On This Gay Day: Transgender pioneer Virginia Prince died on this day in 2009

Virginia Prince was a pioneer for transgender recognition

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1912, Virginia Prince was assigned male at birth. From when she was 12 years old she used to often dress in women’s clothes, and began to pass as a female in public. When she was 18 she attended at Church Halloween Party as a woman, and won the first prize in a competition for best costume.

After training as a pharmacist, she married and had a son, but the relationship did not last because of her desire to dress as a woman. Her family were shocked when her divorce papers cited “transvestitism” – the term of the time – as the grounds for the divorce.

After consulting a psychiatrist, who advised her to just embrace the desire and accept who she was, Prince became more comfortable with her gender dysphoria. In 1960 she began publishing the magazine Transvestia. She started the project by getting 25 friends to donate $4 each to the start-up costs of the publication.

Sold by mail order, and through adult book stores, Transvestia published bi-monthly and 100 issues were created between 1960 and 1980. The magazine attracted readers from around the world.

With the magazine she rejected the notion that people who wished to live as a different gender were psychologically disturbed, and she was at the forefront of using the term transgender. However by the 1970’s she was criticised for her promotion of traditional family values and societal norms. She argued that homosexuals, and people who treated gender as a fetish, were not aligned with her views.

She passed away in 2009 in Los Angeles.

Image: copyright University of Victoria Libraries published under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license

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