered, the trick toured the Times Square area with two cops in tow until he had her arrested.
Ray called Viejita who did the grandmother act and got Ray released. On a lawyer’s advice, Ray cut his hair, quit the makeup, enrolled in school and appeared in court a model clean-cut teenage boy. “I ask you, your honor; does this look like a street hustler or a transvestite?” The judge agreed, and Sylvia walked.
In Spring 1966, the new New York City mayor, John Lindsay, announced a crackdown on pornography and prostitution. Sylvia, at her usual spot on 9th Avenue and 44th Street was one of many caught in the sweep. Sylvia was put in the gay section in Rikers Island prison. It was here that she started doing heroin. She also met a good-looking black queen who went by the name Bambi L’Amour. They threw shade at each other, and then became firm friends.
Back on the streets, Sylvia teamed up with Kim, a cis woman, and they hustled together, often robbing their tricks. Sylvia was sometimes spending $200 a day on heroin, and hustling in a white fox coat. She also paid for hormone treatments. At first she and her friends had gone to a doctor on the Lower East Side until she got a discharge from her right breast, and found that she had been taking monkey hormones. She switched to Dr Stern on 5th Avenue, who was willing to take bodily contact instead of payment. However she decided to stop the injections.
“I don’t want to be a woman. I just want to be me. … I like pretending. I like to have the role. I like to dress up and pretend, and let the world think about what I am. Is he, or isn’t he?”One night Sylvia was told that Viejita was ill. Although it was 2am, and she was stoned and in full drag, she hailed a cab and went right over. Viejita opened the door and exclaimed:
“Oh my god, you look just like your mother!” Sylvia replied: “Well, who am I supposed to look like?”
“I know I like men. I know I like to wear dresses. But I don’t know what any problem is.”She also produced papers from the stay in Bellevue that stated that she was homosexual. The
psychiatrist stamped HOMOSEXUAL on the induction notice, and told her that she could go home.
On a roll, Sylvia announced that she hadn’t any money, and needed a lift home. And she got it.
Part II: where was Sylvia the night of 27/28 June 1969?Sylvia was still 17 on this date, five days short of her birthday July 2. 18 was the legal drinking age in New York State at this time. Despite being underage she had a preferred bar: the Washington Square at Broadway and 3rd Street. It opened at 3 am and catered primarily to transvestites.
27/8 June 1969, of course was the first night of the Stonewall riots. (the following accounts are sorted by date).
Holly Woodlawn, A Low Life in High Heels, 1992: 124-5:
"June 26, 1969, was a hot, muggy Thursday night. The humidity in the air was unbearable because every queen in the city was in tears. Judy Garland was dead. ... When I returned to the Stonewall the next night, there was so much commotion --sirens blaring, people screaming --I thought that a bomb had gone off. The cops were everywhere, and a chill shot up my spine as I drew closer, fearing the worst. I wedged myself into the mob for a closer look and heard a raspy scream, 'Asshole!' A street queen named Crazy Sylvia had just broken a gin bottle over a cop's head!"
Rey “Sylvia Lee” Rivera. “The Drag Queen” in Eric Marcus. Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights, 1945-1990 : an Oral History. HarperPerennial, 1992: 191-2.
“We had just come back from Washington, DC, my first lover and I. At that time we were passing bad paper around and making lots of money. And I said, ‘Let’s go to the Stonewall,’ So I was drinking at the bar, and the police came in to get their payoff as usual. They were the same who always used to come into the Washington Square Bar.
“I don’t know if it was was the customers or if it was the police, but that night everything just clicked. Every was like, ‘Why the fuck are we doing all this for? Why should we be chastised? Why do we have to pay the Mafia all this kind of money to drink in a lousy fuckin’ bar? And still be harassed by the police?’ It didn’t make any sense. The prople at them bars, especially at the Stonewall, were involved in other movememts. And everybody was like: “We got to do our thing. We’re gonna go for it!”
“When they ushered us out, they very nicely put us out the door. …
“That night I got knocked around a bit by a couple of plainsclothes cops. I didn’t really get hurt. I was very careful that night, thank God. But I saw other people being hurt by the police. There was one drag queen, I don’t know what she said, but they just beat her her into a bloody pulp. There were a couple of dykes they took out and threw in a car.”
Martin Duberman. Stonewall. Plume, 1994: 190-3.
Sylvia and Gary had returned from passing bad checks in Washington, DC. Sylvia also had a job as an accounting clerk in a Jersey City warehouse. There was to be a party at Marsha’s, but Sylvia decided to stay home, until Tammy Novak phoned, and absolutely insisted, would not take ‘no’ for an answer, that they meet later in the Stonewall. When the cops raided, Sylvia panicked thinking that she had forgotten her ID, but Gary had brought it. A cop asked if she were a boy or a girl, and she almost swung at him, but Gary grabbed her in time. The cop told her to get out of the place. She then watched from the park across the street.
Duberman adds in the endnotes p300n40: “At least two people credit Sylvia herself with provoking the riot: Jeremiah Newton (New York Native, June 15, 1990) has her throwing an empty gin bottle that smashed in front of the Stonewall door; and Ivan Valentin (interview July 5, 1991) insists that Sylvia actually jumped a cop and thereby ‘started the Gay Liberation movement’. But I’ve found no corroboration for either account, and Sylvia herself, with a keener regard for the historical record, denies the accuracy of both versions. She does remember ‘throwing bricks and rocks and things’ after the mêlée began, but takes no credit for initiating the confrontation.”
Sylvia Rivera. “Queens in Exile, the Forgotton Ones” in Joan Nestle, Clare Howell & Riki Wilchins. GenderQueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary. Alyson books, 2002: 77-8.
This account of Stonewall is notable in being in the plural. Sylvia does not say that she actually was there.
“The night Stonewall happened everybody was out partying. People were mourning, even me. We were mourning Judy Garland’s death. Some authors have said that the riot came out of Judy Garland’s death, but that’s not true. Judy had nothing to do with the riot. … We fought back. … So this night was different. This was the start of out talking back, speaking up for ourselves. … they proofed us. We went out the door. But no one dispersed.”
Bebe Scarpinato & Rusty Moore. “Sylvia Rivera Obituary”. Transgender Tapestry, 98, Summer 2002:34.
“She was present and participated in the Stonewall Riots, which became the determining event of her life.”
That is all that they say about Stonewall.
David Carter, author of Stonewall : the riots that sparked the gay revolution, 2004, did not mention Sylvia Rivera even once in his book. He was interviewed by Gay Today, and asked about this lacuna.
“I am afraid that I could only conclude that Sylvia's account of her being there on the first night was a fabrication. Randy Wicker told me that Marsha P. Johnson, his roommate, told him that Sylvia was not at the Stonewall Inn at the outbreak of the riots as she had fallen asleep in Bryant Park after taking heroin. (Marsha had gone up to Bryant Park, found her asleep, and woke her up to tell her about the riots.) Playwright and early gay activist Doric Wilson also independently told me that Marsha Johnson had told him that Sylvia was not at the Stonewall Riots. Sylvia also showed a real inconsistency in her accounts of the Stonewall Riots. In one account she claimed that the night the riots broke out was the first time that she had ever been at the Stonewall Inn; in another account she said that she had been there many times. In one account she said that she was there in drag; in another account she says that she was not in drag. She told Martin Duberman that she went to the Stonewall Inn the night the riots began to celebrate Marsha Johnson's birthday, but Marsha was born in August, not June. I also did not find one credible witness who saw her there on the first night.”
Stephan L. Cohen.The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: 'an Army of Lovers Cannot Fail', 2008: 90.
“Overcoming adversity is but one aspect of their story. Street transvestites were in the forefront of the gay liberation movement—joining those responsible for the Stonewall Rebellion: transvestites and lesbians who resisted inside the bar, street kids protesting outside, including Jackie Hormona reported to have “kicked a cop,” the effeminate gay male “flame queens,” and the “lesbian who fought the police” along with other gays, lesbians, agitators, students, and passers-by. Street transvestite Marsha P. Johnson was seen climbing a lamppost and dropping “a bag containing a heavy object” on a police car windshield, shattering it. Although Sylvia Rivera later explained that she had come down the avenue, turned the corner and joined the protest (this would presumably have been on one of the subsequent nights, as neither Bob Kohler nor Marsha saw Sylvia that first night).”
Cohen adds a footnote: p244n6. “Martin Duberman’s lively, Stonewall account of Sylvia’s participation in the Stonewall rebellion conflicts with Bob Kohler’s understanding: Sylvia privately acknowledged to Kohler that she was not present the first night of rioting (Bob Kohler, interview by author, NYC, July 21, 2003).”
It does not matter whether Sylvia was at Stonewall or not; whether she watched passively or joined in. What she did later, in STAR and in being the public face of transgender in 1970s New York, is what is important. This we will see in the next part.
Part I: beginnings
Part II: GAA & Weinstein Hall
Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
Part IV: Other activities to 1973
Part V: Later years
GLF & GAAIn the months following Stonewall, Sylvia was living and working in New Jersey, and out of touch with what was going on. She met Marsha P Johnson on the street and was told about the emergence of the Gay Liberation Front, and the subsequent formation of the Gay Activists Alliance. She then noticed a new periodical, Gay Power, on the newsstands.
With another queen, Josie, she attended a GAA meeting. They were given attitude at the door, but did get in. They sat at the back, to be inconspicuous. Complaining, in Spanish, that they were in the wrong place, led to a meeting with Bebe Scarpi, who being Italian partially understood them. Bebe assured them that sisters were welcome.
However journalist Arthur Bell, born in Brooklyn, raised in Montréal, one of the founders of GAA observed that
“the general membership is frightened of Sylvia and thinks that she is a troublemaker. They’re frightened by street people”.Her skin color, her dress, her social class, her style of politics by confrontation put her at odds with the largely white middle-class membership.
However Bebe Scarpi ensured that Sylvia’s dues were paid each year, and she did find friends, including some of the lesbians who accepted and respected her. One such was Karla Jay, who would challenge Sylvia and Marsha in that they were embracing the very aspects of womenhood that feminists were attempting to abandon. But other lesbians denounced Sylvia for parodying women. Jean O’Leary in particular took this stance.
In GLF Bob Kohler often spoke up for the queens, despite opposition. At different times he brought along various queens, including Bambi L’Amour and Zazu Nova, but only Sylvia had the staying power. Kohler was on the committee that organized GLF dances. He put Sylvia on door duty, where, even though often stoned, she fiercely collected and guarded the money.
GAA had started a petition to get the reluctant Carol Greitzer of New York City Council representing Grennwich Village to introduce a bill for gay rights. Sylvia liked the idea and starting soliciting signatures right on 42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues where she did her usual sex hustling. 15 April 1970 there was an anti-war demonstration down the street, and cops, actually the Tactical Patrol Force, told her to move. This escalated and she was arrested and, after paying a $50 bail, was late for her 11pm shift in New Jersey. However she did get one of the arresting officers to sign the petition, “a Jewish cop. He was young. He was very good looking.”
She recounted her adventures at GAA. This was heard by Arthur Bell, who wrote a story for Gay Power, and made Sylvia a celebrity. When her case came to court the public gallery was filled with activists from GAA and GLF. Gay attorney Hal Weiner volunteered his services, and GAA picked up the legal fees. It was also her first meeting with Bob Kohler.
The next public appearance of Sylvia was at the 1970 Christopher Street Gay Liberation Day, the first anniversary of Stonewall. Sylvia and Bebe led the parade repeatedly chanting a spelling of GAY POWER along the 60 blocks of the march, up 6th Avenue and into Central Park.
After several appearances, Sylvia’s court case was thrown out 28 August when the arresting officer failed to show.
In August-September 1970, the Gay Activist Alliance and then the Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee had booked the basement of Weinstein Hall, a New York University residence building for fundraising dances. On the eve of the third dance, to be held 21 August, the administration attempted to cancel the rest. Although the two remaining dances were held, the situation escalated and the Hall was occupied.
As Sylvia immersed herself in gay liberation, she failed to attend to her everyday life, and she lost her job, her home, her dog, her sewing machine and her relationship with Gary. She was sitting in the part on Christopher Street, across from the Stonewall tavern, with her suitcase and shopping cart, when Bob Kohler came by and told her of the sit-in at Weinstein Hall. He pushed her shopping cart for her. She was pleased to see friends among the other volunteers: Marsha Johnson and Bubbles Rose Lee. They discovered a matron’s bathroom, and Sylvia and others from the street were able to clean up.
Disparate gay types bonded: street people, middle-class, those used to passing for straight, students, Latinos, black, white. The lesbians and the transvestites got on. Sylvia said: “I never knew lesbians like you. The only lesbians I knew were street dykes. But you’re all really nice”. One replied: “I feel the same way about you, Sylvia. I’ve never known any drag queens before”. “Transvestites”, said Sylvia. “Transvestites”. (quoted Bell p115; Cohen p 113).
It was here that the idea of a home for street people evolved. At first it was called Street Transvestites for Gay Power. On the Thursday night, the NYU students had been invited to meet the protesters. Sylvia ran uptown to the GAA meeting and implored more GAA persons to attend. Most GAA members did not seem to care, but a few came, one of whom was Bebe Scarpi.
A further dance was planned for Friday 25 September. However the administration called the New York City Tactical Police Squad, which gave the occupiers 10 seconds to vacate the Hall.
Part I: beginnings
Part II: GAA & Weinstein Hall
Part III: Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries
Part IV: Other activities to 1973
Part V: Later years
After the demonstration following the eviction from Weinstein Hall, Bubbles, Sylvia, Marsha, Bebe Scarpi, Bambi L’Amour, Andorra and others continued with what became Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) which attempted to provide shelter, food and legal support for street queens.
Their first home was a trailer truck seemingly abandoned in a Greenwich Village outdoor parking area. This was a step up from sleeping in doorways, and a couple of dozen young street transvestites moved in. One morning Sylvia and Marsha were returning with groceries, and found the trailer starting to move. Most of the queens were woken by the noise and movement and quickly jumped out, although one, stoned, was half-way to California when she woke up.
Bubbles knew a Mafia person, well-known in the Village, Michael Umbers, manager of the gay bar, Christopher’s End, operator of various callboy and porno operations and also a friend of future Dog Day Afternoon bank robber, John Wojtowicz. Bubbles spoke to him and for a small deposit the S.T.A.R. commune was able to move into 213 East 2nd Street in November 1970. There was no electricity or plumbing, not even the boiler worked, nor did the toilets. However with help they got the building working and it became StarHouse. This is probably the first communal shelter that explicitly served street transvestites. Sylvia:
“We had a S.T.A.R. House—a place for all of us to sleep. It was only four rooms, and the landlord had turned the electricity off. So we lived there by candle light, a floating bunch of 15 to 25 queens, cramped in those rooms with all our wardrobe. But it worked. We’d cook up these big spaghetti dinners and sometimes we’d have sausage for breakfast, if we were feeling rich” (quoted in Cohen p131-2)Several of them hustled.
“The contribution of the ones who didn’t make it out into the streets, who wanted something different, was to liberate food from in front of the A&P. . . . So the house was well-supplied, the building’s rent was paid, and everybody in the neighborhood loved StarHouse. They were impressed because they could leave their kids and we’d baby-sit with them. If they were hungry, we fed them. We fed half of the neighborhood because we had an abundance of food the kids liberated. It was a revolutionary thing.” (Cohen p 132-3)Expenses were supplemented by dances and a bake sale.
S.T.A.R. put out a manifesto:
The oppression against Transvestites of either sex arises from sexist values and this oppression is manifested by heterosexuals and homosexuals of both sexes in the form of exploitation, ridicule, harrassment, beatings, rapes, murders.
Because of this oppression the majority of transvestites are forced into the street and we have formed a strong alliance with our gay sisters and brothers of the street. Who we are a part of and represent we are; a part of the REVOLUTIONARIES armies fighting against the system.
1. We want the right to self-determination over the use of our bodies; the right to be gay, anytime, anyplace; the right to free physiological change and modification of sex on demand; the right to free dress and adornment.
2. The end to all job discrimination against transvestites of both sexes and gay street people because of attire.
3. The immediate end of all police harrassment and arrest of transvestites and gay street people, and the release of transvestites and gay street people from all prisons and all other political prisoners.
4. The end to all exploitive practices of doctors and psychiatrists who work in the field of transvestism.
5. Transvestites who live as members of the opposite gender should be able to obtain identification of the opposite gender.
6. Transvestites and gay street people and all oppressed people should have free education, health care, clothing, food, transportation, and housing.
7. Transvestites and gay street people should be granted full and equal rights on all levels of society, and full voice in the struggle for liberation of all oppressed people.
8. An end to exploitation and discrimination against transvestites within the homosexual world.
9. We want a revolutionary peoples’ government, where transvestites, street people, women, homosexuals, puerto ricans, indians, and all oppressed people are free, and not fucked over by this government who treat us like the scum of the earth and kills us off like flies, one by one, and throws us into jail to rot. This government who spends millions of dollars to go to the moon, and lets the poor Americans starve to death.
POWER TO THE PEOPLESylvia continued her concern with the incarcerated. In 1970 over 4,000 boys were held in Riker’s Island, mainly because they could not afford bail. S.T.A.R. publicized what happened when transvestites were arrested, often several times: long waits in remand, beatings by guards, rape, attempted suicide. Street transvestites on the outside joined the Gay Community Prison Committee, organized protests, interviewed prisoners and attempted to provide legal aid. Sylvia and Arthur Bell discovered dancer Chris Thompson who had gone to Bellevue Hospital because of asthma, and was held because of gender deviance. They wrote up her situation in the radical publication Gay Flames.
S. T. A. R.
Other Gay Flames headlines were: “U.S. Justice = Gay is Guilty,” “Street Transvestite Murdered,” “Support Lesbian, Transvestite, & Gay Inmates,” “Killers Go Free While Gays Rot in Jail".
There were prison visits and demonstrations outside prisons – especially the Women’s House of Detention on Greenwich Avenue where the prisoners could talk to passersby, and which was targeted on a weekly basis until it was closed in June 1971. (Testimony by Angela Davis and Andrea Dworkin contributed to its closing).
The national lesbian organization, Daughters of Bilitis, welcomed the S.T.A.R. members, but other lesbian feminists rejected ‘anachronistic’ butch and femme roles. GAA attempted to debunk stereotypes of ‘femme queens’ and ‘butch dykes’ and this undercut transvestite needs and concerns.
Sylvia could be a formidable presence, and could intimidate. Cohen tells of a petite Japanese GLF woman who thought “she was going to die.” She saw Sylvia as a “very angry, very strong Puerto Rican man.” Despite Bob Kohler’s counsel, Sylvia denied holding male privilege and its aggressive misuse.
There were tragedies. One transvestite, June, died after drinking her mixture of methadone and alcohol. In March, Marsha was overwhelmed when her husband, Cantrell, was shot dead by an off-duty cop while out to get money so that they could buy drugs. Sylvia, who had started heroin when in Riker’s Island prison, eventually locked herself in Marsha’s place and went cold turkey during several excruciating days.
On 14 March 1972 S.T.A.R., QLF, GAA and other groups went to the New York State Capital, Albany to demonstrate for repeal of laws against sodomy, solicitation and impersonation as well as to ask for housing and employment protections. Sylvia and Kate Millet were among the speakers.
Many of the S.T.A.R. members were religious:
“We’d all get together to pray to our saints before we’d go out hustling. A majority of the queens were Latin and we believe in an emotional, spiritualistic religion. We have our own saints: Saint Barbara, the patron saint of homosexuality, St. Michael, the Archangel; La Calidad de Cobre, the Madonna of gold; and Saint Martha, the saint of transformation. St. Martha had once transformed herself into a snake, so to her we’d pray: ‘Please don’t let them see through the mask. Let us pass as women and save us from harm.’ And to the other three we’d kneel before our altar of candles and pray: ‘St. Barbara, St. Michael, La Calidad de Cobre: We know we are doing wrong, but we got to live and we got to survive, so please help us, bring us money tonight, protect us, and keep evil away.’ We kept the sword of St. Barbara at the front door and the sword of St. Michael at the back door to ward off evil. We were watched over.” (Cohen p134)
Feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson wrote an indictment of the Catholic Church which was endorsed by the Daughters of Bilitis. The church was denounced as a “ruthless foe of abortion, sexual law reform, divorce, birth control and human dignity”. This position was supported by S.T.A.R. and Gay Youth, along with GAA, GLF, Mattachine Society, NYU Gay Students’ Liberation, and Radicalesbians.
A Conference of Gay Liberation was held at Rutgers University in New Jersey in March 1971 with forums on sadism, masochism, and leather; bisexuality; and transvestism. Speakers from S.T.A.R., Queens Liberation Front and GAA addressed the inaugural event on transvestism.
In July 1971 Mike Umbers came around about the three months rent that he had not received. Bubbles mumbled something about the cost of repairs. Umbers said that if he didn’t get his money, Bubbles was as good as dead. Sylvia screamed that if he killed her, she would go to the police. Bubbles skipped town soon after, possibly for Florida.
Umbers decided against violence and simply had S.T.A.R. put out on the street for non-payment of rent. Sylvia and the others reversed the improvements and threw the refrigerator out of the back window.
Arthur Bell wrote an article for the Village Voice in July 1971 about StarHouse.
S.T.A.R. “is mainly into whoring and radical politics. Their philosophy is to destroy the system that’s fucking us over. They’re a sub-culture unaccepted within the subculture of transvestism and looked down at in horror by many of the women and men in the homosexual liberation movement. Sylvia and Marsha and Bambi and Andorra with their third world looks and their larger-than-life presences and their cut-the-crap tongues do not ‘fit’ at a GAA meeting. ‘We don’t relate to each other,’ says Sylvia. Marsha says, ‘Why should I go to their dances? No one asks me to dance. I freak them out.’ S.T.A.R. didn’t do too well with the Gay Liberation Front toward the end, either. The S.T.A.R.s relate very well to themselves, and to a certain segment of the ‘live and let live’ street people. But by and large, they’re the great unwanteds.”Perhaps he said too much about how the inhabitants hustle. Its publication was followed by a flurry of arrests on 42nd St.
|Sylvia and Marsha|
Sylvia found temporary refuge with friends on 109th Street. Marsha returned to her 211 Eldridge Street apartment that once again became S.T.A.R.’s de facto address.
Young Lords and the Black PanthersSylvia was also involved with Puerto Rican and black youth activism, with the Young Lords and the Black Panthers.
While GLF had openly supported The Panthers, had helped them with bail money etc, there was a constant problem with the Panthers’ homophobia. They had been confronted on this issue by GLF at a rally at New Haven on 1 May 1970. Shortly afterwards Panther Huey Newton published an admonishment that militant blacks should acknowledge their insecurities about homosexuality.
The GLF was invited to send a delegation to a Panther convention in Philadelphia, and Sylvia was chosen as part of the delegation. Huey even remembered her from a demonstration in New York.
New York City Council's General Welfare committeeIn late 1971, GAA succeeded, after lobbying and protesting, in getting the New York City Council's General Welfare committee to discuss the problems faced by gays and transvestites. GAA equivocated and for a while agreed to the removal of transvestite protections. However it ultimately endorsed them.
Lee Brewster, Bebe, and Sylvia argued transvestites “were being used as scapegoats by the gay movement” seeking to explain its failure to get the asked-for protections.
Sylvia, usually an extemporaneous speaker, had had her face bruised after a confrontation with police at a recent demonstration, wore a conservative dress and her hair in a bun, and read in muted fashion, a statement based on STAR’s platform.
The bill was was not passed even in 1973, when it went forward with the caveat that nothing in the definition of sexual orientation “shall be construed to bear upon the standards of attire or dress code".
There was an impromptu blockade of Brooklyn Bridge, and Sylvia and others were arrested. A few days later, during a protest at City Hall, Sylvia in polyester bell-bottoms, fortified by speedballs and a few drinks, kicked off her heels, and scaled the outside of the building.
Part VI: 1973 Christopher Street Liberation DayAt the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation Day (CSLD), the fourth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the tensions within the gay movement that would lead to separatisms were becoming apparent.
The CSLD committee, mainly GAA members, attempted a harmonious march and rally by focusing on entertainment and speakers not involved in the city’s infighting.
Of the traditional drag show nightclubs, only Club 82 was left and it was ceding the stage to the emerging glam, glitter and punk scene. However there were still some showgirls left and Bebe Scarpi went and got them to march – in costume. Prominent were International Chrysis and Jean Chandler. Old-style performer Ty Bennett was conveyed in a convertible.
|Lee in tiara; Sylvia in jumpsuit|
Sylvia, wearing a jumpsuit that had belonged to the now deceased June from StarHouse, and not a listed speaker, pushed her way on to the stage, and gave an impassioned speech for Gay Power:
“They’ve been beaten up and raped. And they have had to spend much of their money in jail to get their self home and to try to get their sex change. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes or to become women of the Women’s Liberation and they write S.T.A.R., not the women’s group. They do not write women. They do not write men. They write S.T.A.R. because we’re trying to do something for them.”Jean O’Leary of Lesbian Feminist Liberation insisted on an opportunity to reply. She asserted biological sex, and that Sylvia was “a genital male”. She read a statement on behalf of 100 women that read, in part,
"We support the right of every person to dress in the way that she or he wishes. But we are opposed to the exploitation of women by men for entertainment or profit."She was booed and MC, Vito Russo, the film historian, asked the crowd to let her continue. Lee Brewster, jumped onstage and responded,
"You go to bars because of what drag queens did for you, and these bitches tell us to quit being ourselves!”The situation was calmed only when performer Bette Midler took to the stage and sang.
All this angry public confrontation left Sylvia in such a state that she attempted suicide.