The Ubiquity of the Prince Fountainhead Narrative

This is a simple review of printed materials incorrectly asserting that Virginia Prince coined the term transgender and/or transgenderist. Each of these many sources got it completely wrong, propagating a false story about how the trans community takes on new identity terms to thousands upon thousands of readers.

This is the first of a 2-part series reviewing the ubiquity of this myth as it relates to trans discourse.

Part 1: The Ubiquity of the Prince Fountainhead Narrative

Part 2: Colonization, Enslavement and Forced Assimilation: Narratives Built Upon the Virginia Prince Fountainhead Myth


  • Transgender Nation by Gordene Olga MacKenzie, 1994, Page 2:
    “Another term I use throughout the book is transgenderist, coined by pioneer gender researcher and transgenderist Virginia Prince. I chose this term because it was self-generated, rather than medically applied.”
  • Mirror, Tri-Ess, 1995, page 32:
    “However most of the remaining 9% of the group are living full trine as a woman and some are calling themselves “transgenderists,” a term coined by Virginia Prince.”
  • The tartan skirt: magazine of the Scottish TV/TS Group, 1995 Issue 15, Page 41:
    “This is not a question of the term ‘transgenderist’, which was coined by my dear friend and associate editor Virginia Prince to designate someone who lives full-time in a gender identity opposite to the one usually associated with their physical sex”
  • Transgender warriors: making history from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman, 1996, Page x:
    “The term transgenderist was first introduced into the English language by trans warrior Virginia Prince. Virginia told me, ‘I coined the noun transgenderist in 1987 or ’88.'”
  • The man in the red velvet dress: inside the world of cross dressing, 1996, Page 7
    “Transgenderist, a term coined by Virginia Prince, the founder of the modern CD movement, is currently in vogue to describe CDs. Transgenderism, with its emphasis on the distinction between sex and gender, is discussed in chapters 4 and 5.”
  • Personal stories of “How I got into sex”, 1997, Page 77
    “To the consternation of Virginia Prince, who had coined the word “transgenderist” to refer to people like herself, who lived across genders without genital surgery, “transgender” soon came into use as a global term for the entire community…”
  • Gender blending, 1997, Page 469
    “That means that one way or another I [Prince] have been involved in what has come to be called the “transgender” community for about seventy years. As a matter of fact, I coined the words ‘transgenderism’ and ‘transgenderist’ as nouns describing people like myself who have breasts and live full time as a woman…”
  • Feminist collections: a quarterly of women’s studies resources, 1997, Volume 19, Page 20:
    “Virginia Prince… also the person who coined the word “transgenderist.”
  • Human sexuality: diversity in contemporary America, 1999, Page 142
    “The term “transgenderist” was first coined by Virginia Prince, the founding mother of the U.S. contemporary cross-dressing community…”
  • Toward acceptance: sexual orientation issues on campus, 200, Page 263:
    Originally the term transgenderist was meant to refer to a person who lives full time as the other gender, but who has not made any anatomical changes. Virginia Prince, a pioneer gender researcher, coined the term to refer to people like herself (Feinberg, 1996; MacKenzie, 1994). While many still use the word with Prince’s intent, the community at large now views the term transgendered more generally, meaning an individual who bends or blends gender.”
  • Out, V10, N5, 2001, page 78:
    “But a series of changes led to the regrouping and reuniting of those identity refugees under the new label transgendered. The word itself was coined early on by Virginia Prince, a heterosexually married cross-dresser.”
  • Unseen genders: beyond the binaries, 2001, Page 52
    “Originally coined in the U.S.A. by Virginia Prince, a pioneer in alternative gender ideology, transgender as a gender category, identity, and repertoire of behaviors…”
  • Transactions, 2003, Page 56:
    “The term Transgender is said to have been coined by Virginia Prince in the late 80s to denote those transvestites who, like herself, live full time as members of the opposite sex, sometimes taking hormones but not desiring SRS.”
  • Social problems in a diverse society, 2004, Page 77
    “As anthropologists Evan B. Towle and Lynn M. Morgan (2002:490) point out, The term transgender was originally coined by Virginia Prince in a 1970s conference presentation titled “The Transsexual and His Wife” (MacDonald, 1998/2000).”
  • Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History , 2004, Volume 2-4, Page 422:
    “… transgender activist, author. Virginia Prince, a male who has lived socially as a woman since 1968, coined the term “transgender” in the 1980s.”
  • News and sexuality: media portraits of diversity, 2006, Page 116
    Further confusion arose in the 1980s when Virginia Prince, a transvestite in Los Angeles, coined a new term — “transgendered.”
  • Special populations in college counseling, 2006, Page 60:
    Transgenderist: Coined by Virginia Prince, this category refers to an individual who disidentifies with his or her assigned birth sex and lives full-time in congruence with his or her gender identity.
  • Sex, gender, and sexuality: the new basics : an anthology, 2008, Page 528:
    “Transgender” is a relatively new word. It was originally coined by Virginia Prince in the early 1970s to refer to people who lived full-time in a gender that was not the one that usually went with their genirals (Prince, personal communication). In the 1990s, the word was taken up by a variety of people who, in their own ways, transgressed usual sex and gender expectations.
  • Encyclopedia of gender and society, 2009, Volume 2, Page 849:
    In addition, the dominant meaning associated with the term transgender changed. Originally coined in the 1970s by full-time heterosexual cross-dresser Virginia Prince, transgerderist had originally meant someone who took on the social role of the “opposite” gender without any surgical or other bodily intervention…
  • Local violence, global media: feminist analyses of gendered representations, 2009, Page 101:
    Transgender is a term derived from the term “transgenderist,” coined by Virginia Prince to refer to a person cross-living full time with no plan to have sex reassignment surgery (SRS). In the 1990s it was used as an umbrella term…
  • When the opposite sex isn’t, 2009, Page 64
    As explained in one of Docter’s later works, some of these individuals have called themselves transgenderists, a term coined by Virginia Prince, a community pioneer in modern transgender history (Docter, 2004).
  • Transgender Health And HIV Prevention, 2005, Page 55
    Since Virginia Prince coined the term transgender in the mid-1970s to define people like herself who cross-lived full time, but who did not want a surgical sex change (Green & Brinkin, 1994), language that represents the diversity of gender…
  • Virginia Prince: pioneer of transgendering, 2006, Page 9
    She also claims to have “coined the words ‘transgenderism’ and ‘transgenderist’ as nouns describing people like myself who have breasts and live full time as a woman…”
  • Transgender voices: beyond women and men, 2008, Page 16:
    Virginia Prince coined the term in the late 1980s to describe individuals like her — male-bodied individuals who live full-time as female without undergoing any surgery.
  • Serving LGBTIQ Library and Archives Users, 2011, Page 217
    Transgender traces its roots back to 1969 when Virginia Prince coined the word trans- genderal (in opposition to transsexual) to describe herself as someone changing her gender rather than her sex (Ekins & King, 2005).
  • Queer in Europe: Contemporary Case Studies, 2011, Page 71
    The term transgender is often used. It was coined by the American Virginia Prince, who in the 1970s chose it as a self-definition for all those who were unable or unwilling to live in the sex assigned to them at birth. About ten years ago, whole swathes of the Berlin trans* scene gratefully adopted the term.

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