This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.)

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the page. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

23 November 2017

Phoebe Smith (1939–) Part II: state worker, activist

Continued from Part I.

Back in Atlanta after a first visit to Dr Barbosa, Phoebe Smith was taken shopping by an aunt who bought her three dresses. Phoebe made an appointment with Harry Benjamin in New York for a hormone prescription. Two aunts and a cousin went to New York with her.

Phoebe attempted to return to work at Rich’s Department Store, but a few co-workers objected, and the supervisor said no. Phoebe appealed up two levels but without success.

A gay former co-worker gave a big party to introduce Phoebe to the local gay scene – but she did not feel that she belonged there.  She was interviewed for a local television news program.

In November Phoebe returned to New York to see Harry Benjamin, and was told that she was ready for the final surgery. She immediately wrote to Dr Barbosa, but he did not reply – by telegram – until March 31 giving an appointment for April 11. She was in the hospital for two weeks, and even when she left was in considerable pain.

At first she wanted to be open about her past when applying for jobs, but quickly found that that was not going to work. She took the Georgia State Merit test, and got a position in Disease investigation. In May 1971 she transferred to Medicaid.

She was now undergoing electrolysis, and for a short while worked with a local transsexual support group before it discontinued.

Phoebe several times met persons who knew someone who knew her previous self, but it did not become a problem. One man threatened to out her if she did not date him. In spring 1974 a trans woman whom Phoebe had spoken to with the support group applied to Medicaid in the hope of having her surgery paid for. They met at the elevator, and the woman introduced herself. This made Phoebe think that everyone was talking about her. A close work friend told her that “we all know and we still love you”.

In 1975 Phoebe transferred to Family and Children Services. One day a co-worker rushed in and exclaimed: “Y’all, there is a transsexual that works for the State!”. Again it turned out that most of the co-workers already knew, and never said.

By June 1979 Phoebe had written her first autobiography, Phoebe. She self-published it and
advertised in trans newsletters. A thousand copies were printed, and a New York bookstore bought four hundred. Reactions at work were mixed. People she had not previously known became friendly; no man at work ever asked her out again.

In 1980 she put together a brochure, “The Journey from One to Forty was Difficult but Successful”. It included a photograph of herself at age one with father, and a photo at age 40. It criticized the report from Jon Meyers of John Hopkins of the previous year that had been used as an excuse to close its Gender Identity Clinic.
“I have worked for the State of Georgia for almost ten years. During my fourth year of employment, knowledge of my surgery became widespread. It was upsetting, but also a big relief to get it in the open.”
Later that year a new communications office was established, and Phoebe became its supervisor, but with a pay cut.

The sale of the autobiography resulted in mail, much of it from persons seeking information. This led to the idea of a newsletter, The Transsexual Voice. The first two issues were complimentary, and 30 copies were printed. Within a few months there were over 100 subscribers.

A subscriber contacted her wanting to find someone to train in electrolysis. Phoebe jumped at the chance and for the next 15 years they worked on each other.

By the mid-1980s there were over 300 subscribers including Leo Wollman, Rupert Raj and Michelle Hunt. Phoebe mailed packets of transsexual-related material to newspaper editors, television news programs, talk show hosts etc. Very few responded.

Through the 1980s Phoebe’s family health problems deteriorated. Her younger brother was diagnosed with cancer, and died at age 40. Her father died age 74 in 1989 after various health problems. Her mother needed daily care such that Phoebe had to discontinue The Transsexual Voice in 1995. Her mother died in 1998, when Phoebe was 59.

She retired in in 2000. She had worked for the State of Georgia for almost 30 years.
  • Phoebe Smith. Phoebe. P Smith Pub Ind, 1979.
  • Phoebe Smith. “FMI Forum: The Transsexual Voice”. Female Mimics International, 14,6, 1985. Online. This is the 1980 brochure, which is also found p106-8 in Phoebe’s 2015 book.
  • Rupert Raj. “Tribute to Phoebe Smith”. Twenty Minutes, August 1989:3. Online.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002:158.
  • Phoebe Smith. From Sharecropper's Son to Who's Who in American Women. CreateSpace, 2014.
  • Eve Shapiro. Gender Circuits: Bodies and Identities in a Technological Age: Second edition. Routledge, 2015: 158.
  • Dallas Denny. “Creating Community: A History of Early Transgender Support in Atlanta”., Nov 7, 2015. Online.

Dr Barbosa’s $4,000 fee in 1969 would be $26,600 now!

Phoebe arrived for the first time at Dr Barbosa’s office only two months after Lynn Conway had completed surgery there.

There is no mention at all of Phoebe in Wesley Chenault, Stacy Lorraine Braukman, Gay and Lesbian Atlanta, Arcadia Pub 2008. Come to that, there is no mention of Jayne County or Dallas Denny either.

Phoebe had started electrolysis in 1971, after her two surgeries. In 1981 she trained as an electrologist and then for 15 years she and one other worked on each other. That is 25 years of electrolysis. I was done and complete in less than two years in the mid-1980s. Presumably there was not an electrologist in the Atlanta area at that time who knew how to do it on transsexuals.

It is striking in Phoebe’s autobiography that there is no mention at all of other trans people in Atlanta other than the trans woman who attempted to apply for Medicaid. The famous Atlanta trans women – Jayne County, Diamond Lil, Lady Bunny, RuPaul – were of a performance persuasion, and mostly took off for New York. However, apart from that there was trans man Jerry Montgomery, and Dallas Denny, who arrived in Atlanta in 1989. AEGIS and Southern Comfort Conference were established in Atlanta shortly afterwards.

Dallas Danny says: “With the Louisiana-based Erickson foundation no longer in operation, Phoebe’s Transsexual Voice was so far as I know for many years the only peer-produced transsexual-specific support publication in the world. Phoebe produced the last issue in 1995. It was an astonishing run, and helped thousands of people.”

22 November 2017

Phoebe Smith (1939–) Part I: retail worker

(Phoebe transitioned in Atlanta in the 1960s.   In those days she had great difficulty in finding out about other transsexuals, and in finding any professionals who even knew where to point her, let alone to actually help.   If she were in New York or Paris, she would have had more information even in the 1960s – but she did not know that. Fortunately she was determined.)

James Smith was born to a family of sharecroppers in Irwin County, US Georgia. His relatives referred to him as a ‘sissy’ from an early age, and he was bullied at school, more so because of his disinterest in sports.

In September 1953, the family pickup was hit by a flatbed truck. The father had his left arm crushed and had to give up farming; the mother was in constant pain afterwards. They moved to Atlanta. At the new school Smith was called ‘queer’.

In 1955 a neighbor showed him a magazine article about someone who had a sex-change operation, and asked him why he did not have it also. Smith wrote to a preacher on the radio that he had been listening to, and later phoned him. This was the first time that he ever told someone that he wanted to change sex. The preacher said that he saw nothing wrong or sinful in Smith’s desire, but couldn’t offer any help. In September 1956 Smith attempted suicide by taking his mother’s pain pills. After recovery he insisted on quitting school – he was then seventeen.

After temporary and part-time work, Smith found a position at Rich’s Department Store where he stayed for ten years. Every now and then there would be an article in the news about a transsexual, but when Smith attempted to correspond with a doctor or psychiatrist, he was told that a change of sex was impossible.

In November 1961 Smith was called to report to the Draft Board. He explained himself and was classified 4-F. If questioned he said that this was because of a bad back resulting from the 1953 road crash. Around this time, his father driving a cement mixer was hit by a train on a crossing. Smith’s younger brother joined the US Marines, but was discharged after being diagnosed with chronic bronchitis.

By 1964 Smith had rented a mailbox and was writing letters prolifically: to doctors, to medical universities, to politicians. Many were not answered; some were rudely answered. One, who was helpful, was Amy Larkin, the agony aunt at the Atlanta Constitution (actually a pseudonym for Olive Ann Burns (1924 – 1990) who later became renowned for her novel Cold Sassy Tree). Larkin passed anonymous information about Smith to Harry Benjamin in New York (who was then working with John Money so that the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic would open the next year). Benjamin wrote back that “there seems very little doubt that this patient is a transsexual”.

Larkin arranged an appointment with a local endocrinologist, but he, despite the letter from Benjamin, maintained that what was wanted could not be done.

Smith wrote to the Governor of Georgia who passed the letter to the Dean of the Medical College of Georgia who replied that the surgery was illegal within Georgia.

Smith contacted Atlanta Constitution journalist, Dick Herbert, who became interested and wrote a sympathetic story (by the standards of the time) using a pseudonym: “Long-Ill Tim Gets New Hope to Solve Endocrine Malady”.

Smith applied to Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation and Georgia Mental Health Institute. They responded with a mixture of ignoring him, giving a run-around and even rudeness. In 1968 Smith saw Christine Jorgensen on the Merv Griffin television show, and wrote to ask for Christine’s address. Christine put Smith in touch with a doctor, who in turn gave the names and addresses of two surgeons: Dr Burou in Casablanca and Dr Barbosa in Tijuana. Smith decided on the latter.

In January 1969, Smith moved out of the family home to stay with a friend; resigned his job; sent a letter to his parents saying for the first time that he was transsexual and asking them to borrow $4,200 against their house to lend to him. Smith paid $200 for a flight to Los Angeles, and then took a train to San Diego, crossed the border into Mexico at 2am. After resting in a hotel, Smith arrived at Dr Barbosa’s office – still in male clothes.

Dr Barbosa examined Smith and then explained that he required a full year of hormone therapy prior to surgery. Further examination discovered a thyroid problem. Dr Barbosa compromised and treatment for the thyroid condition was provided as well as an orchidectomy. While in the clinic, Smith contemplated a female name and decided on Phoebe.

She had brought a mail-order catalogue with her and made her first purchases of female clothing. On return to Atlanta, Phoebe was welcomed by her family and relatives. The mail-order purchases had arrived, and from that day on, she never wore male clothing again.

Continued in Part II.

15 November 2017

7 trans persons in North Africa and 10 emigrants who changed things by example and/or achievement.

North Africa is a difficult place to be trans.  Which is why most persons listed here are emigrants.

Surgeons & psychiatrists

  • Georges Burou (1910 – 1987) pioneer surgeon in Casablanca, invented penile inversion surgery. 1000s of patients. GVWW
  • Ludwig Levy-Lenz (1889 – 1966) one of Hirschfeld’s surgeons, fled to Egypt in 1936, where he opened a clinic that did transgender surgery. GVWW
  • Ezzat Ashamallah, peformed surgery on Sally Mursi, 1988. He was temporarily suspended from the Doctors’ Syndicate.
  • Mahmoud Eteifi, Asyut, Egypt, arrested 2010 for transgender surgery. NewsArticle
  • Hashem Bahary, psychiatrist, Al Azhar University, Cairo, runs a clinic for trans persons. YouTube.


Muhammad Sayyid Tantawy (1928 – 2010) grand mufti and then Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, issued a fatwa that Sally Mursi’s change was necessary for her health but that before the operation she should for one year dress, behave and comply with all obligations of Islam for women, except for marital obligations. This fatwa was the first Sunni ruling about sex changes.


  1. Hatshepsut (1508 – 1482 BCE) Egyptian Pharaoh who wore the same kilt and false beard as the male pharaohs. EN.WIKIPEDIA
  2. Hasan el Belbeissi (182? - ?) Egyptian belly dancer immortalized by Gustave Flaubert. GVWW
  3. Sisa Abu Daooh (1950 - ), Luxor, Egypt, lived and worked as a man for 40 years. Awarded prize as 'best mother' by President al-Sisi. NewsArticle
  4. Sally Mursi (1966 - ) Cairo, medical student refused completion of studies, dancer. GVWW
  5. Hanan al Tawil (1966 – 2004) actress. GVWW
  6. Noor Talbi (1969 - ) Moroccan dancer, model, actress. GVWW
  7. Nourhan (198? - ) Cairo, engineer, academic at Al Azhar University, transferred to administration. NewsArticle.


  1. Marcel Oudjman (? - ?) from Algeria, moved to Paris and became owner of La Carrousel and Madame Arthur. Part 1 Part II
  2. Dominot (1930 - 2014) from Tunisia, actress, performer in Rome. GVWW
  3. Marie-Pierre Pruvot/ Bambi (1935 - ) from Ysser, Algiers. Became star at Madame Arthur/ La Carrousel. Then a school teacher and a novelist. GVWW
  4. Nana (1939 - ) from Oran, Algeria, became a performer/sex worker in Paris. Later she married. GVWW
  5. Marie-France Garcia (1946 - ) from Oran, Algeria, active in FHAR and Les Gazolines in Paris, also a singer. GVWW
  6. Bibiana Manuala Fernandez Chica (Bibi Andersen) (1954 - ) actress, performer, born in Tangiers, found fame in Spain. GVWW ES.Wikipedia
  7. Pascale Ourbih (1972 - ) from Algeria, model, actress Green Party candidate in Paris. GVWW
  8. Randa (198? - ) fled Algeria where her life was threatened. Lives in Lebanon, and is author of The Memoirs of Randa the Trans – first trans autobiography in Arabic. NewsArticle
  9. Carla Massoud, from Egypt, now lives in Germany with her husband. NewsArticle BBC
  10. Achan/Layla Kingston, born in Libya to South Sudanese Dinka Bor parents. Now lives in Pennsylvania. NewsArticle

09 November 2017

Alex Starke (1898–?) dentist

Born as Clara Jenny Starke In Erfurt, Thuringia, Alex, apparently anatomically intersex, moved to Berlin, where he worked as a dentist and, with expert evidence from Magnus Hirschfeld, he applied for a Transvestitenschein (police permission to wear men’s clothing) in September 1919. Hirschfeld had advised that a gender-neutral name like ‘Alex’ was more likely to be accepted. In September 1920, he successfully petitioned a local court in downtown Berlin to change his legal name to Alex, and in November the civil register in Erfurt was accordingly changed. As per usual practice with any name change, he was obliged to pay for announcements in the Deutsche Reichsanzeiger and the Preussische Staatsanzeiger – which in effect outed him.

In 1928 Alex was medically examined twice. The one report said that he had a ‘dual sexuality-bisexuality’ (Doppelgeschlechtigkeit-Bisexualität); the other found him to be female.

In 1930 he wrote an article for Die Freundin magazine about how the then transvestite scene in Berlin was focused on entertainment and did not cater to the needs of actual transvestites.

In September 1939, Alex. petitioned for the birth register to be altered to say that he had been a boy, not a girl. Five months later he gave up this attempt as hopeless, but his file was now on a desk at the supervisor of registry offices (Standesämter).

The Nazi officials who were now running the Standesämter were outraged that such changes of gender were permitted in the Third Reich. They expected the Erfurt Standesamt to rescind the name change, after which the Berlin Transvestitenschein would also be revoked. However a change in the law in 1932 had required an executive decision by the interior administration for such decisions, potentially at ministerial level. Furthermore, from October 1939 all proceedings in change-of-name cases had been suspended for the duration of the war as a labour-saving measure.

The Standesämter persevered, arguing that this was not a private case but a matter of interest to the state. The Interior Ministry issued a ruling in May 1941. They ruled that as Starke had lived as a man since 1920, it would be an ‘unjustifiable hardship’ and maybe even ‘impossible’ for him to have to start living as a woman. The name change was not to be rescinded, however he was not to be allowed to marry.
*Not the 21st century actor
  • Alex Starke. „An alle Transvestiten. Die Welt der Transvestiten.“ Die Freundin, 6, 15, 1930.
  • Rainer Herrn, Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft, Giessen, 2005: 128, 152.
  • Jane Caplan. “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany“. History Workshop Journal, 72, Autumn 2011: 174-5