In the Archives: Documenting a Gay Transgender Pioneer

by Gerard Koskovich

Among the founding members and early board members of the GLBT Historical Society was a pioneering activist who helped open the way for transgender gay men to receive gender care while claiming their sexual orientation.

Louis Graydon “Lou” Sullivan (1951-1991) faced down a medical profession in the 1970s that insisted on heterosexuality as an outcome for transition, gradually locating providers who were willing to buck the demands of heteronormativity. In 1986, he founded the organization that came to be known as FTM International, creating a network of support for men like him.

Our archives include Sullivan’s complete personal papers, donated by his estate after he died of AIDS in 1991. Included in the collection are his extensive journals detailing his transition and the challenges it involved. Our holdings also include the records of FTM International and 58 issues of the organization’s FTM Newsletter (1987-2005), as well as a small collection of personal letters from Sullivan to a trans man known only as David (collection no. 2009-02).

To learn more, read the new biography of Sullivan by historian Brice D. Smith: Lou Sullivan: Daring to Be a Man Among Men (Transgress Press, 2017).

Gerard Koskovich is a queer public historian and communications director for the GLBT Historical Society.


NOTE: Reprinted from the July 2017 issue of History Happens, the monthly newsletter of the GLBT Historical Society. To read the full issue, click here. For a free subscription to the newsletter, click here.