Mar 15

A History of Trans Lives in Film

From ‘Glen or Glenda’ to ‘The Danish Girl’
By Parker Molloy

Over the course of the past several years, transgender individuals have inched their way into mainstream consciousness. Trans people typically face high levels of unemployment, increased risk of contracting HIV, discrimination—in housing, employment, restrooms, and access to medical care—and a host of other challenges unique to their struggle for equality. As GLAAD notes, less than one in 10 Americans actually know a trans individual, making the media the public’s primary source of education on trans issues.

dallas buters club

Still image from Dallas Buyers Club, Voltage Pictures

For more than half a century, from Glen or Glenda to Dallas Buyers Club, the entertainment industry has tried to get a handle on how to accurately and respectfully portray trans people. Unfortunately, it sometimes appears that the creators wind up using trans characters less as people and more as props, to be used for comedic effect or to shock the audience.

2014 saw the debut of trans-centric series like Transparent, The T Word, and True Trans with Laura Jane Grace. These shows—created with trans people in either starring or consulting roles—are a sharp departure from trans media of years past and instead paint trans individuals as real, non-sensationalized people. While these series are examples of success in documentary, comedic, and dramatic portrayals of trans people, they are far from the norm.


Alexandra Billings and Jeffery Tambour in Transparent

Over the past half-century, the entertainment industry has portrayed transgender individuals hundreds of times.

In 1953, writer and director Ed Wood released Glen or Glenda, a film centered around society’s disdain for those who deviate from traditional gender norms. At the time of the film’s release, it was illegal to be caught publicly cross-dressing in a number of states. Glen or Glenda became a cult sensation and was later re-popularized in Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood in which Johnny Depp plays the titular character coming to terms with his own compulsion to wear women’s clothing. Wood did not identify himself as transsexual; the term “transgender” wouldn’t make its way into the cultural lexicon for another couple of decades.

Glen or Glenda

In 1970, director Michael Sarne released Myra Breckinridge, a film based on Gore Vidal’s 1968 novel of the same name. Sarne’s adaptation features Raquel Welch as Myra Breckinridge, a teacher at Buck Loner Academy who takes advantage of her male students and sexually assaults them. The film ends with Breckinridge reverting back to her former male self. Like Glen or Glenda, critics panned the film. In 1974, Vidal published Myron, a sequel centered on Breckenridge’s struggle to establish true identity.

1975 saw the release of Dog Day Afternoon, a film inspired by the story of real life bank robber John Wojtowicz and his transgender wife Elizabeth Eden. The film starred Al Pacino as bank robber Sonny Wortzik; Chris Sarandon played Leon Shermer, a character based on Eden. The film won an Academy Award for best original screenplay and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director (Sidney Lumet, the famed director of such films as 12 Angry Men, Network, and The Verdict), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Pacino), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Chris Sarandon), and Best Film Editing. Dog Day Afternoon marked one of the first times a mainstream film featuring a prominent transgender character received critical acclaim. Sarandon’s nomination for playing a trans individual signaled the start of a trend that would eventually lead to Oscar wins for straight actors Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club).

The 1980s featured films like Brian De Palma’s critically praised Dressed to Kill, in which Michael Caine plays Dr. Robert Elliott and his murderous, female alter ego Bobbi; 1982’s The World According to Garp, which earned John Lithgow an Oscar nomination for his role as Roberta Muldoon, a transgender woman; and 1983’s Sleepaway Camp, in which a transgender woman goes on a homicidal rampage.

John Lithgow in the World According to Garp

John Lithgow in the World According to Garp

For better or worse, the 1990s featured some of the most iconic depictions of transgender and gender non-conforming characters Hollywood has ever produced. From Silence of the Lambs’s Buffalo Bill to The Crying Game’s Dil and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’s Lt. Einhorn, it slowly became more commonplace to use gender variance as a plot device in mainstream Hollywood, even if it wasn’t always done in a particularly accurate or flattering light.

Still image from Boys Don’t Cry, Fox Searchlight Pictures
In 1999, Hilary Swank portrayed transgender man Brandon Teena in the award-winning film Boys Don’t Cry. The film depicts the tragic, true story of Teena and his death at the hands of two former friends. The film brought mainstream attention to the devastating reality of violence that transgender individuals. Swank took home an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and co-star Chloë Sevigny was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role at that year’s Academy Awards. Sevigny would later go on to play a transgender woman in the 2012 British TV series Hit & Miss.

In 2001, John Cameron Mitchell directed and starred in Hedwig & the Angry Inch, an adaptation of his 1998 stage musical of the same name. Hedwig tells the story of an East German gay man named Hansel Schmidt who falls in love with American soldier Luther Robinson. Schmidt learns that if he were to marry Robinson, he would be able to travel home to America with his new husband. Unfortunately, same-sex marriage was not a reality in East Germany or the United States at the time, so Schmidt decided to subject himself to sexual reassignment surgery in order to be able to marry Robinson. Despite the sacrifices made by Schmidt—now going by the name Hedwig Robinson—the marriage falls apart, leaving Hedwig to reconcile with her new reality, all the while performing in a glam rock band. The film explores these gender-related themes, focusing on what it means to be a man or a woman, and finding oneself.
In 2003, Showtime produced Soldier’s Girl, a story based on the lives of transsexual performer Calpernia Addams and her boyfriend, U.S. Army Private First Class Barry Winchell. In 1999, Winchell was murdered by his fellow soldiers after they learned of his relationship with Addams. This tragedy ignited criticisms of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, instituted just five years earlier. Congress would repeal the policy in 2011, granting gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals the right to serve openly in the military. As of this writing, transgender individuals are still prohibited from serving in the military.

In 2005’s Transamerica, Felicity Huffman plays Bree, a trans woman who learns just a week before undergoing sexual reassignment surgery that she fathered a son years earlier. The film follows Bree’s journey across the country with her newly found teenage son, and focuses on the complexity of human relationships and what it means to be a family.


Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, The Weinstein Company


The portrayal of transgender individuals has frequently been defamatory, inaccurate, and based on outdated stereotypes. In a review of more than 100 episodes featuring a transgender character over a 10 year span, LGBT media watchdog GLAAD found that in more than half of surveyed TV episodes, trans characters were portrayed in a negative or defamatory light, and only 12 percent were deemed “groundbreaking, fair, and accurate.” The organization went on to highlight specific instances of negative trans representation on TV, which included shows like CSI, The Cleveland Show, andNip/Tuck.
The past few years have seen a rise in the number of positive portrayals of trans characters. Even more importantly, there has been an increase in the number of trans actors and actresses cast in mainstream shows.

From 2007 to 2008, transgender actress Candis Cayne had a recurring role on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, in which she portrayed a woman named Carmelita, the mistress of a high-profile politician. Cayne’s performance illustrated some of the pain and shame trans women and their straight male partners often face, as well as the elevated risk of violence these women face. From 2013 to 2014, Cayne appeared in three episodes of CBS’ Elementary, a modern take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

In 2013, Netflix premiered Orange Is the New Black, a comedy/drama about life inside a women’s prison. The show features transgender woman Laverne Cox in the role of Sophia Burset, one of the inmates at the prison. Prior to appearing on OITNB, Cox had appeared on a couple of reality TV shows, as well as episodes of Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and HBO’s Bored to Death. For the most part, these roles embodied many of the problematic elements outlined in GLAAD’s study. Her role on OITNB, however, broke from many of those stereotypes, and while not perfect, has done much to bring trans awareness to the mainstream. Last year, Cox became the first out trans individual to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category.

In June of 2014, The Matrix creators Lana and Andy Wachowski unveiled the cast list for their upcoming Netflix sci-fi drama series Sense 8. Among those cast is Jamie Clayton, a transgender actress who had previously appeared on HBO’s Hung and TRANSform Me, a makeover reality TV show featuring Clayton, Cox, and Nina Poon; all transgender women. Lana Wachowski, herself, is a transgender woman, having come out publicly in 2012.

Years from now, it’s entirely possible that Cox, Cayne, and Clayton will be heralded as pioneers of the golden age of trans media representation in scripted television, a format in evolution. As these women and other trans people find themselves part of the entertainment industry, they will be better suited to mold coverage, and reduce inaccuracies and stereotypes.

In theory, documentaries are the one format where individuals can most directly tell their own stories. Unfortunately, in both long- and short-form documentaries, trans lives have been portrayed in similarly sensationalistic ways as they are in scripted endeavors. Many of these tropes—trans women shown putting on makeup, a laser focus on surgical procedures, and other common themes of trans documentaries—have become so prevalent that they’ve prompted viewers to create their own “Trans Documentary Drinking Game.”

Nonetheless, there are documentaries that have been done right, such as 2007’s Red Without Blue, which focuses on a pair of identical twins, one of whom eventually comes out as transgender. The film manages to avoid more stereotypical tropes and keep the focus on some of the struggles many trans people face in navigating familial relationships after coming out.

red without blue

Other films, such as the 2011 Chaz Bono documentary Becoming Chaz or 1990’s Paris Is Burning, have received critical acclaim. In the case of Paris is Burning, success came mostly in the form of its cult following. Paris is Burning stands apart from many of the other trans documentaries, by focusing not only on trans individuals, but on the larger, LGBT culture found in New York City’s mid-to-late 1980s ball scene.
Last year, Laverne Cox and Laura Jane Grace each released their own trans documentary series, titled The T Word and True Trans with Laura Jane Grace, respectively. One only hopes these seres will pave the way for more relatable, human representations of trans people in both documentaries and broader pop culture

Last April, it was announced that actor and recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn, Les Misérables, The Theory of Everything) would be playing the role of Lili Elbe in the upcoming film adaptation of The Danish Girl. Elbe was a transgender woman who, in the early 1930s, underwent one of the first documented sexual reassignment surgeries. While Redmayne’s work has been consistently well-received, his casting in The Danish Girl raised concerns. Will he be able to accurately portray the film’s subject.

Redmayne do Lili Elbe in the Danish Girl

Redmayne do Lili Elbe in the Danish Girl

In an interview with E!, Redmayne is quoted as saying, “Even though it is period and under completely different circumstances than today, I’m meeting many women from the trans community and hearing their experiences. I have put on dresses and wigs and makeup. I’m beginning to embark on that and trying to find out who she is.”

Few question the value of speaking to trans women about undertaking the role, but Redmayne’s comment set off red flags. Does he think gender identity is nothing more than “dresses and wigs and makeup?”
This statement harkened back to Leto’s Dallas Buyers Club acceptance speech at the Golden Globe Awards, where he said, “I’d like to use this opportunity to clear up a few things. I did not ever use any prosthetics in this film. That tiny little Brazilian bubble butt was all mine. It was a very transformative role, and I had to do a lot of things to prepare. One of the things I did was wax my entire body including my eyebrows. I’m just fortunate that it wasn’t a period piece so I didn’t have to do full Brazilian.”

This idea, that appearance and adherence to gender norms are intrinsically linked to one’s gender identity, is one of the very stereotypes that advocates for trans rights frequently look to dispel. While having trans characters and trans themes featured in Hollywood is seen as a generally positive development for trans people, casting actors who don’t seem to have a real grasp on the characters they portray can be a cringeworthy experience to watch.

Will Redmayne do Lili Elbe justice? It’s certainly possible. Would it have been nice to see a trans actress in that role, or for the film’s script to have been written by a trans woman? Absolutely. But progress, here as everywhere, is incremental.

As we enter 2015, the question of whether modern day portrayals of trans individuals will be remembered as accurate or offensive remains an open question. As portrayals of trans individuals become more accurate, so does trans perception in the public eye. Progress is invariably linked to portrayal, and upcoming years will prove pivotal to the state of trans rights in the immediate future.

Mar 11

A History of the Transgender Movement

There’s nothing new about transgender and transsexual individuals – history is replete with examples, from the Indian hijras to the Israeli sarisim (eunuchs) to the Roman emperor Elagabalus – but national movements, particularly in the United States, are relatively new. You can follow the timeline below which takes us from pre-Christian times up to the most recent decade. In some instances, new facts have come to life which may question previously published history and I have identified them in red. This is not an original work but a compilation of the resources noted at the end of this article.

Furthermore, there is a serious group of transgender archivists who have compiled thousands of documents including manuscripts, books, photographs, postcards and audiovisual materials on the history of our movement. These collections are available in Victoria (Canada), Tuscon AZ, Houston TX, and New Haven, CT. So if you are a serious researcher or just want to know more and are in the area, the contact information for these archivists is here.

No where is transgender visibility more apparent however than in American pop culture. From the “Transparent” Golden Globe win and Laverne Cox’s domination in the “Orange is the New Black” series to the ABC interview and Vanity Fair article on Caitlyn Jenner,  we see new hope for an all-encompassing inclusiveness of the entire LGBTQIA community. Perhaps the “trans moment” has arrived. From trans characters on prominent TV shows and movies to trans actors, actresses, and athletes earning the spotlight, we have incorporated the most important transgender moments in the country’s pop culture history within the greater timeline of trans history.

A condensed visible timeline of recent history from 1952 to current times is here. The longer version is below.

A summary history of the transgender movement

1503 BC — Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut ascends to the throne., the second Egyptian queen to rule (the first was Queen Sobekneferu of the 12th Dynasty). Learning from the disfavor shown to her predecessor, she dons male clothing and a false beard signifying kingship, and reigns until 1482 B.C. She has one daughter, Neferure, who she grooms as successor (male clothing, false beard and all), but Neferure does not live into adulthood.

Unknown date, BC — The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by a natural disaster interpreted as an act of God. This disaster is often referred to as a rain of fire, possibly an indication of volcanic activity. Interpretations of the motive for this destruction, however, differ. In all accounts, a character named Lot (or Lut) figures. In the Biblical texts, Lot is earlier recorded to have incestuous relationships with his daughters, but later is considered righteous enough that he is given advance warning in order to escape. In Arabic texts, Lut is considered a prophet, but is also considered responsible for the development of the “sin of Sodom.” Classical texts of the time do not specifically indicate the “sin of Sodom” as being homosexuality (although one of the words used can be translated as homosexuality just as it can be interpreted as a number of other possibilities), and some pre-translation Biblical passages and early Hebrew texts point to it being more a sin of inhospitality and selfish attitudes about property. Like all ancient enigmas, it may be impossible to ever recover the true story.

6th Century to 1st Century BC — In the Greek Hippocratic Corpus (collection of medical texts), physicians propose that both parents secrete male or female “bodies” and that if the father’s secretion is female (rather than male) and the mother’s is male, the result would either be a “man-woman” (effeminate male) or a “mannish” female. [I have not been able to locate original texts or studies of them to determine if this is an attempt to classify homosexuality / bisexuality or an indication of some familiarity with intersex conditions — Mercy]

Circa 60 AD — Emperor Nero reportedly has a young slave boy, Sporus, castrated (eunuching, in early times, was believed to be the primary mechanism of gender change — “eunuchs” ranged in form from males whose testicles had been removed to those also given a total penectomy), and takes him as a wife in a legal public ceremony. Sporus is from then on clothed as an Empress, and accompanies Nero as such.

203 – 222 AD — Roman Emperor Elgabalus (or Heliogabalus), who ascends the throne in 218, becomes known for wearing makeup, eccentric habits, behaving as a prostitute, and numerous bisexual escapades. He reportedly offers a large reward to any physician who can give him female genitalia, a reward which is apparently never collected (although this may be urban myth).

1550 –  Queen Elizabeth 1. Was she an imposter? Read the story here

Early 18th Century — The epithet “Molly” originates with “molly houses,” a term for effeminate gay brothels. The woman’s name itself seems to originate as a combination of the female name Mary with the Latin “mollis,” meaning soft, effeminate.

1755 — The first openly lesbian and transgendered person, Charlotte Clarke, comes out by publishing, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Clarke (Youngest Daughter of Colley Cibber, Esq.). In the autobiography, Clarke, a flamboyant cross-dressing actress during a time in which male impersonation was a popular form of entertainment (even if still very much taboo), relates many scandalous things, including her relationship with her “wife,” “Mrs. Brown.” Although quite famous after this publication, Clarke passes away three years later, penniless and destitute.

Chevalier D'Eon_de_Beaumont

Chevalier D’Eon

 1777 — French spy and diplomat Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée Éon de Beaumont (October 5, 1728 – May 21, 1810), usually known as the Chevalier d’Eon is allowed to return to France on the condition that she live and dress as a woman. Earlier in 1756, the Chevalier had posed as a woman for several years to gain the friendship of Empress Elizabeth of Russia. Throughout her life, there would be ongoing speculation as to the Chevalier’s physical gender, which would be determined as male after her death (the predominant opinion had previously been that she was female).

1860Herculine Barbin is studied by her doctor, who discovers that the intersexed woman has a small penis, with testicles inside her body. Barbin is declared legally male against her wishes, becomes the subject of much scandal for having previously taught in a girl’s school, moves to Paris but continues to live in poverty, and ultimately commits suicide in 1868.

1865Dr. James Barry dies, and is discovered to have female sexual characteristics. He had been a surgeon with the British Army, and had been passing as male since at least 1809.

1867Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs (who relates in his memoirs that as a child, he wore girls’ clothing, wanted to be a girl and most enjoyed playing with other girls) becomes the first “Uranian” (he refers to “Urning” as a male who desires men, and “Dioning” as a male who is attracted to women — it is not until two years later that Karl-Maria Kertbeny coins the word “homosexual”) to speak out publicly in defence of GLBT causes, when pleading at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich for a repeal of anti-homosexual laws. He goes on to self-finance the publication of many advocative works written by himself, before finally retiring in exile, in Italy.

1869 — Karl Friedrich Otto Westphal publishes the first medical paper on transsexuality, describing two cases of what he termed “die contraire Sexualempfindung” (“contrary sexual feeling”), one being a male transvestite (the other was a lesbian)

1872 — Eugene Schuyler visits Turkestan and observes that, “here boys and youths specially trained take the place of the dancing-girls of other countries.” The Bacchá are androgynous or cross-dressing Turkish underclass boys, trained in erotic dance, but also available as prostitutes. This tradition continues until around or shortly after WWI.

Harry Benjamin

Harry Benjamin

1907Harry Benjamin (January 12, 1885 – August 24, 1986) meets Magnus Hirschfeld (May 14, 1868 – May 14, 1935) for the first time. Although it would be some time before Benjamin would actively research transsexuality, the two men would become the field’s pioneers.

1910Magnus Hirschfeld coins the term “transvestite.”

1914 — In a dictionary of criminal slang published in Portland, Oregon, the word “faggot” is first seen as applied to the GLBT community, with the usage example, “All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight.” The word originally appeared in Modern English in the 13th Century, meaning a bundle of sticks (derived from the French). By 16th Century, it meant bundles used for firewood, for the purpose of burning at the stake. A shortened version “fag” is adopted as a British colloquialism for cigarette, and is later (1923) also adopted in print as an epithet for gay and transgender practices, which at that time are all thought to be interlinked.

1918 –  Author Jennie June, formerly known as Earl Lind, publishes her memoir The Autobiography of an Androgyne, which is followed by her second book four years later, The Female Impersonators. Both deal with the life of a trans person in the early 20th century.

1919Magnus Hirschfeld founds the Institute for Sexology in Berlin, Germany. This would be the first clinic to serve transgendered people regularily and develop their study.

1920 — Jonathan Gilbert publishes Homosexuality and Its Treatment, which includes the story of “H,” later revealed to be a Portland physician. Dr. Alan Hart “transitioned” by having a hysterectomy and proceeding to live as male, in 1917. The lesbian community would later proclaim Hart to be a pioneer and classify his decision to live as a man as being an accomodation to social prejudice and coercion by a heterosexual doctor, rather than accepting any explaination of transsexuality. However, an examination of the central characters in Hart’s novels reveals many of the common themes and feelings that transsexuals experience.

Although a few surgeons had already carried out some incomplete sex reassignment surgeries previously (primarily removing the existing sex organs, not creating new ones), 1920 also saw the first complete surgeries for MTF transsexuals. These took place at Magnus Hirschfeld‘s Institute for Sexology by Drs. Ludwig Levy-Lenz and Felix Abraham.

1923 — Recognizing some of the differences from transvestites, Magnus Hirschfeld introduces the term “transsexual.”

1920s and 1930sCarl Jung proposes the idea of Animus and Anima, that every male has some of the feminine in his unconscious (Anima), and every female has some of the masculine (Animus).

The beginning of LGBT nightlife started with the Pansy Craze in the late 1920s and early 1930s and prompted a surge in the popularity of gay clubs and performers. People in the LGBTQ community performed on stages in cities around the world, but New York’s Greenwich Village, Times Square and Harlem were at its center, hosting some of the most renowned drag acts of the 1920s

Mae West

Mae West

1927 — The first transgender-themed play, Mae West’s The Drag, debuts in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It moves on to New Jersey, but fails to make it to Broadway, largely because it is forced to close after West’s arrest for appearing in her first Broadway hit, Sex. Although West originally defends The Drag by saying that she intended the play to call attention to homosexuality as a “disease,” she later becomes a sort-of GLBT activist. The play alludes to the writings of Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, and West later goes on to famously tell policemen who were raiding a gay bar, “Don’t you know you’re hitting a woman in a man’s body?”

1928Virginia Woolf‘s novel Orlando: A Biography is published, chronicling the story of a man who decides not to grow old. He doesn’t, but he awakes one day in the body of a young woman, and lives out a lifetime as her before waking as a man. The remaining centuries up to the time the book was written are seen through a woman’s eyes.

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

1930Marlene Dietrich (alternate link; Marie Magdalene Dietrich von Losch; December 27, 1901 – May 6, 1992) moves from German Cabaret to American film with her debut in Morocco. As the ’30s progress, she becomes infamous for dressing in male attire, and gradually brings this penchant to fashion and film — ultimately making it acceptable for women to wear pants and other masculine forms of clothing. Reportedly, she was quite persistent on changing into male attire offstage, and rumors circulated of lesbian relationships — although she has never been fully established as identifying as male.

Lili Elbe

Lili Elbe

1930 also saw the transition of Lili Elbe, formerly Einar Wegener, a Danish painter and the first publically-known recipient of an SRS surgery. This became a major public scandal in Germany and Denmark, and the King of Denmark invalidated her marriage that October. She was fully intent on being someday able to conceive a child, and this drove her surgeons to try far-reaching techniques — she actually endured five surgeries in this process (the first was to remove the male genitals, the second to transplant ovaries — although she did have underdeveloped ones of her own — the third was unspecified, the fourth to remove the ovaries due to serious complications and the fifth being a “vaginaplasty”). She died in 1931, probably from complications from her final surgery, although rumors persisted that she had faked her death in order to live in peace. Her remarkable story is published in the Danish Girl available at Amazon.

1931 — Dr. Felix Abraham publishes Genital Reassignment of Two Male Transvestites, detailing those first MTF SRS surgeries in 1923.

1932Harry Benjamin arranges a speaking tour for Magnus Hirschfeld in the United States.

1933 — A few months after Hitler assumed power in Germany, the Institute for Sexual Science is vandalized and looted by a mob of Nazi “students.” On May 6th, its archives of books, photographs, research documents and more are burned publically in Opera Square. The physicians and researchers involved with the clinic flee Germany, or in some cases commit suicide, unable to otherwise escape. Magnus Hirschfeld had moved to Paris by this time, and dies in exile in Nice, of a heart attack on his 67th birthday.

Transgender-SYmbol1937 — The Pink Triangle is first used as a symbol to denote people of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered orientations. Prisoners in Nazi concentration camps are made to wear triangular patches identifying their status: green for criminals, yellow for Jews, red for Communists, blue for illegal emigres, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, black for “antisocials,” brown for gypsies, and pink for “homosexuals.” In the hierarchy that developed, pink was near the bottom, and GLBT persons suffered extremely high death rates and were commonly used in medical experiments. In the 1970s, the Pink Triangle would become a symbol of defiance and solidarity in the GLBT community.

1938 — Di-ethyl Stilbestrol (DES) is introduced into chicken feed as a means of increasing meat production. Later, it is marketed to pregnant women as a “vitamin” to help prevent miscarriages (an unsubstantiated claim). Prescriptions for this purpose ceased in 1973, because by the 1970s, this drug became linked to endometriosis, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer and infertility in female children, and more recently to intersex conditions and transsexuality.

1941Premarin® (conjugated estrogens from pregnant mares) is first marketed in Canada (the U.S. follows in two years).

The phrase “drag queen” first appears in print, although it had been used as theater and gay culture slang as early as the 1870s, and “drag” appeared alone in print in 1914. It is thought to be a shortening of “dressed as girl,” versus the alternately used “drab,” from “dressed as boy.”

1942 — Dr. Harry Klinefelter first diagnoses Klinefelter’s Syndrome, a condition caused by a chromosome nondisjunction in males; affected individuals have a pair of X sex chromosomes instead of just one, and are associated with additional risk for some medical conditions. Patients with Klinefelter’s Syndrome can be (but are not always) characterized by effeminate appearance, sterility, some gynecomastia and occasional transgenderism.

1946 — The Garden of Allah opens in the basement of the Arlington Hotel, in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. It is not the first gay cabaret club, but becomes fairly well-known and is chronicled in the book, An Evening at the Garden of Allah: A Gay Cabaret in Seattle.

1948 Harry Benjamin is introduced by Alfred Kinsey to a boy who wants to become a girl, and whose mother seeks a treatment to assist, rather than thwart the child. The following year, he begins treating transsexuals in San Francisco and New York with hormones. The Institute for Sexual Science had not previously done this; the treatment was entirely new.

1949 — Michael Dillon becomes the first female-to-male transsexual to complete sex-change operation procedures after a series of 13 pre-phalloplasty operations performed in London over a four-year period. Phalloplasty for FTM transsexuals would not be coherently developed until 1958.

Christine Jorgensen

Christine Jorgensen

1952Christine Jorgensen (May 30, 1926 – May 3, 1989) is “outed” to the American press, and becomes the subject of great controversy. Her surgery had been performed two years earlier by Dr. Christian Hamburger in Copenhagen, Denmark. She hadn’t wanted to become a public spectacle, but spent her remaining years educating people about transsexuals.Read about her transformation from G.I. to tabloid star in the New York Daily News and click here for a special photo section on Christine by

1953Ed Wood Jr.‘s film Glen or Glenda appears, providing a surprisingly sincere attempt to understand transgenderism, despite its bizarre and schlocky B-movie trappings. Purportedly inspired by Christine Jorgensen. Wood would later become rather famous in Hollywood circles as being a transvestite.

1955Dr. John Money, a psychologist, writes the first of many papers in the Bulletin of the Johns Hopkins Hospital which will establish for him a reputation as a pioneer in the field of sexual development, and a proposes the theory that gender identity develops primarily as a result of social learning from early childhood.

Dame Edna Everidge (alternate link) first appears in a Melbourne comedy revue in 1955. At this time she is known as “Mrs Norm Everage”. She goes on to become an Australian figure of note in the 1990s.

1958 — The first complete Phalloplasty for gender reassignment purposes is performed by Dr. Judy T. Wu in Bratsk, Russia. Previously, the procedure had only been devised for men who had experienced amputations, particularily during WWI, with some early attempts to develop FTM procedures in the decade preceeding. Phalloplasty would still not become very refined until the 1970s, when additional aspects such as a pump for creating erections would be devised for injured Vietnam veterans. Phalloplasty for female-to-male transsexuals is more complicated for someone not having the original infrastructure, as the organ and its function are not easy to replicate mechanically. Dr. Wu’s procedure is developed from the 1949 process used on Michael Dillon.

Virginia Prince

Virginia Prince

1960Virginia (Charles) Prince begins publishing Transvestia Magazine. She also founds Los Angeles’ Hose and Heels Club and another organization that develops into Tri-Ess (“The Society for the Second Self”). These organizations are thought to be the first modern transgender support groups, and the magazine is the first publication for and by transgender people. She proceeds with a strong belief, however, in “heterosexual crossdressing” (i.e. crossdressers who are only attracted to women) and excludes “gay” or “bisexual” crossdressers from her groups, as well as transitioning transsexuals. Prince eventually goes on to live full-time as female, but Tri-Ess still does not allow full membership for gay men or MTF transsexuals to this day.

Jose Sarria

Jose Sarria

1961José Sarria becomes the first transgender-identified person to run for public office. A legendary drag queen, Sarria received 5,600 votes when running for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Sarria (who still identified as male, at least at the time) proclaimed himself “Her Royal Majesty, Empress of San Francisco, Jose I, The Widow Norton,” the latter being a reference to the 19th Century Joshua Norton, who had colorfully proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States. This led to the 1965 founding of the Imperial Court System, a non-profit charitable organization of mostly drag queens that continues to this day to raise funds and awareness for other charities and people in need. Based on Sarria’s model, another Court materialized in Vancouver, Canada in 1971, followed by many more in many major cities across North America. Sarria also later appears with other drag queens in the opening portion of the motion picture, To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything — Julie Newmar.

1965David Reimer is born (named Bruce, by his parents). The following year, his penis is burned up to the base during a circumcision accident. He was taken to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore to see John Money. Money recommended that Reimer be raised as a girl. An orchidectomy was performed, and Reimer was raised with the name “Brenda.”

1966Harry Benjamin publishes The Transsexual Phenomenon. Although he hadn’t coined the word “transsexual,” it became the term of choice following this publication.

Johns Hopkins Medical Center opens the first Gender Clinic, under John Money‘s guidance. Although Money’s beliefs and writings cause severe damage with regards to intersex children and gender reassignment at birth, he also champions gender reassignment surgery (SRS) in adults, and the clinic becomes the mecca for gender transition. Much of the surgical work from this time would pioneer SRS techniques. Money’s legacy would be a mixed blessing / curse to the transgender cause.

Compton's Cafeteria Riots

Compton’s Cafeteria Riots

One hot August night in San Francisco, the management at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria  call police to deal with an unruly table of transpeople, hustlers, and down-and-outers (a typical segment of their clientele). When they attempt to arrest one of the drag queens, she throws coffee in his face, and a riot ensues, spilling out into the street. Although transgender (and gay pride) activism wouldn’t be galvanized until the Stonewall riot of 1969, the Compton’s riot would help set the stage for the gay pride movement, as well as be a spark to draw the San Francisco GLBT communities together earlier than elsewhere, making the city a cultural mecca for alternate sexualities. The story of Comton’s Cafeteria is not well known, but told in the documentary Screaming Queens (alternate link). After the riot, (now-Sgt.) Elliot Blackstone, who had been appointed the first liaison to the GLBT community in 1962, educates many on the Police force, helping the city to become one of the most trans-friendly environments in the world. He also helps to organize San Francisco’s first transgender support group.

Mid 1960s through the ’70sReed Erickson (1917 – 1992) founds the Erickson Educational Foundation, which supports many research projects that don’t fit into the usual catagories of grants… parapsychology, dolphin / human communication, human potential movement, and transsexuality. Erickson’s financial support makes much of the work of Harry Benjamin, John Money‘s Gender Clinic at Johns Hopkins Medical Center possible.

1968 — The International Olympic Committee (IOC) begins chromosome testing of female athletes, effectively banning transsexuals and some intersexed individuals (some of whom were fertile as female, with children) from competition, until 2002.

Universities also begin opening clinics for treating transsexuals; the first surgeries are performed on non-intersexed transsexuals.

Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera

1969Sylvia Rivera (2 July 1951–19 February 2002) throws a bottle at New York City cops harrassing patrons at Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969; friend Marsha P. Johnson (1945 – July 6, 1992 — Johnson is one of the many we remember during the Transgender Day of Remembrance) and several others join in, and the Stonewall Riots touch off the Gay and Lesbian Liberation movements (in other retellings, Johnson throws the first projectile). A founding member of both the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance, by 1974, those organizations would abandon her, seeing transgendered people as being an embarassment and a political liability to the gay rights cause. By the 1990s, political gay and lesbian groups would denounce Rivera’s contribution, even denying that she was present during the Stonewall Riots. Rivera gradually fell into alcoholism, and it wouldn’t be until the turn of the millennium that she would reemerge as a public figure.

1970Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson form STAR, the first transgender activist organization, which later (at times) included a safe-house.

Raquel Welch stars in the film Myra Breckinridge, based on the Gore Vidal novel of the same, as a trans entertainer formerly known as Myron

Virginia Prince, of Tri-Ess, coins the word “transgender,” albeit with a limited definition to describe her transvestitism .Evidence now indicates that the term was coined in the early 60s

April corbett’s (neé Ashley) marriage is annulled and she is declared to be legally still a man, in spite of a legal sex reassignment, leaving United Kingdom post-operative transsexuals in legal limbo, unable to marry as either sex, until 2004.

Andy Warhol protege Holly Woodlawn debuts in the movie Trash, for which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would be petitioned to nominate her for an Oscar (they wouldn’t). Woodlawn would appear in a few more films and then disappear from sight, but not before being immortalized in the Lou Reed song, “Walk on the Wild Side.

After initial rejection by founder Betty Friedan (who referred to lesbians as “the lavender menace”), the National Organization for Women (NOW) expands policy to include lesbian rights. Embrace of transgender issues does not come until circa 2003, and remains a marginal part of their policy. As NOW represents much of the core of the feminist movement, feminism as a whole is still very resistant to accepting transwomen as “women,” even after surgery is performed.

1970s (specific year unknown) — Metoidioplasty is developed for female-to-male transsexuals. Phalloplasty had existed previously, but Metoidioplasty was seen as a more affordable option, with better results in sensation.

1972John Money (with Anke Ehrhardt) publishes Man & Woman, Boy & Girl: Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. He would go on to publish several books asserting that gender is learned, and not genetically predetermined. This theory is seized upon by the feminist movement as evidence that women are socialized to be passive against their true natures, and this later becomes a wedge between lesbian feminists and transsexual women.

In many of his writings of this time, Money cites his famous “John/Joan case”, which he touts as being a socialization of a boy whose penis had been lost in a circumcision accident, to be raised successfully as a girl. “John/Joan,” however, is David Reimer, who is not settling into his reassigned gender as “Brenda” as well as Money believes.

As a consequence of many of Money’s writings, paediatricians mistakenly take up the practice of gender assignment at birth. This is most often determined by the length of the penile / clitoral tissue: if it is smaller than a certain length, the child’s tissue is trimmed and they are assigned to be raised as a girl. This policy continued up to the turn of the millennium, and is a major factor in the origins of many intersexed children.

Maxwell Klinger

Maxwell Klinger

Jamie Farr’s crossdressing character, Corporal Maxwell Q. Klinger, debuts on the CBS television show, M*A*S*H, the first transgender-related character to appear regularly on TV. Although Klinger was said to crossdress only as an attempt to be given a discharge from the Army, it is the first moment of particular visibility outside comedians’ sporadic use of crossdressing for comedic purposes (popularized by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in the movie “Some Like It Hot” as well as by comedians ranging from Milton Berle to Jerry Lewis to Monty Python’s Flying Circus).

1973 — Folk singer and accomplished activist Beth Elliott, aka “Mustang Sally,” becomes vice-president of the Daughters of Bilitis. Soon afterward, she is “outed” as a transsexual, and hounded out of the organization by transphobic lesbian seperatists. At the West Coast Lesbian Conference held in Los Angeles later that year, the controversy would continue as lesbians protest the fact that Elliott is scheduled to perform at the meeting. She would mostly abandon activism until 1983.

This division continues, as Sylvia Rivera is followed at a Gay Pride Rally by Jean O’Leary, who denounces transwomen as female impersonators profiting from the derision and oppression of women.

Homosexuality is delisted from the medical community’s standard DSM, declaring that it is no longer a mental disorder (and never was). Transgenderism, however, remains listed as a mental disability, termed “gender dysphoria,” to this day.

The stage musical, The Rocky Horror Show debuts in London. Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien would later translate it to film as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which would become a true cult phenomenon. The theme, “don’t dream it, be it” becomes a rallying cry for many transsexuals as well as many libertarians of all stripes.

Australian showgirl-turned-actress Carlotta (known for her performances in the long-running 1963 Les Girls cabaret, in which she was a founding member) debuts in the soap opera, Number 96 playing Robyn Ross, a transgendered showgirl. When the character’s (and actress’) identity is revealed, she is quickly written out of the show due to viewer response. Carlotta later becomes the inspiration for the movie, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

1974Jan Morris publishes Conundrum, the story of her quest for personal identity, and one of the earliest autobiographies to shed light on the transsexual dilemma.

1975 – In the film Dog Day Afternoon, Al Pacino‘s character plans to rob a bank to pay for the operation of his lover, a pre-operative transgender woman played by Chris Sarandon.

Renee Richards

Renee Richards

1976Reneé Richards (August 19, 1934 – present) is “outed” and barred from competition when she attempts to enter a womens’ tennis tournament (the U.S. Open). Her subsequent legal battle establishes that transsexuals are fully, legally recognized in their new identity after SRS, in the United States. Her story would be told in the book and movie, Second Serve, but Richards would later decide that she regretted her transition and the resulting public harassment.

Jonathan Ned Katz publishes Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. and the connection between Jonathan Gilbert’s “H” and Dr. Alan Hart, but asserts Hart as a lesbian, effectively stealing transgender history.

1977Sandy Stone is “outed” while working for Olivia Records, the first womens’ music record label, as a recording engineer. Lesbian activists threaten a boycott of Olivia products and concerts, forcing the company to ask for Stone’s resignation. Angela Douglas writes a satirical letter to Sister as a protest of the transphobia in the lesbian community in general, and the attacks on Sandy Stone in particular.

The NY Supreme Court rules that pro tennis player Renee Richards could compete in tournaments as a woman.

On The Jeffersons episode “Once a Friend,” Veronica Redd plays Edie Stokes, a woman once formerly known as Eddie Stokes.

1979Janice Raymond publishes The Transsexual Empire, a semi-scholarly transphobic attack. In the book, she cites Douglas’ letter out of context as an example of transsexual mysogyny, and casts Sandy Stone‘s involvement in Olivia Records as “divisive” and “patriarchal.” (Stone would reply to these accusations in her book, The Empire Strikes Back: A Posttranssexual Manifesto.) She championed the idea that gender is purely a matter of “sex role socialization” (an opinion that coincided very much with John Money‘s, despite her open attacks on him), writing “… All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves. However, the transsexually constructed lesbian feminnist violates women’s sexuality and spirit as well…. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive.”

Johns Hopkins Medical Center closes its Gender Clinic, under the recommendation of new curator, Paul McHugh, John Money‘s successor and an opponent to both Money’s idea of gender as being learned, and Money’s support of transsexuals’ need to transition. Over the next two decades, many of the other Gender Clinics across North America would follow suit. The closure was justified by pointing to a 1979 report (“Sex Reassignment: Follow-up,” published in Archives of General Psychiatry 36, no. 9) by Jon Meyer and Donna Reter that claimed to show “no objective improvement” following male-to-female GRS surgery. This report was later widely questioned and eventually found to be contrived and possibly fraudulent, but the damage had been done.

Musician and synthesized music pioneer Wendy Carlos transitions and goes public.

Gays, lesbians and transsexuals, who were previously condemned to death in Iran, are given a new fate under law: they are forced to undergo SRS surgery to “correct” the inclination. Transsexuals are still held with a great deal of derision in Iran, and are encouraged to keep silent about their past.

1980David Reimer (as “Brenda”) learns at the age of 15 from his parents that he had been born a boy, and decides to re-establish a male identity. This process would take until 1997, and involve testosterone injections, a double-mastectomy and two phalloplasty surgeries.

Joanna Clark, aka Sister Mary Elizabeth, an Episcopal Nun, organizes the ACLU Transsexual Rights Committee.

Paul Walker organizes the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association to promote standards of care for transsexual and transgendered clients. He also founds the Janus Information Facility, continuing the work of Erickson Educational Foundation. Later, he would fall ill, and Joanna Clark and Jude Patton would co-found J2CP Information Services to continue this legacy.

Caroline Cossey1981 — Model, actress and Bond Girl Caroline Cossey (“Tula”) is “outed” by the British press. She would later become the first post-operative transsexual to pose for Playboy. By 1988, she would be struggling with the European Court of Human Rights to recognize her as a female — she would win in June 1989, but the court would overturn their decision a year later. Recognition would not come until The Gender Recognition Act 2004.

1982Boy George (George Alan O’Dowd) and Culture Club emerge on the pop charts with the song, “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?” His crossdressing image is not totally new (androgyny had been played with by the likes of David Bowie, Steve Tyler and Aerosmith, Hall and Oates, Elton John…), but had certainly never been taken to the same extreme. By 1986, however, the disintegration of his relationship with drummer Jon Moss and drug problems would hamstring him and Culture Club would be disbanded. Despite some resurgences (he had a hit with the Roy Orbison song for the movie The Crying Game, for example)

The World According to Garp features a character named Roberta Muldoon (played by John Lithgow in an Oscar-nominated role) as a transgender former football player.

Tootsie & Jessica1983Jessica Lange wins the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Tootsie, a Sydney Pollack movie in which Dustin Hoffman plays an actor who takes on a female persona in order to secure work in a soap opera. Hoffman and Pollack are also nominated in the Best Actor and Best Director categories but do not win Oscar. Although not a portrayal of the transgender community, the movie is the first gender-transgressive one to be recognized with such an honor. Lange also later appears in the transgender positive made-for-TV movie, Normal. Later recognition for transgender-related film works include a win for Hilary Swank (Oscars, 2000, Boys Don’t Cry, Best Actress), a Golden Globe win for Best Picture (Ma Vie En Rose), and nominations for Jaye Davidson (Oscars, 1993, The Crying Game, Best Supporting Actor; Neil Jordan won the Oscar for his screenplay but lost the Directoral nomination), Felicity Huffman (Oscars, 2006, Transamerica, Best Actress; Golden Globe win for same category), and Edouard Molinaro (Oscars, 1980, La Cage Aux Folles, Best Director).

1984 — The International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) is founded, becoming the first major transgender organization to welcome both transsexual and crossdressing members, along with dual inclusion in its magazine, Tapestry (later, Transgender Tapestry Journal).

Heavy Metal band Twisted Sister brings gender-bending to the fore in a different music genre, although glam rock had been somewhat previously popularized by Aerosmith and KISS in the 1970s. Censorship contributes to the failure of their follow-up album, and front man Dee Snider spends two years heavily occupied with the music industry fight against the PMRC music labelling movement.

1985 — A pink granite monument is unveiled at the site of the Neuengamme concentration camp dedicated to the homosexual victims of Naziism. To some, it stands as a memorial to all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals killed in the Holocaust, as the Nazis did not discriminate regarding individual differences.

1987 — Albertan k.d. lang makes her musical debut. lang, whose image is very much a gender-challenging form of androgyny, exemplifies the dichotomy within the lesbian community regarding female-to-male transsexuals: so long as one does not step beyond the “butch” limit to actually transition to male, they are accepted and even applauded, but those who transition are deemed “traitors.” lang herself is out as a lesbian, but does not identify as being transgendered.

1989Billy Tipton, a well-respected jazz musician, dies and is discovered to be female, after presenting as a man since 1933.

Ray Blanchard proposes the theory of autogynephilia, which he defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.” This theory catches on with some writers of the time, even transgender advocate Dr. Anne Lawrence, but is never quite accepted by the medical community as a whole, as it has many gaps in study (and logic), and widely conflicts with the accepted model of gender identity disorder. By the turn of the millennium, it would be dropped in favor of more biological studies of transgenderism.

RuPaul first appears in the Talking Heads video “Love Shack,” and goes on to become a drag queen of worldwide notoriety.

1990 — The term “two-spirit” originates in Winnipeg, Canada, during the third annual intertribal Native American/First Nations gay and lesbian conference. It comes from the Ojibwa words niizh manidoowag (two-spirits). It is chosen as a means to distance Native/First Nations people from non-Natives, as well as from the words “berdache” and “gay” — previously, there were a myriad of words used, different depending on tribe. The phrase “two-spirit” is used to denote all third-gendered peoples, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered — but the intersexed are held in particularily high regard, and thought to be beings of potentially great power and blessing. The older term of “berdache” had been French in origin, and is derived from Arabic and Eastern words meaning “kept boy” or “male prostitute.” “Berdache” was used by explorers to explain to Western cultures how many Native traditions held a special reverence for two-spirit peoples to the earliest time, especially the Lakota, Ojibwa, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Mojave, Navajo and Cree tribes (others, such as the Comanche, Eyak, Iroquois and many Apache bands did not often recognize the existence of two-spirits). Two-spirit peoples were thought to have both male and female persons living within the same body, and a two-spirited child’s gender would be determined at puberty, based on their inclination toward masculine or feminine activities. In the last century, modern Christianity had “evangelized,” indoctrinated and destroyed many Native traditions, and two-spirit people are only now just re-emerging from homophobic stigmas.

On Twin Peaks, David Duchovny plays Denise Bryson, a transgender DEA agent

David Duchovny as Denise in Twin Peaks Photo Credit ABC

David Duchovny as Denise in Twin Peaks Photo Credit: ABC

1992 — Nancy Jean Burkholter is ejected from the Michigan Womyn’s Festival by transphobic festival organizers. The festival’s policy is that the particularity of “womyn-born-womyn (WBW) experience comes from being born and raised in a female body. The following year, Camp Trans would be set up outside the entrance to the gate in protest of this policy — and continued three years following.

1993Cheryl Chase founds the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA).

“March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation” organizers include bisexuals, but refuse to include transgender in the name of the march, despite months of work to try to get inclusion.

Trans activists working for many years with gay and lesbian activists successfully pass an anti-discrimination law in the State of Minnesota, protecting transsexual and transgendered people along with gays and lesbians. This is the first instance of inclusion in the U.S. despite the number of human rights motions since the 1970s to protect rights based on sexual orientation.

Brandon Teena is raped and later murdered by members of his circle of friends, when they discover his female genitalia. The story is later retold with an Oscar-winning performance in the movie, Boys Don’t Cry.

Anthony Summers publishes Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, in which the rumor that Hoover was a transvestite is finally put into print. In the book, a Mrs. Susan Rosenstiel alleged that in 1958 she and her husband met Hoover and McCarthy lawyer Roy Cohn, both in drag. Several writers since have strongly discredited Mrs. Rosenstiel, and it is most likely that Hoover’s crossdressing is merely an urban legend. He may have been gay, however, as some (possibly circumstantial) information about he and right-hand man Clyde Tolson is more creditable.

Tilda Swinton portrays William Shakespeare’s Orlando, a character whose sex changes midway through the film.

The mini-series Tales of the City, adapted from the Armistead Maupin book series of the same name, debuts, featuring beloved trans character Madrigal (played by Olympia Dukakis).

Brandon Teena was an American trans man who was raped and murdered in Nebraska, sparking the call for legislation against hate crimes. His life is remembered in the film Boys Don’t Cry (1999) starring Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for the role.

Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry

Hilary Swank as Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry (1999) Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

1994 — Transgender activists protest exclusion from Stonewall25 celebrations and The Gay Games in New York City. The Gay Games later rescinds rules that require “documented completion of sex change” before allowing transgendered individuals to compete.

Several cities on the west coast of the U.S. pass anti-discrimination statues protecting transsexual and transgendered people.

Hijras in India are given the right to vote. Within 5 years, a hijra will be elected as a Member of Parliament. Hijras are third-gender persons, usually male or intersex in origin, and living as female. Estimates range between 50,000 and 5,000,000 hijras currently living in the Indian subcontinent alone. Although early English writings referred to them as eunuchs, not all undergo castration. Hijras are limited by caste, must train under a teacher, and are considered low class. Violence against hijras is common, and the authorities continnue to be slow to do anything about the problem.

The cult Australian film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert debuts, starring Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce as drag queens and Terence Stamp as a trans woman.

In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Sean Young plays a Lois Eihorn, a football player in transgender disguise. The film is widely criticized as being transphobic.

Patrick Califia

Patrick Califia

Mid-1990s — Prominent and respected lesbian writer, activist and therapist Pat (now Patrick) Califia comes out as a transman, and begins his transition to male. The lesbian community largely rejects Califia as a consequence, although there are pockets that still show support. Regardless, Califia’s writings still strike a chord with many of the alternative lifestyle communities.

1995 — Transsexual activists protest Oregon’s Right to Privacy (now known as “Right to Pride”) political action committee to cease using Alan Hart‘s old name as an award given out to lesbian activists. Over the following years, some of his legacy would be regained by the transgender community, and his preferred male name would regain recognition.

Tyra Hunter dies following a traffic accident in Washington, D.C. Her injuries should have been minor, but when the responding EMT team (a crew of D.C. firefighters) arrives on the scene, cut away her clothing and discover her genitalia, and then withdraw medical care, uttering epithets and taunting her as she bleeds. When she is finally taken to D.C. General Hospital, she is also given inadequate care and dies from blood loss. In 1998, a jury awards Tyra’s mother $2,873,000 after finding the District of Columbia (via both the EMTs and Hospital) guilty of negligence and malpractice. Several activist groups form in her memory.

Georgina Beyer becomes New Zealand’s (and the World’s) first transsexual Mayor of Carterton, where she remained until 2000 (see 1999 entry below).

The Triangle Program opens in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, designed for GLBT students at risk of dropping out or committing suicide because of homophobia in regular schools.

1996 — JoAnna McNamera of It’s Time Oregon successfully convinces Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry (BOLI) that transsexuals are protected under existing Oregon labor law dealing with discrimination of people with disabilities and medical conditions. This made Oregon the third state to extend employment protection to transgendered people, following Minnesota and Nebraska.

Michael Alig is arrested for the murder of “Angel” Melendez over a drug debt. The arrest draws national attention to the Club Kids, an often-crossdressing troupe of wildly costumed teens in New York in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Club Kids fall from grace and eventually vanish. The story is later chronicled in James St. James‘ memoir, Disco Bloodbath, and in a movie and documentary, both entitled, Party Monster. Of particular significance, the famous female impersonator RuPaul was discovered during the Club Kids’ tour of the talk show circuit, roughly around 1988, and then catapults to fame in a music video for the B-52’s single, Love Shack.

1997Milton Diamond and Dr. H. Keith Sigmundson publish a paper that expose John Money‘s claims of success in the “John/Joan” case. Sigmundson is David Reimer‘s supervising psychiatrist at that time, and the two describe Reimer’s literal quest to regain his manhood. Diamond goes on to found the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality.

Belgian film Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink) strikes a chord with critics worldwide at a time when gender non-conforming children were seen as taboo. The movie depicts a child, born a boy, who insists on being seen as a girl.

1998John Colapinto publishes As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl, telling David Reimer‘s story in depth, on the heels of a pivotal Rolling Stone article on the subject. Ongoing troubles would plague Reimer, however, including divorce, the death of his twin brother, family strain and more — Reimer commits suicide in 2004.

Transgender activists once again protest exclusion from The Gay Games in Amsterdam, this time with modified rules from those previously rescinded in the last Games: that competitors require documented completion of sex change or two years on hormones before being able to compete. FTM transman, photographer Loren Cameron drops out of competition in protest, but Israeli MTF singer Dana International still performs at the Games’ festivities.

Japan allows the first legal gender reassignment surgery (SRS) to be performed on an FTM transsexual.

Hayley Cropper

Hayley Cropper

Hayley Cropper, a transsexual character, first appears on the popular British soap opera Coronation Street. It is the second time that a transgendered character appears in serialized television (the first was in Australia in 1973 — see above), and the first time that the character is kept on as a regular in the series (she had been originally planned to be written out of the show, and viewer response pushed them to bring her back).

Nong Toom, a Thai kathoey (female-to-male transgendered person) enters professional boxing, despite being on hormones, and becomes a cross-dressing legend. She would later go on to have SRS surgery, and her story is told in the subtitled movie, Beautiful Boxer.

1999 — Since the Michigan Womyn’s Festival (a noteworthy and popular lesbian community event) continues to exclude transwomen and refuse to acknowledge them as being women, Camp Trans is revived to protest. Initially, post-op MTF transsexuals are allowed to attend, but confrontations occur. The exclusion and the protests would continue annually.

In a Texas court, in Littleton vs. Prang, Christine Littleton (a post-op MTF transsexual) loses her case against the doctor who she contended negligently allowed her husband to die… because, as the defense argues, even though her birth certificate has been amended to denote “female,” it had originally read “male,” and since same-sex marriage is not permitted in Texas, she was not legally his widow or entitled to anything on behalf of his estate.

Dr. Scott Kerlin founds the DES Sons International Network, an online support and advocacy group for children exposed to Di-Ethyl Stilbestrol (DES) in utero, fighting the perception that DES is strictly a womens’ health issue. When DES Sons is only a few months old, a new member raises the issue that he had always felt that he was a girl, and was, in fact, transsexual. This initiates a flood of confessions about other members’ own gender identity issues, and quickly becomes one of the dominant themes raised by male children of DES births (although not all DES Sons experience transgender leanings). DES Trans is later set up by Kerlin and Dr. Dana Beyer as a seperate support group for this discussion.

Pvt. Barry Winchell is murdered by fellow soldiers, resparking a questioning of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy of the U.S. Military. He is murdered because of allegations that arise from his relationship with transwoman Calpernia Addams. Their story is retold in the 2003 movie, Soldier’s Girl. Addams later starts the TSroadmap website with Andrea James, and the two collaborate on several projects to assist transwomen.

Mayor Georgina Beyer becomes New Zealand’s (and the World’s) first transsexual Member of Parliament.

Robert Eads dies of ovarian cancer. A transman, Eads is denied treatment by more than two dozen doctors out of fears that taking him on as a patient might be an embarassment to their practice. His story is told (in his own words) in the award-winning documentary, Southern Comfort.

2000 — The Transgender Pride flag is designed by Monica Helms, and is first shown at a pride parade in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

2001 — Erin Lindsey begins producing Venus Envy, a popular ongoing webcomic strip focusing on the life of Zoë Carter, a young transsexual girl living in Salem, Pennsylvania.

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch 2001 Photo Credit New Line Cinema

John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) Photo Credit: New Line Cinema

The film adaptation of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an off-Broadway cult musical, debuts. It follows a transgender German glam rocker (creator John Cameron Mitchell) recounting the story of her betrayal by her ex-boyfriend. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is currently on Broadway, and the titular character has been played by Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Michael C. Hall, and beginning in April, Darren Criss.

Canadian cyclist Michelle Dumaresq enters the sport of downhill bike racing, six years after her SRS surgery. She would go on to win battles with Cycling BC and the Canadian Cycling Association to compete, win the 2002 Canada Cup series, win the 2003 Canadian National Championships and score additional victories. At the 2006 Canadian Nationals, a protest from one of her competitors during the podium ceremonies would bring renewed attention to Dumaresq’s participation in female sports: the boyfriend of second-place finisher Danika Schroeter would jump up onto the podium and helped Schroeter put on a t-shirt reading “100% Pure Woman Champ.”

Gwen Araujo

Gwen Araujo

2002Gwen “Lida” Araujo is murdered by several partygoers, who had discovered her male genitalia. The three men who were charged alternately resorted to panic strategies during their defense, trying to minimize (i.e. to a charge of “Manslaughter”) or legitimize their actions because of their apparent shock at the discovery.

The International Olympic Committee amends policy to allow transexuals to compete as their reassigned gender if the surgery has taken place at least two years prior to the competition and if the athlete has been on a regimen of hormones equal to that of a person born to the gender.

The Transgender Law Center is founded, and works toward protecting and entrenching the rights of transgendered persons in California, as well as assisting legal activists elsewhere.

Author and activist Leslie Feinberg publishes Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come. She would later publish the well-known works Stone Butch Blues (1993), and Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (1996).

The Centurion, a modified form of metoidioplasty is introduced for female-to-male transsexuals.

Calpernia and Andrea

Calpernia and Andrea

2003Calpernia Addams and Andrea James found Deep Stealth Productions and TS Roadmap, invaluable resources for transwomen. Deep Stealth produces video work providing advice on voice therapy and makeup / presentation, and TS Roadmap covers the entire spectrum of MTF transition, in free online written advice.

Jennifer Finney Boylan‘s memoir, She’s Not There, becomes the first-known best-selling work by a transgendered American.

In Lawrence v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court arrives at a 6-3 ruling that strikes down the prohibition of homosexual sodomy in Texas, and declares that such laws are unconstitutional. Several other states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, but they are now not as frequently enforced.

HBO premieres the feature film Normal, which follows the gender transition of Ruth Applewood (played by Tom Wilkinson).

On the later seasons of Queer as Folk, Glen Campbell plays a recurring transgender character described as “Kiki the waitress, formerly known as Kenny the Waiter.”

Nip/Tuck season one features Jonathan Del Arco as Sophia Lopez, a trans character who leads the doctors to a practitioner that routinely botches surgery on transgender patients. Later, in July of 2004, Famke Janssen plays trans character Ava Moore. In October 2004, William Bell joins the cast as Cherry Peck, a recurring trans character.

2004The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is passed in the U.K., allowing transgendered persons to legally change their sex and have it recognized for the purposes of marriage and other issues.

Dee Palmer (born David Palmer), former member of the rock band Jethro Tull, comes out as an MTF transsexual. A former member of the group Toto also comes out at around this time, but I’ve lost the reference.

2005 — Although homosexuality had been delisted as a mental disorder in 1973, transgenderism is still listed in the DSM-IV. However, a new wave of thinking has transsexuality and transgenderism linked to more biological factors, such as DNA predisposition, or DES. Books of the time begin to reflect this, including Deborah Rudacille’s The Riddle of Gender.

On It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sweet Valley High’s Brittany Daniel plays a recurring character Carmen, a trans woman who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Mac

The eight-part Sundance Channel docu-series TransGeneration premieres, which looks at the lives of four college students undergoing their transition.

Felicity Huffman, in an Oscar-nominated role, stars in TransAmerica as a pre-op trans woman who reconnects with a son she never knew she fathered.

Felicity Huffman as Bree in TransAmerica (2005) / Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

Felicity Huffman as Bree in TransAmerica (2005) / Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company

2006The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act becomes law. The bill, fueled by the murder of Gwen Araujo and 2004 murder of Joel Robles (in which the defendant plea-bargained his way down to a 4-month sentence), prevents defendants from using panic strategies and potential biases against the victim to minimize their actions.

Dr. Ben Barres writes a highly-noted article in Nature refuting an earlier theory by Lawrence Summers and others that there are fewer female scientists than male because of a difference in “intrinsic aptitude.” In his paper, Barres notes the differences in treatment of female scientists from male ones, drawing from his own experiences in both genders.

Lana Wachowski

Lana Wachowski

One of the directors of the Matrix movies, formerly / currently known as Larry Wachowski, is reported by Rolling Stone Magazine to be transitioning to female, in an unflattering article. This website supports lifestyles that are practiced safely, responsibly, consensually and respectfully, and as Lana’s choice of partner is a known proponent of those things, we support Lana’s choice — and do not cast judgement on those things that we don’t know the full story about.

Cult favorite TV-show, The L Word, introduces a female-to-male transsexual. Max (Moira) is the first regularly-occurring FTM character in the history of television *and* the first transgender character to transition during the course of a show. Actress Daniela Sea is no stranger to performing as male, but some trans activists take issue with the series portrayal, saying that it is “based on the stereotype that transmen are driven by and use testosterone as an excuse to become abusive, violent, and over-sexualized” (Eli Green, petition).

Chinese surgeons perform the world’s first penis transplant successfully (however, the patient later has it removed at the request of his wife, who has psychological objections), raising a question about the possibility of developing a similar option for transmen. Such a development is still likely years away, however, because of the need to find ways to deal with the differences in the underlying infrastructure.

The 2005 documentary, Screaming Queens: The Riot at Compton’s Cafeteria, written, directed and produced by Victor Silverman and Dr. Susan Stryker, is awarded an EMMY® for “Outstanding Achievement, Historical / Cultural Program.” The film gives life to the early transgender (and wider GLBT) movement, and is one of the first true transgender-exploring works to be recognized with a major award (previous trans-ish recognition is profiled with Jessica Lange’s 1983 victory in Tootsie).

Alexis Arquette, the trans sister of Oscar winner Patricia Arquette, appears on VH1 reality series The Surreal Life.

The first transgender character on an American soap opera, Zoe (Jeffrey Carlson), is introduced on All My Children.

Rebecca Romijn plays Alexis Meade, a trans woman who rises to prominence on Ugly Betty.

2007 — The rock-star character of “Zarf,” who debuted on the soap opera All My Children near the end of 2006, comes out as a male-to-female transsexual, Zoey. Although this isn’t the first time a soap opera featured a transgendered character in a recurring role (Coronation Street was the second; the first was Number 96), it is the first to feature an MTF character in the beginning of her transition, and follow the process along (and second only to The L Word to feature a transsexual throughout the process). (Rather than alienate AMC’s viewers, Zoey appears to be re-energizing them).

40-year-old Chanda Musalman, who lives as both man and woman and has not had any GRS surgery, is granted both male and female citizenship by Nepali authorities, in the first known case of dual-gender recognition. It is unclear how this unique legal status will play out in practice – for instance, how it will affect Chanda’s marriage rights.

The Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear Kimberly Nixon v. Rape Relief, a case in which the transwoman was dismissed from rape counselling because she was not born female (she had been living as female several years and is legally female). Because it was refused at that level, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruling against her still stands — a ruling which pointed out that transgender people are not currently protected by the Human Rights Charter under either category of gender or sexual orientation.

A 12-year old in Vienna, Austria is thought to be the youngest person in the world to begin a sex change procedure.

Steve Stanton

Steve Stanton

The city of Largo, Florida fires long-time City Manager Steve Stanton (the mayor and one councilman vote in his defense), after he is outed during preparation to announce his intention to undergo hormone treatment and start the process toward GRS surgery. This launches a nationally-publicized court case, in which the City of Largo is revealed to have operated counter to their own laws, which prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In order to save face, the City attempts to first claim that city employees had lost faith in Stanton, and then (in the failure of that) dredge up performance issues, despite their overwhelming support, praise and raises given to Stanton prior to the firing.

Spain passes the most progressive law regarding Gender Identity in the world, allowing for the change of documented identity just by proving a medical treatment for two years, and a medical or psychological certificate, proving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — not requiring a GRS.

UCLA scientists find 54 genes that may explain the different organization of male and female brains. They go on to state that “… gender identity likely will be explained by some of the genes we discovered.”

In Fresno, California, Tony (Cinthia) Covarrubias runs for Prom King, supported by a state law passed in 2000 protecting students’ ability to express their gender identity on campus. Covarrubias loses, but approximately one month later, her story lends a groundswell of support when Johnny Vera runs for and wins the title of Prom Queen at Roosevelt High School — the first transgender person known to have won such an honor.

Dr. Russell Reid, a U.K. psychiatrist specializing in gender reassignment, is found guilty in a medical community investigation of accusations that he inappropriately treated five patients, allegedly fast-tracking them, in contradiction of established standards of care. Although not the first time a doctor has been brought under fire or threat of legal action for his work (some had even been sued by their transgender patients), the high-profile case reopens major debates in the medical community about transsexuality and its treatment. How the finding will affect the existing pace of the current diagnostic process is as yet unknown.

Candis Cayne becomes the first transgender actress with a recurring trans character on a primetime series as Carmelita Rainer on ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money.

Candis Cayne as Carmelita Rainer on Dirty Sexy Money / Photo Credit: ABC

Candis Cayne as Carmelita Rainer on Dirty Sexy Money / Photo Credit: ABC

2008 –  Isis King becomes the first transgender contestant on America’s Next Top Model.

2009 – The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed by President Barack Obama, allows for federal investigation of bias-motivated crimes based on gender identity in cases where local law enforcement is unwilling to act. Later the same year, Obama issues an executive order banning the executive branch from discriminating on the basis of gender identity in employment decisions.

Amanda Simpson

Amanda Simpson

The 21st season of The Real World (set in Brooklyn) introduces its first trans roommate, Katelynn Cusanelli.

2010 – President Obama appoints Amanda Simpson the Senior Technical Advisor to the Bureau of Industry and Security, making her the first openly trans woman named to a presidential administration.

On the episode “Quagmire’s Dad” of Family Guy, Glenn Quagmire’s dad, Lieutenant Commander Dan Quagmire, has gender reassignment surgery, becoming Ida Quagmire.

Adam Torres (played by Jordan Todosey) becomes the first transgender character introduced on Degrassi.

Brazilian model Lea T becomes a muse for Givenchy and appears in French Vogue. Later, in November 2014, she’s named the face of Redken, making her the first transgender model to front a global brand.

2011 –  Trans model Carmen Carrera becomes a fan favorite on RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2013, a petition was started, calling for Carrera to become the first trans Victoria’s Secret model.

[Carmen Carrera for Marco Marco / Photo Credit: Giphy

[Carmen Carrera for Marco Marco / Photo Credit: Giphy

Chaz Bono, Cher’s son formerly known as Chastity Bono, joins Dancing with the Stars.

Jenna Talackova

Jenna Talackova

2012 –  Jenna Talackova becomes the first trans candidate to compete in Miss Universe Canadacontestant. She makes it to the Top 12, and is awarded Miss Congeniality.

In the British series Hit & Miss, Chloë Sevigny plays a transgender contract killer who seeks out her ex-girlfriend.

2013 –  Fallon Fox becomes the first openly transgender fighter in mixed martial arts history.

Laverne Cox

Laverne Cox


Thanks to Orange Is the New Black, Laverne Cox is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award in the acting category. Previously, in August of 2008, Cox appeared on I Want to Work for Diddy, which won a GLADD award that she accepted. Later, on March, 15, 2010, the reality makeover series TRANSform Me debuted, which Cox produced and hosted, making her the first African-American trans person to do so.

Chelsea Manning, formerly known as army private Bradley Manning, is sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to Wikileaks. The day after her sentencing, Manning’s attorney issued a press release announcing that Manning is a woman and wishes to be acknowledged as such.

2014 –  Janet Mock, a transgender advocate and writer, publishes a best-selling memoir about her transition, Redefining Realness

Jill Soloway’s Golden Globe-winning series Transparent, which follows a family that embraces their father’s transition to a woman, debuts on Amazon. The show’s featured cast also includes, who, thanks to 2005’s Romy and Michele: In the Beginning, made history as the first transgender woman to play a transgender character.


Alexandra Billings and Jeffery Tambour

The second season of Orphan Black introduces its first trans clone, Tony Sawicki (played by the immensely talented Tatiana Maslany), and is expected to return in the show’s upcoming seasons.

Glee explores Coach Shannon Beiste’s (Dot Jones) transition to a man, named Sheldon, in its final season. Having always been a champion of LGBT rights and visibility, the musical sitcom debuted its first transgender character Unique Adams, played by Alex Newell, in April of 2012.

Actors Ben Huber, Nick Mills and Matt McGrath on stage in The Legend of Georgia McBride, 2014.

Actors Ben Huber, Nick Mills and Matt McGrath on stage in The Legend of Georgia McBride, 2014.

As an Olympic decathlon gold medalist and reality star, Jenner adds another name to the short list of transgender LBGT celebrity activists. Following her Vanity Fair debut, support has flooded in through articles, posts and celebrity outreach. All of the positivity will help pave the way for young transgender men and women to not be afraid of expressing their identity

Caitlyn Jenner

For those interested in a more extensive look at LGBT history, you can visit the GLBT Historical Society

Resources for this article are:

The Alberta Trans Organization

Civil Liberties –