4 Things You'll Learn From Playboy's Interview With Caroline "Tula" Cossey, The Magazine's First Transgender Model, 34 Years Later
Coming out as transgender on the national stage is hard enough in 2015 — just ask Caitlyn Jenner. But can you imagine what it must have been like 34 years ago, in 1982, when international model and former Bond girl Caroline “Tula” Cossey was outted against her will by the British tabloid News of the World. In 1981, Cossey had made a name for herself as the Bond girl in For Your Eyes Only and had gone on to pose in a Playboy pictorial with other Bond girls before the tabloid revealed that she had been born Barry Cossey and had spent the first part of her life undergoing counseling, hormone therapy, and breast augmentation before getting gender-affirming surgery in 1974.
While the general public has hardly welcomed Caitlyn and Laverne and Janet with open arms, the world was an even harder place to be trans and out in ‘80s and early ‘90s. After making history as the first out trans woman to have her own pictorial in Playboy in 1991, Cossey was faced with trans-phobic bullsh*t like Hard Copy playing “You’re Still a Young Man” during the intro to her interview and a long legal battle with the British government to get her true gender on her birth certificate.
Playboy decided to catch up with the lovely Cossey to find out how life is been in the more than quarter decade since she defiantly bared it all on their pages. They found her in Atlanta, happily living the quiet life of a housewife with her husband of 23 years. She had a lot to say, both about her own struggle, the challenges Jenner will face in the upcoming months and years, and some really awesome stuff that you’d hear from your own cool grandma. The full interview can be found on Playboy and, if you’re a print kind of person, check it out in the July/August double issue. Just tell the guy at the bodega that you “Really are!” buying it for the articles.
1. She Had No Problem Getting The Correct Gender On Her Documents For Her US Citizenship
Cossey became a citizen in 2001, at which point her gender on her birth certificate still said “male.” She describes the experience as nerve wracking, but surprisingly easy.
“When I went through the process, one of the documents you have to produce is a birth certificate. My heart sank. I asked if I could use something else, said that I had lost it, but they said no. When I produced it, I looked at the lady and gave her my birth certificate, my name-change form and my letter from a surgeon confirming my 1974 surgery. She said, “Okay, fine.” And that was it. I expected her to leave the room and come back with a load of people behind her, but no. It was amazing. It was actually harder for my husband to get citizenship as a Canadian.”
2. Her First Husband Left Her After News of the World Wrote A Nasty Article About Their Marriage
The British tabloid pulled another class act with their headline, "SEX CHANGE PAGE THREE GIRL WEDS", outting her to her new husband’s conservative family.
“He knew I was transsexual because I gave him my book to read. You have four years with someone and you feel you’ve covered everything. My heart was broken. The whole thing is ugly. But you pick up the pieces and get on with your life.”
3. Hugh Hefner Was Totally Not A Hater
In addition to agreeing to let Cossey pose between the pages, Hefner was a complete gentleman who treated her like any other lady when they met.
“I had done pinups and calendars and glamour shoots, but to be the first transsexual in Playboy, I felt absolutely honored. I remember being invited to the Mansion to meet Hugh Hefner. He looked into my eyes and I immediately knew he felt my story. He felt my cause.”
4. There’s One Big Question She Hopes Someone Has Asked Caitlyn…
This interview was conducted before Caitlyn Jenner’s Vanity Fair cover, so Cossey used male pronouns and the name when Bruce when talking about the one really big question she hopes that Caitlyn considers before getting surgery.
“Sawyer never asked him, “Does wearing women’s clothes turn you on sexually?” That’s what somebody needs to establish. It’s actually the first thing a psychiatrist asked me in counseling. That would be a fetish, and there’s nothing wrong with having a fetish. Life’s too short; enjoy it, whatever. But I would hate for him to lose his three-piece suite and live to regret it. There’s a big difference between being a transsexual and being a transvestite. Again, there’s nothing wrong with being a transvestite. If you want to live that way, fine. But I’ve seen and heard so many horror stories of people going through surgery, becoming miserable and killing themselves because it was not the right step for them. And it’s a very painful surgery. I would hate for him to lose that part of his body and go through transition, especially at this stage in his life, because he’s no spring chicken. He’s in a public situation going through something so sensitive. I pray he gets the right counseling. It’s not what’s between your legs at the end of the day.”