Consultation on Banning Conversion Therapy … Dorothy Arzner

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The Government’s consultation on banning conversion therapy

The Government is currently consulting on proposals to ban conversion therapy and support victims of these practices.

Of course, there should not even be a consultation into banning this abhorrent practice.

Liz Truss MP has said that free speech and religion are more important than an outright ban on conversion therapy. A worry is that loopholes are being created for religious freedoms and “consenting” adults. The Government are just dragging their feet along and creating loopholes which does not fill anyone in the LGBT+ community with confidence.

You can read a summary of the proposals, and share your views here. The consultation will close on 10 December 2021.

If you haven’t got time to respond to the consultation, please sign the petition here. It only takes a minute and over 35,500 people have signed.

Dorothy Arzner

Dorothy Arzner was a pioneering film director – She was the only woman director during Hollywood’s “Golden Age.”

During her 15 year career (1927-1943), Arzner, who identified as a lesbian, helmed 20 features, including silents and “talkies,” which is still a record in Hollywood.

Arzner lived with her partner Marion Morgan for four decades.

In 1938, the auteur filmmaker also was the first female member of the Director’s Guild of America. Arzner remained the only female member until Ida Lupino joined the guild in 1950.

Dorothy Arzner was an indispensable filmmaker who told a different kind of story, a story of someone swimming in a world of violence and contradictory forces run by men who is trying to navigate that world.

Arzner was uniquely focused on stories about female bonding and the female journey that had not been mapped in other cinema. The woman is not objectified. She is the story. Many face epic challenges, but she is not the victim. She is a voyager and a fighter.

Dorothy Arzner was a pioneering film director. Photo: UCLA Film & Television Archive.

Arzner directed eleven films for Paramount during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1927, Paramount made Arzner the only woman director on contract with a Hollywood studio.

Pioneering director

Arzner even directed Paramount’s first sound feature in 1929, “The Wild Party,” starring Clara Bow. Arzner also invented the first boom microphone to follow Bow around set.

Through Arzner’s direction, Bow made the cinematic transition to sound.

After breaking from her contract with Paramount in 1932, Arzner directed star-turning performances for many other actresses, including Katharine Hepburn in “Christopher Strong” (1933) for RKO, Anna Sten in “Nana” (1934) for Samuel Goldwyn, Rosalind Russell in “Craig’s Wife” (1936) for Columbia, Joan Crawford in “The Bride Wore Red” (1937) for MGM, Lucille Ball and Maureen O’Hara in “Dance, Girl, Dance” (1940) for RKO and Merle Oberon in “First Comes Courage” (1943) for Columbia.

After becoming the first female member, Arzner told the Directors Guild, “I was averse to having any comment made about being a woman director … because I wanted to stand up as a director and not have people make allowances that it was a woman.”

Left Hollywood

In 1943, Arzner walked away from Hollywood, but continued working, directing television commercials and producing plays. Arzner also was a professor at the UCLA film school, teaching screenwriting and directing from 1959 to 1965.

Arzner died in 1979 at the age of 82.

In 2018, Paramount honoured Arzner by dedicating its Dressing Room building after her.

Sexuality influenced filmmaking

Arzner’s films also were influenced by her sexuality. We are fortunate to not only enjoy the perspective of a woman, but also a lesbian. Dorothy reveals what interested her most – women bonding with each other and sometimes to the exclusion of men, which is part of a women’s lived experience, not just lesbians.

Nevertheless, her films have not been circulated, studied, praised as much as those of her male peers, and they are far more interesting than her rarity value, so see them whenever you can.

In the following video, fabulous hostess Jewels giving history lessons about LGBT+ trailblazers and significant events to readers:

Police Museum … World AIDS Day … Out Late

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Police Museum

We met at Jenny’s Restaurant, part of The Britannia Hotel in the centre of Manchester. They have a three course self-service buffet style meal for £7.50. It’s excellent value and we all enjoyed it.

We then made our way to the Greater Manchester Police Museum, located on Newton Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It is a short walk from the restaurant. This former police station was built in 1879, but closed in 1978. 

Today it is the Greater Manchester Police Museum with archives detailing the history of policing in the area. 

Our guide, Allan, brought history back to life at the Police Museum, with lots of information and interesting stories. Imagine stepping back in time to a Victorian Manchester, not the city of commerce and corporate splendour but a hidden city of gas lamps and narrow alleys, of slums and unruly alehouses. Now imagine a busy police station in the heart of that city from where police officers arrested criminals and upheld the law.

Upon its conversion to a museum in 1981 the interior was redesigned to reflect its past and now serves as a reminder of Victorian policing. The building was Grade II listed in 1994 as the Former Newton Street Police Station.

One of the exhibits is a helmet named “Bobby Dazzler”, one of two helmets worn by officers to recreate Banksy’s “Kissing Coppers” mural at Manchester Pride 2016. Each helmet is made of 5,000 reflective tiles

Kissing Coppers” is a Banksy stencil that pictures two British policeman kissing. It was originally unveiled on the wall of The Prince Albert pub in Brighton in 2004 and gained significant attention due to Banksy’s notoriety as a provocative street artist and activist. “Kissing Coppers” has frequently been regarded as one of Banksy’s most notable works, so much so that it was selected as the most iconic British piece of art at The Other Art Fair in London.

We saw the charging room, cells and the court room. Altogether it was a very interesting visit.

More photos can be seen here.

World AIDS Day

This year marks 40 years of the HIV response. Whilst medical treatment has developed so much that an HIV diagnosis no longer means a death sentence, there’s still work to do in raising awareness and understanding of HIV, fighting stigma and discrimination and inspiring people living with HIV to live healthy and confident lives.

This World AIDS Day, we are highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world.

Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the targets to end AIDS by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis.

Forty years since the first AIDS cases were reported, HIV still threatens the world. Today, the world is off track from delivering on the shared commitment to end AIDS by 2030 not because of a lack of knowledge or tools to beat AIDS, but because of structural inequalities that obstruct proven solutions to HIV prevention and treatment.

Economic, social, cultural and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end AIDS by 2030.

Although there is a perception that a time of crisis is not the right time to prioritise tackling the underlying social injustices, it is clear that without doing so the crisis cannot be overcome.

Tackling inequalities is a long-standing global promise, the urgency of which has only increased. In 2015, all countries pledged to reduce inequalities within and between countries as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

As well as being central to ending AIDS, tackling inequalities will advance the human rights of key populations and people who are living with HIV, make societies better prepared to beat COVID-19 and other pandemics and support economic recovery and stability. Fulfilling the promise to tackle inequalities will save millions of lives and will benefit society as a whole.

But ending inequalities requires transformative change. Political, economic and social policies need to protect the rights of everyone and pay attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised communities.

We know how to beat AIDS, we know what the inequalities obstructing progress are and we know how to tackle them. The policies to address inequalities can be implemented, but they require leaders to be bold.

Governments must now move from commitment to action. Governments must promote inclusive social and economic growth. They must eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices in order to ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities. It is time for governments to keep their promises. They must act now, and we must make them accountable.

Five Facts about HIV

1) HIV is an easily managed medical condition when diagnosed early.

2) People who don’t know that they’re HIV positive are more likely to pass it on during sex.

3) People living with HIV and taking effective treatment cannot pass HIV on to anyone else. U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable).

4) HIV discrimination and stigma haven’t gone away.

5) Testing for HIV has never been easier.

Out Late

Out Late is a film by Beatrice Alda and Jennifer Brooke, made in 2008. Watch the trailer here:

Out Late is an inspirational and moving documentary about five individuals who made the courageous and life-altering decision to come out as lesbian, gay or transgender, after the age of 55.

Why did they wait until their 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s to come out? And what was the turning point that caused each of them to openly declare their sexuality? From Canada to Florida to Kansas, we explore what ultimately led these dynamic individuals to make the liberating choice to live openly and honestly amongst their family, friends and community, perhaps for the first time in their lives. Their stories are nothing less than extraordinary.

It’s available to rent or buy here.

We Are Everywhere … Palm Springs … LGBTQ+ Advisory Panel

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We Are Everywhere

Since 2015, Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown have run the Instagram account @lgbt_history, which offers spellbinding photos of our vast LGBT+ past, from protests and parties to riots and balls.

With thousands of unearthed LGBT+ historical artifacts, the massively popular Instagram account does the vital work of making our past accessible to all. Their slogan is: Our Past Becomes Inspiration for a Better Future.

View of attendees in Washington Square Park at one of first mass rallies in support of gay rights, New York, New York, July 27, 1969. The event marked the one month anniversary of the Stonewall riots (28 June); the following year, the event was repeated as the first annual Gay Liberation Day .
Fred W McDarrah / Getty Images
Leighton Brown and Matthew Riemer; their book “We Are Everywhere”

Scouring archives both online and off, Riemer and Brown have unearthed thousands of images that reveal the complex web of connections that tie the LGBT+ communities together, both in the present day and stretching back centuries.

Alongside each picture, they supply a brief caption to provide context that’s often more jaw-dropping than the photo itself. An image of an elderly man staring at the ground turns stunning when the caption reveals that it’s Frank Kameny, who coined the protest phrase “gay is good”, studying the names of friends stitched into the AIDS quilt. A twenty-something man sitting on a dock with friends becomes haunting when the caption reveals that it’s a young Alan Turing, whose engineering prowess helped win World War II.

Riemer and Brown, who are a couple, began the project after realising that they lacked a connection to their past during a ceremony honouring Frank Kameny. Now, they’ve produced a new book, “We Are Everywhere”, that gathers some of their most amazing finds.

Matthew Riemer was interviewed about his work alongside Brown, their mission, and their hopes for the future:

What’s your background with history, particularly queer history?

We were both history majors in undergrad, though neither of us had any interaction with queer history when we were undergrads. I had started to collect buttons in 2013 from queer history, mainly based on aesthetic.

I knew the name Frank Kameny, who’s best known for coining “Gay is Good,” and much much more. We went to the unveiling of Kameny’s headstone in 2015, and it was during that event where activists and historians spoke that Leighton and I both had a moment, an existential crisis where we realised we don’t know shit — anything — about our history.

Stonewall, Harvey Milk, AIDS, and marriage is what we knew, and we didn’t know anything about those things. Without really talking about it, we went off on our own directions. On the Uber ride home Leighton was looking at images, searching Frank Kameny, and seeing images of the homophiles in front of the White House 1965. I started to do more of the reading.

What was it like to find out how much history you’d missed?

It was really sad and scary and discombobulating. It’s something that I think more and more privileged people — and we are privileged — have come to understand, with the sociopolitical realities of the US, that we have been walking around taking history, belonging, and everything for granted. All of a sudden it became clear to us that we don’t have an anchor, and there’s much more to it than what we know.

As underrepresented people, we’re taught never to ask questions. We grow up assuming there isn’t anything. We show up at Pride and then we go home. We wanted to show the connections, that it’s a 24/7 job to be activists.

Where do you find the images that you use?

Everywhere. Leighton started with the ONE Archives, which has done an amazing job of digitising. So has the New York Public Library. I went to seven to ten archives, and I’d go through thousands of negatives and take photos with my iPhone. Very quickly it opens up and it never stops. You start to realise that among libraries and archives, there are a ton that have digitised, but that’s barely the tip of the iceberg.

One of the things that we’ve learned in this project is that history isn’t dead. We would learn these names, and there’d be a picture and there’s a list of names, and we’d go on Facebook and there those people are.

There’s internalised homophobia and modesty that makes those people think, “Who wants to see pictures of me and my friends in a park in 1975?” And the answer is, “We do.” We thought there was a finite number of images to use. But Leighton’s collected about 100,000 images, and we have the rights to maybe five percent.

How do different generations respond to your work?

The younger folks have a recognition of our infinite existence. Our work isn’t a history of queer people, it’s a history of queer activism. We want people to know that the anger and isolation and frustration and joy they feel has always been there. Hopefully that will have somewhat of a humbling effect, and we see that.

On the opposite end, with our elders, there’s a realisation that people know that it mattered. The elders always knew that it mattered, but now they’re getting the credit they know they deserve. In a community that has always prioritised whatever Hollywood star comes out over the front-liners, to be able to have a popular social media platform where at least for a second someone is seeing all these kids freak out about their outfit or their sign from a 1987 protest is gratifying.

So many kids will say, “these people were so badass,” and I’m like, “I tagged them! You can talk to them, you can tell them.”

We try to moderate a conversation in the comment section. Hopefully there’s conversation between generations, a mutual respect. For those willing to engage and listen and be part of this, it’s been incredible.

We take comments very seriously, and learning to listen and learning to understand the perspective of those who feel unincluded. It’s my obligation not to convince people who feel excluded that they’re welcome, but rather to ask, what did I do and what can I do to be more successful in telling history? That doesn’t mean changing history, that just means making sure that the language that I use is respectful of all.

Has this project changed how you see yourselves in relation to the LGBTQ+ community?

I don’t know how we saw ourselves before. I think looking back that I focused more on how I saw myself in the cis-het community than I thought about my relation to the LGBTQ+ community. Meaning, assimilation. I was a gay attorney at a big law firm, and I was on brochures and stuff. I represented diversity.

That was more about existing in space carved out for me both by the work of my elders in the queer community and a little bit of space by the dominant culture. With all my privilege, I wasn’t focused on what I can — and should — do for my community. That’s entirely changed. Today the question I ask myself is, “What are we doing for the community?” The job is not just to exist in the space that others created for us, but to create more space.

And if people try to shout us down, we have the privilege of shouting back.

Living Out Palm Springs to offer LGBT+ seniors a retirement community

One of the amenities to be offered at Living Out Palm Springs will be a dog park.

For decades, Palm Springs has been a popular retirement destination for well-to-do gay men. The city in the desert might become more attractive as it prepares to welcome Living Out Palm Springs, an upscale resort-style apartment community designed specifically to meet the unique needs of LGBT+ seniors.

A groundbreaking ceremony will take place at the 9-acre development during Palm Springs Pride.

The project was initially scheduled to break ground in early 2020 as a luxury condo retirement community, but then COVID-19 pandemic hit, and it was put on hold.

The developers eventually decided to pivot their business model from luxury condominiums to upscale apartments.

The Coachella Valley’s first and — so far — only LGBT+-centric retirement community, North Palm Springs’ Stonewall Gardens, opened in 2014. The facility’s 24 bungalow-style apartments include an option for 24-hour on-site care.

If residents require it, Living Out Palm Springs will recommend supportive in-home care companies with LGBT+ cultural competency.

LGBT+ seniors don’t have many options for welcoming and inclusive living environments for people 55 and over. LuAnn Boylan, who’s in charge of marketing and sales with Living Out Palm Springs, said: “We hear stories all the time about people who are discriminated against from the senior communities they live in, whether it’s from other residents or from the staff. Sometimes people have to hide photographs in their own homes, photographs of them with their partners, so people don’t know they’re in a same-sex relationship.”

According to SAGE (Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders), when compared to older heterosexual adults, LGBT+ seniors face several challenges:

  • Twice as likely to live alone
  • Half as likely to have life partners or significant others
  • Half as likely to have close relatives to call for help
  • Are caregivers for older loved ones, but four times less likely to have children to help them.

Living Out Palm Springs has been created to fight loneliness and increase socialisation among residents. The project will feature numerous amenities:

  • Upscale restaurant and piano bar operating
  • Private screening room
  • Massage studio
  • Hair, pedicure, and manicure salon
  • Community lounge with coffee bar, prepared food options, yogurt bar, and workspace
  • Resort-style swimming pool
  • 2 jacuzzi-spa areas
  • State-of-the-art fitness centre
  • Putting green
  • 2 ball courts
  • Outdoor BBQ and entertainment areas
  • Pet park for large and small dogs adjacent to a full-service pet facility (retail, grooming, boarding, and daycare).

The 122 luxury apartments will range from 1,100 to 1,700 square feet, with every unit containing a large usable balcony or patio.

An official with the project said the rates have not yet been set, but will be comparable to some of the luxury heterosexual communities in the area. That means starting rents could be between $4,500 and $5,000 a month.

Project construction is scheduled to take 18 months with anticipated opening in early 2023.

Do you want an opportunity to create a Greater Manchester that’s better for LGBTQ+ people?

The deadline for applying to join the Greater Manchester LGBTQ+ Advisory Panel has been extended to Tuesday, 7 December 2021.

The Panel is one of seven established by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to tackle inequality and injustice in the region. They aim to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the city region by putting LGBTQ+ communities at the heart of decision-making in Greater Manchester.

Join the Panel

LGBT Foundation is currently looking for passionate individuals with links to local LGBTQ+ communities to join the Panel on a voluntary basis. In this role, you will have the opportunity to advocate for LGBTQ+ people across Greater Manchester and influence policy at the highest level. You will also have access to training and development opportunities to ensure you can make the most of the time that you volunteer.

If this sounds like you, visit their website to find out more and apply by Tuesday, 7 December!

They particularly encourage applications from trans and non-binary people; LGBTQ+ women, people of colour (PoC), and disabled people; and others with lived experience of multiple marginalisation to ensure that the Panel is representative of diverse LGBTQ+ communities across Greater Manchester.

Chetham’s Library … Lewis Hamilton … Your Words Are Powerful

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Chetham’s Library

We had a meal in the Seven Stars pub, part of the Printworks entertainment venue. The premises are named after one of Manchester’s long-lost inns, as the original Seven Stars stood close by and had a picturesque Tudor-style front. It claimed to have been licensed since 1350. 

It was then just a few minute’s walk to Chetham’s Library, the oldest free public reference library in the English-speaking world, where we had arranged a guided tour with one of the librarians.

Chetham’s Hospital, which contains both the library and Chetham’s School of Music, was established in 1653 under the will of Humphrey Chetham (1580–1653), for the education of “the sons of honest, industrious and painful parents”, and a library for the use of scholars. The library has been in continuous use since 1653. It operates as an independent charity, open to readers free of charge, by prior appointment.

Chetham’s is also famous as the meeting place of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels when Marx visited Manchester in the summer of 1845. Facsimiles of the economics books they studied can be seen on a table in the window alcove where they would meet. The research they undertook during this series of visits to the library led ultimately to their work, The Communist Manifesto.

More pictures can be seen here.

Formula One champ Lewis Hamilton wore the Pride flag on his helmet for last weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix

The racer is making a show of LGBT+ solidarity at the race, with his crash helmet – which will be beamed from the in-car camera – also emblazoned with the message “We Stand Together”.

Qatar hosted its first Grand Prix on Sunday, 21 November as part of a new 10-year deal.

When it was first announced, in September 2021, Amnesty International was among those to criticise the decision. It noted Qatar’s “extremely troubling” human rights record, and said that “drivers and their teams should be prepared to speak out about human rights in Qatar.”

Speaking ahead of the race, Lewis Hamilton said: “We’re aware there are issues in these places that we’re going to. But of course Qatar seems to be deemed as one of the worst in this part of the world. I do think as the sports go to these places, they are then duty bound to raise awareness for these issues. These places need scrutiny from the media to speak about these things. Equal rights is a serious issue.”

It is illegal to be homosexual in Qatar, with a punishment of up to seven years in prison or flogging.

Your Words are Powerful

Amnesty International organise an annual “Write for Rights” campaign and hundreds of thousands of supporters take part showing solidarity with people and organisations enduring human rights abuses.

It might only take a few minutes to write a letter or card, but for an LGBT+ organisation suffering homophobic attacks, this simple gesture has a powerful impact. Your letters, words and actions also put pressure on the authorities to bring perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.

LGBT and Women’s Rights under attack

Sphere has championed LGBT and women’s rights since 2006, and is one of the oldest organisations of its kind in Ukraine. Founded by activists Anna Sharyhina and Vira Chernygina, it provides a safe space for women and LGBT people in the city of Kharkiv. In recent years the organisation has suffered frequent homophobic attacks.

The authorities are not addressing the growing rate of hate crimes. Anti-LGBT groups have set upon Sphere’s supporters and premises, urinating on walls, daubing faeces on doorknobs, breaking windows and chanting homophobic slogans. Anna and Vira report them to the police, but no one is held accountable.

In 2019, Sphere organised Kharkiv’s first Pride. Despite threats and intimidation, it was a huge success, attended by up to 3,000 people. But the police failed to protect marchers from violence, and instead joined in by hurling homophobic abuse. Anna and Vira say police inaction has left Sphere and its supporters in a permanent state of fear.

What You Can Do

  • Send a message of support and solidarity to

Sphere

PO Box 10399

Kharkiv, 61005,

Ukraine.

  • Send an appeal letter to

The Minister of Interior

Ministry of Interior Affairs

Vul. Akademika Bohomoltsa, 10

01601, Kyiv

Ukraine

Address your letter to Dear Minister and ask him to take all necessary steps to ensure the perpetrators of the attacks against Sphere are identified and held to account in fair trials and to ensure the discriminatory motive of the attacks is taken into account during the investigations.

Campaigning can work

Last year more than 445,000 letters and cards were sent to support students Melike Balkan and Ozgür Gür from Turkey defending their right to celebrate Pride on their university campus. They faced nearly three years in prison but were acquitted on 8 October 2021 and their ordeal is finally over.

Does anyone recognise this person?

Transgender Awareness week … Alan Hart … Female Husbands

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Transgender Awareness Week

Transgender Awareness Week, observed 13 – 19 November, is a one-week celebration leading up to the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which memorialises victims of transphobic violence.

The purpose of Transgender Awareness Week is to educate about transgender and gender non-conforming people and the issues associated with their transition or identity.

In Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability (University of Columbia Press, 2018), Jack Halberstam, professor of English and comparative literature, explores recent shifts in the meaning and representation of gender and the possibilities for a non-gendered, gender-optional, or gender-queer future.

Here is a short excerpt: “Over the course of my lifetime, I have called myself or been called a variety of names: queer, lesbian, dyke, butch, transgender, stone, and transgender butch, just for starters. Indeed, one day when I was walking along the street with a butch friend, we were called faggots! If I had known the term “transgender” when I was a teenager in the 1970s, I am sure I would have grabbed hold of it like a life jacket on rough seas, but there were no such words in my world.

Changing sex for me and for many people my age was a fantasy, a dream, and because it had nothing to do with our realities, we had to work around this impossibility and create a home for ourselves in bodies that were not comfortable or right. The term “wrong body” was used often in the 1980s, even becoming the name of a BBC show about transsexuality, and, offensive as the term might sound now, it at least harboured an explanation for how cross-gendered people might experience embodiment: I, at least, felt as if I was in the wrong body, and there seemed to be no way out.

For my part, I now prefer the term “trans*” because it holds open the meaning of the term and refuses to deliver certainty through the act of naming. The asterisk modifies the meaning of transitivity by refusing to situate transition in relation to a destination, a final

form, a specific shape, or an established configuration of desire and identity. The asterisk holds off the certainty of diagnosis; it keeps at bay any sense of knowing in advance what the meaning of this or that gender-variant form may be, and perhaps most importantly, it makes trans* people the authors of their own categorisations.

Though these past two decades have given us better terms for who we are, they have done less than one might hope to heal the vexed relationship between trans* activism and theory, on the one hand, and feminist activism and theory, on the other. This rift presents a real problem for the contemporary political alliances that are so desperately needed now in a time of extended crisis.”

Alan Hart

Alan Hart was a transgender man born in 1890 in Kansas and raised on his grandfather’s farm in Oregon. His identity was accepted early on: he was fascinated with playing doctor as a young boy; wrote articles for school publications and local newspapers under his male pseudonym as a teenager; and was listed as a surviving grandson in his grandparents’ obituaries at the time of their deaths.

In 1917, Alan received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Oregon. He was upset to see the information included his birth name, realising that having a feminine name would limit his job opportunities, despite his masculine appearance. Around this time, Alan approached Dr Joshua Gilbert at the University of Oregon and requested a full hysterectomy as part of his medical transition. Dr Gilbert refused until Alan changed tactics, convincing the doctor that a person with “abnormal inversion” should be sterilised. After the successful operation, Alan legally changed his name and began hormone therapy, despite its risks at the time. He is regarded as the first person to medically transition in America.

During an internship in 1918 at San Francisco Hospital, Alan was outed to the school newspaper by a former classmate, and with his first wife, Inez Stark, was forced to flee to Oregon, where he began his own practice. He was eventually outed there as well, but responded in a local newspaper, saying: “… I am happier since I made this change than I ever have been in my life, and I will continue this way as long as I live. I came home to show my friends that I am ashamed of nothing.”

Throughout the 1930s and ’40s, Alan devoted his career to tuberculosis research. He travelled through rural Idaho, teaching, training medical staff, treating patients, and conducting mass tuberculosis screenings. He was a capable and accessible writer, and he published his findings for both medical researchers and the general public. He also popularised the use of x-rays to diagnose tuberculosis, which saved thousands of lives.

As a writer, Alan also published several pieces of fiction, including stories featuring disabled, gay and transgender characters. His books deal with gender, sexuality, and feminism, while also exploring the ups and downs of working in the medical field.

After his death in 1962, Alan’s wife established a scholarship in his name. There would be an ongoing debate surrounding it for two decades afterwards, regarding whether the beneficiaries of the scholarship should be lesbians or transgender individuals in order to qualify. Some people misidentified Alan as a lesbian instead of a transgender man, despite his efforts to keep his pre-transition identity a secret, including a request that his personal letters and photos be destroyed upon his death.

More than a century later, Alan is still remembered for being the first transgender man to undergo medical transition in the United States, but even more so as a doctor at the forefront of the fight to eradicate tuberculosis, saving countless lives in the process.

Consider these 18th-century ‘female husbands’

Portrait of Abigail Allen, a so-called ‘female husband’. Photograph: Courtesy of The Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

Whenever the subject of transgender identities comes up today, there is a tendency to trot out a particularly specious argument: that the idea of being trans is a “new” concept, a notion that “no one” in their right mind had heard of, or would entertain, in previous eras.

The fact is that people who defied gender norms in notable, consistent ways – and who might well have identified as transgender today – have existed throughout human history.

Consider, for example, that in the 18th century, a property owner in England realised, to her consternation, that one of her tenants, whom she had long assumed was a swashbuckling married man, might actually, at least in her eyes, be something else entirely.

“You are taken to be of a different sex from what you appear, and you know how profane a thing it is for a woman to be a man,” the property owner declared, “for if you are a woman, you must be a woman, there is no help for it.”

Samuel Bundy, the subject of this denunciation, tried to think up excuses and settled on an extraordinary solution: that they lacked “male” genitalia because a shark had devoured them on one of their voyages. “I owe this,” Bundy offered, “to a shark in the West Indies.” Whether or not this was believed, it was too late. Others had already been informed, and Bundy was arrested shortly thereafter.

Samuel Bundy – whose story is one of many documented in Female Husbands: A Trans History, a fascinating new book by Jen Manion – had been assigned female at birth, but, from a young age, enjoyed tales of women sailing the seas in the guise of men, and also liked alternating between male and female attire. Later, Bundy took on the identity of a man more fully, perhaps because this represented the easiest way to be granted passage as a sailor, and set off. Bundy romanced women at ports of call – an important way to convince the other male sailors of their virility – and eventually married a woman, while also seemingly offering their hand in marriage to 12 others, as well. When Bundy was incarcerated, the women lined up to visit. Bundy’s “official” wife refused to press charges, allowing them to go free.

Hannah Snell, who went by the name James Gray. Photograph: Image accessed through the Digital Transgender Archive. Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

What made Bundy particularly distinctive was their willingness to embrace their identity in both male and female terms, never settling entirely on one side of the gender binary. “In contemporary terms,” Manion writes, “we might see their gender as non-binary.” Manion, unlike all too many previous scholars writing about long-dead figures who may have been transgender, accepts that it is not always possible to know a historical person’s gender identity, so when it seems uncertain, Manion uses gender-neutral terminology – a move at once politic and political, doing gender justice to historical figures whose identities are unclear or who may have genuinely wished to be spoken of in non-binary terms.

To the 18th-century press, however, the Bundy story was another lurid case of the “female husband”, a then popular term for someone assigned female at birth who presented as male and took a wife. For much of the century, newspapers and popular novels were filled with sensationalistic tales of similar lives. What made these stories stand out was how they crossed assumed borders of gender and sexuality. Queerness already defied the simplistic paradigm of who was drawn to whom, and narratives of people transing gender – Manion’s term – defied further still, suggesting that our bodies did not necessarily represent the destiny of our gender. Bodies, instead, were suddenly unruly, unpredictable, expansive – as, of course, they always had been, and remain.

Another such case was James Allen, a labourer in London who had married a housemaid, Abigail Naylor. In 1829, after Allen was fatally crushed by falling timber, the coroner’s examination of their body revealed that Allen had been assigned female at birth.

The coroner continued to use male pronouns when referring to Allen, even after the discovery. “I call the deceased a ‘he’, because I considered it impossible for him to be a woman, as he had a wife.” As Manion noted, the deaths of female husbands were so often newsworthy “because people wanted to know how someone assigned female at birth managed to go through life as a man”, as well as how their marriages to cisgender women had worked. In some cases, Manion speculates, the female husband’s wife might genuinely not have known what cisgender men’s bodies were “supposed” to look like, especially if she had been raised in a puritanical home, or their husband may have taken efforts to conceal their bodies, even during intercourse. In other cases, their wives may simply have accepted their bodies and identities as they were, embracing their queerness in secret.

Because of their journalistic popularity, some accounts of female husbands were transformed into biographies or even novels, like The Female Sailor, published in 1750, about “Hannah Snell who went by the name of James Gray”.

Some, like James Howe, were even covered on both sides of the Atlantic. Born into a poor family in 1732, Howe “lived as a man for over 30 years undetected, achieving wealth and the esteem of the local community as the owner of the popular White Horse Tavern in London’s East End”, Manion tells us. Their identity was only revealed after they were blackmailed by an old classmate, who wanted to extract money out of them. As Manion’s book emphasises, these historical figures may not have used the terms transgender or non-binary, per se, but still understood themselves as people who transed gender, in some way, and wanted their partners, if not the world at large, to be able to accept them as such. While Manion’s book is only a narrow geographic snapshot of such figures, it underscores their prevalence in the past, as well as the still-radical notion that transgender people are worthy of love and respect.