Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Mystery Miss in Training: Vintage photo

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | January 12, 2011 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: 1920s, gender studies, LGBT history, queer studies, transgender history

A friend sent this to me a while back, without any background or information, but secure in the knowledge that a 1920s era photo of a transgender (submissive?) "in training" would intrigue me. Does it ever! Hopefully, it intrigues you too.

I note her shirt has English but she's holding something with French on it. By its style, I'm guessing this was shot in France, but if you have better ideas, I'd love to hear them.


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As futile as this may be, I raise an objection to identifying any individual as "transgender" unless that individual has first identified self as such. Even then I always have to ask what is meant -- if I care -- but I generally reserve that question to private conversation with the individual.

Umbrella terms cannot be used to denote the specific, or in this case any individual.

I am not one with any drag queens, cross-dressers, or any other "sisters." We may be fighting the same homophobia, but our alliance is a political one. I do not personally partake of the term used here.

I realize everyone is currently embroiled in yet another HBS vs transgender whirlwind over at PHB. Keep it over there please. We've got no interest in trying to recreate it over here.

friday jones | January 12, 2011 8:55 PM

That is Claude Cahun. Here is a little blurb I found on the Web about him, in French of course:

And when will this HBS crap die the miserable unattended death it deserves? I got my surgery in 1985, and transitioned at the age of 22, and as an old school O.G. transsexual, I can tell you that your entire movement is completely full of it. You're just buying into crummy patriarchal stereotypes about gender, and painting yourselves into a rhetorical corner in the process. You can't make yourselves more real by painting others as fakes, it just doesn't work that way.

That's a great blurb! Seems like an interesting performer.

and the wiki about Claude:

the alliance, is because we share the same issues, regardless of how we identify - politically, socially

and I wish we wouldnt fight so much :-(

Gee. Someone agrees with me on this point? :)

I've never heard of Claude Cahun, I don't read PHB (took me a minute to figure out what you were referring to) and my views are my own. They haven't changed a lot in the last few decades. The definition of the word transgender has. But we seem to be piling new -- and contradictory -- meanings atop one very old, and exclusionary, one.

If dressing a male in "women's" clothing makes him "transgender," then the word means very little.

And if an umbrella term applies too broadly, it loses any meaning -- except in context. Basic linguistic theory.

But, as I said, expressing myself here, on this issue, is a futile gesture.

I do agree with the homogenizers on one thing. We are ALL trans, passing from one place over-under-thru to another. That's just living.

Well, I see other people have come up with references to the source for the photo - I found one at:

by googling "totor and popol" based on the "totor et popol" in the photo - they were characters created by the Belgian cartoonist Herve, who brought us Tintin.

HBS is the last gasp of a battle that was lost back when word got out that Harry Benjamin was handing out estrogen to boys. All manner of people came out of the woodwork, wanting his hormones, as documented in The Transsexual Phenomenon. Poor Dr. Harry tried to make some sense of it all, mimicing the Kinsey Scale in his work, but he lost the word transsexual to the language and, as young words often do, it quickly swept thru several meanings before becoming so identified with genital surgery, (a treatment, not the condition itself) -- at least in the popular mind -- that its original denotation was lost.

That there are still people with a sexual identity -- now gender identity -- inversion, swept up in identity politics but with no linguistic home, is an accident of history.

And I try not to fight battles already decided.