1950s Pioneers

February 1, 2019 @ 1:00 pm Europe/London Timezone
LSE Library
10 Portugal Street

Discover ground breaking gay and transgender rights activists of the 1950s who inspired change with Alex Bakker on Christine Jorgensen and Malcolm Martin on Open Door.
Free – first come first served.


Transgender Pioneers of the Fifties: a secret history
Alex Bakker
The fifties of the 20th century can be regarded as a kind of birthplace of modern trans identity. In December 1952 a media hype was born: Christine Jorgensen, a former GI from New York, had had sex reassignment surgery in Denmark. Jorgensen was the first transgender woman to receive such elaborate attention from the press, and the first to get both hormone treatment and surgical correction. Christine’s story was sensationally exploited but for transgender people all over the world it was also a landmark. Many of them had not even known how to understand their own feelings, thinking they were the only ones with this “craziness” inside them.

Open Door: The Start of a Campaign
Malcolm Martin
My presentation explores the untold story of a now-forgotten activist, Dr RD Reid and the tragic court case that prompted him to make what may have been the first public call for a campaign to decriminalise homosexuality in the UK. It’s a story that started in the Somerset town of Taunton in 1954. I’m writing a play, Open Door, about this story and plan to illustrate my talk with photographs (of Reid and of the prison cells) as well as readings of Reid’s letter and newspaper coverage of the case (found in the LAGNA archive) and material about other cases (found in the LSE Hall Carpenter archive).