Lou Sullivan


Before Lou Sullivan, trans people who experienced same-sex attraction were not spoken of openly. His early articles on the topic of transsexual gay male attraction, “A Transvestite Answers a Feminist,” and “Looking Towards Transvestite Liberation,” are classics, both for their boldness and their then-original claim that gender and sexual orientation are distinct categories. Originally born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Sullivan moved to San Francisco and began volunteering his time and experience with local gay and trans spaces, and pushing them to welcome trans men. He was repeatedly denied access to medical transition because his homosexuality was (as he explains in this video) too far off the beaten paths for the gender clinics to handle.

Sullivan’s activism and community service on behalf of gay trans men helped remove the stigma against them and push for medical treatment outside of the gender clinics system. He completed a biography of a gay trans man in the early days of San Francisco. Just before dying of AIDS-related complications he proclaimed, “I took a certain pleasure in informing the gender clinic that even though their program told me that I could not live like a gay man, it looks like I’m going to die like one.” His biographical papers, including decades’ worth of diaries, are available for viewing at the San Francisco Public Library.

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