Times Do Change: The 1960s

| Jan 3, 2022
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No, it did not happen that once the other Linda joined the girls as the fourth member mimicking that popular singing group, The Chordettes, that she never went back to her male identity. It didn’t happen that their popular contest win smoothed Linda’s way to a trans identity. 

It took only a few days before the Hallowe’en events were history around the school. The cool girls went back to flirting with members of the football team. The boy who became Linda was back to hanging around by himself at lunchtime and fixating on the bra straps of the girls sitting in front of him in his classes.

Now in the present, I was happy to hear from Linda and she was only too willing to tell me the story of her life in the 1960s. She went into the decade as a 14-year-old high school freshman and came out a 24-year-old beginning high school teacher. She went into the decade admiring the girls in her classes and the clothes they wore. She ended the decade, well, admiring the girls in her classes and the clothes they wore. Some things change. Some things remain the same.

We had arranged to Skype our talk about Linda’s life in the 1960s. I’m not a big fan of Skype or Zoom calls, FaceTime or the like. My computer camera just does not do me justice, nor does the microphone.

My friend Linda, however, looked and sounded great as we settled in for our conversation. She had warned me to have a large cocktail ready. I like people who take care to stage their background for these calls. Linda had a modest rack of dresses framed by two gorgeous wigs and there on a table was a framed photo she had found somewhere. I laughed when I recognized the subjects of the photo were the two of us chumming at a long-ago Southern Comfort convention. Oh! I loved those parties!

What a gal! She’ll do anything for a laugh. We talked so long and about so much that I’m going to be dividing Linda’s account of the 1960s into two stories, roughly divided by Linda’s transition from high school to university life and the independence that comes with moving away from home.

Linda told me that at age 14 she finally came rushing into puberty with voice change, body and facial hair growth, height gain to almost six feet, trouble with coordination and WET DREAMS. “Oh yes, wet dreams,” she emphasized. It seemed like every night she would be waking up with goo in her pajamas. 

Her mother told her it was normal and advised that Linda could wrap a cloth around her penis if she wanted. Linda knew from health class to expect the wet dreams but what she did not expect was the subject of the dreams. Sure, some of the dreams involved her making out with a certain girl she liked but just as many were about Linda herself dressed in pretty and feminine clothes, usually a bra and slip.

You know what happened. Linda started turning her wet dreams into daydreams and acting them out by borrowing bras, panties and slips out of the family laundry. That was it. Her crossdressing experience went no further through high school and into university.

That apparently was it for a large percentage of the people who would become the crossdresser population of future generations. According to the sociologists and their textbooks of the 1960s crossdressers did not exist. I told the other Linda of my impression, going through the studies of the time, that the official view of categories of males who dressed en femme were doing it for one of three reasons. 1) They were on their way to a gender/ sex change. 2) they used a little lingerie for a sex thrill, the classic transvestite or 3) they were homosexuals who dressed as a woman to attract other men. Linda and I agreed that if we had known about that categorization back in the day, we would have put ourselves in closet #2, the classic transvestite. I loved the sexual thrill of being with girls but the thrills of wearing their bras and panties was not far behind.

Ed Wood in Glen or Glenda.

In the textbooks, in the official jargon and in the minds of the public, there were no such people as crossdressers. Males who dressed and appeared as women for the pleasure of dressing and appearing as women apparently did not exist. Well, they did exist but for the most part they kept their heads very low. Years later, when I saw the movie Glen or Glenda it surprised me that there had actually been a number of crossdressers out there hiding in plain sight.

Yes, we did exist or at least our older sisters existed. Linda and I both took issue with their later militant heterosexuality but certainly appreciated the steps that were being taken by the early Tri-Ess groups, by Virginia Prince who apparently invented the phrase ‘crossdresser’ and by the ladies later immortalized in the play Casa Susanna who were making their way to weekend parties in the Poconos and creating a market for entrepreneurs like Lee Brewster to fill.

Lee Brewster

With Brewster in New York, Lydia and others in Los Angeles sending out mail-order ads in certain adult publications they started spreading the word to others who might privately want to dress and appear in more feminine fashion. Linda and I were both part of that underground market.

“What did you do to keep your TG interest going during the ‘60s,” I asked Linda.

“Really not much,” she replied. “It was a lot of bra and panty play and hand jobs in high school but once I got to university there was enough attention from real females to keep me busy. I joined a fraternity so had my social life well mapped out. The slowly emerging Linda was put in the background. “I guess you could say I purged for a while,” Linda lamented.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“There was an unrelated incident that I later thought might be an indication of a TG hereditary tendency,” Linda mentioned casually.

“A what? Do tell!” I literally screamed. She knew I am a sceptic about any role of heredity in gender issues so am always looking for evidence on the issue, one way or the other.

“Looking back, I have to think it was strange,” Linda started slowly. “One summer my siblings and I were sent to live with our mother’s parents. That was not hardship at all. They had a large New England house with a lot of farm property, horses and a nice lakefront. Most of the farmland was professionally managed but our grandmother kept us busy helping with picking in her berry patches. We had lots to do but often I would like to drift off to read a book picked from their extensive bookshelves. One rainy day I came across the story of Christine Jorgensen. Do you know who she was?”

“Of course, I do. She was an American who made headlines by going to Copenhagen to have gender reassignment surgery.” I replied authoritatively.

Christine Jorgensen

“Yes, but back then they called it ‘sex change surgery’. I was so taken by that book. I read it I think in one sitting. The thought that a man could become a woman was exciting. Her photos were pretty good, too.”

“Did it inspire you to want to be a woman?” I asked, thinking of my own initial awareness of Christine Jorgensen.

“I don’t think so but when I wanted to first go out as a woman in public, I wanted to do it in Copenhagen. I felt for sure it would be a Mecca for the transgender community.”

“Was it?” I asked.

“Not at all. I saw no one else except at a small nightclub I found, named and modeled after a similar bistro in Paris.”

“Not Madame Arthur’s?” I asked.

Madame Arthur’s in Paris.

“Yes, how did you know?” she asked me.

“Been to both of them,” I replied in triumph, “but how did the Jorgensen book make you think of a role of heredity in your TG makeup?”

Roberta Cowell

“It wasn’t just Jorgensen,” said Linda. “A while later I came across another book on another shelf -they definitely did not use the Dewey Decimal System to arrange their books — this one was by Roberta Cowell and was her life story. Have you heard of her?”

“Of course, I have,” I responded, “she was the British Jorgensen. I have also read her book and looked wistfully at her photos. So, two books about gender reassignment in one set of bookshelves. I guess that made you suspicious?”

“I don’t think it did initially,” said Linda, “I don’t think I cared who had left the books there. At my grandparent’s place there were always people coming and going but they sure gave me food for thought that people born as males could make changes to look so good and live as females.

“Later, much later, I wondered if perhaps my grandfather or an uncle had some TG tendency in his genes. Two books on one small theme. That seemed like quite a coincidence. Had I inherited a genome that set me on my way?”

“Interesting, very interesting,” I chimed in, but Linda correctly surmised from my tone that I was not really interested in going down that pathway of discussion.

“What else do you remember from the 1960s?” I asked

“I do remember buying my first set of artificial boobs,” said Linda, “they were made of molded rubber, hard like a car tire but skin tone. They weren’t much to the touch but they sure looked great in a bra projecting under a sheer sweater. But I did not bring them with me to college.”

College? We had reached the mid 1960s and it was getting late. I was expecting company that evening. I had to ‘de-femme’ myself. Linda and I agreed to Skype again the next afternoon. I had other things I had to do but I was anxious to learn if Linda had the same tumultuous feelings in her college life that my TG feelings gave to me.

Did she start shopping for her own femme wardrobe? Did she start exploring the seamy side of cities looking for that often hidden but usually present ‘drag bar’. I only had to wait until the next day to find out. You, I think, have a four-week wait.

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Category: Transgender History

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

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