Coccinelle: The first transsexual superstar

Coccinelle (23 August 1931—9 October 2006) was born Jacques Charles Dufresnoy, in France and became an actress and entertainer. Hers was the first GRS widely publicised in Europe, especially in France, where she was well-known as a club and cabaret singer.

As a result of a chance meeting with another transsexual, on a train, Coccinelle became aware of Dr Burou’s work and in 1958 she travelled to Casablanca to have her GRS.

On her return to France and recovery, she was lionised, performing a revue show that minmicked the big natal female stars of the day. In 1959 she was picked by Italian director Alessandro Blasetti to appear in Europa di Notte. Italian singer Ghigo Agosti dedicated the song “Coccinella” to her that year, causing widespread controversy.

A biography called Reverse Sex came out in 1962. [3] Coccinelle appeared in the 1962 film Los Viciosos and was the first French transsexual woman to become a major star, when Bruno Coquatrix splashed her name in red letters on the front of Paris Olympia for her 1963 revue “Cherchez la Femme”. She later appeared in the 1968 film Días de Viejo Color.

Coccinelle also worked extensively as an activist on behalf of transgendered people, founding the organization “Devenir Femme” (To Become Woman), which was designed to provide emotional and practical support for those seeking sexual reassignment surgery. She also helped establish the Center for Aid, Research, and Information for Transsexuality and Gender Identity. In addition, her first marriage (she had three husbands total) was the first transsexual union to be officially acknowledged by the state of France, establishing transgendered persons’ legal right in that country to marry. Her 1987 autobiography Coccinelle was brought out by Daniel Filipacchi. Coccinelle was hospitalized in July 2006 following a stroke and died that October at Marseille.

Coccinelle at 50

Coccinelle was not the only transsexual to be involved in the French showbusiness scene. Just as is the case today in many parts of the world, in the 1950s and 60s in Europe, clubs, cabarets and other entertainments, mainly aimed at a male market, where the only real venue where transsexuals could work, other than street prostitution. Some combined the trades, as it were, but the management of the better clubs tended to be strict. In France, although prostitution itself was at that time legal, pandering, pimping and other activities could easily lose a club its licence. In addition, there was an expectation that the stars would not take part in this trade, So even though there was certainly sex for sale, the top acts were required not to take part.

This somewhat uneasy balance between maintaining the outward appearance of propriety while clandestine sexual bargains were conducted privately, was a life-line to French transsexuals. It allowed them to make enough money to live and to afford the treatments that a transsexual depends on for her feminisation.

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