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"Word of Mouth" How The Trans+ Community Found Itself

Virginia Prince (1912-2009)

Virginia Prince in Ball Gown (1955)

In 1961, Virginia Prince wrote sexually explicit postal mail to another consenting adult who, it turned out, was being watched by the authorities. When officials intercepted and opened their correspondence, Prince was charged and convicted of the crime of distributing “obscene” materials through the US Postal Service. She had already begun publishing Transvestia the year prior, but the trial would mark the start of her public activism.

Crossdressing was illegal at the time, but as part of the terms of her probation, Prince was permitted to publicly crossdress for educational purposes. She then began giving some of the first educational talks on the subject in the U.S. During this time, she would also create the crossdressers’ support and advocacy organization, Society for the Second Self, also known as Tri-Ess.

Virginia Prince Books

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Virginia Prince would write and publish a series of short books on crossdressing. These would cover a breadth of topics, from practical matters like how to crossdress, to more theoretical topics, including gender, sexuality, and identity. These ideas can be found in The Transvestite and His Wife (1967), and Sexual and Gender Identity: Transexualism vs Transvestism (1971), among others.

Letters Written to Virginia Prince

As editor and publisher of the journal, Transvestia (1960-1986), Virginia Prince was able to connect with many people from around the world. Isolated crossdressers from many countries, some even from behind the Iron Curtain, wrote to Prince, often the only public Trans+ person of whom they were aware. This reveals just how rare and valuable even a single public voice can be.

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