straight dope on Billy Tipton

I can’t find the original thread on Billy Tipton, asking about her refusal to see a doctor and other issues. In fact, Billy visited my sister in Berkeley in the late 1980s and said that she was not feeling well. My sister urged her to see a doctor, particularly in San Francisco, emphasizing that there were many doctors in The City who would treat her with respect and certainly keep her secrets. Billy still refused. Sometime after that, my parents visited me in SF and my sister in Berkeley and then drove on up to Spokane to visit Billy (my mother is Billy’s first cousin Madeline, who’s last name is NOT Byrd). I believe that they also urged Billy to see a doctor. All of this was noted to Diane Middlebrook and reported in ‘Suits Me.’

I think you are talking about this Cecil column:

An amazing story. Here are some pictures of Tipton over the years:

Thanks for the pictures. I had wondered how convincing she appeared.

May I suggest that “he” is the advisable pronoun to use. Tipton was clearly identifying as male.

Hmmm. This might soon stray into GD territory, but I’d call her female. She was biologically a woman, regardless of what she called herself. Are we required to sustain the long deception of a now-dead person?

Elendil’s heir, it’s the commonly accepted and respectful way to refer to any transgendered individual - by the pronoun of their self-identified gender. Billy’s not here to tell us, but if I had to guess, I’d say that pronoun was HE!

Though his cousins (the OPs mother) always refer to Billy in the book as ‘she’ in interviews - I think things like gender identity become ingrained in the people who knew the person before and pronoun switching is probably the hardest thing to wrap around, even in a supportive person - which Madelyn Byrd definately seemed to be. So I think the OP can use whatever pronoun he/she grew up with - Billy didn’t seem to care what Madelyn called him.

Those of us that aren’t the OP, Billy Tipton was a he.


There’s a new documentary on Tipton:

Thanks for the info, @Elendil_s_Heir – I’ll have to keep an eye out for that.

A friend of mine played Tipton in an episode of E!'s “Mysteries & Scandals” back in the late '90s.