Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan


A unique first-hand account of a historical gay trans man's whole life, which reads like a celebratory coming-of-age novel.

Lou kept candid diaries from the age of 10. Through these extracts, we hear Lou's life in his own words: from 'playing boys' in his childhood in Wisconsin, to cruising San Francisco's gay bars for handsome 'youngmen'; from first hearing about gender non-conforming communities, to becoming a vital part of them as an activist, author, and archivist.

Lou navigated his identity with few role models and was perhaps the first publicly gay transgender man. Successfully campaigning to remove heterosexuality from the medical requirements for gender affirming surgery, Lou was pivotal in our modern understanding of gender and sexuality as distinct identities. After he was diagnosed with HIV in 1986, he remarked that he had been told by clinics that 'it was impossible for me to live as a gay man, but it looks like I'm gonna die like one.'

This selection shows Lou's joyous love of life, men, and sex.



'Chatty and tender, casually poetic and voraciously sexual-Sullivan workshopped his identity and his relationships, committing to the page an interior monologue of self-discovery that paralleled the gay-liberation movement, the burgeoning transgender-rights movement, and the aids crisis... Given how many contemporary trans narratives are rooted in trauma, their choice to foreground trans pleasure and sensuality is celebratory, even radical' The New Yorker


  • Celebratory, even radical
    The New Yorker

About the author

Lou Sullivan

Louis Graydon Sullivan (1951-91) was a writer, activist, typesetter, trans historian, and queer revolutionary. The Gay People's Union featured Sullivan's earliest writings in their newsletter including the now widely-quoted "A Transvestite Answers a Feminist". Though through his transition, many medical professionals he met had never heard of a female-to-gay-male, Sullivan resisted lying about his sexuality, a commitment which became a major aspect of his activism and legacy. Sullivan published Information for the FTM (a practical guidebook) and organized the first peer-support group for trans men. When Sullivan was diagnosed with HIV, he decided two main goals: to publish a biography of Jack Bee Garland and to publish his own diaries. He was only able to complete the former in his lifetime. Sullivan left 8.4 cubic feet of archival material from his life and studies to the GLBT Historical Society, of which he was a founding member.
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