1945: When transman Mr X got married


Mr X

Kiwi transman Mr X and his bride faced a Wellington court in 1945 charged with making false statements under the marriage act.

Freak Show

A popular worker in a Wellington factory, 30-year-old Mr X lived with an eighteen-year-old female co-worker. They married at the local Registry Office. However, bureaucrats later noticed Mr X shared his name with a person previously rejected for military service over being assigned female at birth.

(Mr X answered a call up for military service earlier in WWII. His loving mum accepted him as a man. But she did not want to lose her boy to war. She instructed her solicitors to share the details of her son’s birth with the army. Precluded from serving his country, Mr X returned to civilian life and underwent top surgery.)

Registry office busybodies reported the marriage of Mr and Mrs X to the police. After determining that Mr X told his intended bride he was assigned female at birth before their marriage, meddlesome cops charged both with providing false statements.

But!

It is interesting the difference personal interaction can make. The tone of reporting by reporters who actually spoke with Mr X is in stark contrast to that of those who observed from a distance.

Most of the newspaper reporting approached the case as one big freak show. Reporters consistently referred to Mr X as a woman and deployed female pronouns.

Take the Brisbane Telegraph.

Of the Lesbian type

The older accused was completely attired in male clothes. Her hair was cut short and she carried a man’s felt hat. Police said the woman, with the consent of her mother, had been masquerading as a male for the past 12 years. Registered as a man during the war and called up for medical examination, solicitors advised the military authorities that she was a female. She became acquainted with the younger defendant and they went through a form of marriage.

The older accused described herself as a bachelor. After the ‘marriage’, they lived together. They were of the Lesbian type and should be kept apart, counsel said. The older accused had her breasts removed, after which she wore a man’s clothes and had never lost a job. The magistrate said it was a very difficult case. Indecent assaults between males had long been the subject of criminal law. However, corresponding offences between females were outside the law. He placed the accused on probation for three years. 

Now check out an article from the Auckland Star penned by two writers who tracked down Mr X before the court case and chatted with him. After laying out the details of the case, they state unequivocally they will hereafter refer to their subject as ‘Mr X or by the male pronoun’.

A young woman opened the door. The visitors asked for Mr X and a broad-shouldered, husky-looking individual came forward.

Hollywood film star

On the reporters disclosing their identity, he invited them into a back bedroom. It was a typical bachelor’s room, containing a single bed, a bookcase and several photographs of Mr X, one showing him with a pipe. These photographs could be mistaken for those of a glamourous male Hollywood film star.

Inviting his guests to sit, Mr X stood through a long interview, usually with brawny arms (one of them tattooed) folded. He answered questions frankly and fearlessly…

Since his adoption of the life of a male, he had become proficient in several manly sports, including swimming, rowing, tennis and boxing.

He and his young wife were very happy together. They often went to dances and movies together and worked in the same firm. 

He agreed that their relationship was unusual — although to him, acting and feeling like a male — it seemed perfectly natural. 

He was happy. His wife was happy.

He was happy. His wife was happy. They were not doing harm to anyone. 

Throughout the interview, Mr X preserved perfect composure. He — it seemed odd to think of him as a woman — seemed concerned about two things — retaining his employment and a desire not to injure in any way the young girl with whom he was living. 

To the interviewers, he was any young man about town. 

So to reporters who actually met Mr X, he was no freak — no monster — no strange and fearsome sexual aberration. Just a nice young bloke they obviously enjoyed spending time with.

Too many people judge trans people without ever meeting any. Not that all trans people are Mr X. Some are arseholes. Trans people are, after all, just people.

Social historian and author Julie Glamuzina tells more of Mr X’s story in her book Perfectly Natural.

“Iris/Peter (Mr X) married at least four times, lived as a man for sixty years, ended his life happily with his wife, amongst friends, well-respected and admired.”

More transmen from history:

Bill Smith, Australia’s first transgender jockey.

Charles Winslow Hall, ‘exposed by illness’.

Murray H. Hall: trans political operative shocked New York.

Harcourt Payne, forced into women’s clothing.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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