Breaking Down the Doors of The Academy

©2011 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (2011). Breaking down the doors of the academy. Chrysalis Quarterly, 3(1).


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Breaking Down the Doors of The Academy

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Alluquere Rosanne (Sandy) Stone’s essay The Empire Strikes Back was a landmark. It’s considered by many to be the opening shot in what is now the burgeoning field of transgender studies. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle cite it as such in their Transgender Studies Reader (p. 221).

Stone’s essay was important for more than its content— it was significant because it marked the first time an openly transsexual person had made a contribution to the literature of transsexualism. [1] [2] [3]

What’s astonishing about this is the year wasn’t 1952—or 1967—or 1978—or even 1985. Stone’s article was published in 1991.

Until then the only way transsexuals could reach a readership outside their immediate community was by making headlines (as did Lili Elbe posthumously in the 1930s and others after her) or by writing autobiographies. And write we did! My bibliography lists some one hundred!

There were some exceptions, provided the subject wasn’t transsexualism; For instance, Jan Morris continued to produce travel and history books after her sex reassignment in the early 1970s and is still at it even today. Phyllis Frye got around our exclusion from jurisprudence by starting a legal conference in 1992– but we were absolutely locked out of the medical and scientific literature, except, of course,  as subjects.

Of this I wrote:

Just as it is impossible to imagine the study of Black history without the contributions of Black scholars, or the study of homosexuality devoid of the writings of gay men and lesbians, it has become impossible for there to be meaningful study of transsexualism or crossdressing without input from those who have been directly affected. (1998, p. xv

None other than Richard Green wrote, in his reflections of the changes in the 25 years since the publication of his text (with John Money) Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment:

Startling as it is for me to think it, I wrote the conclusion to Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment about 25 years ago.  It’s been a long time since I re-read it. As I handwrite my reflections (I still do not type or word process), I am struck at the outset that the biggest change with this new text may be that it is edited by a transsexual.” (1998, p. 419).

Green was talking about my 1998 edited text Current Concepts in Transgender Identity—but four years earlier, in 1994, my work Gender Dysphoria: A Guide to Research had been published.[4]

I thought little about the significance of Current Concepts in the several years I worked on it, but after listening to Phyllis Frye talk about taking pride in our work (this at her 1994 ICTLEP conference in Houston) it hit me as I was lying in bed in my hotel room: I had produced the first book-length contribution to the science of transsexualism by an out transsexual. By that I mean it was a work from a mainstream scientific publisher, directed at researchers and clinicians. Thanks to Phyllis, I realized what I had done.

When I got home I wrote this article for the magazine TransSisters:


Writing Ourselves


I was but part of a deluge, for 1994 was a breakthrough year for transsexual writers. That year brought the publication of Kate Bornstein’s Gender Outlaw, Martine Rothblatt’s Apartheid of Sex, and Christine Burnham’s Gender change: Employability issues. The same year saw Jamison Green’s and Larry Brinkin’s landmark Investigation into Discrimination Against Transgendered People, which was commissioned by the city ofSan Francisco—but even so notable a scholar as Stephen Whittle was still publishing within the trans community (McMullen & Whittle, 1994).

Today, of course, less than two decades later, transsexual and other transgendered scholars and writers are everywhere in academia, all over the popular press, and contributing to the arts. I sometimes find it difficult to believe it wasn’t always so.


Bornstein, K. (1994). Gender outlaw: On men, women, and the rest of us.New York: Routledge.

Burnhan, C.W.G. (with Diewold, P.). (1994). Gender change: Employability issues. Including Transitional Employment Survey results.Vancouver: Perceptions Press.

Denny, D. (1994). Gender dysphoria: A guide to research. New York: Garland.

Denny, D. (1998). Author’s note. In D. Denny (Ed.), Current concepts in transgender identity, xv. New York: Garland.

Dillon, M. (1946). Self: A study in ethics and endocrinology.London: Heinemann.

Frye, P. (Ed.). (1992). Proceedings of First International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy, August, 1992.Houston,TX: International Conference on Transgender Law & Employment Policy.

Green, R. (1998). Conclusion to Transsexualism and sex reassignment:  Reflections at 25 years. In D. Denny (Ed.), Current concepts in transgender identity, pp. 419-423.New York:Garland Publishing.

Green, R., & Money, J. (1969). Transsexualism and sex reassignment. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

McMullan, M., & Whittle, S. (1994). Transvestism, transsexualism, and the law. London:Beaumont Trust.

Prince, C.V. (1957). Homosexuality, transvestism and transsexualism: Reflections on their etiology and differentiation. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 11, 80-85. (This is so far as I’ve been able to tell Prince’s first article in the professional literature. But note the initial C. I suspect C. stands for Charles, her pseudonymous male name.)

Rothblatt, M. (1994). The apartheid of sex: A manifesto on the freedom of gender. NY: Crown Publishers.

Stone, A.R. (As Sandy Stone). (1991). The empire strikes back: A posttranssexual manifesto. In J. Epstein & K. Straub (Eds.), Body guards: The cultural politics of gender ambiguity, pp. 280-304.New York: Routledge.

Stryker, S., & Whittle, S. (2006). The transgender studies reader. Routledge.



[1] In the same year a not-yet-out transsexual woman co-authored an article in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. That one doesn’t count. I’m giving the distinction to Stone.

[2] Transgenderist Virginia Prince had crossed that threshold for crossdressers in 1975 with an article in The American Journal of Psychotherapy.

[3] Michael Dillon’s 1946 Self  is another possible exception. In it, Dillon wrote about sexual inversion— but didn’t talk about his own transsexualism. When his transsexualism became public he fled toIndia, so I still consider give Stone the Distinction.

For years I’ve been toying with giving Jamison Green my copy of Self, but haven’t quite been able to part with it. I’m happy to say last week I saw a copy for sale on eBay. I notified Jamison and he won it for just $50—a low price for such a rare work.

[4] Gender Dysphoria: A Guide to Research wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of the late Vern Bullough. In 1992 he saw a bibliography I was distributing for free and told me he thought it should be a book. At his suggestion the editors at Garland Publishers (now Taylor & Francis) contacted me. I sent in a proposal and it was accepted.