The first documented transgender male transition in the United States was undergone by Kansan A. L. Hart. Lucille Hart, born on October 4, 1890 in Halls Summit, Coffey County, Kansas was female at birth. However, early in his childhood, Hart felt he was a boy.
Thirty-one years later, the Halls Summit News described how “Young Hart was different, even then. Boys' clothes just felt natural. [Alan] always regarded [him]self as a boy and begged [his] family to cut [his] hair and let [him] wear trousers. [Alan] disliked dolls but enjoyed playing doctor. [He] hated traditional girl tasks, preferring farm work with the menfolk instead. The self reliance that became a lifelong trait was evident early: once when [he] accidentally chopped off [his] fingertip with an axe, Lucille dressed it [him]self, saying nothing about it to the family.”
It would be 50 years before the concept of “gender” was even recognized. A century ago, any departure from assigned male or female roles was forbidden. Hart had to attend school in a dress and behave as a girl.
Hart continued his studies, graduating from Albany College in 1912 and securing his M.D. degree from the University of Oregon in 1917. Having lived unhappily presenting as a woman, Hart sought help from doctors at the University of Oregon for sex reassignment surgery. Such surgery had been conducted in 1906-07 in Germany but this was the first case in the U.S. of the removal of a healthy uterus and ovaries due to a patient’s desire to transition.
In 1918, he legally changed his name to Alan and married Inez Stark and moved to Gardiner, Oregon where he began practicing medicine.
At this time, there was no safe source of testosterone hormone to complement the surgery. According to an online biographical note, safe synthetic testosterone finally became available after World War II and only then was Hart able to grow a beard, shave, and develop a deeper voice.
Alan’s first marriage ended in divorce in 1925 but his second marriage to Edna Ruddick was lifelong. Hart secured his master's degree in radiology and began work in a series of positions where he developed the use of X-Rays for tuberculosis detection. His leadership in TB screening earned national recognition and saved thousands of lives. Hart died in 1962, a time when John Money was just beginning to unravel the complexities of gender and sexual identity.
After his transition, Alan Hart had lived exclusively as a man and never sought publicity. Nevertheless, various groups later attempted to claim that Hart and his wife were lesbians. Such assertions go against all the evidence. Transsexuals want nothing more than what we all wish for: to live our intimate lives privately and in peace and quiet. Today’s tabloid news and media as well as the blathering of ignorant politicians do nothing to ease the distress felt by those who need to make these quiet medical transitions.
Those who feel threatened by the existence of individuals who were not born with the normal alignment of gender and sexual identity can learn much from the current cases described by eight transgender kids themselves in “FRONTLINE: Growing up Trans,” a DVD available from PBS.
To me the most poignant part of Alan “Lucille” Hart’s biography is his account of his happiness during his childhood when he stayed on his grandparent’s farm in Coffey County, Kansas. All through this time he had to present and dress at school as a girl. But on the farm, he was allowed to dress as a boy and play boy’s games. His grandfather made him boy’s toys to play with. And later, when his grandparents died in 1921 and 1924, both obituaries listed Hart as “grandson.” Against the overwhelming and profound ignorance of that time, his grandparents embraced him for who he was.
It is unfortunate that today much of our nation continues to remain mired in the ignorance of the 1800s. —To choose to remain blind to this biological issue. —To show no concern for those who are unfortunate enough to have been born with gender or sexual ambiguity.