E N G A G I N G A R C H I V E S discussion


Using Archives to Identify the Trans* Women of Casa Susanna


Abstract The publication in 2005 of a book of found photographs focused attention on a rural cross-

dressers’ resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains named “Casa Susanna.” At the time of publication,

the editors knew very little about the people in the photographs, and no one was identified. Interest

in these anonymous trans* women intensified when playwright Harvey Fierstein’s play, Casa

Valentina, based on Casa Susanna, opened on Broadway nine years later. This article discusses how

magazines, photographs, newsletters, private correspondence, and personal ads in private and

institutional trans* archives can be used to identify these trans* women and other members of the

early MtF cross-dressing community. It proposes a research methodology that uses aliases and

identification codes, originally intended for protection and anonymity, to connect archival holdings

to individuals, deepening our understanding of the lived experience of early community members.

Keywords aliases, Casa Susanna, cross-dressing, ethical trans* research, Transvestia

M ichael Hurst and Robert Swope have, almost innocently, made a significantcontribution to our understanding of the formation of the MtF trans* community in mid-twentieth-century United States. While shopping at a New

York flea market, they had the good fortune to discover hundreds of images of

men cross-dressed in conservative women’s clothes, and they had the foresight to

publish the images in a book, Casa Susanna (Hurst and Swope 2005). The book

takes its title from the Catskills resort, a cross-dressers’ hide-away, operated by

Susanna Valenti, whose male name was Tito, and her wife, Marie (fig. 1). It is both

a documentary and an art book. Hurst and Swope were fascinated by the images,

though at the time they knew very little about the people in them. Except for

Susanna, no one in the book is identified in any way.

Casa Susanna in turn inspired playwright/actor Harvey Fierstein’s most

recent Broadway success, Casa Valentina, which was produced at the Manhattan

Theater Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre from April 23 to June 15, 2014. It takes

place on the weekend a cross-dresser named Charlotte visits from the West Coast

TSQ: Transgender Studies Quarterly * Volume 2, Number 4 * November 2015 621 DOI 10.1215/23289252-3151547 ª 2015 Duke University Press

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



to solicit members for her national cross-dressers’ support and advocacy group.

“The character Charlotte . . . is clearly based upon the late Virginia Prince,”

founder of the heterosexual cross-dressers’ organization Phi Pi Epsilon or

Foundation for Personal Expression (FPE; Denny 2014; fig. 2). In 1961, Virginia

Prince writes in her magazine, Transvestia, no. 12, December 1961, “I urge those of

you in the East who can get to the resort to GO TO IT. You don’t know what a

wonderful experience is in store for you. The cost is nominal; the value in

acceptance, sociability, freedom of expression, conviviality, and satisfaction is

tremendous” (Prince 1961: 17). Susanna is on the cover of this issue, and on page 18

there’s a photograph of six cross-dressers, including Virginia Prince, having

dinner at Casa Susanna. Hurst and Swope present the same photo as a two-page

spread in the book Casa Susanna.1

The book and Fierstein’s play have sparked considerable interest in Casa

Susanna’s mid-twentieth-century cross-dressers. Trans* activist and historian

Figure 2. Virginia Prince on a visit to Casa

Susanna, October 1962

Figure 1. Susanna Valenti performing onstage at

the Wigwam at Casa Susanna in a photo that appeared

in Transvestia, no. 11, October 1961. All photographs

are from the author’s personal archive.

622 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



Dallas Denny has interviewed Andrea Susan, who, as a young attendee, photo-

graphed and developed many of the photographs in the book (Susan and Denny

2014). New York Times writer Penelope Green spoke with several other visitors to

Casa Susanna (Green 2006), including Katherine Cummings, author of the 1992

trans* memoir, Katherine’s Diary (Cummings 1993: 88).

This article explores how archival materials, such as photographs, letters,

community magazines, membership directories, and newsletters can be cross-

referenced and interconnected to constitute a research methodology that can be

applied to early community members’ trans* lives and the formation of their

trans* community. This article shows how archives may be used to identify trans*

people in collections of archival photographs, such as Casa Susanna, and place

them in the larger context of the developing trans* community. Though the focus

of this article is the Casa Susanna era, the late 1950s to the mid-1970s, the tech-

niques discussed here are useful when studying the identity formation of any

marginalized group. Archives, whether it’s the Transgender Archive at the Uni-

versity of Victoria (transgenderarchives.uvic.ca) or the Leather Archive in Chi-

cago (www.leatherarchives.org), contain evidence of ways in which communities

and individuals develop identities.

The Photos: Content and Context

The photographs in Casa Susanna can be better understood by comparing the

images to the personal archive of Bobbie Thompson, cover girl of Transvestia,

no. 22, August 1963 (fig. 3; Bobbie 1963: 2–13). She and sister cross-dresser Betty

Wharton rented a room in a Rochester, New York, boarding house as their safe,

trans* refuge, a place where they could store their femme wardrobes, cross-dress,

take photos, and entertain. I purchased the archive over twenty years ago from

Betty, who told me that the collection was originally Bobbie’s and that Bobbie was

deceased. A member of Virginia Prince’s FPE, Bobbie’s membership number was

32-T-3 (2).2

It seems clear that both Susanna and Bobbie were collectors. In the

introduction to Casa Susanna, Robert Swope writes that he purchased “about

four hundred images” from Susanna’s collection at that New York flea market

(Hurst and Swope 2005). Bobbie’s collection includes over eight hundred femme

photographs that also appear to have been taken during the 1960s and 1970s. The

majority are photos of Bobbie, but many are of other cross-dressers or of Bobbie

posing with other cross-dressers (fig. 4). Several images in Bobbie’s archive appear

in the book Casa Susanna. Also in her archive are other photographs of people

seen in the book taken at other times and in other places. From the photos it

appears that Bobbie was probably at Casa Susanna more than once.

DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 623

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



Both Bobbie’s archive and Casa Susanna are evidence that there was an

exchange of photos going on in this early MtF community. A significant number

of images from the book and Bobbie’s archive were not taken at their homes, but

at other locations. While it’s true that many images in Casa Susanna were shot at

the resort, the book also contains photos shot on city streets, in clubs, or at bars.

The book includes Christmas cards, each photographed in a different room.

Bobbie’s archive contains more. The photos, like the Christmas cards, were being

exchanged, leaving a trace of some of the interactions among community

members. These are more than snapshots of community members; they reveal

where they went, their activities, and their relationships. Personal ads in Trans-

vestia and other community publications often requested an exchange of photos

along with the offer of correspondence: “32-H-1 TV in N.Y. love to hear from all

TVs, will ans. At once. Exch. Pics & meet. Am undrstndg of most subjects.

Rita—N.Y.” (Rita 1961: 80). A letter and a photo of your femme self was the

standard community calling card.

There is little that is exclusively trans* about exchanging and collecting

photographs, which even now is a standard practice in personal ads intended for

making erotic contacts. This is true whether the advertiser is trans* or cis-gen-

dered, whether the medium is print or digital. The photos in Bobbie’s archive are

evidence of people actively seeking social connection for their femme selves. They

divide neatly into two groups: cross-dressers with whom it appears she had a

Figure 4. Bobbie and Sheila at Casa SusannaFigure 3. Bobbie at Casa Susanna

624 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



limited relationship and cross-dressers she seems to have known well. Bobbie’s

casual acquaintances are usually represented by only a few photos, one to four.

Interestingly, these photographs are almost all of one person alone in a private,

anonymous setting like a motel room. The second group comprises photos of

Bobbie’s friends, people she trusts. We infer that she trusts them because she’s in

the photos with them; both are cross-dressed and smiling radiantly. There are

several sets of photos featuring Bobbie with another cross-dresser trying on dif-

ferent outfits, sometimes in a motel room, and then going outside for a tradi-

tionally “feminine” activity, like window shopping.

These people aren’t only collecting photos; they’re networking, making

personal contacts, and constructing a femme identity. For example, Bobbie’s

archive contains twenty-two photographs of Transvestia’s one-time literary edi-

tor, Sheila Norris (30-B-2). One of these photos appears in Casa Susanna, and

twelve others, including a Christmas card, were shot at the resort. Bobbie and

Sheila appear together in four. Apparently, Sheila wanted Bobbie to see and know

her as a woman, which is perhaps the reason Bobbie’s archive contains so many

photos of Sheila. Any exchange of photos carries with it the implication, “I want

you to remember me this way,” or “I want you to remember us this way.” When

Sheila wrote, “I don’t believe you have this one,” on the back of one photograph,

she probably knew Bobbie was a collector of trans* images. Having a complete set

Sheila’s photos en femme in Bobbie’s collection was one way Sheila was archiving

and preserving her identity.

How Deep Was Their Closet?

Trust between these early trans* community members was crucial because many

of the visitors to Casa Susanna had a great deal to lose in their male lives:

There was a pilot and a businessman, an accountant, a librarian, and a pharma-

cologist. There was a newspaper publisher, and a court translator. By day, they

were the men in the gray flannel suits, but on the weekends, they were Felicity,

Cynthia, Gail, Sandy, Fiona, Virginia, and Susanna. It was the dawn of the

1960’s. . . . In those pre–Judith Butler, pre–Phil Donahue days, when gender was

more tightly tethered to biology, these men’s “gender migrations,” or “gender

dysphoria,” as the sociologists began to call cross-dressing, might cost them their

marriages, their jobs, their freedom. (Green 2006)

These bigendered males managed multiple identities and lived in two worlds.

Aliases were de rigueur, though the number varied. For example, my experience

purchasing Bobbie’s collection showed me how some community members used

as many as three names. I first contacted Betty Wharton in May 1991. As our

DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 625

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



correspondence stretched through the summer, Betty told me that her real name

was Dick Wharton and asked that I address future correspondence to Dick

Wharton, which I did for almost another year. When it was time to close the deal,

Dick asked me to make the check out to a different male name, his legal name. He

also asked me to mail the check to a different address, not the post-office box he

had been using, but a street address in a nearby town. The female name, Betty

Wharton, and the male name, Dick Wharton, were both intended for use in the

trans* community. Though Betty may have shared her community male name

with other cross-dressers, her legal name was likely hidden from trans* friends

and associates, just as the femme name was hidden from family and friends in her

male life.

Virginia Prince used four names to manage her identity—two female and

two male. Her trans* community femme name was Virginia Prince. She lived as a

woman and used the name Virginia Bruce outside the trans* community. Her

male trans* community name was Charles Prince (Docter 2004: 45). Though

some people may have known her legal name, Arnold Lowman, it was essentially

hidden until 2004, when it appeared in Richard F. Docter’s From Man to Woman:

The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince, a book written with Virginia Prince’s

full knowledge and cooperation.

Another example of the key role of aliases can be found in Bobbie’s

archive, her completed four-page “Membership Application Form and Ques-

tionnaire” to Virginia Prince’s sorority Phi Pi Epsilon (FPE). FPE limited its

membership to heterosexual cross-dressers and prohibited gay men or trans-

sexuals from joining. The questionnaire was the first filter designed to confirm

that the prospective member either fit the policy or was at least willing to lie in

order to enjoy the benefits of membership. The application was used to qualify

prospective members for an interview, which determined whether they would be

invited to attend a meeting of the group. On this questionnaire Bobbie used her

legal surname, Thompson, for both her female and male trans* community

names. Other documents in the archive confirm that this was, indeed, her name.

So, Bobbie, like Susanna/Tito Valenti, did not avail herself of the added level

secrecy a fictitious surname would provide.

The use of aliases is evidence of the early community’s relationship to the

larger culture, a relationship based on fear of discovery and a need for secrecy.

Though we can never be sure of an individual’s motivation, it seems logical that

within their community transgender people use names that accurately reflect their

gender identities, rather than names assigned at birth. However, the use of

multiple surnames means that some early community members were not out in

their daily lives, a decision that archivists and researchers must respect.

626 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



Confidentiality and the Ethical Use of Legal and Trans* Names

The use of aliases underscores both the bigendered nature of these community

founders and their desire for privacy. Such privacy, according to Michael C.

Oliveira, project archivist at the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives (one.

usc.edu) at the University of Southern California, is “regulated by a patchwork of

state and federal law” (pers. comm., January 27, 2015) and, for the vast majority of

people, ends at death, famous people being the exception. Marjorie Bryer,

managing archivist at the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco (www.

glbthistory.org), agrees with this assessment. In her mind, the central question for

the researcher when deciding whether information should be made public is, “Is

this person still alive?” (pers. comm., January 28, 2015). If the person is not alive,

archivists, who are not attorneys, agree that legal liability virtually vanishes.

Those researching trans* communities have another consideration: what

is ethical to reveal about these people whomay have literally led two lives? There is

no doubt that while the trans* women of Casa Susanna are alive, publishing

information about their male lives, lives they may have gone to great lengths to

conceal, is out of the question. Researchers must be scrupulous to ensure that the

data they publish cannot be “crunched” to reveal the male identity. Archivists

Oliveira and Bryer said that there is a general consensus that at one hundred years

after a person’s death any information can be published, which is based on the fact

that medical records are frozen for one hundred years. Prior to that, researchers

should limit discussion of the male lives to untraceable, aggregate data or

information presented using aliases.

Publishing information about the femme lives is a distinctly different

matter. These early trans* community members chose to put photos of their

femme selves and their femme names in magazines and directories. Their femme

identities were so important and meaningful that the desire to express them

overcame fear of social disapproval and the loss of status that discovery would

bring. They created a community and social history in their chosen identities as

women. Expressing their identities was not always limited to club meetings and

motel rooms and for many, like Virginia Prince, it included appearing in public as

their femme selves and writing personal narratives about their adventures for

others to read. These acts, risks, and sharing are trans* history. Understanding

how these trans* women managed multiple identities may provide insight into

how historic figures, such as Chevalier d’Eon or Dr. James Barry, managed theirs.

Though nothing about or leading to the male lives of Casa Susanna’s trans*

women may be published at this time, such things as how they managed multiple

identities, built networks, and traveled publicly en femme should be examined and


DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 627

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



To this end, researchers may use individuals’ community femme names

freely, especially if they have appeared in nationally distributed magazines or

newsletters from national organizations. I have used the femme names from

Transvestia photo captions to identify the people in photos from Bobbie’s archive

and Casa Susanna. Clearly legal names are off limits, considering the lengths

employed to protect them. The only exception would be if the person is already

out, a rare case that may apply only to Virginia Prince, Suzanna Valenti, and other

such prominent community members. The community male name is a grey area,

and its use places a great deal of responsibility on the scholar. Unless the person is

deceased, this name should be used only if the researcher is sure that using it will

not reveal or provide clues to the legal surname. This level of certainty may be

possible only when the researcher already knows the legal surname.

Using Archival Sources to Write Biographies

of the Trans* Women of Casa Susanna

When researching Casa Susanna and the cross-dressers who stayed there, the

connection to Virginia Prince, Transvestia, and FPE cannot be ignored. Susanna

(32-V-1) had become “Our New York Columnist” in Transvestia, no. 2, March 1960

(Prince 1960).Her column, “Susanna Says,” ran until no. 61, 1970, the issue inwhich

she reiterated her decision “to become a full-time girl.” Judging by her writings, it

seems doubtful that Susanna would have had gender-confirmation surgery or

identified as transsexual: “No doubt some people would say that I have turned into

a transsexual. I don’t think so. Operation? Phooey! I don’t want sex, I want femi-

ninity [Amen—Ed.]” (Valenti 1970: 80–84). And, since Virginia Prince lived a life

of femininity without surgery, the parenthetical “Amen” is undoubtedly hers.

As was already noted, many of the photos in Casa Susanna appeared in

Transvestia some fifty years before the book was published. This includes photos

of Bobbie and Susanna as well as Bobbie’s friend Sheila Norris (30-B-2), who was

Transvestia’s literary editor and appears twice in Casa Susanna.3 Her first book

review, about Hedy Jo Star’s I Changed My Sex, appeared in Transvestia, no. 23,

1963, and she served as literary editor for almost a decade until 1972.

Several other Casa Susanna trans* women were both FPE members and

Transvestia cover girls. Lee (32-B-3), who appears inCasa Susanna,4 is cover girl of

Transvestia, no. 15, June 1962 (Lee 1962: 2–8). Lily, the Asian trans* woman

wearing a swimsuit in the first photo following the introduction, was cover girl for

Transvestia, no. 48, December 1967. On page 9 of that issue there’s a photo of her

posing next to the Casa Susanna sign from the book’s cover. The caption reads,

“Lily Thinks Nothing of Violating All of Susanna’s Guidelines For TV’S by

Wearing Pants, Bathing Suit, Bikini, etc. and does it at Casa Susanna, yet” (Lily

628 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



1967: 15–19). Transvestia cover girls each wrote short personal narratives in their

featured issue. Taken together, these short biographies constitute a rich store of

social data.

Coded Communications

Photos of anonymous cross-dressers, like those in Casa Susanna, are found in

personal, institutional, and community trans* archives, as are letters without the

traditional salutation. Instead there’s a cryptic series of letters and numbers such as

38-K-3 or EC-615, identification codes of the early national trans* clubs and

publications. Early community members used them for anonymity. The next

section discusses the relevance of these codes to researchers and archivists. Pro-

tecting one’s legal name and identity was a major preoccupation for anyone plac-

ing sexual contact ads in this era, whether gay, straight, or trans*. Mail-forwarding

services provided an effective means of protection. Readers of Transvestia could

place a personal ad for a fee; replies were sent to the magazine, which forwarded

Figure 5. Inside back cover of Transvestia, no. 11, October 1961

DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 629

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



them to the advertisers (fig. 5). This practice was common, though the contem-

porary use of anonymous e-mail addresses has rendered it obsolete.

Transvestia offered letter forwarding from the beginning as a service to the

readers and a small income stream for the publication. Originally, Transvestia

coded ads with simple numbers; personal ads numbering 1–3 appeared in

Transvestia, no. 1, January 1960. By Transvestia, no. 11, October 1961, the cumu-

lative number of ads had reached eighty. Starting with issue no. 12, December 1961,

the code was changed to a three-part format: numbers-letters-numbers, followed

by an optional FPE. The magazine had been preparing readers for this change in

previous issues. In my copy of Transvestia, no. 8, March 1961, the last line on the


CODE NO. IS 38-K-3.” The code itself, 38-K-3, is hand written.

Starting around 1961, these codes were used to identify FPE members

throughout the magazine, whether they posed in photographs, authored articles,

or wrote letters. Many of the trans* women from Casa Susanna were FPE

members and used the codes to identify themselves on the reverse of photos and

in correspondence. Susanna Valenti (32-V-1), Sheila Norris (30-B-2), and Lee (32-

B-3), all of whom appear in Casa Susanna, have FPE membership numbers, as

does Bobbie Thompson (32-T-3).

This code was also used in other FPE publications, such as Femme Mirror,

a newsletter published from December 1961 to January 1966 and in The Femme

Forum, another newsletter that used the codes from at least November 1966 to

January 1972. Of particular significance to researchers is the use of these codes by

FPE members in correspondence with each other. Codes are included with sig-

natures in several letters in Bobbie’s archive, and one letter’s only salutation is,

“TWD-18-33,” a code from Transvestite World Directory, a publication of the

Seattle-based Empathy Club.

In Transvestia, no. 19, February 1963, Virginia Prince explained how the

code can be used to identify in which state FPE members lived, a very valuable

research tool (Prince 1963: 74):

Many times it has been asked what the code meant and various readers have

indicated that they had “figured it out.” It is not difficult, nor is it intended to be

very secret. I devised it in the beginning as a means of avoiding the use of names,

but of being able to quickly find names in the file from the code number. Thus this

simple system. The first number is the number of the state in which the subscriber

lives in alphabetical order (see below). The initial is that of the last name so that I

could tell where to look in the card file, and the last number is the number of

persons whose last name begins with that same initial in the order of their addition

to our files. Thus, 32-J-8 might mean the 8th “J” (for Jackson, for example) who

630 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



lived in New York State. FPE, of course, indicates membership in PHI PI EPSI-

LON. Below are given the states and their “order numbers.” Foreign countries are

preceded by “F” for foreign, and an “E” for England, for example. Canada being so

close and having a number of subscribers has her provinces numbered alpha-

betically after the states series.

The table below shows each state and the code number Virginia assigned to it

(table 1). With it the researcher can identify which state the club member was

writing from, probably their home state.

As important as FPE was, it was not the only national organization in this

period, and knowing in which state a community member lived can lead

researchers to other valuable sources, such as local support groups and archives.

The other national organizations and local, unaffiliated clubs were designed to fill

different needs for early trans* community members, and it was common for

people to participate in more than one. These groups had their own publications,

magazines, directories, and newsletters that form an additional avenue of

exploration for archivists and scholars.

Researching Casa Susanna beyond Transvestia

Researchers should not limit themselves to FPE and Transvestia, though they may

be the best-known resources from this era. Bobbie placed a contact ad in

Transvestite World Directory, published by Empathy Club (Slavik 1984: 25). Sus-

anna is listed as the associate editor in the masthead of the first issue of New York

City’s independent Turnabout: A Magazine of Transvestism.Her photo appears in

“A Turnabout Gallery” in the same issue (Fredericks 1963: 18). Lily, cover girl for

Transvestia, no. 48, is featured on the back cover of Turnabout, no. 7 and in that

issue’s “A Turnabout Gallery” (Fredericks 1966: 31).

There are at least two New York–based trans* organizations contemporary

with Casa Susanna. Trans* activist Lee G. Brewster sold large-size women’s

clothing and trans* magazines and books at his store, Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique

in Manhattan. He published Drag: The Magazine about the Transvestite from 1971

to 1983 and cross-dressing fiction under the Queens imprint. Lee’s trans* parties

and trips to the New Orleans Mardi Gras were attended by people from all over

the region. The other organization was Transvestite Independent Club or TVIC,

based in Albany, New York, where they held meetings, published a newsletter

called TVIC Journal, and put out at least two membership directories. According

to TVIC Journal, they were established in 1954 (Thordsen 1981).

There were also two trans* clubs on the West Coast, Empathy and Sal-

macis, whose national memberships overlapped with FPE’s. The Empathy Club in

DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 631

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



Seattle held parties, sold large-size

women’s clothing through the

mail, and published several maga-

zines such as New Trenns, Transves-

tite World Directory, and Transvestite

Photo Club. Their publications used

a variety of codes in contact ads,

many based on the title of the pub-

lication. Personals codes in Trans-

vestite World Directory contact ads

began with the lettersTWD; those in

Empathy Club publications, EC. The

other organization, Salmacis, was

founded in Menlo Park, California,

in the late 1970s and later moved to

Eugene, Oregon. They had a much

more inclusive membership policy

than FPE and published Gemini’s

International Directory of Trans-

genderism, which used the most

elaborate code of all, under their

imprint, Gemini Press.


Contemporary interest in the

femme lives of the trans* women

photographed at Casa Susanna

honors them and their contribution to today’s trans* communities. Their photos

and publications, membership codes, and community newsletters are now the

tools of historians. When it is no longer possible to interview the cross-dressers of

Casa Susanna, or the people who knew them, these documents will still be

available in personal, community, and academic archives. Particularly useful are

community publications and club membership codes, which can be used to

identify anonymous trans* women in photographs, provide information about

where they lived, which contact ads they placed, and which letters they wrote. The

letters and ads can be revealing, often including marital status, sexual preferences,

and erotic fantasies. The codes create a methodology that can be used to link

individuals to their writings, making it possible to observe the development

of their femme identities over time or track the level of secrecy desired in

Table 1. FPE State Codes Used to Generate Membership


Code State Code State

1 AL 29 NH 2 AK 30 NJ 3 AZ 31 NM 4 AR 32 NY 5 CA 33 NC 6 CO 34 ND 7 CT 35 OH 8 DE 36 OK 9 FL 37 OR 10 GA 38 PA 11 HI 39 RI 12 ID 40 SC 13 IL 41 SD 14 IN 42 TN 15 IA 43 TX 16 KS 44 UT 17 KY 45 VT 18 LA 46 VA 19 ME 47 WA 20 MD 48 WV 21 MA 49 WI 22 MI 50 WY 23 MN 51 DC 24 MS 52 PR 25 MO 53 Alba CN 26 MT 54 BC CN 27 NE 55 Ont CN 28 NV 56 Que CN

632 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



intercommunity communications. Making these connections creates a context

within which trans* archival holdings can be understood and linked to organi-

zations or individuals to create a portrait of the lived experience of the early trans*

community of the 1950s–1980s. Researchers and archivists have the responsibility

to respect the bigendered identities of these early community members, by

publishing information about their lives outside their trans* community either

with their expressed permission or only after the appropriate lapse of time. The

cross-dressers of Casa Susanna may be anonymous in the 2005 book, but they

needn’t remain so.

Ms. Bob Davis is a music professor at City College of San Francisco. Her illustrated lecture, “Do

the Clothes Fit?—Searching for Transgender Identity in Archival Images of Cross-Dressing,”

was the opening keynote at last year’s 40th Annual Fantasia Fair and was presented at Moving

Trans* History Forward, University of Victoria.

Notes 1. Unfortunately, since there are no page numbers in Casa Susanna, photographs will be

referred to by their placement following the introduction. This photo is the second after

the introduction.

2. The significance of the FPE membership identification numbers to researchers and

archivists is discussed below.

3. Hurst and Swope 2005: seventh page after the introduction.

4. Hurst and Swope 2005: fifth page after the introduction.

References Bobbie 32-T-3. 1963. “Bobbie Goes Private.” Transvestia, no. 22, August.

Cummings, Katherine. 1993. Katherine’s Diary: The Story of a Transsexual. Melbourne, Australia:


Denny, Dallas. 2014. “The Historical Roots of Casa Valentina.” Chrysalis Quarterly, May 10.


Docter, Richard F. 2004. From Man to Woman: The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince.

Northridge, CA: Docter Press.

Fredericks, Siobhan. 1963. “A Turnabout Gallery.” Turnabout, no. 1, June.

———. 1966. “A Turnabout Gallery.” Turnabout, no. 7, Summer.

Green, Penelope. 2006. “Safe House for the Girl Within,” New York Times, September 7. www


Hurst, Michel, and Robert Swope. 2005. Casa Susanna. New York: powerHouse Books.

Lee 32-B-3. 1962. “The Facts of My Life.” Transvestia, no. 15, June.

Lily. 1967. “Dual Personality.” Transvestia, no. 48, March.

Prince, Virginia. 1960. “Table of Contents.” Transvestia, no. 2, March.

DAVIS * The Trans* Women of Casa Susanna * Engaging Archives 633

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018



———. 1961. “Wonderful Weekend.” Transvestia, no. 12, December.

———. 1963. “‘Breaking the Code’ and FPE Membership List.” Transvestia, no. 19, February.

Rita 32-H-1. 1961. “Person to Person.” Transvestia, no. 12, December.

Slavik, Charles “Cathy.” 1984. Transvestite World Directory, no. 8.

Susan, Andrea, and Dallas Denny. 2014. “In the Beginning: HowMy Photos of 1950s Crossdressers

Inspired a Hit Show on Broadway.” Paper presented at Fantasia Fair, Provincetown, MA,

October 24.

Thordsen, William M. 1981. Masthead. TVIC Journal 10, no. 99, December 12.

Valenti, Susanna. 1970. “Susanna Says.” Transvestia, no. 61, February.

634 TSQ * Transgender Studies Quarterly

Downloaded from https://read.dukeupress.edu/tsq/article-pdf/2/4/621/485803/621Davis.pdf


on 24 October 2018

Get professional assignment help cheaply

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason may is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Our essay writers are graduates with diplomas, bachelor, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college diploma. When assigning your order, we match the paper subject with the area of specialization of the writer.

Why choose our academic writing service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently


Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Buy Custom Essay

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

  • Plagiarism free papers
  • Timely delivery
  • Any deadline
  • Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
  • Subject-relevant academic writer
  • Adherence to paper instructions
  • Ability to tackle bulk assignments
  • Reasonable prices
  • 24/7 Customer Support
  • Get superb grades consistently

Online Academic Help With Different Subjects


Students barely have time to read. We got you! Have your literature essay or book review written without having the hassle of reading the book. You can get your literature paper custom-written for you by our literature specialists.


Do you struggle with finance? No need to torture yourself if finance is not your cup of tea. You can order your finance paper from our academic writing service and get 100% original work from competent finance experts.

Computer science

Computer science is a tough subject. Fortunately, our computer science experts are up to the match. No need to stress and have sleepless nights. Our academic writers will tackle all your computer science assignments and deliver them on time. Let us handle all your python, java, ruby, JavaScript, php , C+ assignments!


While psychology may be an interesting subject, you may lack sufficient time to handle your assignments. Don’t despair; by using our academic writing service, you can be assured of perfect grades. Moreover, your grades will be consistent.


Engineering is quite a demanding subject. Students face a lot of pressure and barely have enough time to do what they love to do. Our academic writing service got you covered! Our engineering specialists follow the paper instructions and ensure timely delivery of the paper.


In the nursing course, you may have difficulties with literature reviews, annotated bibliographies, critical essays, and other assignments. Our nursing assignment writers will offer you professional nursing paper help at low prices.


Truth be told, sociology papers can be quite exhausting. Our academic writing service relieves you of fatigue, pressure, and stress. You can relax and have peace of mind as our academic writers handle your sociology assignment.


We take pride in having some of the best business writers in the industry. Our business writers have a lot of experience in the field. They are reliable, and you can be assured of a high-grade paper. They are able to handle business papers of any subject, length, deadline, and difficulty!


We boast of having some of the most experienced statistics experts in the industry. Our statistics experts have diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge to handle any kind of assignment. They have access to all kinds of software to get your assignment done.


Writing a law essay may prove to be an insurmountable obstacle, especially when you need to know the peculiarities of the legislative framework. Take advantage of our top-notch law specialists and get superb grades and 100% satisfaction.

What discipline/subjects do you deal in?

We have highlighted some of the most popular subjects we handle above. Those are just a tip of the iceberg. We deal in all academic disciplines since our writers are as diverse. They have been drawn from across all disciplines, and orders are assigned to those writers believed to be the best in the field. In a nutshell, there is no task we cannot handle; all you need to do is place your order with us. As long as your instructions are clear, just trust we shall deliver irrespective of the discipline.

Are your writers competent enough to handle my paper?

Our essay writers are graduates with bachelor's, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college degree. All our academic writers have a minimum of two years of academic writing. We have a stringent recruitment process to ensure that we get only the most competent essay writers in the industry. We also ensure that the writers are handsomely compensated for their value. The majority of our writers are native English speakers. As such, the fluency of language and grammar is impeccable.

What if I don’t like the paper?

There is a very low likelihood that you won’t like the paper.

Reasons being:

  • When assigning your order, we match the paper’s discipline with the writer’s field/specialization. Since all our writers are graduates, we match the paper’s subject with the field the writer studied. For instance, if it’s a nursing paper, only a nursing graduate and writer will handle it. Furthermore, all our writers have academic writing experience and top-notch research skills.
  • We have a quality assurance that reviews the paper before it gets to you. As such, we ensure that you get a paper that meets the required standard and will most definitely make the grade.

In the event that you don’t like your paper:

  • The writer will revise the paper up to your pleasing. You have unlimited revisions. You simply need to highlight what specifically you don’t like about the paper, and the writer will make the amendments. The paper will be revised until you are satisfied. Revisions are free of charge
  • We will have a different writer write the paper from scratch.
  • Last resort, if the above does not work, we will refund your money.

Will the professor find out I didn’t write the paper myself?

Not at all. All papers are written from scratch. There is no way your tutor or instructor will realize that you did not write the paper yourself. In fact, we recommend using our assignment help services for consistent results.

What if the paper is plagiarized?

We check all papers for plagiarism before we submit them. We use powerful plagiarism checking software such as SafeAssign, LopesWrite, and Turnitin. We also upload the plagiarism report so that you can review it. We understand that plagiarism is academic suicide. We would not take the risk of submitting plagiarized work and jeopardize your academic journey. Furthermore, we do not sell or use prewritten papers, and each paper is written from scratch.

When will I get my paper?

You determine when you get the paper by setting the deadline when placing the order. All papers are delivered within the deadline. We are well aware that we operate in a time-sensitive industry. As such, we have laid out strategies to ensure that the client receives the paper on time and they never miss the deadline. We understand that papers that are submitted late have some points deducted. We do not want you to miss any points due to late submission. We work on beating deadlines by huge margins in order to ensure that you have ample time to review the paper before you submit it.

Will anyone find out that I used your services?

We have a privacy and confidentiality policy that guides our work. We NEVER share any customer information with third parties. Noone will ever know that you used our assignment help services. It’s only between you and us. We are bound by our policies to protect the customer’s identity and information. All your information, such as your names, phone number, email, order information, and so on, are protected. We have robust security systems that ensure that your data is protected. Hacking our systems is close to impossible, and it has never happened.

How our Assignment  Help Service Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

smile and order essaysmile and order essay PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH US TODAY AND GET A PERFECT SCORE!!!

order custom essay paper