Bill Armitt: A trans man in the bush in 1950


bill armitt

After a trip to the Big Smoke to consult Sydney’s leading gynaecologists, trans man Bill Armitt caught a bus back to the bush and disappeared from history.

In 1950, 22-year-old Bill Armitt lived in the 100-year-old slab hut where he was born. Home-schooled on a farm 60 kilometres from Goulburn, he grew up with no other kids to play with. Although assigned female at birth, Bill stopped wearing dresses at seven. He cut his hair short, wore men’s clothing and took up the tough life of an Aussie bushman.

The Sydney Truth interviewed Bill twice for newspaper articles, once at home on the small, isolated family farm, and again during his trip to Sydney.

Bill told the paper he worked six days a week, getting out of bed at 5 and making breakfast for himself and his elderly father. He then made himself two thick jam sandwiches for lunch and walked two miles into the bush where he worked until dusk clearing scrub and grubbing out stumps. Back home, he made dinner from cold mutton and boiled potatoes. He read a Western novel by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp for about an hour before bed.

Once a year, he went to the pictures in Goulburn and saw a Western.

But, happy as Bill seemed, he “worried for years as to the nature of [his] sex.”

A Macquarie St specialist told Truth it was possible Bill was a man whose sex just needed adjusting by an operation: intersex.

Bill Armitt in Sydney

Bill left the farm and headed for Sydney where he saw the sea for the first time, rode an escalator, and a train… and was examined by gynecologists.

They declared him medically a woman, devastating the young man.

“I know in my heart that I am a man and that I will always be a man.”

The gynaecologists referred Bill to a psychoanalyst who confronted the patient with his choices in life.

Dress as a woman and superficially live life as a woman: “a fish out of water, a social misfit.”

Or go back to the life he knew and loved – the hard life of a bush worker. Kudos to this 1950s psychoanalyst for recognising Bill’s truth. He already lived his authentic life. A tough life but one he loved.

At 5.10 on a Thursday afternoon in 1950, Bill Armitt caught the bus back to Goulburn, returned to the family farm and never again made news.

His father died in 1956 and Bill about two decades later in 1974. 🏳️‍⚧️

Trans Men in Aussie History:

Eugene Falleni: The trans man who killed to protect his identity.

Newspaper apologises for outing Bendigo trans man 143 years ago.

Revisiting Bill Smith, Australia’s first transgender jockey.

And overseas….

1945: When Kiwi transman Mr X got married.

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

Charles Winslow Hall, ‘exposed by illness’.

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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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