Let’s Remember: Billy Tipton, 1914-1989, Jazz legend and Transgender Man

Another item I wrote on facebook, from last December:

Billy Tipton was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton on December 29, 1914, and died on January 21, 1989. Tipton and wife Kitty Kelly had three adopted children.  I’ll be honest and say there is no documented proof about Tipton’s gender identity, but I will only refer to Tipton as he, because that’s how he lived.  He left no documents behind saying whether he was Transgender, or living in drag to have a musical career. Queer Music Heritage and Making Queer History have biographies of his life.  Hannah Judd (University of Pennsylvania) wrote a paper on Tipton’s life.

Tipton was a top notch pianist, saxophonist and songwriter in his 20s.  However in those days (1930s-1960s), women were not considered musicians, they were only singers, if that.  Most times, women were forcibly kept out of the “old boys’ club”.  Tipton was a player who wanted to perform.  Taking the name Billy, Tipton lived and worked as a man, unknown to the music industry or even his wife and adopted sons.  He formed the Billy Tipton Trio, recorded numerous albums, and worked with Frank Sinatra and many other famous acts of the era.

Selected songs from youtube:

September In The Rain

The Man I Love

Don’t Blame Me

Begin the Beguine

Take The “A” Train


This short news documentary on Tipton (youtube) is not the best, the reported asking inappropriate and invasive questions of Tipton’s wife, but for the most part sums up Tipton’s life.

Tipton’s silence cost him, refusing to go to doctors and have his secret exposed. In 1989, a treatable stomach ulcer caused him to bleed to death at home, in the arms of one of his sons.  It was only then his secret was discovered.  Tipton left no will and no paperwork or diaries.

Let’s Backtrack: Tandy’s Deskmate was released in November 1984

Tandy Radio Shack was not the first company to release a desktop shell, preceded by the Apple Lisa, Visi On, Xerox Alto and others.  But for most of a decade, it was one of the best on the market.  Deskmate for TRS-DOS was first released in November 1984, the first version for MS-DOS came out in 1986.

Deskmate was a boon for PC users who had limited computing skills, limited budgets, and wanted an all-in-one suite.  (I knew what I was doing on computers, and I still liked it.)  Deskmate was intuitive and contained impressive tutorials.  It contained a simple word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, address book, calculator and many other functions.  Later versions (v3.xx) included Draw (a paint program), 8bit music composition and playing software, and telecommunications programs.  About the only thing it was missing was a Tiny Basic interpreter.

Remember: This was in the 1980s, before the world wide web, when people still bought software in specialized stores.  Tandy graphics and sound were still amongst the best on the market, almost the defacto standard.  Deskmate came bundled with Tandy IBM-clones (which were usually better and cheaper than IBM PCs), but it was so popular that Radio Shack sold it in boxes to other PC users.

Toastytech lists Deskmate amongst its gallery of GUIs, and Winworld will let you download a copy (though you didn’t hear that from me).  The Internet Archive will let you test drive Deskmate to see what it can do.  Fly Videos on youtube has a non-speaking (with music) walkthrough of Deskmate’s abilities.

Version 3.05 was the last version of the shell, a/k/a Deskmate v3.69, released in 1991.  Windows v1.0 and v2.0 were substandard compared to Deskmate 3.69, but when Windows v3.0 came out, Tandy saw the writing on the wall and stopped development after WinMate, their last release in 1991.  If you’re running a DOS machine (yes, some do), Deskmate is still a usable program today, thirty years on.

Here’s a shot of the main screen, courtesy of Toastytech.  More images can be found below the fold.

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Real Life Intrudes: Excuse my dust

Everything goes to hell all at once.  Excuse a month of silence, I let myself get overwhelmed.  Between Hallowe’en (five parties), local politics (a REAL Manchurian candidate seeking Taiwan’s presidency), Hong Kong constantly in the news, multiple Pride Parade events, parties for two friends departing (for one, her engagement), and human crises (the women’s support group, of which I’m now an administrator), it’s been a busy time.  And then there are the flying cars….

One side note (or snide note, if you like)…  Someone I used to know turned into a TERF about eighteen months ago, completely “red pilled” (i.e. an MRA advocate, openly racist, etc.).  I don’t know if it’s galling or laughable, but I’m told her hang out of choice now is a bar known for…unsavoury men, shall we say.  I wouldn’t go there.  It’s owned by someone from the UK would likely be a Boris Johnson and Donald Trump fan.  She no longer frequents the places that LGBTQIA people go to, so no great loss.  Good riddance, TERFy McTERFface.