There have always been trans and gender variant people throughout history. For a timeline of significant moments and people in this history, please see below.
With thanks to transgenderzone.com for inspiration.
1897 – Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld founds the first gay liberation organization in Germany: the Scientific Humanitarian Committee.
1907 – Magnus Hirschfeld is introduced to Harry Benjamin.
1910 – Magnus Hirschfeld coins the terms ‘transvestite’ and ‘transsexual’.
1919 – Magnus Hirschfeld becomes one of sexology’s founding fathers when he opens the world’s first sexological institute, the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. It becomes the first clinic to serve transgender people on a regular basis.
1920 – Jonathan Gilbert publishes Homosexuality and Its Treatment, the story of ‘H’, Dr. Alan Hart’s 1917 FTM transition.
1930 - Encyclopaedia of Sexual Knowledge by Norman Haire is published. It addresses transvestism in detail and also illustrates the first ‘sex-change’ procedures.
1930 – Lili Elbe undergoes five surgeries, the fifth of which kills her in 1931.
1932 – Magnus Hirschfeld performs the first ‘documented’ Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS) on Dora-R.
1932 - Man Into Woman, the story of Lili Elbe’s life, MTF transition, and SRS is published.
1933 – The Institute for Sexology is raided, shut down, and its records destroyed by the Nazis. Physicians and researchers involved in the clinic flee Germany. Some, unable to escape, commit suicide in the coming years.
1945 – Sir Harold Gillies and his colleague, Ralph Millard, carry out the world’s first change of a woman into a man on the young aristocrat, Michael Dillon. Sir Harold Gillies, internationally renowned as the father of modern plastic surgery, played a pioneering wartime role in Britain developing pedicle flap surgery.
1949 – Harry Benjamin begins to treat transgender individuals in San Francisco with hormones.
1951 – 15th May: Robert Cowell becomes Roberta Cowell, the United Kingdom’s first fully surgically altered MTF transsexual. The surgery is performed by Sir Harold Gillies.
1952 – Christine Jorgensen undergoes SRS in Copenhagen and returns to the US where she is outed by the American press. She causes an international sensation, and for many, she is the first visible transsexual in the media.
1958 – Transsexual pioneers Coccinelle, Bambi and April Ashley are among the first SRS patients of Dr Burou.
1964 – Reed Erickson launches the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), an organisation which helps to support, both through direct financial contributions and through contributions of human and material resources, almost every aspect of work being done in the 1960s and 1970s in the field of transsexualism in the US.
1966 – The Beaumont Society is founded.
1966 – Harry Benjamin publishes The Transsexual Phenomenon.
1966 – August: Compton’s Cafeteria Riots in San Francisco, the first recorded Trans riot in American history. The riot marks a turning point in the local LGBT movement as a network of transgender social, psychological, and medical support services is established.
1968 – The National Transsexual Counseling Unit is created in San Francisco as a result of the Compton’s Cafeteria Riots, the first such peer-run support and advocacy organisation in the world.
1969 – The First Gender Symposia is held. This develops into the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association.
1969 – 27th/28th June: Transgender and gender non-conforming people are among those who resist arrest in a routine bar raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village, thus helping to ignite the modern LGBT rights movement.
1970 – Corbett v. Corbett (otherwise Ashley). April Corbett’s (neé Ashley) marriage is annulled and declared to be legally still a man despite sex reassignment. The judgement by Justice Ormrod sets the precedent that will leave UK post-op transsexual people unable to marry until the 21st Century.
1972 – John Money publishes Man & Woman, Boy & Girl: Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Money cites his famous ‘John/Joan case’, which he claims as being the socialisation of a boy whose penis had been lost in a circumcision accident, to be raised successfully as a girl.
1974 – Jan Morris, one of Britain’s top journalists who covered wars and rebellions around the globe and even climbed Mount Everest, publishes Conundrum, a personal account of her transition. The book is now considered a classic.
1976 – Tennis ace Reneé Richards is outed and barred from competition when she attempts to enter a women’s tennis tournament. Her subsequent legal battle establishes that transsexuals are legally accepted in their new identity after reassignment, in the US.
1979 – A series of programs entitled A Change of Sex are aired by the BBC. For the first time, viewers are able to follow pre-op transsexual Julia Grant through her transition. It also highlights the arrogance at that time of psychiatrists based at the Gender Identity Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London.
1980 – October: MIND Conference is held by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association to promote the newly founded Standards of Care (SOC). The SOC go on to become the foundation for treatment of transsexuals worldwide.
1989 – Celebrated jazz musician Billy Tipton dies in Spokane, Washington. He bleeds to death from an ulcer, rather than seek medical help. He is only discovered to be biologically female after his death by the coroner. Tipton, who played in big bands in the 40s and 50s, had lived for as a man since 1933, marrying several times and raising children.
1990 – The Gender Trust is founded in the UK; the largest UK charity supporting anyone affected by gender identity issues.
1991 – Transvestite comedian Eddie Izzard receives a nomination for the Prestigious Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival.
1991 – FTM activist Jamison ‘James’ Green takes over Lou Sullivan’s FTM newsletter started in 1986 and transforms it into FTM International, Inc., the world’s largest information and networking group for female-to-male transgender people and transsexual men.
1992 – 27th February: Press For Change is founded in a London coffee house.
1993 – Minnesota passes the first law in the US which prohibits discrimination against transgendered people. The Minnesota statute establishes protections for transgendered people under the rubric of sexual orientation.
1993 – Cheryl Chase founded the Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) to build awareness and offer support to intersex people.
1993 – Transgender youth Brandon Teena is raped and murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska by members of his circle of friends, when they discover he was born female. This hate crime brought widespread attention to transgender discrimination and violence and became the subject of the Oscar-winning film,Boys Don’t Cry.
1995 – The First All FTM Conference of the Americas organised by Jamison Green and Jason Cromwell.
1997 – Trans activist Leslie Feinberg publishes Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman, a who’s who of transgender people throughout world history that traces the roots of transgender oppression.
1997 – Milton Diamond and Dr. H. Keith Sigmundson publish a paper that exposes John Money’s claims of success in the ‘John/Joan’ case. ‘John/Joan’ is David Reimer, who is not settling into his reassigned gender as ‘Brenda’ as well as Money believes. Sigmundson is David Reimer’s supervising psychiatrist at that time, and the two describe Reimer’s literal quest to regain his manhood.
1998 – John Colapinto publishes As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl which tells David Reimer’s story in depth.
1998 – 28th November: Rita Hester is murdered at her home in Boston. Discussion about the transphobic violence that caused her death, and that of many others inspires activists (including Gwendolyn Ann Smith, who curates the list) to catalogue and commemorate these deaths in the form of the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The first is held in San Francisco but soon becomes an annual event, commemorated annually on November 20th worldwide.
1998 – Japan allows the first legal SRS to be performed on an FTM.
1999 – Littleton v. Prang (Texas). Christine Littleton, a post-op MTF transsexual loses her negligence case against the doctor who allowed her husband to die. Defence lawyers argue that she was never married to her late husband because her birth certificate, though now amended to read female, originally read male. The legal status of post-op transsexuals in the US is a legal limbo.
1999 – May: The UK Sex Discrimination Act is amended to include protections on the basis of Gender Reassignment.
2002 – Goodwin v. the United Kingdom. The European Court of Human Rights holds unanimously that aspects of English law violate rights under the European Convention of Human Rights because it refuses to give legal recognition to a transsexual person’s reassigned gender.
2002 – Gwen ‘Lida’ Araujo is murdered by several partygoers, who had discovered her male genitalia. The three men who were charged alternately resort to panic strategies during their defence, trying to minimise or legitimise their actions because of their apparent shock at the discovery.
2003 – The Draft [Gender Recognition] Bill is the Government’s response to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and the House of Lords in the case of Goodwin v. the United Kingdom.
2003 – British transvestite potter Grayson Perry scoops the controversial Turner prize, and collects £20,000 at a ceremony at Tate Britain in London, dressed as alter ego Claire.
2004 – David Reimer, the subject of John Money’s ‘Joan/John’ case, commits suicide at the age of 38.
2004 – 10th February: The Gender Recognition Act becomes law, allowing transgender persons to legally change their sex and have it recognized for the purposes of marriage and other issues.
2004 – The Civil Partnership Act (2004) is passed, prior to coming into effect in 2005.
2004 – The International Olympic Committee decides that transsexuals will be able to compete at the Athens Olympics if they have had appropriate surgery and are legally recognized as members of their new sex.
2006 – The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act becomes law in the US. The bill, fueled by the murder of Gwen Araujo and 2004 murder of Joel Robles (in which the defendant plea-bargained his way down to a 4-month sentence), prevents defendants from using panic strategies and potential biases against the victim to minimise their actions.
2006 – The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association changes its name to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH). The omission of the term ‘Social Care’ from the title angers many non-medical support workers worldwide.
2007 – Spain passes the most progressive law regarding gender identity in the world. It allows for the change of documented identity just by requiring medical treatment for two years, and a medical or psychological certificate which proves a diagnosis of gender dysphoria; it does not require SRS.