|By Christer Strömholm|
Transgender Women On The Streets Of Paris In The 1950s And 1960sI remember reading an article in Newsweek or Time about Casablanca, that was the only place back them did Gender Confirming Surgery.
"These are images of people whose lives I shared and whom I think I understood" - Christer Strömholm
By Karen Strike
June 1, 2015
In the 1950s and early 1960s Swedish photographer Christer Strömholm took these gorgeous photographs of transgender women in Paris. The women were pictured on the streets around Place Blanche and Pigalle where Strömholm was living.
Strömholm compiled the pictures in his 1983 book Les Amies de Place Blanche. He wrote:
“This is a book about the quest for self-identity, about the right to live, about the right to own and control one’s body. …These are images of people whose lives I shared and whom I think I understood.”
These beautiful ladies dreamt of travelling to Casablanca to undergo surgery. The outcome of a transformation started a long time ago. These women were biologically born as men. They lived here, in the place Blanche neighbourhood. They worked in cabarets, sang, did stripteases. They were outspoken and they answered back immediately to the public, it was a typical Parisian tradition. A cocky and saucy sense of humour.
They earned 60 French francs a day, enough to pay for the food and the hotel room but not enough to afford the 40,000 francs surgery. The streets were their only solution. Some of them had loyal customers, others stood in the same place on the street. Here, prostitution was part of the neighbourhood life. A way to survive.
Gina, she had surgery at the Clinique du Parc in Casablanca. She came back to place Blanche with a new identity. She bought herself a small white sports car and an apartment. A few years later, she died of cancer
Six transsexuals lived on my floor. Each of us rented a room for the month. Some had gas, which allowed us to cook a little. We remained quiet, in our respective homes. We had turned the day into night. It was in these moments that Cobra and others broke taboos by wearing skirts.Every once in awhile there would be an article in a magazine about trans people back in the 60s and 70s that I would go out and buy. I remember going out to buy a copy of Playboy that had an article about Caroline "Tula" Cossey (I still have that issue) and then going out to buy her book. Cosmopolitan has an article about the article in Playboy…
In the early 1980s, Caroline "Tula" Cossey was living the dream of every aspiring model. She was cast to play a Bond girl in the film For Your Eyes Only alongside Roger Moore. To accompany the film's release, she appeared in a spread for Playboy, featuring her and other Bond girls from the film.
Then, just as the Bond movie came out, a tabloid called News of the World outed Cossey against her will in a headline that read "James Bond Girl Was a Boy." The tabloid's headline sparked a media firestorm and Cossey was thrust into the spotlight as a trailblazer. She instantly became a role model for trans women. Since then, Cossey carried on with her acting and modeling, making it into the pages of Playboy once again in 1991 as well as penning two autobiographies.