A Woman to Know: Coccinelle

After the operation, the doctor just said, 'Bonjour, Mademoiselle', and I knew it had been a success. — Coccinelle

After the operation, the doctor just said, 'Bonjour, Mademoiselle', and I knew it had been a success. — Coccinelle

(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Jacqueline Charlotte Dufresnoy was the first-ever person in France to undergo gender affirming surgery. In 1953, she adopted the stage name Coccinnelle (French for “ladybug”) and took the stage at Chez Madame Arthur, a cabaret nightclub. In the 1960s, she performed alongside other trans dancers at the renowned Le Carrousel de Paris, eventually appearing in films and singing in cabaret revues all around the world. Soon, she was a Parisian icon, known for her mink coats and polka-dotted red dresses (🐞).

Her revue performances were wildly popular and Coccinnelle herself universally beloved; so much so that the Roman Catholic Church in France agreed to legally wed her and her first husband in 1960. Before the wedding, Coccinnelle demanded the church re-baptize her, officially changing her Christian name from “Jacques Charles” and christening her again as “Jacqueline Charlotte.” The marriage itself ended after just two years, but Coccinnelle’s wedding legally established transgender peoples’ right to marry in France.

In the 1970s, Coccinnelle established “Devenir Femme,” an organization providing resources and emotional support for those undergoing gender affirming surgery. She’d go on to marry two more times, eventually finding love with fellow trans activist Thierry Wilson. She retired from the stage in 1990 but continued running her own cabaret in Marseilles. When she died in 2006, at the age of 75, she was honored as a national icon.

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