Press for Change - Trans history in the UK and beyond!

Christine Burns’ new book is available here

What medical records say about trans heritage

When: Saturday 26th October, 2-5pm 

Where: The Science Museum

Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2DD



We are inviting any young trans person who wishes to attend a chance to take part in our Who am I? Hacking into the Science Museum Project. This transgender heritage project will enable 15 trans people (ages 13-25) to learn about their heritage in relation to a history of medical science.

We will spend the afternoon considering historical medical records in relation to transgender experiences as well as talking about the Who am I? gallery and our hacking project.

Let us know you’re coming by COMPLETING THIS FORM 

All travel will be reimbursed. We hope to see you there! 

Trans History for LGBT History Month

We hope you enjoyed our trans history series for LGBT History Month in February. If you missed any, you can click our trans history tag, or check out the list below.

Biographies of trans people for LGBT History Month UK


Lucy Hicks Anderson  - Domestic Worker (US)

April Ashley - Model / Actor (UK)

Georgina Beyer - Politician (New Zealand)

Georgia Black - Domestic Worker (US)

Kylar Broadus - Lawyer (US)

Marci Bowers - Surgeon (US)

Robert Cowell - Racing driver (UK)

Michael Dillon - Doctor (UK)

Lili Elbe - Artist (Denmark)

Jack Bee Garland - Soldier (US)

Althea Garrison - Politician (US)

Anna Grodzka - Politician (Poland)

Alan Hart - Doctor (US)

Marsha P Johnson - Activist / Performer (US)

Christine Jorgensen - Actress / Entertainer (US)

Jan Morris - Author (UK)

Sylvia Rivera - Trans Activist (US)

Fanny and Stella - Performers (UK)

Lou Sullivan - Author / Activist (US)

Billy Tipton - Musician (US)

Stephen Whittle - Lawyer / Lecturer (UK)

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Marci Bowers (1958 - Present)


Marci Bowers (1958) is an American trans woman and surgeon.  She is a pioneer of trans lower surgeries, especially for trans women.  In fact, she is the first trans woman to operate regularly on other trans women.  Bowers formerly had a medical practice in Trinidad, Colorado, but has now relocated to San Mateo, California.

Bowers first tried to transition at age 19 but found it too difficult because she lacked adequate financial resources and support from her family.  She graduated from University of Minnesota medical school in 1986, where she was president of her class and the entire student body.

She went on to study under Dr Stanley Biber, who performed over 4,000 trans-related surgeries, who is credited for Trinidad’s name as the ‘sex change capital’. She took over his practice when he retired at the age of 80. 

While still presenting as male, Bowers married her wife and they had 3 children together.  Around age 40, she was able to transition.  She still remains very close to her wife and 3 children. 

Bowers currently performs over 130 surgeries a year. As well operating on trans people, she uses her vaginoplasty expertise to perform surgery on victims of female genital mutilation, which she does free of charge.

She has been a guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Tyra Banks Show in America, as well as appearing on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

When discussing her work, Bowers stated, "Transitioning is like walking on lily pads: You have to be careful with each step, or you’re going to sink. It takes a lot of money, courage and a certain amount of planning, I’m just glad I can help." 

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Althea Garrison (1940 - Present)


Althea Garrison is an American politician, woman of trans history, and the first trans person to be elected to state legislature.

Garrison was born in 1940 in Georgia, attending high school there before moving to Boston to go to beauty school. She went on to enrol in a number of Universities, receiving her associated, bachelors and masters degrees, and finally a certificate in special studies in administration and management from Harvard in 1984.

She ran at least 9 unsuccessful campaigns for office before 1992, when she had her first and only success. She ran as a Republican candidate for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and defeated the Democratic candidate, Irene Roman, 2,451 votes to 2,014.

Garrison was only able to enjoy her victory for two days, before she was outed very publicly. Her previous male name was revealed after her name change document from 1976 was discovered. The author of the smear article was Eric Fehrnstrom, the communications director for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign.

The outing had a negative affect on her career, making her the butt of many political jokes. No one in the Massachusetts State House, including Garrison, would publicly confront the smear. 

Despite the obvious ignorance in regards to her trans history, she still impressed her colleagues. "She’s a transvestite or transsexual black woman, with an Adam’s Apple, who’s a Republican, who you run into in the members’ ladies’ room," recalls one former colleague. "That being said, when you get past all those obvious things, I always found her to be very pleasant and very kind."

During her time in office, she often voted on the side of the Democrats, showing herself to be consistently pro-union. Her re-election campaign in 1994 was unsuccessful, despite endorsements from several of the labour unions she had supported. 

She has continued her political campaigns since, running unsuccessfully in a number of elections. She has notably come out against marriage equality, stating same sex attraction is “a matter of choice and lifestyle not to be confused or associated with class or race.” She is even allied to the anti-LGBT rights group ‘MassResistance’. 

Source: Wikipedia / TransGriot / Boston Phoenix

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Jan Morris (1926 - Present)


Jan Morris is a Welsh author and trans woman. She was born in Somerset in 1926. She is a highly regarded travel writer and historian.

Morris was an intelligence officer in the second World War, serving in Italy and Palestine. At the end of the war she returned to Britain to read English at Christ Church, Oxford, and later began a career in journalism, writing for The Times. She married her partner Elizabeth in 1949, and they had five children together. 

Morris began her medical transition in 1964 and in 1972, travelled to Morocco to have genital surgery. After this, she began writing work under the name Jan Morris, publishing ”Conundrum”, the same year. The book described in detail the experience of discovering and pursuing her own true identity - as a woman who just happened to have been born and brought up as male.

As the law did not allow same-sex marriages, Morris had to divorce her wife after she had surgery. They had a civil partnership in 2008.

Morris has written a range of travel books, and continues to publish excerpts on her tumblr blog.

She received a CBE in the 1999 Queen’s Birthday Honours, the Golden PEN Award for a Lifetime’s Distinguished Service to Literature, and in 2008,The Times named her the 15th greatest British author since the War.

Source: Wikipedia /  Independent / LGBT History Month

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Georgina Beyer (1957 - Present)


Georgina Beyer, the world’s first openly trans mayor and member of Parliament, was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1957. She is of Maori descent. 

At the age of 16, Beyer left school to pursue acting, against her mother’s will. In her 20’s, she began working on the Wellington gay scene as a singer and drag performer, and then briefly as a sex worker.  

She had genital surgery in 1984, and soon after began a successful career as an actress in film and television. She was often typecast as a drag queen or streetwalker. She was nominated for best actress in the New Zealand Guild of Film and Television in 1987.  

Her career in politics began after she became a councillor for Carterton in 1993. She ran for mayor of Carterton in 1995 and won, becoming the first openly trans mayor.  Then, in 1999, Georgina was chosen as the Labour Party’s candidate and, against the odds, became the world’s first openly trans MP. During her time as an MP, she introduced a bill to Parliament to include ‘gender identity’ in the Human Rights Act. 

Beyer stepped down from Parliament in 2007. 

She published her autobiography, “Change for the Better: the Story of Georgina Beyer” in 1999. A documentary film about her, “Georgie Girl”, was released in 2002 and won international awards.

Source: Wikipedia / It’s a Queer World

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Billy Tipton (1914 - 1989)


Billy Lee Tipton (December 29, 1914 - January 21, 1989) was an American jazz musician and bandleader. Billy was born in Oklahoma in 1914 and showed a strong interest in music early on in life.  He was most interested in jazz and studied piano and saxophone extensively. 

As a teenager, he started using the name Billy and tried hard to pass by binding and packing.  At first, he only presented as male when he was performing music, but by 1940, he started to live full time as male, keeping his trans history a secret.  He cut contact with the majority of people from his former life as female, staying in touch with only two cousins who knew of Billy’s past. 

Billy’s first relationship was with a woman while he was still living part-time as female. However, he soon began living full-time as male, having heterosexual relationships with women.  Billy even kept his past hidden from his lovers and told them he was in a horrible car accident that damaged his genitals and broke a few ribs, which meant that he had to bind to keep his ribs in place. 

Billy and his partner adopted two children, and he did not disclose his trans history to his children. At the time of his death, one of his son’s learned for the first time about his father’s anatomy.  Billy’s partner had his body cremated to try to protect his identity, but his son went public with the story which received a large amount of media attention.

The fiction novel ‘Trumpet’ by Jackie Kay was inspired by the story of Billy Tipton.

Source: Wikipedia

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Anna Grodzka (1954 - Present)


Anna Grodzka is a Polish politician, and the first trans Member of Parliament in European History.

She was born in Otwock, Poland, and had a career in publishing and film-making before transitioning in 2010. She was elected to Polish parliament in the 2011 parliamentary elections as a candidate for the left-liberal Palikot’s Movement. Currently, she is the only trans MP in the world.

Her trans status has attracted controversy, with derogatory comments surfacing from other MPs, and mixed responses from the general public to her election. 

However, Grodzka was nominated by her party and ran for the position of deputy speaker of Poland’s lower house of parliament in 2012, but was unsuccessful. She continues to serve as a Member of Parliament.

Source: Wikipedia / Guardian

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Christine Jorgenson (1926 - 1989)


Christine Jorgenson was one of the first people to become widely known in the USA for having transitioned from male to female.

She grew up in the Bronx, New York, was drafted in to the army in 1945. After returning from the army, she heard about the ability to change sex, and began taking female hormones on her own, without a prescription.

Jorgenson intended to go to Sweden to have surgery, but during a stopover in Denmark met a Danish endocrinologist, Dr Christian Hamburger, who prescribed her hormone replacement therapy. She had her penis and testicles removed in Denmark, having a vaginoplasty in the US a few years later.

 In 1952, her story was broken to the press in the US, claiming she was the first patient to have a ‘sex change’. On her return to the US in 1953, she was instantly famous, and made a number of media appearances to discuss her transition.

She had planned to marry after her vaginoplasty, but she was unable to due to her birth certificate still listing her as male. Her fiancé had lost his job when he engagement to Jorgenson became known.

She spent the 70s and 80s touring University campuses speaking about her experiences, as well as working as an entertainer and actress.

Christine Jorgenson died of bladder and lung cancer in 1988, just short of her 63rd birthday.

Source: Wikipedia

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Stephen Whittle (1955 - Present)


Stephen Whittle is most notable for being the co-founder of Press For Change, a prominent UK lobbying organisation for trans people.

He was born in Manchester in 1955, and began transition in 1974 at the age of 19. When he had surgery shortly afterwards, he was the 13th female-to-male trans person in the country to have had treatment.

After being turned down for teacher training for being trans, and hounded out of numerous jobs when his trans status was discovered, Whittle trained as a lawyer and founded Press for Change in 1992.

Whittle and his now-wife, Sarah, took a case to the European Court of Human Rights for the right of trans people to marry, and for non-biologically related family members to be recognised legally. Their case was successful, and went on to form the Gender Recognition Act, which came in to force in 2005. The Act allowed trans people in the UK to change their birth certificates and marry.

Whittle became the legal father of his children in 2006. He now works as a professor in Equalities Law at Manchester Metropolitan University.

In 2005, he was awarded an OBE for ‘services to gender issues’.

Source: Wikipedia / Telegraph 

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.




Stonewall - Martin Duberman

The Gay Militants: How Gay Liberation Began in America, 1969-1971 - Donn Teal

“Sylvia Rivera: A Woman Before Her Time” - Liz Highleyman (from Smash the Church, Smash the State: The Early Years of Gay Liberation)

“Marsha P….

Great list of resources for anyone who is interested in Sylvia Rivera and the Street Trans Action Revolutionaries.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Sylvia Rivera (2nd July 1951 - 19th February 2002)


Sylvia Rivera was an American trans activist, born in New York City in 1951. She is perhaps most famous for her role on the frontline of the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

Rivera was born to Puerto Rican and Venezuelan parents, but became an orphan at the age of 3. She was raised by her grandmother who disapproved of her effeminate behaviour, leading her to begin living on the streets at the age of 11.

Her activism began during the Vietnam War, and she involved herself in many civil rights, feminist and gay rights movements. Rivera was a founding members of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance, some of the first groups formed after the Stonewall Riots. With Marsha P. Johnson, she helped to found STAR (Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries) a group dedicated to helping young homeless drag queens and transgender women.

Rivera was an activist for all those who she felt had been marginalised or abandoned when the gay rights movement became more mainstream. She was a loud and persistent voice for the rights of people of colour, and low-income queers and trans people.

Rivera’s activism was instrumental to ensuring that the New York State Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act would include protections for gender variant identity. She also organized street protests, pressured other leaders in the movement to be more economically and racially inclusive, and encouraged trans people to reassume their centrality to the LGBTQ movement.

"When I was young, I never thought I was going to be a part of gay history — I didn’t even expect that gay history would be in existence." She said, when interviewed in the New York Times in 1997. “So there’s a lot of joy in my heart to see the 30th anniversary of Stonewall. But I do get depressed when this time of year comes around. For 30 years I’ve been struggling and fighting, and I still feel like an outcast in the gay community. “

She died 11 years ago today, on 19 February 2002, of complications due to liver cancer. Since her death, her legacy lives on. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has been set up in her name in New York City, providing legal assistance and advocacy to low income trans, intersex and gender non-conforming people.

Source: Wikipedia / QualiaFolk / Village Voice

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Roberta Cowell (1918 - Present)


Roberta Cowell, a former racing driver and World War 2 pilot, was the first trans woman in the UK known to undergo genital reconstruction surgery.

Cowell became interest in motor-racing whilst at University, and competed in the 1939 Antwerp Grand Prix. She served with the RAF in World War II, spending 5 months in a prisoner of war camp before it was liberated in 1945.

She began to transition after sessions with a psychiatrist led her to conclude that her "unconscious mind was predominantly female". She began estrogen and met Michael Dillon, a doctor and trans man, who performed an orchiectomy on her, which was illegal in Britain at the time.

A doctor on Harley Street gave her a document stating she was intersex, which allowed her to change her birth certificate to female. She had vaginoplasty in 1951, making her the first known trans woman in the UK to have had this surgery.

Source: Wikipedia

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.

Trans History for LGBT History Month - Jack Bee Garland (1869-1936)


Jack Bee Garland was born in San Francisco in 1869. Growing up as a rebellious tomboy, Garland was sent to a convent school but escaped through marrying a family friend at age 15, whom he divorced a few months later.

In 1899 he took the male identity of Beebe Beam and accompanied US army forces to the Philippines to participate in the Philippine war.

After becoming unwell, his history was discovered, Beam was banished from the ship. He was disguised in a uniform by other soldiers and hidden until safe. After publishing a book about his Philippine adventure Beam abandoned newspaper writing and assumed the identity Jack Bee Garland.

He devoted himself to social work with the American Red Cross and other charitable organisations, and remained active in these areas until his death. Louis Sullivan has published his life story in a book entitled: From Female to Male: Life of Jack Bee Garland, 1990

Check out more trans history on Gendered Intelligence’s ‘Trans History’ tag.