Transvestia, and a Note on Language


Transvestia mission statement, Sept. 1960. Courtesy of University of Victoria Libraries.

Transvestia, and a Note on Language

Most known traces of Annette’s life as a woman exist in Transvestia, a bi-monthly magazine published in Los Angeles and sent to subscribers all over the country. The magazine began in 1960 and was the first publication directed toward the cross-dressing community. Its objectives were: “To provide EXPRESSION for those interested in the subjects of exotic fashion and unusual dress. To provide INFORMATION to those who, through ignorance, condemn that which they don’t understand. To provide EDUCATION for those who see evil where none exists.”[1] It becomes clear when flipping through its pages that this magazine was vital for transvestite (TV) women to feel a sense of community with one another and communicate about challenges, tensions, and developments in trans life and advocacy before the internet made these connections accessible across a wider geography. As of 1963, three years after the publication started, there were 109 subscribers, four of whom were from Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. Annette was the only subscriber in Idaho.


It is important to note that language and identity often evolve alongside one another over time. The term “transvestite” is not often used today. Many women who read Transvestia and identified with the terms transvestite, cross-dresser, or femmpersonator (FP) might today identify more closely with the term transgender. Transvestia was spearheaded by prominent trans activist Virginia Prince, known for later popularizing the term “transgender” in the 1980s. Prince herself started dressing exclusively as a woman and identifying as transgender in the 1980s, a decade in which the term became more widespread and trans and LGBTQ activism were on the rise.[2]

As it is the most comprehensive term we have today, I use the term “transgender” to describe Annette and women like her, who in the context of this magazine were assigned male at birth and explored desires toward femininity. That said, I acknowledge that it is impossible to know how Annette would have identified herself then or now, as semantics and personal politics change over time. Susan Stryker, a trans activist, historian, and theorist, provides a capacious definition of “transgender” that is useful for encompassing a multiplicity of trans embodiments: “I use it to refer to people who move away from the gender they were assigned at birth, people who cross over (trans-) the boundaries constructed by their culture to define and contain that gender.”[3]Annette, alongside the other woman chronicled in the pages of Transvestia, are examples of early moves away from something incomplete towards something undiscovered.

[1] Transvestia, Sep. 1960, 3.

[2] University of Victoria, “Virginia Prince & Transvestia,

[3] Susan Stryker, Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution (Berkeley: Seal, 2017), 1.