Caroline Cossey (stage name Tula) is probably the most influential transsexual since Christine Jorgensen, and arguably she has made a far more positive impact on society and law.
Caroline was born in England as Barry Cossey in August 1954. By age 13 he had doubts that he was a boy and when 15 he decided that he was female and increasingly secretly dressed as such.
In July 1972, now 17, he moved to London to live with his sister, Pam. He immediately met other transsexuals who supported and encouraged her full-time transition as a girl - Caroline. She started taking hormones and soon got a job as a showgirl at club called the Latin Quarter. She legally changed his name to Caroline in March 1973. Breast implants to aid her career on stage followed a few months later and she had her SRS operation in December 1974, still just 20.
Caroline decided to pursue a career in modelling and some photos that she had had taken before and after surgery were favourable received. She ticked many boxes for the agencies - still quite young, tall (6 ft), attractive, long hair, long legs, good figure - the only real negative comment she faced was about her large feet, size 10 UK. She soon changed her professional name as model to the rare Tula to avoid conflict with other Caroline's.
(Left) Caroline's very first professional modelling card, from 1975. By 1980, now called Tula, had evolved her make-up to give a softer and more feminine appearance in a later card (Right).
Caroline/Tula's modelling career slowly took off and by the end of the 1970's she had widely appeared in magazines such as Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harpar's Bazaar, and also in many adverts - including a memorable advertisement for Smirnoff vodka and an advert for a strapless bra's. Whilst not a super model, she was starting to enter the second tier - recognised and increasingly well paid.
Tula's attractive and physically impressive appearance also resulted in several 'Page 3' topless assignments for UK national newspapers, and nude appearances in men's magazines such as the Spanish Intervui and Lib, the American Gallery, the French Oui and the West German Schlusselloch. It is fair to say that the excellent appearance of her 37C bust was a major aid to her career - agencies and photographers were used to breast augmented models and with a little body makeup and some touching up of photos, the scars under the fold of her breasts were impossible to detect.
She also led a very active sex life as a woman - her many male lovers never doubting that she was a woman. In 1979 she had a brief "kiss and tell" affair with a TV celebrity, Des Lynam - with no hint of her past appearing in the newspaper report.
Tula also began a budding career as an actress and appeared in small parts in several British TV shows. These included small appearances as an extra in the Two Ronnie's, Robin's Nest, The Other One and a minor role as a girlfriend (including a kissing scene) in The Up Chat Line. In 1978 she became a hostess on the popular game show 3-2-1, but she claims that she asked to be released from her contract when she was threatened with being out'ed as a transsexual by a journalist who recognised her from her early days as Caroline. Other sources suggest that the TV company actually terminated her contract as she was just too tall and heavy for the role.
Tula's budding career as an actress culminated in 1981 with a famous (although very brief) appearance in the film For Your Eyes Only, the film's release coincided with her getting a full page topless appearance as a Bond Girl in the June 1981 edition of Playboy magazine.
Playboy was clearly impressed and Tula was flown to Guadeloupe to
be photographed for a Playboy centrefold likely to appear in
December 1981 - but
disaster struck in September 1981 when the News of the World
newspaper published an article with the headline "James Bond's Girl
Was a Boy" and a three year old photo, revealing that Tula was a transsexual.
Caroline's personal life throughout was always traumatic, featuring besotted admirers, a confined life as a mistress in Kuwait in 1974, an engagement to an Italian Count (who persuaded her to stop modelling in 1985)... and even a rumour that she would marry Italian transgendered actress Eva Robin's!
The failed engagement resulted in her becoming a activist for transgender rights, and in particular the right to legally marry as a woman. A legal case she began in 1984 would eventually escalate through almost all British and European courts.
In 1989 she seemed finally set to live happily ever after, with a fairy tale wedding to an Israeli millionaire. But she returned from honeymoon to face another exposť from the News of the World newspaper, which soon resulted in her marriage being annulled. Ironically, and almost simultaneously, the European Court of Human Rights legally recognised her as a woman - and thus effectively recognising her marriage! But even this victory turned to dust when it was overturned in September the following year, after an appeal by the British government. However Caroline had started a process which finally led to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, which allows transgender people in the United Kingdom to change their legal sex.
The failure of her marriage and court battles resulted in Caroline releasing an updated biography in 1991 - My Story - and she briefly returned to modelling to help promote this. Arguably her most significant moment as a model was her appearance in the UK and USA September 1991 editions of Playboy magazine - an acknowledged male-to-female transsexual being photographed nude for a leading men's magazine at the ancient age of age 37! Old photo spreads of her were still appearing in men's magazines as late as 1995, albeit with her sex change usually the surprise twist.
In 1990 she met David Finch, a Canadian national. In 1991 she moved to Atlanta in the USA to live with him, and was soon making regular appearances on American TV. Atlanta awarded her an honorary citizenship - which the city's Mayor, Maynard Jackson, publicly condemned when he became aware that she was a transsexual.
In 1992 she married David and within a year she seems to have intentionally slipped into obscurity (aka stealth) as Mrs Finch. Astonishingly she then avoided any publicity before giving the UK newspaper Daily Mail an exclusive but unrevealing interview in June 2015, using the ambiguous honorific 'Ms' rather than 'Mrs'. The interview appears to be a precursor to the release of an updated autobiography.
(Below) A selection of other pictures of Tula/Caroline
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Copyright (c) 2000, Annie Richards