René Goupil (1903 – 1973) transformiste

René Goupil started out as a window-dresser, and then, from 1932, became a minor music-hall performer in Paris.

Late in 1933, he became director of the cabaret Le Fiacre, rue Notre-Dame de Lorette, where he also performed as clown and prankster, and evolved his act as a transformiste (female impersonator), a dame act featuring a character called Odette, and then O’dett.

A year later, he bought the theatre L'Abbaye de Thélème, place Pigalle, and turned it into a cabaret which he called 'La noce (The wedding)'. Goupil’s act mocked celebrities, and featured an old woman taking pratfalls, losing her glasses etc. O’dett became one of France’s best known transformistes. Mistinguett, friend of showbiz transvestites, was also a friend of O’dett.

O'dett and Charpini
Goupil was as out as a gay performer could be in the 1930s. In 1936, he recorded Le Tsoin-tsoin. The song was a play on the name of the town Bouffémont, in the Val d'Oise. The song kept returning to lines ending in the nonsense term tsoin-tsoin: “Il passe ses journées entières à Bouffémont - tsoin-tsoin” “Son seul plaisir dans la vie, c'est Bouffémont-tsoin-tsoin”. (See below.)

O’dett was in the 1937 French film, Cinderella. In 1938, Goupil renamed l’Abbaye de Theleme as 'Chez O’dett '. Edith Piaf performed here after the murder of her manager and mentor, Louis Leplée.

In January 1940, O'dett appeared as the star of a review at ABC, where he mocked Adolf Hitler as crazy. With the German occupation a few months later he prudently withdrew to the Zone libre of southern France, and when the Germans took over that in November 1942 he moved to Monte Carlo even though it was occupied by the Italians.

He returned to Paris after the Liberation, and by 1948 was performing again. In the 1960s he became an antiques dealer.
  • Martin Pénet.  “L'expression homosexuelle dans les chansons françaises de l'entre-deux-guerres : entre dérision et ambiguïté”. Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 4, 53-5, 2006: 106-127. Online.
  • Luc Sante. The Other Paris. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015:134.
FR.Wikipedia      DuTempsdesCerise

Bouffémont is a homonym of ‘bouffé mon’. ‘bouffé’ is to eat extravagantly, perhaps excessively; ‘mon’ is ‘my’; and ‘tsoin tsoin’ is nonsense like ‘dong’.  YouTube

‘Bouffémont-tsoin-tsoin’ thereby becomes ‘ to eat and eat my dong’ - a suggestion of fellatio.

There does not seem to be any connection between ‘bouffé’ and the English restaurant word ‘buffet’ which is actually derived from a French word for side table.

O’dett never became a performer at Madame Arthur which opened in 1945, although he was only 42 at the time. As was the style between the wars, O’dett’s act was more what we would call cod drag or dame drag rather than glamour drag, although probably no more so than that of Floridor or Maslova, the original Madame Arthur stars.  And remember that across the channel, England's most popular female impersonator was Old Mother Riley.   Madame Arthur and then Le Carrousel was altered dramatically in 1951 when Coccinelle arrived. We should remember that Coccinelle was born in 1931: she was 28 years younger than O’dett. A new generation was arriving.

Nicky Kiranant (1983 - ) air hostess

Chaiya was the seventh child in an impoverished farming family in Lampang, Thailand. Chaiya was observed as effeminate and admired the local kathoeys but was warned that parents of kathoeys lose face. Chaiya helped plough the rice fields and looked after the water buffalo.

At age 15 Chaiya had an ID card, and moved to Bangkok. There he initially lived with his sister. He befriended kathoeys, took an evening class and found work in a travel agency, where he worked on a tour bus.

Chaiya took courses at Chandrakasem Rajabhat University, and entered and won the Miss Le Flore ladyboy beauty contest. From university Chaiya was able to get work as a flight attendant with PB Air, even though he had never been on an airplane before. Passengers commented about a female being allowed to wear the male uniform, and one wrote to the airline complimenting them on their open-mindedness. Chaiya was then requested to wear the female uniform.

This went well, and Chaiya started to dress female in her private life as well. She consulted doctors, and, for the first time, took female hormones. She obtained approval from the executive of the airline, and the operation was performed 31 December 2005. Although there were problems with internal bleeding and closure, they were dealt with.

She asked the airline executive for permission to enter the 2006 Miss Tiffany Universe contest held in Pattaya. They not only agreed: they sponsored her. She was featured in the media as a promising candidate, and became known as Nicky. The airline was complimented for its open-mindedness. She phoned her parents, and they came around to acceptance.

Like all other sao oraphet song in Thailand, Nicky still has a male ID card. This has prevented her from obtaining jobs at other airlines after PB Air went out of business in 2009.

Despite her media celebrity, Nicky was initially stealth with her boyfriend.

Nicky has since been employed by PC Air, which has also employed three other kathoey air stewardesses including the 2007 Miss Tiffany Universe winner, Thanyarat Jiraphatpakorn.

Nicky’s account in the Aldous/ Sereemongkonpol Ladyboy anthology does not name PB Air, and neither EN.Wikipedia nor TH.Wikipedia on PB.Air mention their sponsorship of Nicky.

The story of PB Air requesting that Chaiya wear the female uniform is in her own account in the Aldous/ Sereemongkonpol Ladyboy anthology, but is not repeated in the Bangkok Today or the Samui Holiday accounts.

2 photographs from The Other Paris

The Other Paris by Luc Sante, 2015 is a recent book that tells many interesting anecdotes about Paris, but has very little to say about its trans traditions.   Homosexuality is stuck in as the last part of the chapter on prostitution, and trans only passingly within that.

However it does contains two photographs of interest.

Note: the word 'pederast' was used in French without necessarily implying intergenerational relationships.

Transgender Lexicons: Raven Usher

This is the first of a series on lexicons.
  •  Raven Usher. North American Lexicon of Transgender Terms. GLB Publishers 2006.
Raven Usher (1982 – ) is a writer and transgender activist in Boise, Idaho. She was editor of Diversity magazine. She has a wife and three children. She explains: “I put this together during the time I was flexing my activist muscles”.

Why “North American”?

Presumably to avoid getting into European and Asian terminology, although there are entries for “Katoey” (“trans-variant people as the third sex. Originated in Thailand”) and “Ladyboy” (“Very young male to female pre-op TS. Term originated in Thailand”).

But on the other hand terms that reflect North America are missing. There are no Mexican terms such as “Muxhes”, “transformista”, “maricón” or “Los 41”. Likewise there are no terms from Quebec such as “travelo” or “travestie”, nor any from the New York Ball scene such as “realness” or “throwing shade”.

There is only one aboriginal term, the Lakota term “winkte”, but she does not tell us that it is Lakota. There are entries for “two-spirit” and ‘berdache’, but Usher does not seem to know that following the First Nation/American Native convention in Winnipeg in 1990, “two-spirit” replaced ‘berdache’ because it was offensive. She actually claims that ‘berdache’ is “Originally a Native American term”, when it fact it is derived from a Persian word for a boy-prostitute that was imposed by Europeans ignorant of the two-spirit traditions.

Words that have since gone out of fashion

None of the definitions acknowledge that word usages change over time, and this is most apparent in “tranny” which Usher simply defines as: “abbreviation – ‘transgender’ See also: t-gurl”. Of course the term had not yet been demonized in 2006, but should not the definition stress that even more than transgender, “tranny” is a bringing together of transsexual, transvestite and drag. The variant form “transy” is not mentioned at all, and the now fashionable variant “trans” is not said to be a variant of ‘tranny’. In fact ‘trans’ is defined as “abbreviation - A gender variant person”. Is this different, if so, how?

Usher also uses 'transgendered', but then most of us did back in 2006.

Sexual orientation

Usher has an entry for “sexual orientation”: “The sex a person is sexually attracted to. Sexual orientation is not a factor in determining transgenderism.” There are also entries for “heterosexual”, “homosexual”, “bi-sexual”, “straight”,  "gay", “fag”, “asexual”. Some might say that these are not needed if they are not a factor. However most importantly e.g “heterosexual” is defined as “a person who is sexually attracted only to people of the opposite sex”.

But we are dealing with trans persons - which sex is opposite?  An apparent gay man will usually become a heterosexual woman after transition. So is Usher doing as Blanchard and others do (to great annoyance) and defining sexual orientation with respect to birth gender whether it is changed or not. This issue is ignored, and the words “androphilic” and “gynephilic” that many of us use to get around the problem are not in the lexicon at all.

Cis and drag

The various ‘cis’ terms, although they have been around since the 1990s, are not included, and “genetic boy”, “genetic girl” are used despite the objections that have been raised against them. Usher is emphatic that drag queens and drag kings are not transgender, but offers no other term for the many trans women and a few trans men who went though drag performance and later completed a full transition.

Femmophile and fetish

There is an entry for “femmophile”: “A heterosexual male with a strong love of the feminine but may or may not be transgendered. See also: trans-variant”. Is this Virginia Prince’s ‘femmiphilic”? Why the spelling change? Of Prince’s jargon terms only “second self” is in the lexicon, but not ‘male woman’, ‘dual personality’ ‘girl within’, ‘whole girl fetishist”. So why a slight variation on one Princian term?   Or to take a different approach, if the term is not Princian, why are gay transvestites not allowed to be femmophilic.

There is also no mention at all of autogynephila. The closest approach is fetish: “aka ‘sexual fetish’ A person who wears particular pieces of clothing of the a gender other than their own for sexual gratification. Fetishes are not transgendered”.


The only non-binary pronouns given are ze/hir. For some reason Usher refers to ze/hir as "Spivakian" without explaining what that is. I had to look it up: however Spivak’s proposed pronouns are e/eir.  Ze/hir is more associated with Leslie Feinberg.


The final entry in the lexicon is: “50% rule: Statistic that states, '50% of all transsexuals will die by their early thirties. A small number die from violence, disease or other common causes. Most commit suicide.' ” No citation is given for this claim. Even if it were true, it would be necessary to explain that those who commit suicide do so because of transphobia. This entry like this without citation and explanation should not be in a lexicon.

There is an ideology in this lexicon.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it should be admitted in an introductory essay.

The lexicon is available on Kindle for less than $1.

 The Inland Revenue Service Library has acquired a printed copy.  I wonder what they make of it?
Amazon    Blog