Happy 135th Birthday Lucy Hicks Anderson

Lucy Hicks Anderson was born in 1886, which would make her 135 this year. Unfortunately, I am not able to determine the day or month she was born. She is widely believed to the be the first openly transgender person of color. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

NAME: Lucy Hicks Anderson
PLACE OF BIRTH: Waddy, Kentucky
DATE OF DEATH: 1954 (68 years old)
PLACE OF DEATH: Los Angeles, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: Lucy Hicks Anderson was a socialite and chef best known for her time spent in Oxnard, California, from 1920 to 1946. She was assigned male at birth but adamant from an early age that she was a girl, and supportive parents and doctors reaffirmed her in living as one.

Lucy Hicks Anderson was born in Waddy, Kentucky, in 1886. From a very early age Anderson was adamant that she was not male, identifying as female in a time period before the term transgender existed, and naming herself Lucy. Doctors told Lucy’s parents to let her live as a young woman, so they did, and she began wearing dresses to school and being known as Lucy.

At the age of 15, Lucy left school and did domestic work as a means to support herself. At age 20, she headed west to Pecos, Texas, where she worked in a hotel, and then to New Mexico, where she married her first husband, Clarence Hicks, in Silver City, New Mexico in 1920. She later moved to Oxnard, California at the age of 34. A skilled chef, she won some baking contests. Her marriage to Clarence lasted only nine years, but during the course of the union, she saved up enough money to buy property that was a boarding house front for a brothel; it also sold illegal liquor in Prohibition America. Outside of her time as a Madame, she was a well-known socialite and hostess in Oxnard, and would later use her connections to avoid serious jail time. According to scholar C. Riley Snorton, “When the sheriff arrested her one night, her double-barreled reputation paid off—Charles Donlon, the town’s leading banker, promptly bailed her out [because] he had scheduled a huge dinner party which would have collapsed dismally with Lucy in jail.” In 1944, Hicks remarried Rueben Anderson, a soldier stationed in Long Island, New York.

In 1945, a sailor claimed that he caught a venereal disease from one of the women in Anderson’s brothel, so all of the women, including Anderson, were required to undergo medical examination. When the Ventura County district attorney learned from this examination that Anderson had been assigned male at birth, he chose to try her for perjury, arguing that she lied about her sex on her marriage license and impersonated a woman. During the trial, she stated “I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” and “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.” However, the court convicted her of perjury on her marriage license and sentenced her to 10 years of probation. At the time, marriage was only valid between a man and a woman, and she was not deemed a woman, so the marriage was declared invalid. As a result, the federal government charged her with fraud for receiving the financial allotments wives of soldiers got under the GI Bill, and initially also with failing to register for the draft, until she proved she had been too old to register. this trial, she and Reuben were found guilty and sentenced to a men’s prison, where Lucy was forbidden by court order to wear women’s clothes.

After being released from prison, Anderson was barred from returning to Oxnard by the police chief, who threatened further prosecution. She and Reuben relocated to Los Angeles, where they resided quietly until her death in 1954, at 68.

The Handbook of LGBT Elders calls Anderson “one of the earliest documented cases of an African-American transgender person”.

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