William Lee Tipton

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American jazz and swing musician William Lee “Billy” Tipton toured for decades with various bands (including his own, the Billy Tipton Trio) before settling down in Spokane, Washington, to work for a talent agency and play a steady stream of local gigs. Although he was never a big name in music circles, he recorded two respectable albums and made a successful career out of playing the piano and saxophone, all while prioritizing a healthy family life. Greater recognition came after his death when a paramedic team revealed that he had been assigned female at birth and the news hit the headlines, prompting country-wide amateur speculation on the alleged tragedy of a woman forced to live as a man in order to survive in the music industry (or how Tipton might have been crossdressing for the thrill of it). Given Tipton’s lifelong insistence at presenting as male, the interpretation that he was a happy and successful trans man appears more likely.

 

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