In England during the early 1700's, transgender women or Crossdressers who wished to marry their male lovers would have to do so in places called "Molly Houses."
Marriage ceremonies between a “Mollie” (the term for transgender women & Crossdressers) and their male lover were enacted to symbolize their partnership and commitment, much like any other "legal" marriage.
The most famous “Molly House” was called “Mother Clap's”, open for two years from 1724-1726 in the Holborn area of London. On May 9th, 1726, three men (Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright) were hanged at Tyburn for buggery (brittish term for sodomy) following a raid of “Mother Clap's”.
In 1932, Female to Male Transsexual, Colonel Sir Victor Barker (originally born Valerie Barker in 1895) Marries Elfrida Haward.
Barker always wished to have been born a boy, and in 1923 Valerie left her common-law husband and family. With a full set of new suits, shirts, collars and ties, Barker moved into the Grand Hotel in Brighton as Sir Victor Barker Bart, where he was joined the next day by his fiancee Elfrida Haward.
Always living above his means, Sir Victor was indicted for bankruptcy, and discovered to be a woman while being imprisoned. Barker was found guilty of "knowingly and willfully causing a false statement to be entered into a register of marriage."
After this, Barker was forced into lower and less well paid jobs. Changing his name, he took more and more menial work. In 1934 Colonel Sir Victor Barker served a sentence for petty theft while living as John Hill.
Three times in his life he sold his story to the popular press for money, and even appeared as a circus attraction as The Man-Woman.
Christine Jorgensen (born in 1926 as George William Jorgensen, Jr.) was denied a marriage license in 1959 when she attempted to marry a man, even though she underwent Sex Reassignment Surgery seven years earlier. Jorgensen's fiancee lost his job once his engagement to her became public knowledge.
In September of 1963, transsexual model, April Ashley, married aristocrat Arthur Corbett. after Corbett filed for divorce in 1969, Lord Justice Ormrod (who was himself a medical man) created a medical test and definition to determine the legal status of April Ashley and, by extension, all transsexual people. As a result, Lord Justice Ormrod annulled the marriage, declaring Ashley legally still a man, despite having sex reassignment surgery.
The case set a precedent that would leave United Kingdom post-op transsexual’s unable to marry until the passage of the Gender Recognition Act of 2004.
The Corvett vs. Corbett case and decision would eventually be used in America against Christie Lee Littleton, J'Noel Gardiner, and Nikki Araguz, as well as Ms. W. in Hong Kong as a weapon against trans marriages.
In 1976, the first case in the United States that found post-operative transsexuals could marry in their post-operative sex was decided. In the New Jersey case M.T. v. J.T., the court expressly considered the English Corbett v. Corbett decision that disallowed such a marriage, but rejected its reasoning.
A 1997 trial court in Orange County, Calif.ornia affirmed the validity of a marriage involving a transgender man. The case arose when the wife sought to invalidate the marriage in order to deprive her husband of his parental rights vis-a-vis the couple's child, who was born through alternative insemination. The trial court rejected the wife's argument that the transgender husband should be considered legally female and refused to nullify the marriage. The court held that California law recognizes the post-operative sex of a transsexual person for all legal purposes, including marriage. Notably, however, if the court had ruled differently, or if the transgender spouse had not undergone extensive and expensive sex reassignments surgeries prior to the marriage, it is likely that he would have lost any right to maintain a relationship with his child.
In the 1999 case Littleton v. Prange, Christie Lee Littleton, a post-operative female transsexual, argued to the Texas 4th Court of Appeals that her marriage to her deceased male husband was legally binding and she was entitled to his estate.
The court decided that Littleton's gender corresponded to her chromosomes, which were XY (male).
The court subsequently invalidated her revision to her birth certificate, as well as her Kentucky marriage license, ruling "We hold, as a matter of law, that Christie Littleton is a male. As a male, Christie cannot be married to another male. Her marriage to Jonathon was invalid, and she cannot bring a cause of action as his surviving spouse." Littleton appealed to the Supreme Court but it denied her writ of certiorari on October 2, 2000.
In a 2001 case regarding the Estate of Gardiner, the Kansas Appellate Court applied a different standard to the marriage of transgender woman J'Noel Gardiner, concluding that " A trial court must consider and decide whether an individual was male or female at the time the individual's marriage license was issued and the individual was married, not simply what the individual's chromosomes were or were not at the moment of birth.
The court may use chromosome makeup as one factor, but not the exclusive factor, in arriving at a decision. Aside from chromosomes, we adopt the criteria set forth by Professor Greenberg. On remand, the trial court is directed to consider factors in addition to chromosome makeup, including: gonadal sex, internal morphologic sex, external morphologic sex, hormonal sex, phenotypic sex, assigned sex and gender of rearing, and sexual identity". Gardiner ultimately lost her case in the Kansas Supreme Court, which declared her marriage invalid.
A transgender man by the name of Michael Kantaras (born March 26th, 1959 in Youngstown, Ohio) made national news in 2002 when he won primary custody of his children upon his divorce from his wife.
In the late 1980s, Kantaras underwent hormone treatments and two surgeries at the Rosenberg Clinic in Texas to remove breasts, ovaries, and the uterus, but retained external female genitalia.
Kantaras married Linda Forsythe in a civil ceremony on July 18th, 1989. Kantaras adopted Forsythe's child from a prior relationship, and Forsythe gave birth to a second child through artificial insemination in 1992.
Kantaras met another woman and filed for divorce in 1998, requesting primary custody of the children. Though he won that case in 2002, it was reversed on appeal in 2004 by the Florida Supreme Court, upholding Forsythe's claim that the marriage was null and void because her ex-husband was still a woman and same-sex marriages are illegal in Florida. The couple settled the case with joint custody in 2005.
The United Kingdom Sex Discrimination Act was amended in 2002 to include protections on the basis of Gender Reassignment. In a judgment delivered at Strasbourg on July 11th in the case of Christine Goodwin v. the United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and Article 12 (right to marry and to found a family) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court held, unanimously, that the finding of violation constituted in itself sufficient just satisfaction for the non-pecuniary damage sustained by the applicant and awarded the applicant 39,000 euros for costs and expenses. This led the way for the later Gender Recognition Act to become UK law.
The 2005 case regrading In re Jose Mauricio Lovo-Lara, considered marriage under federal law, as it pertains to immigration. The Board of Immigration Appeals (a federal body under the US Department of Justice) ruled that for purposes of an immigration visa: "A marriage between a postoperative transsexual and a person of the opposite sex may be the basis for benefits under ..., where the State in which the marriage occurred recognizes the change in sex of the postoperative transsexual and considers the marriage a valid heterosexual marriage."
A 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey of nearly 6,000 respondents revealed that about 38% of Transgender men & women were parents, and at least 18% had at least one dependent child.
- National Center for Transgender Equality.
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