There have been lots of different ideas of what it means to cross gender and sexuality borders, and different terms have been used to express aspects of it over time, including hermaphrodite, intersex, invert, transvestite, transgender, gender fuck, and more. The Indeterminate Gender (1968) sees the bisexual as a person stuck between two genders. The image of a person visually half male and half female shows up repeatedly, as in this image of Francio to the right, and in two posters included in this exhibition.

This exhibition includes rows of border-crossing images and three prints from the collection of transsexual photographer Rex Loren Cameron.

“That’s a lovely dress she’s wearing.”

Successful cross-dressing requires more than clothes. It takes attitude, practice, and attention to many details of gender expression. The 1989 booklet “Speaking as a Woman” gives instructions on how to deliver the phrase “That’s a lovely dress she’s wearing” with a feminine intonation.

Transsexuals and transvestites

The 1983 Je Serai – Elle [I will Become – She] is one of a multitude of autobiographies chronicling the transsexual experience. The first is believed to be the 1933 Man into Woman: An Authentic Record of a Change of Sex, about the life of Danish painter Lili Elbe. Christine Jorgensen, who in 1952 became the first person from the United States publicly known to have had sex change surgery, wrote her story in 1967.

The button expressing dismay at the Human Rights Campaign’s approach to transgender rights is one tiny object, part of many resources in the collection that allow researchers to explore the complicated relationships historically among transgender, lesbian, and gay people and their efforts to obtain equal rights.

The early 1960s sales catalog of transvestite items shown here came with a statement of purpose and advertisement for the magazine "Transvestia," which scholar KJ Rawson viewed and discusses in a video clip as part of this exhibition.

The transgender materials we add in the future will have all these historic sources for background.

Women crossing gender boundaries

Collector Gerard Koskovich identified a category of postcards displaying an aspect of French popular culture of the Belle Epoque that apparently has gone entirely unremarked by scholars: gallant visual narratives in which women dressed as men pay court to women dressed as women. The two cards shown to the right are from a set of ten that tell the tale of a “male” soldier who declares his love to a country girl.

To the left is the then President of the French Republic, Armand Fallières, portrayed with remarkable fidelity by Jeanne Bloch, a comic actress who played both female and male roles in music-hall revues. Remembering that French women lacked the right to vote at the time makes this woman passing as president even more dramatic.

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