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The Impact of Emerging Technologies on One Transgender Organization (2001)

The Impact of Emerging Technologies on One Transgender Organization (2001)

2001, 2017 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1998). The impact of emerging technologies on one transgender organization: A case study. Unpublished paper.





In this paper I talk about the transition of the 501(c)(3) American Educational Gender Information Service from a brick-and-mortar provider of information to an online entity. I have updated it slightly. The paper was under consideration for the Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, but I don’t think it was published. I’m not sure why.


The Impact of Emerging Technologies on One Transgender Organization

A Case Study

 By Dallas Denny, M.A.

Gender Education & Advocacy, Inc.




The availability of new technologies and in particular the rise of the World Wide Web pose challenges to existing transgender organizations. Change is essential, and must be qualitative as well as quantitative. This article traces a 40-year tradition of transgender education and outreach and details one organization’s pro-active attempts to adapt to take advantage of emerging technologies.


Keywords: Transsexual, transgender, internet, World Wide Web, organization, education, activism, outreach

Running Head: Impact of Emerging Technologies


The most dramatic difference between transgender and transsexual activism and gay and lesbian activism is not one of ideology, but a matter of the size of the respective communities and the depths of the respective pockets (Perelis, 2009). The transgender community is quite simply too small to support multi-million dollar organizations like the Human Rights Campaign or the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. From 1990-1999, the maximum annual income of any transgender organization was about $350,000; most national organizations operated with incomes of $25,000 or less (Denny, 1996, January).

In the twenty-first century, even these modest revenues have begun to evaporate. In the fall of 2001 The International Foundation for Gender Education, the largest international transgender organization, was forced to lay off most of its employees. In the organization’s magazine, the Chair of the Board wrote, “We learned that perhaps, just perhaps, the number of people out and in need of the services [of any transgender support organization] is smaller than previously thought. Perhaps we have become unneeded because of our own success in making transgender people more acceptable and safe” (Julie Johnson, 2001).

Johnson was referring to the fact that once out and educated about their issues, many transgender and transsexual people today seem to feel little need to affiliate with and financially support transgender education organizations. Certainly society’s level of acceptance of transgender men and women has changed dramatically for the better in the past decade, but the phenomenal growth of the Internet, and particularly the World Wide Web, has made information once available only through brick-and-mortar organizations easy to find in virtual space; transgender and transsexual people may not encounter transgender organizations or, if aware of them, may question their relevance in an age of free and instant information.

In a time of changing demographics and exploding technologies, transgender organizations are struggling to remain relevant and economically viable. Following is the story of one such organization and its evolution under these peculiar stresses.


Transsexual and Transgender and Educational Efforts, 1950-1990:

A Selective History

Although men and women had been living as members of the other sex since time immemorial without benefit of hormones or surgery, during the first half of the 20th century a few individuals began quietly enlisting the help of physicians so they could alter their bodies with hormones and surgery(c.f. Abraham, 1931; Hodgkinson, 1989). In the 1940s, in Great Britain, Roberta Cowell and Michael Dillon quietly changed gender roles, and in the early 1950s Christine Jorgensen’s sought such help in Denmark. In 1952, news of her sex reassignment caused a media sensation and the idea that it might be possible for a human being to change sex became immediately and firmly rooted in the popular imagination (see “Ex-GI becomes blonde beauty: Operations transform Bronx youth,” New York Daily News, 1 December, 1952, pp. 1,3, 28; see also Denny, 1998).

The next year Christian Hamburger, the head of Jorgensen’s medical team, published a paper about the flood of requests he and Jorgensen had been receiving from men and women desperate to obtain the same treatment (Hamburger, 1953). It seems Jorgensen’s story had resonated with others who felt as she did. Soon Harry Benjamin, a New York endocrinologist, was dedicating a significant portion of his practice to patients desperate for a “sex change;” by the late 1950s, he was calling these people transsexuals. [1]

At about the same time, small numbers of male crossdressers were secretly meeting in Los Angeles and the Northeastern United States (see Prince, 1979; Raynor, 1966). By the 1950s, there were a number of crossdressing clubs with newsletters and magazines, and crossdressers across the nation were attending retreats in rural areas (see Biegel, 1969 for an outsider’s perspective). This small and underground community grew slowly during the 1960s; by the 1970s, members of The Society for the Second Self, a social and support organization for heterosexual crossdressers, were engineering newspaper articles and appearances on television in order to popularize and depathologize crossdressing and help isolated heterosexual crossdressers and their wives obtain support. [2] Tri-Ess remains the premiere organization for heterosexual crossdressers. The organization has provided printed education about crossdressing for more than thirty years.

In 1966, the prestigious Johns Hopkins University announced a program for the treatment of persons with gender identity issues (Money & Schwartz, 1969). An edited text by Green & Money (1969) soon appeared, describing Hopkins’ interdisciplinary approach to the treatment of transsexualism. Other gender programs followed, and by the late 1970s there were as many as 40 operating in the United States (Denny, 1992). The gender clinics had strict admission criteria, accepting only the most severely dysphoric individuals. Those who were turned away had no alternative sources for treatment other than the black market, with its questionable hormones and surgeries, while those who were accepted for treatment were often counseled to avoid socializing with other transsexuals, or even required to do so (Denny, 1992). It was not until most of the U.S.’ gender programs closed following the release of a contrived and unscientific outcome study by Meyer & Reter (1979) that transsexuals began to compare experiences. [3] [4]

For many years, the information needs of transsexuals were met by the Erickson Educational Foundation, which was formed and funded by a female-to-male transsexual named Reed Erickson (Devor, 1997, 2001). The Foundation opened its doors in June 1964 and operated from offices in New York City and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For some years, the Erickson Foundation was the only source of free and low-cost information on transsexualism for transsexuals, journalists, and helping professionals. Reed Erickson eventually developed other interests, and the Erickson Educational Foundation closed its doors in 1977; it re-opened again in 1981 and closed for good in 1984. [5]

Upon the demise of the Erickson Foundation, psychologist Paul Walker took on the job of providing information on transsexualism through his Janus Information Facility, located in Galveston, Texas. In the late 1970s, Walker closed Janus and moved to San Francisco. The torch was passed to FTM transsexual Jude Patton and MTF transsexual Joanna Clark (now Sister Mary Elizabeth), who formed J2CP; the name was a combination of their initials. J2CP was headquartered in the Los Angeles area (Vern Bullough, Sister Mary Elizabeth, Jude Patton, personal communications).

In the late 1980s Patton moved to Seattle to begin practice as a physician’s assistant. Sister Mary Elizabeth was becoming increasingly involved in AIDS work, but was still distributing information on transsexualism.


The Transgender Paradigm Shift

The last decade of the twentieth century brought two revolutions which had profound effects on the organizations which had arisen in response to transsexualism and crossdressing. The first was a change in the way of thinking about those who were differently gendered—a paradigm shift, in the truest sense (Kuhn, 1962; Denny, 1995). The second revolution was one of communication.

The establishment of the International Foundation for Gender Education in 1984 marked the first time transsexuals and crossdressers had a single national organization that represented them. They came together in large numbers at the organization’s annual conference and in the pages of IFGE’s journal Tapestry (renamed Transgender Tapestry). By 1990, both crossdressers and transsexuals were questioning the accuracy of their diagnostic medical labels and there was ongoing dialogue about descriptive terminology. The American Educational Gender Information Service (AEGIS), IFGE, and many other transgender community organizations—too numerous to list here—actively encouraged new ways of looking at crossdressing and transsexualism. From this crucible there soon emerged a new way of looking at gender-variant behavior.

The change of viewpoint was rapid and pervasive. In the late 1980s, anthropologist Anne Bolin studied a transgender support group in the American Midwest (Bolin, 1988). She found members were required to declare whether they were crossdressers or transsexuals. There were no other available options, and members were expected to behave according to their labels. Transsexuals were to pursue counseling, hormonal therapy, crossliving, and eventually sex reassignment surgery; crossdressers were dissuaded from following such a transsexual “career path.”

In 1994, barely five years after her initial report, Bolin published a paper noting profound changes in the transgender community. She discovered the crossdresser/transsexual dichotomy had been replaced by a model in which individuals could structure their lives, appearances, and genders along a continuum, according to their individual wishes. New options had opened.

Bolin was describing the result of a revolution in thinking within the transgender community. As with other paradigm shifts, there were multiple causative factors, but a 1991 article by Holly Boswell, published simultaneously in Chrysalis Quarterly and Tapestry, was seminal.

Boswell argued that the best fit for many gender-variant people was a path intermediate between crossdressing and transsexualism. Boswell’s article provided a starting point for a new model of gender variance, one which came not from the medical community, but direct from the source—transgender and transsexual people themselves—and one which did not presuppose variance from rigid gender norms is a form of psychopathology. Boswell was not the first to use the word transgender [6][7], but after the publication of the article, the term, which had until then been used only sporadically, came into widespread use and was soon appearing not only in transgender magazines, but in gay and lesbian newspapers and eventually in mainstream publications.

By the mid-1990s most gender-variant people were looking at themselves in new ways. Rather than being ashamed and guilt-ridden, they were taking pride in the very fact of their difference and shifting the locus of their difficulties from themselves to a society which could not accept their difference. The term transgender had emerged as an umbrella for the entire constellation of differently-gendered people, including crossdressers, trangenderists, and transsexuals, and others, who comprised what had come to be known as the transgender community.

While the term transgender has met with widespread acceptance, not everyone favors it. Many transsexuals resent a descriptor that places them in the company of crossdressers. Other transsexuals consider transgender shorthand for “transgressively gendered” (Bornstein, 1994), which aptly describes both crossdressers and transsexuals). In deference to transsexuals who do not identify as transgender, the Gender Identity Project of the New York Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center uses the inclusive “transsexual and transgender”—as do I most of the time.

By the start of the 21st Century the term transgender had come into widespread use. The new journal of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA, now The World Professional Organization for Transgender Health, or WPATH) had been named The International Journal of Transgenderism. Transgender studies had become an accepted field in many U.S. colleges and universities, and all major U.S. gay and lesbian organizations had included transgender either in their name or mission statement. Although there is still confusion in some quarters about this relatively new term, it’s clear transgender is here to stay. [8]


A Revolution in Communications

The Erickson Educational Foundation’s manner of distributing information was typical for its day. The Director would place ads in likely places and engineer appearances on radio and television shows and in newspaper articles in order to reach the organization’s constituency. Those looking for information on transsexualism would chance upon the ads or hear about the foundation on a broadcast or from acquaintances, and would call or write for information. Director Zelda Supplee would answer the phone or open the envelope and would subsequently send printed information via mail. Each transaction would cost the inquirer the price of an envelope and stamp (and a second envelope and stamp, if he or she was courteous enough to send a SASE). The transaction would cost the foundation a stamp and the price of the material disseminated. In order to process such transactions, the foundation needed an infrastructure, which incurred costs: there was an office with a phone line and typewriter, utility bills, and at least one salaried person to staff the office.

The Erickson Foundation was privately and generously funded by Reed Erickson; other information clearinghouses following this model have had to beat the bushes for funds, finding dollars either by applying for grants; by placing a price on the information requested, as did the Janus Foundation; by subsidizing the distribution of free information by selling books or other products; by soliciting memberships; by fundraising; or by some combination of the aforementioned.

Under such a model, there are a number of constraints on the amount of information which can be disseminated. Postage is a significant concern; many organizations use lightweight paper so they can distribute more information without incurring the penalty for an extra ounce. The cost of materials is significant, whether printed or photocopied. There must be an office in which the transactions take place, and there must be volunteers or paid staff to open mail and take calls, stuff envelopes, and manage the premises.

All of this results in the provision of a limited amount of information to a limited amount of inquirers by a process which is limited by the speed of the mails; i.e., by days or weeks. As demand increases, there is the necessity for more copies, more postage, more labor—all of which translates to more money.

I call this means of information dissemination the brick-and-mortar model.

The advent of the microcomputer in 1974 enabled the aforementioned processes to be automated to some extent. Word processors could be used to extract information from databases and prepare hundreds of even thousands of custom letters which would be inserted into envelopes which would contain labels also prepared with the computer and sorted by zip code. The computer could also be used to monitor the organization’s expenses, using a spreadsheet. With the introduction of the Macintosh and laser printers in the 1980s, computer page layout and design was born; it was suddenly possible to prepare sophisticated, high-quality flyers, brochures, newsletters, and magazines in-house and print them on newly-available laser printers. The widespread use of modems in the 1980s allowed electronic transfer of files and dial-up computer bulletin boards. Computer technology also made facsimile (FAX) technology, photocopiers, and sophisticated phone systems possible—but the computer, in all its forms, was merely making the old model more efficient. It was the Internet explosion of the 1990s that really changed everything.


The Internet

In the 1990s, the complex communications system known as the Internet came into widespread use. The Internet, with its worldwide connection of servers, routers, and transmission lines, had been around for years, but suddenly it was available in the home, at a low price and with software which made it easy to use. In 1992 only a few individuals were online, but by 1994 it was becoming clear (at least to me) that virtually everyone would soon be.

The world wide web—a repository on a remote server on which files can be placed and searchedand viewed by any individual using software called a browser—broke tradition with the older model. The computer was no longer merely facilitating the transfer of information in an already existing system—it was offering a revolutionary new model, a low-cost, low-maintenance way to provide virtually unlimited amounts of information to millions of customers. Moreover, the information did not come weeks or days or even hours after being requested—it was available on demand, within seconds, to anyone who was online. Even better, the information-seeker could jump from site to site, within seconds.

Information distribution via a website is entirely free to the person seeking information, and almost free for the information provider. The transfer of information does not require printed or photocopied materials, stamps, a central office, or paid staff or volunteers. The process is automated, requiring only a computer and modem, an initial effort to design the site, minimal expenses for web hosting, and some level of ongoing monitoring to ensure things function properly. The quantity of information is limited only by the amount of material placed on the website.

With a website, there’s no need to wait for days to receive information, no need to limit the amount of information provided, no real need to maintain an office in which to process transactions. There are no bills for printing or photocopy expenses and no need for paid staff or volunteers, except as required to keep the website running. The advantages of this no-rent, no-electric-bill, no-typewriter-ribbons-or-printer-cartridges, no-postage-stamps, no-salaries, no-need-to-sell-things-or-solicit-money model were obvious as early as 1994; no nonprofit could afford to ignore them—although many did.



In September 1990, I founded the Atlanta Educational Gender Information Service. The acronym was selected with the consideration that AEGIS might one day become the American Educational Gender Information Service. Because of the tremendous and growing nationwide demand for information about transsexualism, this happened almost immediately. In March 1992, at the convention of the International Foundation for Gender Education in Houston, Sister Mary Elizabeth told me she had been following AEGIS’ work and would be closing J2CP so she could concentrate on her AIDS organization, which coincidentally had the same acronym [9]. She granted me the right to distribute her material and the material from Janus and the Erickson Foundation. AEGIS had officially inherited a 30-year tradition of supplying information about transsexualism, with roots which could be traced from J2CP to the Janus Information Facility to the Erickson Educational Foundation.

AEGIS had an ambitious and at the time controversial mission statement. [10] The organization took the position that rather than being unfortunate individuals with a unique form of mental illness—the prevailing opinion at the time—transsexuals were consumers of medical services and had the same rights as anyone else who sought help from the medical establishment. This commonsense position proved difficult to argue against and helped AEGIS lay the seeds for the mission statement’s eventual obsolescence. Few today would find the mission statement controversial.

AEGIS formed a Board of Directors and in 1993 obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. Donations were thereafter tax deductible under IRS guidelines. Throughout AEGIS’ lifetime, however, it was sales of products—ad and book sales and especially membership, which included a subscription to the magazine and newsletters—which really supported the organization. With the exception of a $3500 donation at the time of startup and a later donation of $20,000, we received no donations larger than $500. Except for the year in which the large donation was received, AEGIS’s gross never exceeded $25,000.

From the start, AEGIS was swamped with requests for information. [11] As spokesperson—and, in fact, the major and usually the only volunteer—I answered the phone and handled the mail (and, after 1993, e-mail), conversing with and corresponding daily with transsexuals, journalists, researchers, clinicians, spouses and other family members, and appearing on radio and television on occasion. I also wrote almost all of AEGIS’ material; edited and laid out the journal and newsletter; maintained the databases of helping professionals and subscribers to Chrysalis; kept the bibliography up to date; ran the Internet news feed, the publishing house, and the bookstore; programmed the automated telephone system and the computers; bought office supplies and maintained the equipment; did all mailings and filled all orders for the bookstore; and folded, collated, hand-assembled, and stapled 1300 copies of Chrysalis when the flat pages arrived from the printer (we could not afford to have this done by the printer). I lugged the AEGIS bookstore to dozens of transgender conferences and spoke to hundreds of college classes and civic groups. I did all this day-in-and-day-out for nine years, without pay and usually without assistance, all the while holding down a full-time position as a civil servant. Today I can scarcely believe I did so much for so long, and that AEGIS was able to accomplish as much as it did. [11] [12]


AEGIS’ Transition to Gender Education & Advocacy

By mid-1995 I had come to realize that AEGIS’ once-controversial mission statement was becoming obsolete. Pressured by AEGIS and a hundred other transgender organizations, the world had become a somewhat safer place for transsexual and transgender people. We now had allies and the legal system was less hostile toward us, but more importantly, we as a community had a new sense of purpose and dignity. Certainly there was still work to be done, but AEGIS was no longer on the cutting edge; it was time to close or re-baseline the organization. I chose the latter option.

Two other factors entered into my decision to ask the Board of Directors for a recentering of the organization. There was the aforementioned matter of the Internet. I saw that AEGIS could provide information faster and more cheaply by moving its focus from print to electronic media. The other factor was personal. I was not willing or able to continue my frenetic level of activity. I had been so busy helping others that I had not been paying attention to myself.

I wasn’t ready to walk away from activism, but I was ready for AEGIS to move to its next stage. So throughout 1996 I published a series of articles in AEGIS News, examining the transgender community as if frozen in time in January 1996. Because another national transgender organization had elaborated a vision of the future that made absolutely no sense to anyone except perhaps its authors—called Vision 2000—I called the series “Vision 2001: A Gender Odyssey.” Activist Jessica Xavier contributed significantly to the series, which looked at all aspects of the transgender community—the national, local, and regional support and educational organizations, the rapidly growing FTM groups, emerging political organizations, community publications, and the community’s relationships with helping professionals. Jessica’s articles compared and contrasted transgender organizations with gay and lesbian organizations.

In early 1998, somewhat to my surprise, a fifth installment of Vision 2001 materialized on the screen of my monitor. In it, I argued that in the age of the Internet the notion of a transgender central from which all information would come was an absurd one—especially considering that the information from local and state organizations was often of higher quality than that of some of the nationals. The Internet was having and would continue to have great impact on transgender organizations; this would lead to new ways to distribute information and change the way money came into the community. The community’s organizations, AEGIS included, would have to adapt or die.

AEGIS chose to adapt. The Board of Directors oversaw a slow shutdown of AEGIS’ activities throughout 1997 as I served out a one-year notice. In January 1998 the Board asked me to stay on for four more months and I did. AEGIS terminated all activities on 1 April, 1998 and remained dormant for nearly two years.

On 1 January, 2000, after more than a year of planning, Gender Education & Advocacy was formed like a Phoenix from AEGIS’ ashes. Designed to do the same sort of educational and advocacy work for which AEGIS had been known, and continuing AEGIS’ 501(c)(3) status, GEA embraced a model called Distributed Gender Education, which had been developed by Jessica Xavier. Using Distributed Gender Education, grassroots activists and educators can download GEA’s educational materials and medical advisories from the GEA website and duplicate and distribute them free of charge, so long as GEA’s name and contact information remains intact. GEA incurs no expenditures of time and money other than developing the materials and making them available on the World Wide Web. In this way, GEA is able to disseminate more information and will hopefully have a greater impact than would be possible under the Transgender Central model.

Again taking advantages of technologies which allow automation, GEA maintained for a time the Gender Advocacy Internet News, a reposting service which was capable of sending twice-weekly newsletters to a virtually unlimited number of subscribers. These and other activities are chronicled in the final annual report, which is posted on the GEA website.

GEA’s first act was to publish a request for proposals from not-for-profit entities interested in receiving the National Transgender Library & Archive. This was a large collection of books, journals, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, audio and video recordings, program guides from conferences, theaters, and nightclubs, flyers, buttons, brochures, posters, photos, and even two pairs of Virginia Prince’s shoes. The NTL&A began when I donated my private collection and personal papers, and soon filled to overflowing two bedrooms in my house.

The GEA board considered seeking funding to acquire a facility to house the collection, but that flew in the face of recent streamlining. Consequently we posted our RFP and mailed copies to libraries, colleges and universities, sexological institutions and organizations, and and GLBT groups. We received perhaps 15 serious proposals. I mailed photocopies of the proposals to each board member.

The board developed objective criteria for the award. We wanted to be sure the collection would be physically secure, that funding would be ongoing, and that materials wouldn’t be lost inside a larger LGB collection—or worse, reinterpreted as gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

A week or two before the board met I asked the members to develop subjective criteria for the award—what felt right for them. When we met in a telephone conference, we discussed the applying organizations and then compared their missions, facilities, and stability against the objective and then subjective criteria. Three contenders stood out, but we were concerned about the ability of one to maintain funding, and a second had a building under construction but had no place to house the collection. This left the Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan. This concerned us because one of our board members was a retired professor from Michigan. We knew our decision would be seen as biased, but we made our final decision in the best interest of the collection. Within a month Labadie curator Julie Herrada flew to Atlanta, loaded U-Haul’s largest truck, and drove back to Michigan with the materials. Two years later the entire collection was catalogued and available to scholars, students, and the general public.[13][14]

GEA’s distributed gender education material eventually reached an age that caused us to take down the website. The two remaining members of the board (two others died) are keeping the URL in reserve for use until we see a need to reawaken it. This was an easy decision, as GEA had no office, no employees, no electric bill, no equipment to do away with. It took minimal effort to take down the website and it will take minutes to reactivate it should we decide to do so.

True to our vision, the funds GEA raised were used not to support an infrastructure, but to fund projects. We on the board remain hopeful that changing times and technologies will provide a stable platform for activism and a means of providing information to everyone who wants it, immediately, in any quantity, free of cost to them, and virtually nearly so to those who provide the information.


End Notes


[1] Although the term transsexualism was first used by Magnus Hirschfeld (Meyerowitz, 2002) and was introduced into the English speaking world in 1949 by D.O. Cauldwell, it was Benjamin who popularized the term and described the “syndrome” of transsexualism in a 1966 text. Benjamin literally wrote the book on transsexualism.

[2] Arguably the first heterosexual crossdresser to speak in public on the issue, Virginia Prince was speaking to mens’ and women’s groups in the early 1970s. Prince, who published the flagship crossdressing magazine Transvestia and founded or co-founded any number of crossdressing organizations including today’s Tri-Ess, died in 2009 at age 96. She is widely venerated as the “godmother” of crossdressing and yet is reviled by many because of her autocratic style of leadership and her organizations’ exclusionary no-gays, no-transsexuals membership policies.

[3] Meyer & Reter (1979) concluded there was “no objective advantage” to sex reassignment surgery for male-to-female transsexuals. One of the co-conspirators has since revealed that the paper was part of a plot to close the Johns Hopkins clinic (McHugh, 1992; Ogas, 1994).

[4] Transsexuals were initially hesitant to share with one another experiences and histories that differed, often dramatically, from those the medical and psychological communities deemed “proper.” Stone (1991) was one of the first transsexuals to question the medical community’s stereotyped views, but Kessler & McKenna were aware of the problem as early as 1978.

[5] The contributions of Reed Erickson would likely have been forgotten to history had it not been for sociologist Aaron Devor, who is preparing a book about this amazing man. In a 1997 paper, Devor reported Erickson had, among other things: helped to sponsor the first gender program in the United States at Johns Hopkins University; partially financed the publication of the first edited textbook on transsexualism (Green & Money, 1969); and provided funding for the first three international symposia on gender dysphoria—which eventually coalesced into the still-active Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association. Erickson was interested in things other than transsexualism. He sponsored research on altered states of consciousness and dolphin communication and funded the first translation from Chinese to English of a book on acupuncture, opening the door to that discipline in English-speaking countries. My thanks to Devor for his comments on this chapter.

[6] Several decades earlier Virginia Prince had popularized the term transgenderist to describe those who, like herself, wished to live full-time cross-gender lives, but without surgery and/or hormones. She was not initially enthralled by the use of the term as an adjective, but was wise enough not to resist the popular tide. Prince had herself advanced a term, bi-gendered, as a substitute for transgender(ed), but when a wag moved the hyphen one place to the right, bi-gender died an ignoble death.

[7] Contrary to published claims, Prince didn’t invent the word. In her blog, Cristan Williams has found many instances of the word which predate Prince; for instance, Christine Jorgensen used the term to describe herself and others like her.

[8] Early in this century, when I wrote this paper, that was certainly true. Today, thanks to emerging nonbinary and genderqueer identities, the term transgender is itself in danger of becoming obsolete.

[9] Sister Mary Elizabeth’s AIDS work came about in a most peculiar way. While in Arkansas to check on a herd of cattle, she saw the great difficulty rural-living, HIV-positive men and women had in obtaining information on their condition. Realizing that computers could be an effective way to remedy this problem, she started a computer bulletin board. Sister Mary’s AEGIS, the Aids Education Global Information System, which ran for years on the Internet at, emerged as the world’s premiere source for on-line information about HIV and AIDS (Sister Mary Elizabeth, personal communication). Sister Mary Elizabeth is now known as Joanna Clark, her name before she took her Episcopal vows.

[10] “We actively support the professionalization and standardization of services for transsexual persons; promote non‑judgmental, non‑discriminatory treatment of persons with gender issues; advocate respect for their dignity, their right to treatment, and their right to choose their gender role; help transsexual persons make reasoned and informed decisions about the ways in which they will live their lives; and provide educational materials and information to persons interested in gender issues.”

In recognition of the emerging transgender paradigm shift, AEGIS’ mission statement was modified in 1992 to include nontranssexual transgender people.

[11] From its inception, the demand for AEGIS’ services was overwhelming. The services were many and varied, and grew throughout the 1990s. By 1997, they included: The publication of the journal Chrysalis Quarterly (later Chrysalis: The Journal of Transgressive Gender Identities); the quarterly newsletter AEGIS News; the bi-annual Transgender Treatment Bulletin; a book-publishing division; a book-selling division which moved thousands of books over a five-year period; an Internet-based newslist that daily redistributed news stories about transsexual and transgender issues; an automated telephone helpline which allowed callers to access more than 150 recorded messages; a second helpline which was answered live most evenings; a database of more than 1500 helping professionals, merchants, and support groups; a massive bibliography which required more than 10 megabytes of hard disk space (text only); and the National Transgender Library & Archive, a collection of books, magazines, journals, newsletters, flyers, private papers, and ephemera which required two rooms to house. In addition, AEGIS maintained an advisory board of more than 30 representatives from various professional fields, many of whom were transsexual or transgender themselves. After polling the board, AEGIS would issue position statements and health alerts. AEGIS also conducted and disseminated research, including a survey of opinions about the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and placed articles and chapters in dozens of journals and books.

AEGIS was instrumental in the creation of two transgender conferences. It and other transgender community organizations provided the seed money which resulted in the creation of Atlanta’s Southern Comfort Conference, which was held in Atlanta for more than 20 years. An AEGIS challenge grant resulted in the first FTM Conference of the Americas. AEGIS was a founding member of the now-defunct Transgender Alliance for Community and the Magnolia Gender Alliance; a sponsor of the 1st International Congress on Cross‑Dressing, Sex, and Gender Issues; and a founding member of GenderPAC. AEGIS also founded the Atlanta Gender Explorations support group, which has been ongoing since 1990.

Through conversations with countless reporters, AEGIS was able to influence media treatment of transgender and transsexual issues. Many therapists called the support line in search of ways to effectively treat their clients and most joined the organization. Thousands of transsexuals and other transgender persons wrote, e-mailed, and phoned, and often used the information AEGIS provided to make dramatic changes in their lives.

[12] I am certainly grateful for the volunteer help over the years; I just wish there had been more volunteers, and volunteers who lasted longer. They tended to wear out.

[13] I visited the collection in July 2001 and a computer search with the terms “National Transgender Library” turned up more than 880 books. Journals were not yet in the main library’s database, but a temporary list was available on the Labadie Collection’s home page. A few years later the entire collection was catalogued.

[14] To access this remarkable collection, contact Julie Herrada, Curator, Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, 711 Hatcher Library South, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1205; (734) 764-9377 phone; (734) 764-9368 FAX. For electronic access, click the button just below.


Browse the NTL&A Collection at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor


Issues and Questions

 1. Do you think existing gay/lesbian/bisexual organizations are capable of addressing the needs of transgender people? Is there a need for transgender-focused organizations?

2. To what extent have electronic publications replaced print media? What do you think will happen in the next 10 years? The next 20? The next 100?

3. The internet allows anyone with good HTML coding skills to become an instant “expert” via a flashy web page. How is it possible to tell good information from bad on the World Wide Web?

4. How can transgender organizations best take advantage of emerging technologies?

5. In the future, will it be possible for LFBTQ advocacy organizations to be viable without a web presence? Is that day already here?




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