Are you a gay trans man or woman who has been able to medically transition without your sexuality getting in the way? You have a trans man to that for that.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on June 16, 1951 Lou Graydon Sullivan grew up with a complicated relation with gender and sexuality. Pre-transition in his publication “A Transvestite Answers a Feminist”, he says, “at age 5 I had a Davy Crockett birthday party. The climax was when I appeared. I was Davy Crockett and I can still remember my thrill at the moment”. At age 17, he had a self-described “feminine” male partner. The two of them played with gender roles and were very attracted to the gay liberation movement. From early in his life he felt an attraction towards effeminate gay men especially.
In 1973 he was identifying as a female transvestite. He immersed himself and was accepted by the Milwaukee gay drag scene. During this time, he began to furiously research historical FtM transsexuals, disparately searching for another gay trans man but continually coming up empty. He would sometimes wonder if he was delusional.
In 1975 he moved to San Francisco. By this point he was recognizing himself as FtM, but felt isolated in the exclusively MtF community. The day he was to start individual therapy, the story of another FtM man broke. Steve Dain had transitioned in the Bay Area and desired to continue to work in the school where he taught, though switching from girls to boy coach. This was Sullivan’s first contact with another FtM individual and he followed the story (the principal reacted phobically, Dain won a series of lawsuits and ultimately was forced to leave his job. He did, however, find success as a chiropractor.). He contacted Dain, making his first contact with another FtM man.
When Sullivan attempted to start physical transition, he was routinely denied on the basis of his sexual orientation. At the time, heterosexuality was a prerequisite for transition. He campaigned for, and was eventually successful in, removing homosexuality as something that barred a person from transition. He was able to obtain hormones and top surgery. However, when seeking a phalloplasty, the gender clinics still denied him even though he had happily been living as a gay man for years. He eventually went to a doctor and in 1986 obtained what the doctor called a “ganitalplasty”. It was after this surgey he was diagnosed with Aids and given ten months to live.
Upon his diagnosis, he wrote, “I took a certain pleasure in informing
the gender clinic that even though their program told me I could not
live as a Gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.” He ultimately died on March 2, 1991 at 39 from AIDS-related complications. He left an organization, now known as FTMI, or Female to Male International and a series of books and pamphlets he wrote for FtM individuals that are still used to this day. He was identified as the first trans man to die from AIDS.
He is largely the reason we see sexuality and gender as separate entities. Lou Sullivan is a trans man who left the world better for being in it. I, as a gay trans man, owe him a debt for being able to live as I do.