Its hard growing up queer, truly it is. We look at our straight counterparts who have a multitude of icons to look up to, but for us our icons and heroes hardly make it to any spotlight. We must dig though queer histories and do research to even begin to see there are more of those like us out there. So, I truly feel it is important to showcase role models whenever I can. With this being Transgender Awareness Week, it is only appropriate to showcase transgender role models. Sure, there are those that we can talk about that are in the public eye, but what about some that are lesser known that can have greater impacts on the transgender youths? Let’s take a look at six lesser known transgender people of influence.
When the word statuesque comes to mind, you are left with a very specific idea of what it means. Julie Newmar comes to mind or even Elizabeth Taylor. I say move on over for Coccinelle, seen above. She was born in Paris in 1931 and is known as one of the earliest trans women to undergo gender affirming surgery. Coccinelle started undergoing hormone replacement therapy the same year that Christine Jorgensen became America’s most visible trans woman. She quickly became a prominent start in French cinema and theater. Her surgery and later marriage cause France to amends its laws so that the gender on one’s birth certificate could be amended once a surgery was undergone to compliment the change. Later her life would lead France to allow the transgender citizens to legally marry. She was also a prominent transgender rights activist. She founded ‘Devenir Femme’ (To Become Woman), an organization that was to provide practical and emotional support for those seeking gender affirming surgery. She lived by her quote “I always did what I wanted.” True to her words she did and shaped change in the country she lived.
Continuing with living life how you want, here is Lucy Hicks Anderson. Anderson was born in 1886 in Kentucky and from a very young age she wanted to present as a female and be called Lucy. Her mother was taken by surprise by this revelation, however the family physician said that it would be In her best interests to be raised as a girl. A doctor in the south, in the 1800s said it was a good idea for a child of color to be raised how they chose to identify, let that sink in. Anderson was married twice and fought for her marriages to be recognized as legal and accepted as a woman. She was accused of lying under oath by not disclosing her birth gender before marriage. Her response was, “I defy any doctor in the world to prove I am not a woman, I have lived, acted and dressed just what I am, a woman.” She was one of America’s earliest for marriage equality and transgender acceptance.
Sir Lady Java has been a trans right fighter since the 1960s. In her early life she was a female impersonator at the Redd Foxx Club, this was still the time frame where you could be arrested if you were caught wearing three or more pieces of clothing of the opposite sex. Sir Lady Java protest L.A’s Rule No. 9 which made it illegal to cross dress. She was profiled in Jet magazine for her curvaceous beauty and persistent picketing. After the LAPD forced Redd Foxx Club to cancel her show, she joined the ACLU and began arguing that Rule No 9 was unconstitutional and took away her income. Her initial case failed to pass but could be called a trail blazer for being able to repeal those laws later.
Jayden H.C. Sampson was originally from Illinois, but moved to Philadelphia and became a public defender. He is an organizer for the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference. This conference focuses on educating and empowering trans individuals, allies, and health care providers on issues of health and well-being. He also sits on the board of directors for Gender Reel, a national film and performing-arts festival highlighting the experiences and identities of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals.
Dr. Alan L. Hart sought out psychiatric counseling and surgery to be able to live his life as the man he was. He found help with Dr Joshua Gilbert who assisted in his transition. In 1917 Hart requested a hysterectomy to eliminate menstruation and the possibility of getting pregnant, Dr Gilbert agreed with his request making it a medical milestone where a doctor approved the removal of a healthy organ at the request of the patient.Dr. Hart is perhaps best known as a pioneering epidemiologist. Hart took the Idaho Tuberculosis Hospital’s TB prevention and treatment program from nonexistent during the 1930s to among the best in the country by the time he left Idaho in 1948.
Lou Sullivan was known as an activist and due to being defined as a gay male, had a role in changing the diagnosis and treatment of transexualism. His life was spent creating safe spaces for trans masculine people. In 1973, Sullivan was identifying as a female transvestite and started his career as a transgende activist with his publication “A Transvestite Answers A Feminist.” He went on to publish his next article entitled “Looking Towards Transvestite Liberation” and was instrumental in the early exploration of gender identity in homosexual culture. After being denied top surgery multiple times, Sullivan sought out to change being gay as a reason to be denied for gender affirmation surgery. Sullivan later went on to publish “Information for the Female to Male Cross-Dresser and Transsexual ” which gave information to fine support groups, counseling, and medical procedures. He went on to write more FTM issues in gay and transgender press. By 1986, he created FTM International, the first known support group in American to convene on FTM issues. To learn more about Lou Sullivan on Lou Sullivan Society (LSS) website.
These are only a few of the transgender role models that are out there. Take a moment to learn more about them, after all, many of us need to expand our knowledge on transgender issues. Realize that all people need someone to look up to or pattern their lives after. LGBTQ youth are in a minority when it comes to positive reinforcers in the culture at large, learn and share their information. Become the accomplice instead of just the soft spoken ally.