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Alan L. Hart

By Ari Mejia

In a starchy smoking jacket Dr. Hart lifts his wooden pipe to his lips. His close-cut black hair is slicked to the right, and he pushes his thick wire-rimmed glasses over the ridge of his nose. It is the year 1948, and Hart has just received his master's degree in public health from Yale University. Disciplined, ambitioned, and determined Alan L. Hart will continue to pursue his medical career and literary creative outlets. He will remain with his wife who he married five years prior for the rest of his life. He will make massive contributions in the research of Tuberculosis. He will complete four novels. However, all the while, he will conceal that at birth, Alan was deemed female, with the name Alberta Lucille Hart inscribed on his birth certificate. At age 27, Hart began living as a man. Yet his female past would follow him throughout the remainder of his life. With every discovery, or run-in with a past acquaintance, he had to relocate, change jobs, and begin a life again.

Alan was born Alberta Lucille Hart in October of 1890 to parents, Edna and Albert Hart in Kansas. Due to a typhoid breakout, his father died in 1892. Alan's mother then relocated the two of them back to Oregon, where her family lived. As Alan grew up, it became obvious that he was not interested in girlish things whatsoever. He hated to perform domestic work. He preferred to play Civil War games and was said to have had a passion for pocket-knives and chopping wood. He was interested in sports such as football, rowing, hunting tennis, and hiking (Boag 9). Alan's role model from an early age was his grandfather, whom he would follow around and listen to while he talked about agriculture and politics. In the introduction to his book, Re-dressing America's Frontier, historian Peter Boag states that Hart, "always regarded herself as a boy, she early claimed that she would be one if only her family would permit her to cut her hair and wear trousers" (Boag 10). Indeed, Alan never identified with his gender assignment of female.

Upon entering high school Alan was teased for his looks and awkward demeanor in his performance as female, further reinforcing his firm awareness of his true gender identity. To avoid social situations, Alan became an avid student and totally engrossed himself in his studies. This paid off. He graduated top of his class in 1908. It was during these years that his attraction to females and not males became obvious to him as well. He attended Albany College (now known as Lewis & Clark College) for two years and in 1910, moved to California where he attended Stanford University. Here, Alan began to don masculine attire and never turned back. He frequented the Tenderloin District in San Francisco and experienced nightlife and romance. This was a serious period of self-realization and growth for Hart personally, socially, and sexually. Still perceived as female, however, his presentation of masculinity led to much alienation when he attended the University of Oregon's Medical College in 1913. As in high school, this led to a similar outcome; due to alienation from fellow students Hart again put all his energies into his studies and graduated top of his class in 1917. All the while Hart had been involved in a series of love affairs and relationships with women, ranging from friendships to romances.

During his medical studies he began personal research on his sexual and gender identity. He sought out the professional help of a physician named Allen Gilbert. With Gilbert's help, Hart seriously began his transition into living life solely as a man, both physically and sartorially (Boag 12). In 1917 Gilbert removed Hart's uterus. At this point in history, a hysterectomy was seen as a full-sex change, which speaks to how gender was perceived medically. The removal of the female reproductive organs deemed Alan medically male. Hart also changed his name to Alan and permanently changed his wardrobe, which led him to pass as male full-time. Hart's past as a woman, however, continued to be problematic for him throughout his life and career, leading him to live a life that was wrought with fear and inherent difficulties.

The first time Hart had to relocate and resign from a position happened in the same year of his surgery, 1917. He was appointed at a hospital in Portland as a male but when there was recognized by a former classmate from Stanford, Alan felt he had no option but to resign. It was never made specifically clear that his gender identity was the reason, but Hart continued to move and hold various positions of work all over the West and Southwest. Historians attribute these moves and continual job changes to his "sex-change". 

Hart had been writing memoir-based fiction since high school, and was first published in 1935 for his book titled Doctor Mallory. All of his novels, Doctor Mallory included, are rooted in social issues in the medical field and also pertained to Hart's personal experiences therein. One of his characters, named Sandy Farquhar, is very much based on Hart. Like Hart, Farquhar becomes a radiologist. Hart stated, "[Sandy Farquhar] went into radiology because he thought it wouldn't matter so much in a laboratory what a man's personality was. But wherever he went, scandal followed him sooner or later. If he could have gone in for himself, I think he might have succeeded in the face of all odds for he was a grand man with sick people. But he had no capital and so had to work for other doctors or hospitals all his life. That ruined his chances because eventually his story would get around and then he'd be forced to leave. 'Resigning by request' was the way he put it" (Booth 1). Through Hart's fiction writing, the experiences of his life and what he faced as a transgender individual are made clear.

However, perhaps unlike his fictional character in Doctor Mallory, Hart was very successful. He and his wife lived happily together for 37 years. Hart was a pioneer in the research of tuberculosis, heading mass x-ray programs for the State Health Department in Connecticut (Booth 2). He was a successful doctor who also tackled and approached the social issues of medicine and American culture. In 1935 Hart wrote, "The ugly things that have grown up in medicine are the result of the ugliness and falsity of society as a whole, of our American preoccupation with success and making money, of our concentration of effort on the production of things rather than their use for a fuller human life" (Booth 2). He died in 1962 from heart failure. Hart's struggles as a transgender person led him to be a successful doctor, social critic, and husband, and he deserves to be remembered as such.

References

  1. Boag, Peter. "A Trip Along the Pike's PeakExpress." Introduction. America.Berkeley:University ofCalifornia, 2011. N. pag. Print.
  2. Boag, Peter. "Go West Young Man, Go East Young Woman: Searching for the Trans in Western Gender History." The Western Historical Quarterly 26.4 (2005): 477-97.JSTOR. Web.
  3. Booth, Brian. "Dr. Alan L. Hart: An Oregon"Pioneer"" Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. N.p., 2000. Web. 29 Oct. 2012. <http://www.ochcom.org/hart/>.