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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Did you know who Dorothy Lucille Tipton was?

Did you know that Dorothy Lucille Tipton, was an American jazz musician and bandleader who lived as a man for nearly fifty years know to the world as Billy Tipton ?

[1] (December 29, 1914 – January 21, 1989)

Billy Tipton was born in 1914. He began living as a man full-time by 1940 at age 26, had a career as a jazz and swing pianist and entertainer, a common law marriage (unregistered but publicly accepted), and three sons by adoption. He was discovered to have been female-bodied after he died in 1989 due to a hemorrhaging ulcer (that he refused to have treated). Like many Female-to-Male transsexuals of this day he did not have genital surgery.

The Strange Story and Remarkable Life of Billy Tipton--Repor
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Early in her career, Tipton cross-dressed only professionally, continuing to present as a woman otherwise. She spent those early years living with a woman named Non Earl Harrell, in a relationship which other musicians thought of as lesbian. The relationship ended in 1942.[3][4] Tipton's next relationship, with a singer known only as "June", lasted for several years.[4]
For seven years, Tipton lived with Betty Cox, who was 19 when they became involved. According to Cox, they had a heterosexual relationship. Betty remembered him as "the most fantastic love of my life."[5] Tipton kept the secret of his extrinsic sexual characteristics from Betty by inventing a story that he had been in a serious car accident which had badly damaged his genitals and broken some ribs, and that to protect the damaged chest he had to bind it. From then on, this was what he would tell the women in his life.
After Cox ended their relationship, Tipton quickly became involved with Maryann Catanach, a prostitute. According to Maryann, theirs was a normal sexual relationship, and she did not know that Tipton had female genitals, since he dressed in private, had sex only in the dark, and preferred to touch, not to be touched.[4]
In 1960, Tipton ended this relationship to settle down with nightclub dancer and stripper Kitty Kelly (later known as Kitty Oakes), who was known professionally as "The Irish Venus." Tipton was never legally married, but several women had drivers' licenses identifying them as Mrs. Tipton. Kitty said that they never had sex but had an otherwise normal life. They were involved with their local PTA and with the Boy Scouts. They adopted three sons, John, Scott, and William. After Tipton's death, Kitty gave several interviews about him and their relationship. In early interviews, she said, “He gave up everything... There were certain rules and regulations in those days if you were going to be a musician,” in reference to breaking into the 1920-30s music industry as a woman, and, “No one knew. It was the best-guarded secret since Houdini.”[6] But in later interviews she denied having known that Tipton was a trans man, a denial that sons John and Scott did not believe. William described Tipton as a good father who loved to go on Scout camping trips.[1]
Their adopted sons became difficult to manage during their adolescence. Because of the couple's ongoing arguments over how they should raise the boys, Tipton left Kitty in the late 1970s, moved into a mobile home with their sons, and resumed his old relationship with Maryann. He remained there, living in poverty, until his death a year later.[4]

Death and aftermath

In 1989, at the age of 74, Tipton had symptoms he attributed to emphysema and refused to call a doctor. Actually he was suffering from a hemorrhaging peptic ulcer, which, untreated, was fatal. It was while paramedics were trying to save Tipton's life, with son William looking on, that William learned that his father was biologically female. Tipton was pronounced dead at Valley General Hospital. The coroner shared the revelation with the rest of the family. In an attempt to keep the secret, Kitty arranged for his body to be cremated; however one of their sons went public with the story. The first newspaper article was published the day after Tipton's funeral and it was quickly picked up by wire services. Stories about Tipton appeared in a variety of papers including tabloids like National Enquirer and Star, as well as more reputable papers like New York Magazine and The Seattle Times. Tipton's family even made talk show appearances.[7]
Two wills were left by Tipton; one handwritten and not notarized which left everything to William Jr. and the second, notarized, leaving everything to Jon Clark.[8] A court upheld the first will, and William inherited almost everything, with John and Scott receiving one dollar each.[9] In a later ruling, the three sons were awarded equal shares of Tipton's estate.[10]

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