SassySays.com - Drag History Month - January 27, 2012 – Tula
Caroline “Tula” Cossey (born 31 August 1954) is an English model. She is one of the world’s most well known transsexual women, having appeared in a James Bond film and been the first to pose for Playboy. Since being outed by British tabloid News of the World, Cossey has fought for her right to legally marry and to be recognized by the law as a woman.
Cossey was born Barry Kenneth Cossey in Brooke, Norfolk, and raised as male. Through puberty, Cossey was distinctly feminine in appearance due to an intersex condition known as Klinefelter’s syndrome, where, instead of having the XY male chromosome pattern, she possesses the genotype XXXY. In Cossey’s autobiography My Story, she describes an unhappy childhood, where she suffered confusing feelings and bullying by peers due to her femininity. At sixteen she moved to London and worked at a variety of low-wage jobs.
Cossey started transitioning after befriending a post-operative transsexual woman. By seventeen, Cossey was receiving hormone therapy, living full-time in a female gender role and had begun a career as a showgirl at a London nightclub. Despite initial shock, Cossey’s parents were eventually supportive.Following breast augmentation surgery, Cossey worked as a showgirl in Paris and as a topless dancer in Rome to save up for sex reassignment surgery (SRS). After years of hormonal and psychological treatment, and legally changing her name, Cossey had her final surgery on 31 December 1974 at Charing Cross Hospital, London.
Cossey now began an active social life as a woman, concealing her past as a male. Asked about her dating life, Cossey replied, “I’m afraid I went a little wild”. She told tabloids she had a romance with Des Lynam, though Lynam says he does not recall it. Cossey worked as a model under the name “Tula”. She appeared in top magazines such as the Australian Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and worked extensively as a glamour model. She was a Page Three Girl for the British tabloid The Sun and appeared in Playboy in 1981.
In 1978, Cossey won a part on the British game show 3-2-1. A tabloid journalist then contacted her, revealing he had discovered she was transsexual, and planned to write about it. Other journalists researched her past, attempting to interview her family members. Cossey dropped out of the show, convincing the producers to release her from her contract. After this incident, Cossey maintained a lower profile, accepting only smaller assignments.
Cossey was cast as an extra in the 1981 James Bond film For Your Eyes Only. Shortly after the film’s release, the tabloid News of the World came out with a front page headline that read “James Bond Girl Was a Boy.” By her own accounts, Cossey was so upset she contemplated suicide. However, she continued her modelling career. Cossey responded by releasing I Am a Woman, her first autobiography.
Cossey became engaged to Count Glauco Lasinio, an Italian advertising executive, who was the first man to date her knowing of her past. He encouraged her to petition for changes in the British law concerning transsexuals. The engagement ended, but her legal efforts continued for seven years, eventually reaching the European Court of Human Rights.
In 1985, Cossey appeared extensively in the video for The Power Station’s “Some Like It Hot”. After breaking up with Lasinio, Cossey met Elias Fattal, a Jewish businessman, who was unaware of her history until he proposed marriage on Valentine’s Day 1988. When she told him, rather than rejecting her, he merely asked if she would convert to Judaism. She agreed. They were married on 21 May 1989, just weeks after the European Court of Human Rights decided legally to recognize Cossey as a woman. They returned from their honeymoon to find that The News of the World had published a story on their wedding. Fattal’s family was angry and persuaded him to have the marriage annulled.
On 27 September 1990, the European Court overturned their decision on a British government appeal. (Later, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was passed, giving transgender people in the United Kingdom means to change their legal sex.) Cossey returned to modeling, which she had given up for four years
In 1991, Cossey released My Story, her second autobiography. In it she gave details of her transition and her unsuccessful battle with the European Commission. She was featured in the September 1991 issue of Playboy, in a pictorial, “The Transformation Of Tula”, as an acknowledged transsexual.
Cossey married Canadian David Finch in 1992. They live together in Kennesaw, Georgia near Atlanta.