HSTS in the United Kingdom: A British affair

One of the great paradoxes is that, while the British exported their repressive and phobic attitudes to the United States, the influence of other cultures there meant that transsexualism was far more prevalent there than in the United Kingdom. This was not the case in the UK, where, until the 20th century, the population was remarkably homogeneous — and that meant, intolerant.

Up until the last quarter of the 20th century, all forms of male femininity were reviled in Britain and homosexual men were in constant danger of abuse and worse, violence. It was an era when hormone therapy to arrest masculinisation was unavailable and in any case, a visit to the doctor was unlikely to be any help. It was usual for adult men who confessed to being sexually receptive to be diagnosed insane and locked up; Alan Turing, the computing genius without whom you would not be reading this, was criminalised, chemically castrated, ostracised and eventually committed suicide — for being homosexual. If they were caught in the act of sex, then prison awaited them for the crime of ‘buggery’. This law was not repealed until 1967.

Homosexuality in Britain at the time had a distinctive character, partly because of the class-based nature of the society and partly because of the extreme hostility to male femininity, which impacted so heavily on HSTS.

‘Public Schools’ — Academies of pederasty

Sexual relations between males were institutionalised in the so-called ‘Public Schools’ — actually private, fee-paying boarding schools — where the elite sent their young to be educated. Boys in Preparatory school would be introduced to their sexual duties by the school masters. When they got to the Boarding School proper, they would become the catamites of the senior boys.

It is often forgotten that the epithet ‘fag’ and its familiar diminutive ‘faggot’ was originally the term applied to a junior boy whose duty it was to ‘do for’ a senior one — running errands, copying lessons, keeping the senior boy’s space tidy and, of course, providing him with sexual services!

Once the junior boy became a senior himself, he was expected to take a junior catamite in his turn. Failure to do so might lead to suspicions about his sexuality and that he was a ‘poof’, that is, someone who so enjoyed being penetrated that he wished to continue.

This illustrates another point which we’ll discuss in another piece: these pederastic sexual arrangements were often regarded, by those within them, as heterosexual. These schools were seats of Classical Education and the boys — there were few similar girls’ schools — were inculcated daily in the literature and ideas of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. It is no wonder at all that they adopted many of their sexual practices too.

The principle that men penetrate

One of these is the principle that ‘men penetrate’. In this, being the penetrator indicates that one has become a man, while being penetrated indicates that one is not a man. In the Public School system, as in the erastes/erominos system of Greece, the noy is not considered a man. This makes his penetration by a man without shame and, as he matures and masculinises, his taking of a younger catamite as his receptive sexual partner is proof that he has indeed become a man.

In the broader society, upper-class males would have sexual relationships with young working men. These males had almost all gone through the Public School system. The class-based nature of this form was that the ‘girls’ — that is the receptive homosexual males — were always either peri-pubertal boys or working-class young men. It would have been completely unacceptable for a man in such a relationship to allow himself to be penetrated, since that would have meant a lower-class male penetrating an upper-class one. Which would never do.

Even cross-dressing was a crime

Mack Freedman, with regard to the UK in the early 20th century, notes:

…the situation in Britain … meant sticking with one’s biological gender…Transgender people, in fact, were arrested simply for cross-dressing, charged with male prostitution, and often convicted on conjecture. This fit into the subliminal mores of fin de siècle Britain, which punished biological males presumed to be “inverts,” people who acted effeminate or otherwise eschewed their biological gender role.i

In other words, feminine behaviour on the part of men was actively persecuted in Britain, conforming to the then extremely phobic attitude of the Anglican Church, which was dominant. This led to  transwomen hiding by appearing to be gender conforming, at least in public. It is certainly the case that many homosexual males in Britain then, who would  likely transition today, were unable to do so for fear of violence, in earlier times. Indeed, many appear not to have so suppressed their own natures that they did not recognise themselves for what they were. One can only imagine the torment such a soul must have suffered.

The English author Quentin Crisp wrote several remarkable books about the life of a highly feminine homosexual male in England. Late in life he said that, after a life of perplexity, he at last knew what he really was — a transsexual. Sadly, he went to his grave without being able to live the life he perhaps should have, as a woman. His words are a damning testament to the cruelty and intolerance of the culture he grew up in.

April Ashley

Britain, up until the 1960s, was not at all a fertile ground for transsexualism. When April Ashley, a post-operative transwoman, made herself and her status famous during her divorce proceedings, the entire nation was shocked. People spoke in hushed whispers about such a thing; they told their children to cover their eyes for fear of seeing the news reports and turned off their radios.

I am not joking; I witnessed this myself — and, of course, it thoroughly fascinated me!

Caroline Cossey

The next high-profile British transwoman to appear was Caroline ‘Tula’ Cossey. Cossey was actually intersex, born with Klinefelter’s Syndrome (XXY). She had been raised as a male, which was normal then, and had had her penis surgically reshaped to better resemble an ordinary male’s.

Cossey eventually gave up trying to be a boy and became a girl instead; and not only that, a high-profile model and minor film star. While it’s certain that the massive homophobic and transphobic prejudice of the UK at that time prevented her from reaching her full career potential, she was and remains a major icon for British HSTS and intersex people.

While this did lead to a thawing of the ice as far as transsexualism was concerned, Britain was extremely repressive. Those young HSTS who were lucky enough to have supportive parents and who were referred in time to the right clinicians, were able to have corrective hormone and surgical therapies that would allow them to transition; but most did not have this opportunity.


For those who did succeed in making an inadequate and unsympathetic system work for them, the standard route was ‘woodworking’.  As soon as the girl began to live as a woman, she would cut off all ties with her former life. She would change her name, move home, get a new job. Typically she would maintain links only with her mother, who would be sworn to secrecy.

Her aim would be the same as any other girl’s: to find a nice man, settle down and to build a life.


Although the general position appears to have improved in the UK, HSTS there still tend to be covert. They avoid ‘LGB’ organisations, recognising that they are not themselves part of that group; they are, once transitioned, heterosexual women and they have no desire to be ‘outed’ for being something they could never have felt comfortable being. At the same time, the image that the public has of transwomen is that of autogynephilic, non-homosexual males, also known as AGPs.

These bear no relationship whatsoever to HSTS transwomen yet persist in claiming association with them. HSTS have no desire to be claimed by them and avoid being so. Quite apart from misleading the public about what a transsexual really is, AGPs are notorious sexual predators who will pursue HSTS as sexual partners — something HSTS invariably reject.

As well as by sexual predation, non-homosexual Western autogynephilic transvestites harm HSTS by erasure. Where the abuse of HSTS might previously have been due to a hyper-masculinised social ideal, fed through a culture of pederasty amongst Britain’s ruling classes, it is now non-homosexual AGPs who wear the boot.

It might be some time before genuine HSTS transwomen are able to counter this.

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