• Sat. Sep 23rd, 2023


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Gloria Allen, Transgender Activist Who Ran a Charm School, Dies at 76

Mr. Dawkins’s play was first presented at Steppenwolf Garage in Chicago. There were later productions in Minneapolis, Washington, Los Angeles and New York.

Ms. Allen was born on Oct. 6, 1945, in Bowling Green, Ky., the eldest of eight siblings. Her family moved to Chicago after her mother, Alma (Dixon) Allen, a showgirl, married her stepfather, Arteal Allen, who worked in a factory, in 1947.

Throughout her school years, Ms. Allen navigated public life as a boy, dressed in traditional male clothing — albeit with a feminine flair, Ms. Fisher said. Her female identity, however, was no secret to her family.

“She was telling her family she was a girl from when she was a young child,” Ms. Fisher said. “She would sneak away to put on her mother’s makeup and clothing, and one day her mother came home and said, ‘I believe there’s another woman in the house.’”

Ms. Allen took style cues from her mother, who once appeared as a model in Jet magazine and performed at nightclubs in Bronzeville, the South Side neighborhood long considered the center of Black culture in Chicago. She was also coached in female fashion by her maternal grandmother, a seamstress who designed outfits for so-called female impersonators who performed in those same clubs.

“My mother and my grandmother were supportive of me, and they didn’t want me to look like an overly done drag queen,” Ms. Allen said in the film. “And if my makeup wasn’t right, or my clothes wasn’t right, they’d stop me and tell me, ‘Oh, no, sister, you do it again.’”