Boston Trans History

Boston-area-oriented transgender history

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1910: Magnus Hirschfeld coins the term “transvestite.” A pioneering advocate for transgender persons, he arranged the first documented sex-change surgery in 1931.

1952: Virginia Prince (and others) publish the first issue of Transvestia, the first overtly political transgender publication in U.S. history.

December 1, 1952: Christine Jorgensen’s sex reassignment surgery becomes an international sensation, creating widespread awareness of transsexualism.

1961: Virginia Prince, in Los Angeles, founds the first long-lasting transgender organization in the U.S., starting with the “Hose & Heels Club,” which evolves into the national organization Full Personality Expression (FPE).

1966: Transgender patrons react violently against police harassment at Compton’s Cafeteria in the tenderloin district of San Francisco, resulting in the first institutional change resulting from trans protest.

1968: The Boston-area Gamma chapter of FPE is formed under the leadership of Linda Franklin, Betsy Shaw, and Paula Neilson, meeting at a member’s apartment in Framingham.

1969: Transgender patrons, including Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, lead riot against police harassment at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.

1960s-70s: A Wives Support Group meets in the home of lay minister Francis Craig. They publish a newsletter called “Lips of Francis.”

1972: Gender Identity Services, a support group, is founded by Deborah Finebloom, meeting in Boston. The group expired within a year after being sued by a member. Several members helped form the XX club in Hartford.

1973: Gamma Chapter becomes the Cherrytones Club, meeting at Dorothy Dean’s apartment at 500 Columbus Avenue, Boston.

1973: The XX (Twenty) Club is formed in Hartford by Rev. Canon Jones and Helen Hyde, to support pre and post-operative Transsexuals. This group is still functioning.

1974: The Outreach Institute is formed by Ariadne Kane.

1975: Merissa Sherrill Lynn joins Cherrystone Club.

1975: Minneapolis passes the first local anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people.

October, 1975: The first Fantasia Fair is held in Provincetown, organized by Ari Kane, bringing together diverse individuals from around the country and the world, and involving the local community.

1976: Cherrystone Club moves to 65 Chester Street, Allston, Kay Campbell’s apartment.

1977-8: Cherrystone Club splits into two groups, support and social. The social group, led by Kay Campbell, became the Kay Mayflower Society, and moved to Allston. They gradually evolved into an Alternate Lifestyle club, and dissolved in 1985. The support group becomes the Tiffany Club, holding its first meeting of December of 1978 at the home of Merissa Sherrill Lynn in Hampton Beach, NH. The Tapestry newsletter was first published in 1978.

1980: BAGLY formed, Grace Sterling Stowell joins and becomes early leader.

Nov 1, 1980: Tiffany Club holds first “out of house” party at the Waltham Comfort Inn.

Dec, 1980: Merissa appears on local TV program “People are Talking.”

January 1981: Tiffany Club holds its first “First Event” at the Waltham Comfort Inn.

1981: Tiffany Club purchases the Wayland house for its meetings, rents out rooms to meet mortgage payments.

1981: The support group Open Door is formed by Charlene Kirby in Bedford, MA, for the express purpose of supporting pre and post-operative Transsexuals.

1984: Tiffany Club Wives Support Group formed.

1984: BAGLY gets its 501c3

April, 1986: TCNE is sued by neighbor for depressing property value. At a public hearing, all the neighbors testified on behalf of TCNE, which prevailed.

1986: Lou Sullivan, in San Francisco, organizes the first FTM-only support and education organization in the U.S., soon becoming FTM International, the first national support organization for male-to-female transgender people.

March, 1987: The first IFGE conference is held in Chicago, organized by Merissa Sherril Lynn and the Chicago Gender Society.

March, 1987: The Tiffany Club’s 501c3 is evolved into IFGE, with the Tiffany Club becoming the Tiffany Club of New England, in order to speed IFGE’s formation. The International Foundation for Gender Education is founded by Merissa Sherrill Lynn, and Tapestry becomes the first international journal on transgender issues, on March 8, 1987. IFGE located in a space above Vernon’s on Moody Street in Waltham.

March, 1990: The 4th annual IFGE conference is held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick.

Feb 1992: TCNE particpipates in Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Club event.

June 1992: TCNE establishes electronic bulleting board for membership. Remains in place until Oct 1997.

June, 1992: TCNE reaches a favorable settlement in MCAD case against Colonial Hilton in Wakefield following their derogatory refusal to renew an event contract.

1992: Phyllis Frye organizes the first annual International Transgender Law and Employment Conference in Houston Texas, a series of gatherings that spurred widespread legal activism and led to the founding of the national political lobby group, ‘It’s time America.”

1993: Minnesota passes the first statewide anti-discrimination law protecting transgender people.

1993: The novel “Stone Butch Blues,” by Leslie Feinberg, is published, dramatizing the plight of gender-queer people born female and reaching a “large and appreciative international audience.”

March 1993: Institute of Contemporary Art exhibits “Dress Codes, A Celebration of Cross-Dressing in Contemporary Life,” with trans community input and participation.

April 1995: In Your Face #1, “The complete listing of all subversive actions against gender oppression around the US, along with occasional instructions on how to roll your own”, is published by Nancy Nangeroni and Riki Anne Wilchins, distributed with Transgender Tapestry magazine.

May 14, 1995: About 150 persons turned out to hear Leslie Feinberg, Minnie Bruce Pratt and Kate Bornstein speak about the relationship between the trans community and the larger queer community and to read from their works, at the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  This event was planned to draw participation to a demonstration at the opening of the Brandon Teena murder trial.

May 15, 1995: Transgender activists demonstrate at the Brandon Teena murder trial in Falls City, Nebraska, kicking off a nationwide series of protests against anti-trans violence and injustice.  Participant Kimberly Pierce goes on to produce an award-winning film about the murder, “Boys Don’t Cry.”

May 15, 1995: Transsexual Debbie Forte was murdered in Haverhill, MA, just three days after noted transgender activist Leslie Feinberg delivered the commencement address at Bradford College in the same town.

June 1995:  The activist GenderTalk Radio begins airing in Cambridge, MA, in 1997 becoming the only international trans-hosted talk show on transgender issues.

Oct 2, 1995: Over 100 transgender-transexual activists and friends took to the nation’s capital in the first National Gender Lobbying Day, coordinated by Phyllis Frye of the Transgender Law Conference and Karen Kerin of It’s Time America.

Oct 4, 1995: Led by members of the Transexual Menace, over 40 trans activists from around the US demonstrate in front of Washington, DC mayor Marion Barry’s office calling for a full investigation into Tyra Hunter’s death and an end to DC Fire Dept’s coverup of the behavior of the EMS surrounding Tyra s death.

Nov 20, 1995: Transsexual woman of color Chanelle Pickett is beaten and strangled to death in the apartment of William Palmer in Watertown, MA.

Dec 10, 1995: Approximately 250 people gather at the Arlington Street church to pay tribute to Chanelle Pickett.  A candlelight vigil proceeds to the state house, where Nancy Nangeroni addresses the crowd saying “There’s nobody there now. That’s the way it’s always been for us transgender folks.”

May 17, 1996: Transexual Menace members lead a demonstration at Chicago’s Daly Center to raise awareness over the recent murder of Christian Paige, a 24 year old transexual woman.

October 1996: 26 gender activists from across the spectrum, representing  as Hermaphrodites With Attitude, gathered outside of the American Academy of Pediatricians’ (AAP) annual meeting in downtown Boston to protest AAP’s continued support of Intersexed Genital Mutilation (IGM).

Sep 16, 1996: Trans activists hold vigil in Haverhill outside courthouse during trial for the murder of Deborah Forte, who was found dead of multiple stab wounds in Haverhill on May 15, 1995.

Feb 24, 1997: Cambridge passes amendment to city Human Rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

Feb 27, 1997: Transexual Menace leads vigil and demonstration in support of murder victim Chanelle Pickett outside the Cambridge, MA courthouse.

Apr 14, 1997: Trans activists again demonstrate outside of Middlesex County Courthouse on behalf of murdered transsexual Chanelle Pickett on the opening day of the trial of her accused murderer William Palmer.

May 16, 1997: Just 2 trans activists, Nancy Nangeroni and Stacey Montgomery, show up to demonstrate outside the Cambridge courthouse on the day of sentencing for William Palmer, convicted only of assault and battery against Chanelle Pickett.

Nov 27, 1998: Transsexual woman of color Rita Hester is stabbed to death in her Allston, MA apartment.  Local press coverage is jarringly transphobic.

Dec 4, 1998: Candelight vigil for murdered transsexual woman of color Rita Hester is held, beginning with a speak-out at the Model Café in Allston, MA.  This event and the subsequent media controversy over its reportage inspires the international Transgender Day of Remembrance, observed each year since on November 20.

Dec 11, 1998: Trans Activists demonstrate outside offices of Bay Windows, protesting disrespectful references to murdered transsexual Rita Hester.

Mar 12, 2001: It’s Time Massachusetts founder Penni Ashe dies of cancer, missing her award ceremony for IFGE’s Trinity Award, and is buried in male clothing by unsympathetic relatives.

Oct 2002: The murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo draws nationwide media attention to violence against transgender persons.

Dec 2002: Boston passes amendment to city Human Rights ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

2003: The National Center for Transgender Equality is founded, establishing an ongoing transgender lobbying presence in Washington, D.C.

September 2009: 13 States, the District of Columbia, and more than 93 cities and counties have passed laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression.

November 2011: Governor Deval Patrick signs the Transgender Equal Rights Act making Massachusetts the 15th state to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Significantly, coverage for public accommodations is omitted in the face of fierce opposition labeling the effort as “The Bathroom Bill.”

2021: The City of Boston commissioned a mural of Rita Hester which was completed in July 2022.

More Stories about Rita’s mural:

Bay State Banner: Allston mural pays homage to Rita Hester

Making Queer History

Rita Hester’s murder and legacy are important to Boston, so she’s getting a mural in Allston

Boston Magazine: Rita’s Spotlight by Rixy