Transgender fringe flare-ups: “PurpleGirl”  and “Cloudy”/”Sillyolme”

Political progress in the mainstream trans community has occasional distracting flare-ups involving bizarre fringe groups. They often try to criticize the community or assert their authenticity as True Transsexuals™ while remaining anonymous. When their veil of anonymity is lifted, they are invariably shown to have been brainwashed in some manner. It’s always due to belief in some cult-like ideology about how they are different from or better than other trans people. I have also discussed wannabe movements previously: wannabe disabled, wannabe intersex, wannabe autistic, wannabe transsexual, etc. After a lull, the fringe groups have recently become active again, and now we have two new forms of wannabes.

“PurpleGirl” and HBS

Harry Benjamin syndrome” (HBS) is a fake disease created by some self-hating transpeople who self-diagnosed as intersex. I had not had any dealings with these people until one tried to recreate a deleted Wikipedia article about this fake disease. After I redirected it back to transsexualism per consensus, they went crazy. Their self-proclaimed Spanish leader Charlotte Goiar and self-proclaimed US leader nicknamed “PurpleGirl” started posting all kinds of rants and insults about me.

The HBS movement is a mixture of several older fringe ideologies:

  • Separatism from gays and lesbians (often very homophobic in tone)
  • Taking the sick role (thinking of themselves as disabled, disordered, or diseased)
  • Claims of intersex condition that is self-diagnosed
  • Claims of autism or other atypical neurotype that is self-diagnosed
  • Accepting government welfare and/or subsidized trans health services based on their sick role

“PurpleGirl” turns out to be a person named Courtney Michelle Holder currently living in the High Point, North Carolina area. Holder has a new “wannabe” identity I had not seen before: the wannabe black person. Holder has expressed an interest in getting African lip plates inserted and getting neck rings, and Holder has been using various skin-darkening techniques. As shown in the photo below, Holder is passing for black about as well as passing for female. Like most HBS people, Holder is politically conservative, has religiously-motivated homophobia, and tries to hide her true identity online. I’ll have more about the beliefs and identities of Holder and the HBS movement in the future.

Below: PurpleGirl and Cloudy/Sillyolme.


“Cloudy” and

The hoax seemed to have gone away for good when the site went offline in 2009. I had held off on any further discussion of the participants once the site was gone. This week, the hoax site went live again thanks to contributor “Cloudy.” I have known the identity of “Cloudy” for a couple of years, but I saw no need to discuss that information until “Cloudy” started posting as “Sillyolme” and helped bring back the hoax site.

Candice Brown Elliott is the person posting under the names Cloudy and Sillyolme. Although we have corresponded in the past and I have her autobiography on my site under the name Kay Brown, Elliott did not return several calls and emails seeking comment on this piece. When I reached her by phone on 2 March 2010, she hung up as soon as I identified myself.

Candice Brown Elliott was born in the 1950s and had a childhood typical for males of her age: Boy Scouts (where the nickname “Cloudy” began), technical crafts/hobbies, etc. After high school, Elliott drifted from school to school while doing various low-level jobs, eventually getting a correspondence degree in physics and psychology. Elliott says she had vaginoplasty in the early 1980s with Stanley Biber after going through the Stanford Gender Clinic. She says she was roommates with transsexual physician Joy Shaffer for many years and was involved with several trans activists during the 1980s.


Above: Activists Joanna Clark, Jude Patton, “Cloudy” aka Candice Brown, Joy Shaffer, and Diane Saunders in 1982. According to “expert” J. Michael Bailey, the two supposed "types" of trans women are almost never seen together.

Candice Brown Elliott got married in the late 1990s and shifted her focus to family and work. She adopted a daughter (now grown) and built a prosperous computer electronics display company called Clairvoyante, which she sold to consumer electronics giant Samsung in 2008. Shortly after that sale, Elliott began getting re-involved in trans politics.

Like “PurpleGirl,” Elliott is another new kind of wannabe: the “homosexual transsexual” wannabe. To date, anyone who publicly self-identifies as a "homosexual transsexual” transkid has turned out to be basing it on self-diagnosis. The “experts” who think these categories are legitimate would categorize these wannabes as “non-homosexual transsexuals.” These people typically try to hang out with or mentor young trans people as part of their attempts to claim this identity. The chief proponent of the term “homosexual transsexual,” Toronto psychologist Ray Blanchard, even has a term for actions like Elliott’s: “systematic distortion” of their life histories in order to enhance their social desirability based on Blanchard’s taxonomy.

In her very first note to me, Elliott claimed several times to be a “homosexual transsexual.” In fact, Elliott so desperately wants to be considered a “homosexual transsexual” that she has aligned herself with a clique of sexologists at the center of Lynn Conway’s investigation into this virulent taxonomy, like Blanchard, J. Michael Bailey, Anne Lawrence, Alice Dreger, Ken Zucker, and other wannabes like Denise Tree. If Elliott understood that all these people are just humoring and exploiting her the way they did Angelica Kieltyka and other attention-craving eccentrics they consider “non-homosexual transsexuals,” maybe she would change her tune. Unfortunately, Elliott and Tree are getting the attention and validation they need from these “experts” rather than from the trans community. It’s as pathetic as it is damaging to the community.

The hoax is a mixture of several older fringe ideologies:

  • Separatism from other transgender identities (often very transphobic in tone)
  • Separatism based on age at transition
  • Separatism based on sexual orientation
  • Separatism based on self-diagnosed intersex traits
  • Separatism based on passing
  • Separatism based on claims of physical attractiveness

Both Tree and Elliott would clearly be classified as “nonhomosexual” by Blanchard. Quotations from Bailey’s book show that these people consider someone like Elliott to be a man first and foremost. Elliott joins Alice Dreger’s defense of these ideologues, where Dreger does everything in her power to suppress academic freedom and trans criticism of this taxonomy that depicts all trans women as mentally ill men engaging in sex-fueled body modifications.

As Bailey and Blanchard are quick to point out, being involved in engineering or computing are hallmarks of their “non-homosexual” types, as are asexuality and trans activism. Elliott claims she was asexual until after vaginoplasty, when she went into activism. Tree even detransitioned in the 1970s before becoming an activist following a breakdown. Now Tree is a bisexual intersex wannabe who has duped a number of people into believing the bogus medical history she concocted. Tree claims she transitioned at the Johns Hopkins Gender Clinic as a child at age 14 in 1974, but Tree was in fact 23 years old in 1974, almost a decade older than she claims. She’s been telling her lies so long, exaggerating and embellishing them year by year, that some gullible people actually believe her at this point.

Given the important activist work Elliott has done in the past, it was especially difficult to put this information out there. However, Elliott has begun openly labeling many well-known transwomen using Blanchard’s terminology, without acknowledging that

“Homosexual transsexual” is a code word in sexology that means a mentally ill gay man who transitions in order to have sex with lots of straight men.

“Hon-homosexual transsexual” is a code word in sexology that means a mentally ill straight, bisexual, or asexual man who transitions in order to have sex with himself, as part of a paraphilic fantasy (caused by the disease “autogynephilia,” created in 1989).

It’s sad to see a wealthy white middle-aged research engineer, pilot, and CEO throw in with Bailey and Blanchard and Zucker rather than continue to be part of the trans movement. Candice Brown Elliott could have joined us in our work towards positive change in the DSM-V. Instead of hurting the community through the hoax, she could be working with legitimate national nonprofit organizations which help transkids, like TransYouth Family Allies or TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation or Gender Spectrum.

Instead, Candice Brown Elliott will go down in history not as one of the important figures in the early movement, but as a bitter, deluded, out-of-touch figure from the fringes who outlived her time.

The Lost Trans Generation

Tree and Elliott are part of what I call the Lost Trans Generation: transsexual people subjected to “gender clinic” systems in the 1970s. Before Cloudy’s time, early pioneers like Christine Jorgensen, Marie-Pier Ysser (Bambi) and Lynn Conway simply found a supportive doctor and transitioned. In the late 1960s, psychological gatekeeping came into fashion, and universities began attempting to control access to trans health services through “gender clinics.” By the 1990’s, the gender clinic system had faded into obscurity, though some artifacts of those dark days like Standards of Care and trans taxonomies and disease models of gender identity have remained in place. The people who transitioned in the 70s and early 80s are often obsessed with taxonomies and hierarchies. Prime examples include the COGIATI and the Blanchard taxonomy first proposed by his mentor Kurt Freund in 1973.

People who have transitioned since the emergence of the internet are more like the earliest transitioners, who took matters into their own hands rather than passively appeasing gatekeepers at the gender clinics. Many in the Lost Trans Generation have a perverse nostalgia for the oppressive systems they endured, because they believe it stopped the “wrong” people from transition and only allowed the “right” people like them.

The Lost Trans Generation frequently got brainwashed into believing the pet theories of the clinic they attended. Because these clinics turned away up to 90% of applicants, those who got in often considered themselves more legitimate than other trans people. They often had to present a distorted life story that matched the clinic’s pet theories in order to get accepted. Then they had to endure humiliating and regressive requirements at each step in order to move forward. It created a system of internalized self-stigmatization and competition, where they tried to gain validation and a feeling of superiority over other transitioning people.

Many in the Lost Trans Generation were clearly traumatized by their experiences in these gender clinics. Many went stealth for decades, only to emerge recently. I have received many letters from people who found my sites online and contacted me. In some cases, I was the first trans person they had discussed trans issues with in over 30 years. Many of them remain very reclusive, guarded, and oftentimes, angry. They are angry at being lumped in with people whom they dislike. They are angry at those who are both out and successful, when they were often told by gender clinics you had to choose. They are angry because those who appear in the media do not meet their approval or match their own experiences. They are angry that they are not being recognized for the hard work some of them did to open doors for other trans people. What we see with Candice Brown Elliott is the same kind of fudging and exaggeration she had to do to get through the Stanford Gender Clinic protocols.

As Joelle Ruby Ryan points out, we are at a transgender tipping point, where those who cling to disease models of gender identity are losing influence. Rather than working with the trans community in a productive way, they take potshots from the safety of anonymity. They align themselves with our oppressors in a misguided attempt to self-validate. They troll newsgroups anonymously and pseudonymously, set up fake blogs and use fake names and sockpuppets. They try to disrupt the community’s hard-won progress in order to make themselves feel better.

More than ever, we need to ignore the divisiveness caused by these pitiable anonymous critics. They lack the courage of their convictions and cause a lot of long-term damage and distraction. If anyone refuses to be open and honest about their identities, don’t waste your time listening to them and responding to them, whether you agree with them or not. They will invariably turn out to be exaggerating or lying when making fallacious arguments from authority based on their self-described transitions.

Don’t believe those who are too cowardly to identify themselves. They are probably giving you misinformation or just getting off on causing trouble, as we have seen time and time again.

Coming up

Among future people I’ll profile: a bizarre scientist wannabe who is African-American (for real, not a race wannabe like PurpleGirl), as well as a “furry” (an interspecies wannabe) also involved in the “transkids” hoax. The first one did time for a serious crime. Stay tuned for more on delusional kooks and high weirdness from the fringes of the trans movement.

See also

Candice Brown Elliott and "autogynephilia"