10. Mark Weston
Who’d like a happy Secret History today?
Mark Weston was assigned female at birth, and lived as a woman until he was twenty-three. During that time, he competed for Britain as a shot-putter in various international competitions, including the 1928 Olympics. It’s unclear whether he or not he had a physical intersex condition — in some of the interviews linked below, he discusses feeling that his body was not that of a ‘normal woman’, but it’s difficult to tell exactly what he’s referring to. In 1936, he transitioned and had reassignment surgery at Charing Cross Hospital. Later that year, he married Alberta Bray, pictured with Weston above.
What’s particularly striking about the media coverage of Weston’s transition that I’ve turned up so far is that — aside from the odd somewhat faily headline about ‘the girl who became a man’ — it is surprisingly respectful and non-dehumanising, and tends to be better about things like respecting Weston’s pronouns than many modern-day magazines and newspapers can be. Here’s an example — in some ways, it’s hard to believe this was written in 1937:
Today, Mary Weston, now known as Mark Weston, is a young man legally and is happily married to a normal young woman. Dr. L. R. Broster, a London surgeon, certifies: “that Mark Weston, who has always been brought up as a female, is a male and should continue to live as such.”
Here’s another, from 1936:
Although he lived 23 years s a girl and captured athletic championships in competition with women, Mark Weston - England’s girl who became a man - has lost virtually all of his feminine characteristics and mannerisms and is thoroughly happy to live as a man with his wife, the former Alberta Bray.
Of course, some aspects of the articles definitely aren’t where we’d like media coverage of trans* people to be in 2012… but the level of acceptance shown, and the stress that the articles place on Weston’s likability and ‘normality’, were still a happy surprise to me when researching this post.
I think Weston is a fantastic figure to look back on today, both in terms of early twentieth-century trans* history and as an illustration of the fact that the media world wasn’t always hostile to trans* people. I haven’t yet turned up any information about the rest of Weston’s life after 1937 — this isn’t surprising, as he seems in the articles I’ve read to have a strong desire for privacy after the initial media interest (see below). However, if anyone has any further links or information about him, please let do me know.
In Weston’s own words:
After living 23 years as a female… then some years in a sort of twilight zone where I doubted my own sex, I am now able, after my operations last April and May, to live as a man. I am recognised by the medical [profession] and by law as a man and am now married. I suppose it would be interesting to students of mentality if I attempted to set down my various states of mind during the different phases of my existence, but I don’t want to do it. I want to get away from publicity and be allowed to live my own life with my wife.
Unless I hear otherwise, I’m going to assume that that was exactly what he did.
Google News archive: Article about Weston from the Times Daily, August 20 1936: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1842&dat=19360820&id=LQosAAAAIBAJ&sjid=E7oEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1225,1468831
Google News archive: The Reading Eagle, May 28 1936 http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=FOUxAAAAIBAJ&sjid=zuIFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4530%2C6010974
Magazine article on Weston from Physical Culture magazine, 1937: http://blog.modernmechanix.com/can-sex-in-humans-be-changed/
Brief profile at ‘A Gender Variance Who’s Who’: http://zagria.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/mark-weston-1906-shot-putter-and.html
Academic article on the history of ‘gender testing’ in sport: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3007680/