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Meet the first black transgender person to fight for her rights and marriage in court in 1945

February 20, 2019 at 06:00 am | History

Mildred Europa Taylor

Mildred Europa Taylor | Staff Writer

February 20, 2019 at 06:00 am | History

Lucy Hicks Anderson (born Tobias Lawson) lived life as a woman for 25 years before the truth was later discovered. Pic credit: Year of Women In History

During prohibition-era America, when there was a ban on alcoholic beverages, trans rights were not available. Indeed, the word transgender did not exist and such a way of life was not approved.

Yet, for 25 years, that is, from 1920 to 1945, Lucy Hicks Anderson (born Tobias Lawson) would live life as a woman before the truth was later discovered.

Even though she never called herself a transgendered woman, she insisted that a person could be of one sex and belong to the other.

Noted as one of the earliest fighters for marriage equity in the United States, Lucy was put on trial for marrying a woman and wearing women’s clothes. This made her the first transgendered Black person legally tried and convicted for impersonating a woman.

Her decision to fight for her marriage and rights is, however, bearing fruit today.

Born in 1886 in Waddy, Kentucky, Lucy, at an early age, had identified as a girl. She told her mother that she was not a boy; she demanded to be called Lucy instead of Tobias and wanted to wear a dress to school.

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Lucy Hicks Anderson

Shocked, Lucy’s mother took her to a local doctor, who advised that she should be raised and accepted as a girl. At the age of 15, Lucy left school and moved to Pecos, Texas, where she began work at a hotel doing domestic chores.

She later married Clarence Hicks in Silver City, New Mexico, and the two moved to Oxnard, California. Her life story evolved from Oxnard, a farm community that was known for lots of parties and gambling.

Lucy blended in so well and worked as a cook with one of the influential families in the community. She became popular for her tasty dishes and even won prizes for them. Meanwhile, Lucy was also saving money to buy a property to start a brothel.

People who loved her cuisine invited her over to prepare meals for their parties and help with any other responsibility for special occasions. It is said that rich white women were mostly her clients, especially with regards to her recipes.

Such was her fame that even when she was arrested for selling alcohol in the years of prohibition, she was quickly bailed by a prominent banker in the town, who needed her services for a dinner party.

Meanwhile, her brothel was not doing badly at all. Lucy was described as the main attraction – usually dressed in “bright, low-cut silk garments that showed off her collarbones, and wearing dramatic high-heeled shoes.” 

She never forgot to complement her look with either a hat or a wig of all shapes and varieties. Lucy also supported charities like the Red Cross and Boy Scout, as well as, the U.S. in its World War II effort by buying war bonds.

But troubles began for her when she remarried after her first marriage ended in 1929. In 1944, Lucy married Reuben Anderson, a soldier, but within a year, accounts said that the Navy linked a case of a venereal disease to Lucy’s brothel.

This prompted an investigation of all the workers at the premises, including Lucy, who was then about 59. Following the examination, doctors found out that she was biologically male and the news was greeted with shock across the community.

The Ventura County district attorney accused Lucy of perjury as when she signed the marriage license, she swore that there were no legal objections to the marriage. Meanwhile, at the time, marriage was only valid between a man and a woman, and she was not a woman.

Ahead of her trial, Lucy went through other series of examinations which also declared that she was a man. During her trial, Lucy challenged the reports by the doctors, saying that the identity she had lived for the rest of her life was more valid than what was on her birth certificate.

“I defy any doctor in the world to prove that I am not a woman. I have lived, dressed, and acted just what I am – a woman,” she was reported to have said in court.

Still, the courts found her guilty and she was put on probation for 10 years while being prohibited from wearing women’s clothing.

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Lucy Hicks Anderson. Pic credit: Year of Women in History

That was not the end of her woes though. Lucy was tried by the federal government of defrauding the government of money because she had received allotment checks as the wife of a member of the U.S. Army.

Lucy and her husband, Reuben Anderson, were both prosecuted for fraud in 1946 and sent to prison. Upon their release, they tried to come back to Oxnard but the local police did not allow it. They had to move to Los Angeles where they stayed for the rest of their lives until Lucy died in 1954.

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