Tributes paid to Fylde coast transgender pioneer

Tributes have been paid to a Lancashire-born sex change pioneer who found fame through a series of BBC documentaries.

Thursday, 3rd January 2019, 11:46 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 8:24 am
Julia Grant, who was a transgender pioneer, has died aged 64

Julia Grant, who was born George Roberts in Preston and grew up in Fleetwood with her five sisters and two brothers, has died after a short illness aged 64.

She endured an unhappy childhood, including a spell in the Harris children’s home in Preston and even went on to marry and have two children as George Roberts, before realising that the traditional lifestyle was not right for her.

In three documentaries screened over several years starting with the 1979 BBC documentary, A Change Of Sex, the BBC chronicled the dramatic story of her life, from the time she was transformed into Julia, first socially, and then surgically in 1980, through to the personal rejection, illness,despair and bankruptcy she faced.

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Julia Grant pictured on the day of her wedding to boyfriend of four years Alan Sunderland

She, in recent years, survived bowel cancer but endured multiple health problems in 2018 and died on January 2.

Julia once owned the Hollywood Showbar on Canal Street, in Manchester's Gay Village and was an active campaigner for Transgender rights and supporter of the city's Pride parade. She published a book in 1994 entitled, Just Julia: The Story of an Extraordinary Woman.

Transgender charity Sparkle said on Facebook: "It's important to remember that when 'A Change of Sex' was originally televised in 1979, there was very little publicly-available information about trans people and those living with gender dysphoria.

"Julia's story brought hope to many like her, and helped advance visibility and understanding of a maligned and excluded minority."

Manchester drag performer Misty Chance said: "She was exactly what a legendary character should be, entertaining and controversial at times. If you’re a Manc, you’ve probably read about her, been in one of her venues or been barred by her. A huge LGBT pioneer with a formidable attitude towards life on the scene."