Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Physician and novelist Alan Hart, who was named Lucille at birth but lived his life as a man, was one of the first individuals to reassign his gender through surgical means, inspiring transsexual and transgender activists beginning in the late twentieth century. In 1995, Oregon activists demanded that a local political action committee stop using “Lucille” Hart as part of the name of its annual awards event and to recognize Hart’s chosen and preferred gender identity.

Summary of Event

Alan Hart’s story became known to the GLBT community with the publication of gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz’s seminal work Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. In this 1976 book, Katz described Hart as a “passing woman,” one of several in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who donned male apparel and worked in traditionally male jobs. While some of these passing women were lesbians, others were what are now called transgender men. [kw]Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man (1996) [kw]Transgender Man, Hart Recognized as a (1996) Transgender men Gender reassignment;early cases Political activism;and transgender awareness[transgender awareness] [c]Transgender/transsexuality;1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man[2450] [c]Health and medicine;1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man[2450] [c]Organizations and institutions;1996: Hart Recognized as a Transgender Man[2450] Hart, Alan Lucill Gilbert, Joshua Allen

Hart, originally named Alberta Lucille, was born in Hall’s Summit, Kansas, on October 4, 1890. As a child, he enjoyed boys’ chores and disliked girls’ housework and amusements. Hart later recalled that he always regarded himself as a boy and believed he could live as a boy if his family let him cut his hair and wear trousers. From his teen years onward, he preferred tailored men’s clothing and had a succession of emotionally and physically intimate relationships with women, in which he always took on a role defined as masculine.

After attending Albany College and Stanford University, Hart—the only female-born person in the class—obtained a medical degree from the University of Oregon in 1917. That same year, feeling conflicted about his identity and having contemplated suicide, Hart consulted psychiatrist Joshua Allen Gilbert. After attempting various forms of therapy without success, Hart asked Gilbert to help him obtain a hysterectomy and to adopt a male role permanently. In 1917, Hart underwent the surgery, changed his name, and married a schoolteacher, Inez Stark, who knew that Hart had been born female.

Hart started a medical practice in Oregon, but before long he was recognized by a former associate, forcing him to embark on a life of attempts to outrun his past by frequently relocating. Nevertheless, he built a successful medical career, obtained master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University, and published a medical text on radiology as well as four novels. After Stark left Hart in 1925, he soon married Edna Ruddick, with whom he remained until his death from heart disease on July 1, 1962.

In the October, 1920, issue of the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Gilbert wrote a case report about Hart (referred to as “H”) entitled “Homosexuality and Its Treatment.” Historian Katz discovered Gilbert’s report while researching his pioneering book on gay and lesbian history. Katz surmised that, “[D]espite the confusion of Dr. Gilbert and ’H’ herself about her sexual nature, ’H’ is clearly a Lesbian, a woman-loving woman.” As Katz saw it, Hart wanted to live a man’s life—not possess a male body—and had a hysterectomy only to “legitimize for herself her socially unsanctioned relations.”

However, in the early 1990’s, the burgeoning transgender movement began to reclaim historical figures believed to have been wrongly considered gay or lesbian; one of these figures was Hart. In Portland, Oregon, a debate ensued between the transgender community and a gay and lesbian political action committee called Right to Privacy (RTP), which had named its long-running fund-raising awards dinner after “Lucille” Hart. Candace Hellen Brown, a male-to-female transsexual, wrote in a letter to the editor published in the October 7, 1994, issue of Just Out that “Alan Hart is one of our heroes. Please don’t let him be taken away from us.” The following spring, transgender activists organized the Ad Hoc Committee of Transsexuals to Recognize Alan Hart. On October 14, 1995, the committee and the activist group Lesbian Avengers—wearing buttons proclaiming “His Name Was Alan”—protested at the Portland convention center during the annual RTP awards dinner. “Rather than a lesbian unable to bear life as a woman, Hart should be recognized for what he was, a transsexual man who had the courage to be true to himself,” read the ad hoc group’s flier.

In January, 1996, RTP leaders met with transgender activists to discuss the matter. Later that year, RTP dropped Hart’s name from its event. After RTP dissolved in 1999, some former members joined another gay and lesbian group called Basic Rights Oregon (BRO). In September, 2000, BRO revived the tradition of hosting a fund-raising dinner named after Hart, but they called it the Hart Dinner—with no first name—and referred to Hart as “her/him.”

Significance

Alan Hart’s story illustrates the changing understanding of queer identities Gender identity;historical sense of over time. Neither Hart nor Gilbert used the term “transsexual,” which was not coined until 1949. Yet at a time when hormone therapy was not readily available, Hart took all the measures available to him—including one of the first-ever gender reassignment surgeries—to live the gender of his choice. The steps he took to reconcile the gender assigned to him at birth with his own gender identity place Hart him firmly on the transgender spectrum. Ascribing modern identities to individuals from the past remains problematic, however.

Historian Susan Stryker Stryker, Susan (a transgender woman) Transgender women wrote that she had reservations about using the contemporary word “transsexual” Transsexual, as a term to describe people who lived or flourished before the mid-twentieth century, and in a 1998 article, scholar and transgender activist C. Jacob Hale Hale, C. Jacob (a transgender man) described Hart as a key figure in the “butch/FTM border wars” in which different groups each seek to claim revered historical figures as their own.

Although the “border wars” continue, the transgender community has made great strides in the past decade or so in organizing as a distinct movement, and also in educating the lesbian and gay community and society at large about gender and sexual identity, and the blurred and fluid boundaries of gender, sex, and sexuality. Transgender men Gender reassignment;early cases Political activism;and transgender awareness[transgender awareness]

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gilbert, J. Allen. “Homosexuality and Its Treatment.” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 52, no. 4 (October, 1920): 297-332.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Hansen, Bert. “Public Careers and Private Sexuality: Some Gay and Lesbian Lives in the History of Medicine and Public Health.” American Journal of Public Health 92, no. 1 (January, 2002).
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Katz, Jonathan Ned. Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A., a Documentary History. 1976. Reprint. New York: Meridian, 1992.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lauderdale, Thomas, and Tom Cook. “The Incredible Life and Loves of the Legendary Lucille Hart.” Alternative Connection 2, nos. 12-13 (September/October, 1993).
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">O’Hartigan, Margaret Deirdre. “Alan Hart.” In The Phallus Palace: Female to Male Transsexuals, edited by Dean Kotula and William Parker. Los Angeles: Alyson, 2002.

November 11, 1865: Mary Edwards Walker Is Awarded the Medal of Honor

January-June, 1886: Two-Spirit American Indian Visits Washington, D.C.

1912-1924: Robles Fights in the Mexican Revolution

September 24, 1951: George Jorgensen Becomes Christine Jorgensen

1976: Katz Publishes First Lesbian and Gay History Anthology

January 21, 1989: Death of Transgender Jazz Musician Billy Tipton

1992: Transgender Nation Holds Its First Protest

1998: Transgender Scholarship Proliferates

March 21, 2000: Hollywood Awards Transgender Portrayals in Film

March, 2003-December, 2004: Transsexuals Protest Academic Exploitation

November 20, 2003: Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead Project

May 17, 2004: Transsexual Athletes Allowed to Compete in Olympic Games

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