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 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. Breast implants to aid her career on stage followed in 1973 and she had her SRS operation in December 1974, still just 20.
Encouraged by her many admirers and a favourable reception to some photos that she had had taken before surgery, Caroline decided to pursue a career in modelling. She ticked many boxes for the agencies - still quite young, tall (6 ft), attractive, long hair, good figure - the only real negative comment she faced was about her large feet, size 10 UK.
(Left) Caroline's very first professional modelling card, from 1975. She soon changed her name to the rarer Tula to avoid conflict with other Caroline's, and by 1980 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. By the end of the 1970's she had 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 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 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. She also appeared on several TV shows, and her budding career as an actress culminated in 1981 with a famous (although very brief) appearance in the film For Your Eyes Only, the films 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 thoughout this period was traumatic, featuring besotted admirers, a confined life as a mistress in Kuwait, an engagement to an Italian Count... one of the oddest moments was a rumour that she was would marry Italian transgendered actress Eva Robin's!
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 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! 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. They married in 1992 and she moved to Atlanta in the USA to live with him. She continued to fight for transsexual rights there for some years, but since 2000 seems to have intentionally slipped into obscurity as Mrs Finch.
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