Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Black Trans History: Lucy Hicks Anderson

One of TransGriot's ongoing missions is to search out, find and post nuggets of our African American trans history.  I discovered this one courtesy of Black Past.org and  BlackAmericaWeb

While living in Kentucky I'd heard multiple stories about James 'Sweet Evening Breeze' Herndon from Dawn since she was from Lexington where 'Sweet Evening Breeze' is a legendary presence in the TBLG community there.  But they may also need to start talking about Lucy Hicks Anderson, who was born in Waddy, KY  where we used to get gas on our I-64 runs between Louisville and Lexington.

Lucy Hicks Anderson was born in 1886 in Waddy as Tobias Lawson.   When Lawson entered school she insisted on wearing dresses to school and began calling herself Lucy.  Since the transgender definition hadn't been coined at that time to diagnose what was going on in her life, her mother took her to a physician who advised her to raise young Lucy as a girl.

Lucy left school at age fifteen to begin doing domestic work and left Kentucky in her twenties to move west.   She settled in Pecos, TX and began working at a hotel for a decade until she married Clarence Hicks in 1920 in Silver City, NM and moved west with him to Oxnard, California.  She divorced him in 1929.   

While in Oxnard she continued to do domestic work but was also saving her money she earned from that job.  She eventually purchased some property near the center of town and later operated a brothel.   She also got married again in 1944 to Reuben Anderson, a soldier who was stationed at Long Island's Mitchel Field.  

It was the second marriage that brought the legal trouble into her life.   When it was discovered that Lucy had been born biologically male, the Ventura County district attorney decided to prosecute her for perjury. He asserted that Anderson committed perjury when she signed the marraige license application and swore that there were 'no legal objections' to the marriage.

Of course Lucy had a dissenting opinion. "I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman,” Anderson told reporters in the midst of her perjury trial. “I have lived, dressed, acted just what I am, a woman.”   The jury convicted her of the perjury charge, but the judge sentenced her to ten years probation rather than send her to prison. 

However, Lucy's legal troubles weren't over.  Since she'd received allotment checks as the wife of a US Army soldier, the feds prosecuted her and Reuben Anderson for fraud in 1946.  They were both found guilty and sent to prison . 

After serving her time, she tried to return to her life in Oxnard but  the police commissioner threatened her with prosecution if she returned, so she moved to Los Angeles where lived out the remainder of her life until she passed away in 1954.

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