Virginia Prince

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Virginia Prince
Born (1912-11-23)November 23, 1912
Los Angeles, California, US
Died May 2, 2009(2009-05-02) (aged 96)
Los Angeles, California, US
Nationality American
Known for Transgender activist,
publisher of Transvestia,
founder of Society for the Second Self

Virginia Prince (November 23, 1912 – May 2, 2009) was an American transgender activist, who published Transvestia magazine and started Society for the Second Self for male heterosexual cross-dressers. She later adopted the pseudonym "Virginia Charles Prince" and preferred she/her/hers pronouns.

Early life[edit]

Prince was born Arnold Lowman on November 23, 1912, in Los Angeles, California.[1][2] At around the age of twelve, Prince began cross-dressing, first using her mother's clothes.[1] During her time in high school, Prince began cross-dressing more frequently and found herself passing as a girl in public.[3]

Education and transition period[edit]

Prince gained her PhD in pharmacology in 1939 from the University of California, San Francisco. This was also around the time that she met the woman whom she would marry and have a son with. The two were married in 1941, yet their marriage, according to Prince, "failed because of [her] transvestism".[4] After seven years, the two divorced.[1]

After her marriage ended, Prince returned to the University of California, San Francisco and began working as a research assistant and lecturer in pharmacology. During this time, Prince also took advantage of the university's small collection of medical literature on transvestism. This was also around the time that Prince began using the name Charles Prince, a pseudonym used in order to hide the civil identity. The name stems from her father's first name, Charles, and her address on Prince Street.[1] The exact time at which Prince took on the name Virginia is unclear, however one of her earliest known writings, the article "Homosexuality, Transvestism and Transsexualism: Reflections on Their Etiology and Difference" published in 1957, is credited to "C.V. Prince".[1][5]

Transvestia magazine[edit]

In 1960, the first issue of Prince's magazine "Transvestia" was published. Prince acquired the means to fund the publication after assembling a list of 25 acquaintances, each of whom were willing to donate four dollars to her start-up. Working with one hundred dollars,[3] Prince then launched her first issue, published by her own Chevalier Publications, and sold it by subscription and through adult bookstores.[1]

"Transvestia" was published bi-monthly between the years of 1960 and 1980, with a total of 100 issues being created. In 1963, the inside jacket of the magazine stated the publication as "dedicated to the needs of the sexually normal individual who has discovered the existance (sic) of his or her 'other side' and seeks to express it."[1]

With a readership of mostly white, middle-to-professional-class crossdressers, the magazine offered, among other things, dozens of published life stories and letters contributed by other crossdressers.[6] Over the years, the publication also gained several international subscribers, notably from England, Scandinavia and Australia.[1] Prince herself, wrote an autobiographical article for the magazine's final issue in 1979.[7]

Trans terminology, crossdresser identity and controversy[edit]

Through many of her writings, Prince has been considered a major pioneer of transgender community.[1] Her long history of literature surrounding issues of crossdressing and transvestism has been rooted in Prince's desire to fight against ignorance, intolerance and bigotry.[1][8] Notably, in her 1967 "The Expression of Femininity in the Male" (under the pseudonym "Virginia Bruce"), Prince discusses the psychiatric links between cross dressing and sexual deviation that were common of the time. Prince firmly rejected these associations, and was also strongly opposed to the notion that true transvestites are psychiatrically disturbed.[9]

In other works, Prince also helped popularize the term 'transgender', and erroneously asserted that she coined transgenderist and transgenderism, words which she meant to be understood as describing people who live as full-time women, but have no intention of having genital surgery.[8] Prince also consistently argued that transvestism is very firmly related to gender, as opposed to sex or sexuality.[8] Her use of the term "femmiphile" related to the belief that the term "transvestite" had been corrupted, intending to underline the distinction between heterosexual crossdressers, who act because of their love of the feminine, and the homosexuals or transsexuals who may cross-dress.[1][10][11] Prince’s idea of a "true transvestite"[5] was clearly distinguished from both the homosexual and the transsexual, claiming that true transvestites are "exclusively heterosexual... The transvestite values his male organs, enjoys using them and does not desire them removed."[5]

By the early 1970s, Prince and her approaches to crossdressing and transvestism were starting to gain criticism from transvestites and transsexuals, as well as sections of the gay and women's movements of the time. Controversy and criticism has arisen based on Prince's support for conventional societal norms such as marriage and the traditional family model, as well as the portrayal of traditional gender stereotypes. Her attempts to exclude the inclusion of transsexuals, homosexuals or fetishists from her normalization efforts of the practice of transvestism have also drawn much criticism.[1]

Prince died in her hometown Los Angeles on May 2, 2009.[6][12]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Richard Elkins and Dave King, ed. (2006). Virginia Prince: Pioneer of Transgendering. Binghamton: Haworth Medical Press Inc. 
  2. ^ "The Life and Times of Virginia", Transvestia #100 (1979)
  3. ^ a b Prince, Virginia. "My Accidental Career." How I Got Into Sex. Eds. B. Bullough, V.L. Bullough, M.A. Fithian, W.E. Hartman and R.S Klein. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1997.
  4. ^ Virginia Prince (1967). The Transvestite and His Wife. Los Angeles: Argyle. 
  5. ^ a b c Prince, C.V. (1957). "Homosexuality, Transvestism and Transsexualism". American Journal of Psychotherapy 11: 80–85. 
  6. ^ a b Hill, Robert. (2011). "'We Share a Sacred Secret:' Gender, Domesticity, and Containment in Transvestia's Histories and Letters from Crossdressers and Their Wives." Journal of Social History 44.3: 667–687.
  7. ^ Prince, Virginia. (1979). "The Life and Times of Virginia." Transvestia, 17.100: 5–120.
  8. ^ a b c Prince, Virginia. "Seventy Years in the Trenches of the Gender Wars." Gender Bending. Eds. V. Bullough, B. Bullough, B. and J. Elias. New York: Prometheus Books, 1997.
  9. ^ Bruce, Virginia. (1967). "The Expression of Femininity in the Male." Journal of Sex Research 3.2: 129–139.
  10. ^ Prince, Virginia (1976). Understanding Cross Dressing. Los Angeles: Chevalier. 
  11. ^ Prince, Virginia. "Sex Vs Gender." Proceedings of the Second Interdisciplinary Symposium on Gender Dysphoria Syndrome. Eds. D.R. Laub and P. Gandy. Stanford: Stanford University Medical Center, 1973.
  12. ^ Matzner, Andrew (7 May 2009). Summers, Claude J., ed. "Prince, Virginia Charles". glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture. Chicago: glbtq, Inc. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Prince died in Los Angeles on May 2, 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bullough, Vern, and Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993: chapter 12.
  • Prince, Virginia. Understanding Cross-Dressing. Los Angeles: Chevalier Publications, 1976.
  • _____. The Transvestite and His Wife. Los Angeles: Argyle Books, 1967.
  • Richard F Docter. From Man to Woman: The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince. Docter Press xiv, 149 pp 2004.
  • Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds). Virginia Prince: Pioneer of Transgendering. Haworth Press Inc., Paperback: 65 pages 2006. Essays about and by Virginia Prince.

External links[edit]