Items from an important archive of materials on transgender issues will be presented for the first time at the Royal Society of Medicine in June to accompany an event focusing on LGBTQ+ health.
The transgender archive of the late Dr Georgina Somerset is a collection of articles, reprints and books on transgender and related sexual health issues kindly donated to the Royal Society of Medicine’s Library as a bequest in 2014.
Georgina Somerset was the first openly intersexual person in the UK and became the first women to legally marry in church after officially changing sex.
Born George in 1923, she lived for 34 years as a man, having been incorrectly registered as a boy at birth. She served in the Royal Navy towards the end of the Second World War and practised as a dentist after studying at King’s College Hospital in London, qualifying in 1944.
Her memories were always of wanting to be a girl and she sought medical and legal acceptance as a woman, finally winning the right to change her birth certificate in 1960. She then married Christopher Somerset in 1962.
Dr Somerset went on to write Over the Sex Border (1963), one of the very first studies of transsexual identity in society, pre-dating Harry Benjamin’s ground-breaking report, The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966). She continued to highlight transgender identity in a sceptical society, appearing briefly on BBC’s Horizon programme on ‘Sex Change’ in 1966 and embarked on libel proceedings in 1969 following publication of an article claiming she was homosexual. She also wrote on gender identity issues in response to medical articles in the British Medical Journal and the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. A memoir, A Girl Called Georgina, followed in 1992.
Paul Banks, Head of Library and Knowledge Services at the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “The Somerset Archive is a fascinating resource of its time and draws together disparate material and memorabilia including cuttings from the popular press and medical journals, that would otherwise prove difficult to find. The collection will doubtless become an important resource for those studying the history of transgender identity in the UK.”
The first public display of items from the Somerset Archive will be presented by the RSM Library during June. More information will be published on the RSM website in due course. For research enquiries or to make an appointment to view archive material, please contact the RSM Library on 020 7290 2940/2941 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.