13 March 2011

A brief, incomplete history of trans people in the media

Transcript of a talk given to the Cambridge University Students' Union for LGBT History Month in February 2011, and again at The T Party for Brighton Winter Pride in March 2011.


The history of ‘trans’ people in the media long pre-dates the umbrella term – a contraction of ‘transgender’, which intended to draw together transsexual and transvestite people, as well as anyone else who considered themselves beyond the gender binary, for political purposes.

Before the twentieth century, when sexologists began to explore gender dysphoria, eventually making its medical treatment technologically possible, there were no words for transgender behaviour beyond ‘cross-dressing’, which was commonly understood as a homosexual subculture. The first known print use of the word ‘homosexual’ came in an anonymous pamphlet published in Prussia in 1869, arguing for a repeal of the country’s anti-sodomy laws – just a year before the British high-profile trial of Ernest ‘Stella’ Boulton and Frederick ‘Fanny’ Park, who cruised London nightspots en femme and were frequently taken as women.

Boulton and Park were arrested at London’s Strand Theatre on 28 April 1870 for “indecent behaviour” and subjected to an intimate police examination to establish whether or not they’d had anal sex. Two tests proved inconclusive, so they were tried for soliciting men whilst dressed as women, but the prosecution could not prove any homosexual offence – nor that cross-dressing was illegal under British law. The breach of human rights in their physical examination swayed the press in their favour, and the jury found them not guilty.

Boulton and Park’s case was instrumental in the addition of Section 11 to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. This clause, added at the last minute by politician, writer and theatre owner Henry Labouchère, made ‘gross indecency’ a crime. The vagueness of this term allowed the prosecution of any apparent male homosexual behaviour where sodomy could not be proven – famously, it was used to convict Oscar Wilde in 1895.

The anti-sodomy laws in Britain and Germany were widely seen as unjust: Section 11 became known to British lawyers as ‘the Blackmailer’s Charter’, and similar criticisms were made of Paragraph 175, the section of German law which criminalised same-sex ‘fornication’. Strong movements arose in both countries to understand homosexuality, and, by extension, what would later be recognised as transgender behaviour.

Leading a vigorous campaign against Paragraph 175, Magnus Hirschfeld found that some of his group disagreed with his assertion that male homosexuals were naturally effeminate, and decided to research the relationship between sexuality and gender. He published his findings in 1910 as The Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress, coining the word ‘transvestite’ – the first trans-specific term – to describe people who habitually wore the clothes of the opposite sex.

In 1919, Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexual Science, and it was at his clinic that the first gender reassignment operations were performed by Dr Felix Abraham: a mastectomy on a trans man in 1926, a penectomy on Hirschfeld’s domestic servant Dora Richter in 1930, and a vaginoplasty on Danish painter Lili Elbe the same year.

Elbe died in 1931 after a failed attempt to transplant a uterus into her body, but two years later, Man Into Woman (edited by Ernst Jacobsen, who used the pseudonym Niels Hoyer) was published – the world’s first transsexual autobiography.

Not that the word ‘transsexual’ existed when Elbe’s book was published, at least not to describe someone who used gender reassignment services. Hirschfeld also coined the term ‘Transsexualismus’ in 1923, but David O. Cauldwell first used the word to refer to those who yearned to alter their bodies in 1949. Separating ‘biological sex’ from ‘psychological sex’, Cauldwell argued that transsexualism should be treated as a mental disorder, as he believed existing treatments could not satisfactorily create passable transsexual physiques.

Two years later, thirty-year-old Roberta Cowell became Britain’s first surgically transsexual woman. In 1954, she published her autobiography, Roberta Cowell’s Story, which was picked up by the Hulton Press’s Picture Post magazine – the Fifties equivalent of OK or Hello – and serialised over several issues.

Even before she published her memoirs, Cowell was eclipsed by Christine Jorgensen, who remains one of history’s most famous transsexual people. Lili Elbe did not hit the headlines in English-speaking countries, and Cowell’s fame did not stretch far beyond the British Isles: Jorgensen, however, became an international celebrity. Like Cowell, she was a military veteran who had sought treatment over a ‘lack of male physical development’ (as one obituary put it) and like Cowell, the public announcement of her transsexualism caused a media sensation.

On 1 December 1952, under the headline ‘Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty’, the New York Times featured Jorgensen on its front page. It was speculated that Jorgensen had supplied the story herself: she later said that she went public in order to become an advocate for transsexual people. In another parallel with Roberta Cowell, Jorgensen was initially cast as a ‘hermaphrodite’. She was soon relabelled ‘transvestite’, but Jorgensen’s fame led Virginia Prince to redefine ‘transvestism’ as a synonym for male heterosexual cross-dressing, and Harry Benjamin to promote the word ‘transsexual’ to differentiate between people such as Jorgensen, who sought surgery, from those such as Prince, who did not.

Cowell and Jorgensen’s transitions tapped into Anglo-American anxieties about gender roles, as men struggled to reassert their social superiority after the female contribution to the war effort. Commentators struggled to understand why a man would want to become a woman, with less attention paid to transsexual men. In 1945, Michael Dillon became the world’s first female-to-male transsexual person, successfully concealing his transition despite the threat of being outed in Cowell’s memoirs, having proposed to Cowell in 1951.

Dillon came from an aristocratic background: the Sunday Express found discrepancies over his entries in peerage records in 1958, making Dillon’s medical history into headline news. Distraught, Dillon fled to Calcutta, joining a Buddhist monastery in Bengal and shunning any further media attention. His health failed and he died in 1962, aged 47, having published several books, but before completing his autobiography.

A year before Dillon’s death, April Ashley became the first person in Britain to be outed as transsexual, by the Sunday People. Ashley moved to Paris during the Fifties and worked as a drag queen, joining the Carousel theatre where French transsexual woman Coccinelle also performed. She underwent transitional surgery in Morocco in 1960, aged 25, and returned to England, becoming a model for Vogue and securing a bit part in the Bob Hope and Bing Crosby film The Road to Hong Kong (cut after she was outed). Ashley married the aristocrat Arthur Corbett in 1963, and stepped out of the public eye until 1970, when her husband pushed for the marriage to be annulled on the grounds that she was legally male. The court found in favour of Corbett, even though he had known Ashley’s history when they met, and the precedent remained until 2004, when the Gender Recognition Act finally allowed transsexual people to alter their birth certificates and be treated as members of their chosen gender under British law.

This headline news coverage gave primacy to those who’d had sex reassignment surgery, a product of the mid-twentieth century wonder at humankind’s technological advances. During the Sixties, non-transsexual people who were otherwise transgender became involved with US counter-culture, particularly Andy Warhol’s Factory. Films produced by the Factory featured the three ‘drag queens’, Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn and Jackie Curtis, all of whom lived as women without surgical intervention, and underground filmmakers such as Jack Smith and Ron Rice worked with drag artists, including Mario Montez.

In more mainstream films, transsexual women and transvestites started appearing as characters, often cast as psychotic. Hitchcock’s Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins as cross-dressing Norman Bates, set the precedent for a Hollywood stereotype that continued with films such as Dog Day Afternoon, with Al Pacino playing a man who robs a bank to fund his lover’s operation, and Brian de Palma’s Dressed to Kill, with Michael Caine as a serial killer driven to murder by her psychiatrist’s refusal to refer her for sex reassignment surgery.

One film that fell somewhere between the Sixties counter-culture and these more mainstream movies was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, adapted from Richard O’Brien’s musical stage show. With its protagonist, Frank ‘N’ Furter, famously describing himself as a ‘sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania’, its celebration of gender and sexual difference turned the ‘psychotic’ stereotype upside down, showing Frank and his friends as (relatively) normal within an utterly ridiculous universe.

Throughout the Sixties, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people had become closely associated, with trans people at the forefront of the Stonewall riots of 1969, widely credited with launching the gay rights movement. During the next decade, there was a more concerted attempt to understand transsexual people, particularly women (other forms of gender difference remained more or less ignored), which led to a degree of separation between the transsexual and transvestite communities, and their distancing from lesbian and gay politics.

In academic circles and fringe movements, ‘radical’ feminists began to explicitly exclude transsexual women from their organisations, prompted partly by Sandy Stone’s employment with Olivia Records, an all-women music label. As a new wave of transsexual women rose to prominence, with some fighting for inclusion in female spaces – such as the tennis player Renée Richards, who successfully sued the US Tennis Association to be allowed to play in the women’s US Open in 1977 – certain feminist writers argued that nobody born male should be let into women-only areas. Most famous was Janice Raymond, whose Transsexual Empire (1979) attacked transsexual women for, as she saw it, reiterating male stereotypes of femininity under instruction from gender identity clinics, positing the entire set up as a means for men to infiltrate the women’s movement.

These theories more or less ignored transsexual men, and other forms of gender variance besides transsexualism, reducing the lives of transsexual women to stereotype. Autobiography remained the preferred way for transsexual people to describe their experiences in detail, although no direct relationship had yet been formed between these accounts and theories about transsexualism, and medical professionals involved with gender reassignment did not often consider them reliable. Jan Morris, a travel writer and historian who made her name in the late Fifties, completed her transition in 1972, documenting her journey in Conundrum, published two years later. The book, which remains one of Britain’s most widely read transsexual autobiographies, situated Morris’s gender dysphoria as a largely internal psychological dilemma, paying less attention to the social barriers to realising her transsexuality before she began living as female.

At the end of the Seventies, the BBC aired the ground-breaking documentary A Change of Sex, which followed Julia Grant through the gender reassignment process. This highlighted the working procedures of Britain’s most famous gender identity clinic, at Charing Cross Hospital, and the rigorous demands which transsexual people had to navigate before being given access to medication.

As the AIDS epidemic broke, in the early Eighties, trans issues became less prominent, still separated from the lesbian and gay politics that opposed the conservative backlash against sexual diversity. The queer underground film tradition that began in Sixties America moved over to Europe: Pedro Almodóvar in Spain and Rosa von Praunheim in Germany made a number of works that sympathetically and intelligently portrayed gender variant people, casting trans people such as Bibiana Fernández, punk singer Jayne County, Tara O’Hara and German transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.

In 1990, Jennie Livingston’s documentary Paris is Burning was released. This covered New York’s ball culture and the various ethnicities involved in it, showing the participants being judged on the ‘realness’ of their drag, their dancing abilities and the beauty of their clothes. The progressive approach of Paris is Burning contrasted with a wave of early Nineties films covering the broad spectrum of transgender behaviour: Silence of the Lambs reiterated the ‘psychotic’ stereotype of the Sixties and Seventies, and The Crying Game famously used leading woman Dil’s transgender body as a ‘twist’.

The more enlightened Priscilla, Queen of the Desert colourfully portrayed the tensions within Australia’s trans community, following a transsexual woman, a cross-dresser and a drag queen as they toured across the nation. (Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes vehicle To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar emerged the following year, with a suspiciously similar plot.) The mid-Nineties movie mania for trans subjects continued with Stonewall and I Shot Andy Warhol taking a retroactive look at Sixties counter-culture, and Just Like a Woman (from the US) and Different for Girls (from the UK) exploring the challenges of forming relationships as a transsexual woman.

Around the same time, Leslie Feinberg wrote ‘Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come’, using ‘transgender’ as an umbrella term for the first time – Stephen Whittle, co-founder of UK rights group Press For Change, shortened this to ‘trans’. The real catalyst for changes in transsexual autobiography, however, was Sandy Stone, whose essay ‘The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manifesto’ was written in response to Raymond’s ‘Transsexual Empire’.

Here, Stone criticised the portrayals of the effects of gender reassignment in books such as Conundrum and Man Into Woman, and argued for transsexual people to resist “passing” and be more honest about their histories so that people might develop a better understanding of gender identity and its relationship to the body. Several writers, including Kate Bornstein and Riki Ann Wilchins, wrote texts and formed groups arguing for more creative attitudes to gender, pushing beyond the traditional binary, and the Internet helped previously disparate trans people unite and fight against discriminatory law and negative media representation.

Feinberg, Bornstein and Wilchins wrote away from the mainstream, their texts gradually becoming staples of university Gender Studies and Queer Studies courses. Elsewhere, throughout the Nineties, there was an increase in mainstream televisual representation of trans people, again focusing on trans women. Comedian Eddie Izzard frequently appeared on Have I Got News for You and elsewhere wearing women’s clothes, creating eloquent, witty routines normalising transvestism, whilst in 1996, BBC updated A Change of Sex, showing how Julia Grant’s life had been affected by her transition.

Towards the turn of the century, Coronation Street became the first soap to feature a transsexual character, with Julie Hesmondhalgh playing Hayley Patterson, who later fell in love with and married Roy Cropper, facing down the prejudice of the local community. Like Hilary Swank, the Oscar-winning star of Boys Don’t Cry, a movie about the murdered transsexual man Brandon Teena, Hesmondhalgh was not transsexual herself: although trans people were more sympathetically presented in television dramas and narrative films as time wore on, they were not chosen for high-profile trans roles.

The increasingly popular fly on the wall documentary and ‘reality TV’ formats, however, provided opportunities for trans people to represent themselves – and as elements of the media still saw transsexual people as interesting purely for being transsexual, several of these programmes featured subjects who had begun transition. The BBC’s Paddington Green, first aired in 1998, made transsexual sex worker Jackie McAuliffe the latest in a series of ‘docusoap’ stars (after Airport’s Jeremy Spake and Maureen from Driving School), but she did not want the celebrity and, after the series ended in 2001, settled back into a quiet life.

Three years later, Portuguese transsexual woman Nadia Almada won the fourth series of Big Brother, the reality TV series then at the height of its popularity. Keeping her gender history a secret from her fellow housemates, Nadia’s convivial personality won the hearts of the show’s audience, who elected her the winner with 74% of the vote. Unfortunately, Nadia’s follow up appearance on Ultimate Big Brother, which gathered together memorable housemates from the series and its counterpart Celebrity Big Brother to close the series, was less successful: losing the public after a series of rows and being evicted after eleven days, Nadia was angry that transphobic comments made to her were not broadcast, and said that the public backlash led her to consider suicide.

Meanwhile, the ‘radical’ feminist positions on transsexual women set out by Janice Raymond and others in the Seventies were finally entering the mainstream, through the apparently progressive pages of The Guardian. Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel wrote pieces arguing against NHS funding for gender reassignment (a legal right which had been ensured in 1999), and Germaine Greer reiterated her attacks on transsexual women, originally made in The Whole Woman, published in 1999 as a follow up to Seventies success The Female Eunuch.

Positive cinematic representations continued to emerge from the US and Europe. Felicity Huffman, from Desperate Housewives, became the latest Hollywood actor to take on the “challenge” of playing a transsexual woman, in Oscar-winning road movie Transamerica. Meanwhile, French director Sébastien Lifshitz took the step of casting a transsexual woman in the lead role for his film Wild Side. These contrasted markedly with British television shows such as Little Britain, an apparently ‘alternative’ comedy which continued to ridicule trans women using outmoded stereotypes.

With the development on online and university communities during the Nineties came intense debates about the language that was used to describe ‘trans’ people, and how negative media portrayals hurt both the subjects themselves and those trans people who consume them, particularly if they are isolated from support networks. Many activists were concerned by the media maelstrom that grew up around Thomas Beatie, a transsexual man whose pregnancy made huge headlines across the West after initially being covered in Los Angeles-based LGBT publication The Advocate – despite the fact that this was definitely not the first case of a transsexual man successfully bearing a child.

A less high-profile but more distressing story played itself out online, at the LA Times website. When sports writer Mike Penner announced his intention to live as a woman, namely Christine Daniels, in a heartfelt article entitled ‘Old Mike, New Christine’, published in 2007, a surge of supportive emails moved the paper to persuade Penner to document this transition in the world’s first transsexual blog for a mainstream publication. After heavy criticism from straight male colleagues and members of the trans community, and a painful separation from his wife, Penner de-transitioned: the blog was removed and deleted from the archives even before Penner committed suicide in October 2009.

That same year, in the UK, Trans Media Watch was founded to monitor televisual, cinematic and print portrayal of trans people, partly in response to ITV sitcom Moving Wallpaper, in which a transsexual woman was repeatedly ridiculed by other characters. Despite the introduction of a female-to-male character into Hollyoaks – a counterpart to Corrie’s Hayley – Trans Media Watch still had plenty of work to do, particularly on newspaper coverage.

After the ‘credit crunch’ of 2008, and particularly the assault on the public sector that followed David Cameron’s election two years later, Britain’s right-wing tabloids ran numerous stories attacking the provision of sex reassignment surgery via the NHS, the costs they criticised (often without citation) ranging from £10,000 to £60,000.

The transphobia underlying these apparently economic concerns was exposed when a transgender lawyer, who worked as David Burgess and otherwise lived as Sonia, was murdered in London. The tabloid reports on Burgess were full of sensationalist details, revelling in the fact that Sonia had worked as an escort, and in the fact that the chief suspect emerged as a mid-transition transsexual woman, who was unable to shave before her first appearance in court.

The Observer’s attempt at an open-minded review of Burgess’s life was considerably more sympathetic than the other national papers’ coverage of the story, but still drew offence from members of the trans community, particularly because the author struggled to find the right pronouns to use for someone who lived as both male and female simultaneously.

Complaints about this article and other coverage of trans issues prompted both the Guardian and the Observer to publish columns by their respective Readers’ Editors, promising to make more effort to respect transgender identities through their pronoun use and their framing of relevant stories. Sixty years after Christine Jorgensen’s “sex change” created a global media frenzy, a single British mainstream newspaper had promised an attempt to cover trans issues without sensationalism. That tales of transition are still a staple of magazines such as Chat or Real People shows us that not that much else has changed.


  1. A very good summary Juliet, although I would suggest a couple of points.

    Firstly April Ashley's court case straddled 1969 and 1970. The bulk of the hearing was in 1969 and it was mainly the decision that was given in February 1970 (coincidentally on the same day that Alex (now Lord) Carlisle presented his Private Members Bill for legal recognition to the Commons).

    Second, I don't think that Stephen Whittle would lay *personal* claim to the term 'trans'.

    I clearly remember this as the product of an internal discussion by us within PFC about a consistent language. Many of us were concerned that the suffices 'sexual' and 'gender' were both problematic, as they served to deflect debate into side issues about what they meant.

    TransSEXUAL was agreed to be particularly problematic, as it was clear that sex scared the horses and was probably just about the last thing on anyone's list of priorities.

    We were also aware of the problem that people tended to use terms like 'Transgender' or 'Transsexual' as nouns, and we wanted to find term that made that difficult.

    I can't recall exactly who said it first. I know I had been personally toying with shortening it all down to 'trans' .. but I'm not laying claim to having invented it, as I think Stephen was also commenting that people over in the US were having the same thoughts.

    One day, perhaps, I'll dig out the email trail from that time (it's all archived) to establish the true origins .. as these were things we discussed (before getting our list server) in a tight 'reply-all' circulation of about half a dozen of us.

    I think the best thing would be to say that whether we invented it or not, PFC collectively led on promoting the term in the UK. As the main early writer I remember writing about the logic for the term 'trans' .. what its' advantages were, and how it was to be used as an adjective .. with a space before the nouns it qualified: woman .. man .. person .. etc

  2. Michael Dillon's surgery preceded Roberta Cowell's by about a year. They were both patients of Oliver Gillies and it seems likely that Dillon performed the early stages of Cowell's surgeries so that Gillies could avoid possible legal consequences.

  3. Interesting stuff, thanks for posting. Obviously you can't include everyone, but I think the role of Caroline Cossey is important too - not for her Bond role, but being legally recognised as a woman and her fight against the News of the World.

  4. Ironically, since Caroline Cossey is 47XXY, thus Intersexed, she's excluded from a diagnosis of "Transsexuality" under the WHO's ICD-10 manual.

    Consequently, like other Intersexed people in similar situations, excluded from the UK Gender Recognition Act, as the act's requirement for a diagnosis of "Gender Dysphoria" has been interpreted to require a diagnosis of "Transsexuality". Surgical status is irrelevant.

    No Gender Recognition Certificate for her...

  5. Zoe, although it is a while now since I've had any dealings with the operation of the Gender Recognition Panel (GRP), I'm not aware that they have ever interpreted 'Gender Dysphoria' in a way that specifically excludes intersex people in the way you describe.

    In the first 2-3 years after they began operation (in 2005) we did have robust arguments with the way the panel interpreted the need for evidence of a diagnosis of 'Gender Dysphoria'.

    They decided (in a way that disregarded specific assurances during Parliamentary Committee) that they needed details of the steps that a clinician had gone through over time to treat the applicant).

    However, although it was an annoying example of the law of unintended consequences (and the blame can be pinned squarely on the shoulders of the GRP's chair), we soon arrived at a formula for how the clinicians could work with that.

    Certainly people like Caroline (who I wrote to during the passage of the legislation) would not be excluded. Her well documented transition was always regarded as transsexual and, regardless of her karotype, her reassignment treatment on the NHS was on the same basis as other patients.

    The gender recognition panel considers the evidence given by the applicant's clinician, straight and simple. It doesn't go on fishing expeditions to discover possible reasons why the applicant changed role, other than assuring itself that there was a systematically produced diagnosis process behind the reassignment. It wouldn't have any basis to do this anyway, as the GRA doesn't actually cite any definition of 'Gender Dysphoria', which only appears in the DSM in any case (not the ICD 10). The GRA doesn't mention 'transsexuality' or the ICD-10 at all. Law is seldom tied to specific diagnostics, as clinical practice is always evolving and practices change.

    The way it operates leaves clinicians free to say that what they were treating amounts to 'Gender Dysphoria'. For instance, many applicants were treated in the years before the term was even coined. Their applications were successful.

    The last time I saw the statistics (about 4 years ago) about 97.5% of applications to the GRP were successful, and the majority of the rest were only being rejected because the clinical evidence wasn't complete at the first attempt.

  6. On a point of history, by the way, I've seen elsewhere the complaint that the Gender Recognition Act doesn't specifically address intersex people.

    Firstly, of course, the legislation was created specifically to address an obligation determined by the European Court of Human Rights in July 2002. The case was about the human rights of transsexual people.

    In discussion, the government's civil servants recognised that the reasons why people might arrive at gender reassignment were ill-defined. The ECtHR had specifically concluded that although the etiology of transsexualism was still being debated, the time had passed for regarding that as a reason to hold back on legislating to recognise adults who, for whatever reason, had taken permanent steps to live in a gender role opposite to that assigned at birth.

    In the course of educating the civil servants charged with preparing the legislation, they were certainly aware that people with various kinds of intersex diagnosis could have been inappropriately assigned and find themselves in the same position as transsexual people with no such intersex diagnosis.

    As Press for Change, however, we had long since decided that we wouldn't place ourselves in the position of going beyond our brief.

    Through the 90's the communications we'd received intersex activists had mostly not been friendly ones .. and we didn't really blame them.

    At the time there were some transsexual people who seemed determined to colonise and adopt the language of intersex as a rationale for legislative change. That wasn't us. Indeed, although we had created GIRES as a charity offshoot of the PFC campaign, we pretty soon found ourselves in a very acrimonious dispute with them, leading to our well documented severing of ties with them for the way they appeared to practice 'mission creep'.

    As Press for Change we went out of our way to say that we respected the very different agendas of intersex people and their right to campaign in their own right .. even though we understood where overlaps could occur, and how some intersex people could find themselves having to jump through the hoops of transsexual medicine to address their histories. We particularly understood the latter as one of our vice presidents had an intersex diagnosis themselves.

    So, if we were ever approached over any intersex questions, we always referred them to the contacts we had in the UK's intersex organisations.

    This meant that when the question came up about whether intersex people needed to be specifically mentioned in the GRA we declined to state an opinion and, instead, directed the civil servants to those contacts.

    We learned later that the message the civil servants received was that intersex people didn't want to be associated with what was perceived as a transsexual bill. The opportunity for what might have been explicit provisions was passed up. Instead, everyone concluded that the bill would in any case cover intersex people who pursued reassignment, as they would obtain that through being treated for the dysphoria they were feeling. Regardless of their clinical diagnosis, the law treated them as transsexual (in effect) and the GRA would therefore provide for legal recognition of correcting that.

    Personally, I regard the approach as unsatisfactory, even though it works. However, I believe we took the right ethical approach to offer the option to improve the Bill to intersex people rather and not to try to second guess how to improve the legislation for them ourselves. I fully appreciate that a newer and more vocal generation of intersex activists may take a different view on the outcome; however they should take that up with their predecessors, who were not always that constructive about sensible collaboration.