When we talk about trans people and romantic relationships, we usually focus on cisgender partners. We celebrate those partners that accept trans people, that embrace our transitions, that examine themselves and their own genders and desires and co-create strong relationships with us. There’s a long history of transgender and gender non-normative people seeking out those narratives; Virginia Prince, for example, restricted membership in her organization Tri-Ess to what she called heterosexual transvestites, and highlighted stories of understanding wives in her publications. However, there’s another history of transgender people seeking love, romance, sex, and pleasure with other transgender people.
In the 1970s, transgender women, femmes, transvestites, female impersonators, queens and others published a wide range of magazines aimed at their own communities. Many of those magazines contained personal ads. In these ads, trans people sought out connections of all sorts, often with each other. Here are a few ads published in Drag Magazine in 1976. In them we can see glimpses into a web of intimate connections, desires, affections and pleasures.
From New York:
Lonely, lovable little sisters looking for brothers and sisters to love.
NYC SEXY Queen Box 9628. Effeminate, petite, genuine hair, shapely legs, pretty feet. Expertise of foreign culture, b/d, lesbianism. Travel 250 miles south. Tvs [transvestite] and generous people welcome. Photo, phone and SASE assure reply. Color prints available, six for $5.
Fairly passable tv desires to meet same for dressing. Photo meetings, Manhattan, understanding wife approves, but discretion a must. Can be passive or dominating in male role. DOLORES.
TV would like to meet other tvs and females for dress up session and picture taking. Need help in dressing and make-up. Can travel some. JUNE
Hi! My name is Darlene and I live in the Chicago area. I’m an underground movie star and would enjoy exchanging X-Rated photos with others who have good ones that they have taken
From Waukegan, Illinois:
Single tv, age 26 would like to meet other tvs and real girls who will teach me the fine points of dressing.
Seek contact and meetings with tvs in or around Sacramento. Letters with photos will be answered very quickly. It is lonely here. JOAN.
Transvestite (see photo) wishes to hear from tvs. Am lonely and presently incarcerated in the California prison system. Please write
These letters, usually accompanied by photographs, show hope, vulnerability, and desire, as well as internalized oppression, compromise and survival strategies. Through ads in magazines and photographs sent through the mail, trans people sent out messages in bottles, hoping for replies. Often, they found them.
As we trans people today find these messages washing up in archives, they provide evidence that we have long loved each other, in many different ways. These personal ads provide an opportunity to reflect on the roles of love, intimacy and pleasure in our own lives today.