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30 June 2017

Other trans persons in New York 1969-72


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.

Major sources:

· 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.



Andorra

Andorra 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 Rivera

From 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.

Carter: 59-60,167,177,179.
Cohen: 17.

Boom Boom Santiago

Boom 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.

Cohen: 99

Chris Thompson

Chris 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.
Cohen: 136.

Christine

Christine was described as a ‘hard old queen’. She was once bailed by Bob Kohler, the GLF activist.

Cohen : 98.

Congo Woman

Congo was regarded as ‘nasty’. She used to throw a brick though a display window to grab a dress or a wig.

Carter: 56

Ivan Valentin

Ivan, 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.

Josie

A 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 Montez

Listed, but no further details.

Cohen : 99,

Michele
Michele, 3rd from left, at Stonewall

Listed but no further details.


Cohen : 99






























Nelly

Also known as Betsy Mae Kulo, a young Latina, who passed very easily.

Carter : 56

Orphan Annie

With 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 Pixie

Miss Pixie 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 Wilson

Raquel was known as the ‘queen of sex’.

Cohen: 99.

Stanley

Despite 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.

Carter: 56.

Wanda/cross-eyed Cynthia

She 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 .
Duberman: 188-9.

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 Nova

Zazu 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.
Cohen p48

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.

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