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Virginia Prince
(November 23, 1912 - May 2, 2009) U.S.A.

Virginia Prince

Transgender activist

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Prince was born Arnold Lowman in Los Angeles, California. At around the age of twelve, Prince began cross-dressing, first using her mother's clothes. During her time in high school, Prince began cross-dressing more frequently and found herself passing as a girl in public. This came to a crux when Virginia, at the age of 18, went to a church Halloween party - not only in a woman's outfit but indeed passing as a woman - and won first prize.

This marked "...the first occasion in which [Prince] willingly appeared before others as a girl..." The daughter of a surgeon father and a mother who worked in the field of real estate investment, Prince's early life was one of privilege, with a family that was in her words "... socially prominent..."

Publisher of the first transgender magazine in the U.S. and creator of the first social group for cross-dressers; regarded as the founding mother of the U.S. cross-dressing community. The Virginia Prince Lifetime Contribution Award is the Transgender Community's highest award. It is given to the person who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the community.

Virginia Prince "has to be considered a central figure in the early history of the contemporary transgender political movement," Susan Stryker wrote in Transgender History . And this is "in spite of her open disdain for homosexuals, her frequently expressed negative opinion of transsexual surgeries, and her conservative stereotypes regarding masculinity and femininity."

In 1952, Prince (who, at the time, identified specifically as a transvestite, i.e., a cross-dressing man; in 1968, she began identifying as a woman) published two issues of Transvestia , which Stryker calls "arguably the first overtly political transgender publication in U.S. history."

The periodical, which was revived in 1960 and published until 1980, "made a plea for the social toleration of transvestism, which it was careful to define as a practice of heterosexual men, distinct from homosexual drag."

Virginia Prince
Virginia Prince, c. 1954. Photo c/o University of Victoria

In the early 1960s, Prince founded the Foundation for Personality Expression, later known as the Society for the Second Self (or Tri-Ess), "as a platform to promote her personal philosophy about gender... that cross-dressing allowed men to express their 'full personality' in a world that required a strict division between the masculine and the feminine."

Despite her conservative views - Tri-Ess membership, for example, was limited to heterosexual men - Prince "undoubtedly played a key role in founding... an inclusive, expansive, progressive, and multifaceted transgender movement." After beginning to live full-time as a woman in 1968, Prince focused her efforts on winning civil rights for those undergoing gender affirming processes.

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Sources: http://lgbt-history-archive.tumblr.com/ et alii

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