Marie-Pierre Pruvot ‘Bambi’: an HSTS life

Marie-Pierre Pruvot, (1935- ) whose stage name was Bambi, is a French HSTS transwoman who was born in Algeria.

In many ways, Marie-Pierre’s life is a classic HSTS trajectory. Discovering her cross-sex identification in early childhood, she struggled to cope. Eventually, she dropped out of school before completing her Baccalauriat, the French equivalent of the High School Graduation Certificate or the British ‘A’ Levels, despite being an exemplary student.

She met Coccinelle, perhaps the most famous of French transwomen of the era and, through her, became a cabaret star in her own right. Like Coccinelle and April Ashley, she attended Dr Burou’s surgery in Casablanca for Genital Reconstruction Surgery.

Marie-Pierre continued to star in shows at the Carrousel but recommenced her studies, eventually completing her school education and progressing to the Sorbonne. After taking her Degree and Masters, she took her Teaching Certificate and left show business to work as a teacher in the French state school system.

Marie-Pierre lived two of the lives typical of HSTS: she was an entertainer and also, she ‘woodworked’, vanishing from public view and inventing a new life as a schoolteacher, a job that she enjoyed until her retirement. Her life is an example to all young HSTS: anything is possible for you. Your status as transsexual, in today’s world, need not stand in your way. You many need more courage and fortitude and the determination to succeed than other women, but there are more than enough success stories like Marie-Pierre’s to show it can be done.

Marie-Pierre now lives in retirement in the same Paris suburb she spent so much of her life teaching in.

Below is her personal statement, which I have translated from the original French.

‘My given name was Jean-Pierre Pruvot. I was born on the 11th of November 1935 in the village of Isser, in Grande Kabylie in Algeria. My childhood, although generally happy, was perturbed, since before I can remember, by the conflict between my desire to be a girl, indeed, the certainty that I was and would remain one; and on the other hand, the words of those around me and all the obstacles that reality placed in the way of my internal truth. As time went by I felt the weight of external condemnation which obliged me to constantly mind my ways (in voice, hairstyle, clothing, movements and manners) so as to avoid any scandal, especially after the death of my father, when I was 14, which upset me greatly.

During all the time I was at in secondary school I spent my time in my bedroom reading, (I did well at school) and waiting for a miracle that would make me into the woman that I was. After the third year I went to the High School for boys in Algiers. I suffered greatly from the difficulty of my situation. In the end I could not study any longer. Before leaving school at the age of 16, I discovered that Carrousel, which was on tour, was putting in a show in a nearby casino, with Coccinelle, who had just made her debut in show-business. My departure became certain.

I made my own debut at Madame Arthur’s when I was 18. The police were very strict then and forbade the wearing of women’s clothing. I had to struggle, to keep calm and not give in. In September 1954 I joined Carrousel. I worked and lived with my friend Coccinelle, who did everything to help me. The following year, Coccinelle left on tour and I became the star of the Carrousel show. A year later I went on tour myself.

Coccinelle had discovered estrogen, and also Dr Burou in Casablanca (where he carried out GRS surgeries. Ed.) She had her operation soon after, while I waited two years to do the same. The operation caused a break between me and my boyfriend.

The Carrousel changed its venue and became part of a female revue called Elle et Lui (She and He). There I met a transman who called himself Eric. He became my loyal performance partner. We put on lesbian shows at Elle et Lui, at Carrousel and also on tour.’

At the time Coccinelle got married, I had not yet obtained my legal gender change to feminine. The war in Algeria, followed by its secession from France, put me in a difficult position. I was waiting for the Algerian authorities to send me my new papers. In the end, without much hope, I went to Algiers, where the authorities immediately agreed to the change: Jean-Pierre became Marie-Pierre, born female. This was automatically valid in France, without need for any further legal decision.

While I worked at Carrousel, I went back to studying. I passed my baccalaureat at the age of 33. I then began attending the Sorbonne, where I took my degree in 1972, my Masters in 1973 and my teaching certificate in 1974. The same year I was appointed teacher of literature in Cherbourg. (At that time, teachers in France began their careers in the far north and were promoted southwards. Ed.) This was a great success for me but I was deeply sad to leave Carrousel. After two years I returned to the Paris area, teaching in a secondary school with a very modest reputation, called College Pablo Picasso at Garges-les-Gonesse. I liked it there and I remained for 25 years. I was rewarded with the Palm Academic. At no time during my academic career was my past, or status as a transwoman, ever discovered.

Perhaps, looking back over my life, I did not do all that I could have. I kept away from the great debate about the war in Algeria, which caused so much trouble and was so opposed. It was because the difficulties in my own life occupied my mind completely. As regards the major decisions I made in my personal life, I am confident that I made the right ones, at the right time.