Lou Sullivan (1951-1991)

Lou Sullivan was a trans man who lived in San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. At a time when the medical establishment of the day denied treatment to any trans men who were attracted to men, Lou Sullivan lived openly as a gay man. Eventually, Sullivan convinced a few prominent researchers and service providers that gay trans men did exist and, through their joint efforts, treatment became available for gay trans men.

During his life, Lou connected with many other Trans+ people by postal mail, started what may have been the first support groups specifically for transmasculine people, and launched the FTM Newsletter. He passed away due to AIDS-related complications on March 2nd, 1991. Shortly before his death he wrote, "I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not live as a Gay man, it looks like I'm going to die like one."

Prior to the rise of the Internet, hard-copy manuals were very important for Trans+ people getting started on living as their authentic selves. These manuals gave readers essential guidance for navigating as trans masculine people in a cisgender world that was almost universally hostile toward trans men. Here, we see one of the first, and the most widely-circulated at the time: Information for the Female to Male Crossdresser and Transsexual, written by Lou Sullivan.

Long-time cisgender therapist and ally to the Trans+ community, Lin Fraser, describes how Lou frequently communicated through letters. These letters were fundamental in creating community in the days before electronic communication became commonplace.

Long-time transmasculine activist and community leader Jamison Green worked with Lou Sullivan on the FTM Newsletter and later, at Sullivan’s request, became the editor after Sullivan passed away. Listen to him describe Lou Sullivan.

Actor, playwright, and producer David Harrison describes how he eventually came out as gay after his transition. Listen to Harrison describe the first time he met Lou Sullivan, the only other gay trans man he knew about.
Ben Power Alwin, Executive Director of the Sexual Minorities Archives, talks about his transition from identifying as stone butch to a transgender man after meeting Lou Sullivan.

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