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posted Thursday, November 26, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 48
Transgender pioneer Jan Morris dies at 94
Section One
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Transgender pioneer Jan Morris dies at 94

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Transgender pioneer Jan Morris died November 20 at her home in Wales. She was 94.

Her son, Twm Morys, a Welsh-language poet, announced her death: "This morning at 11.40 at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveler Jan Morris began her greatest journey. She leaves behind on the shore her lifelong partner, Elizabeth."

Morris, then James Morris, married Elizabeth Tuckniss in 1949. They had five children.

Morris began her transition in 1964. Already a famous journalist, she was one of the first high-profile people to do so.

In 1972, Morris travelled to Morocco for gender-confirmation surgery, because doctors in Britain refused to allow the procedure unless Morris and Tuckniss divorced, something they were not willing to do at the time. They had to divorce later, when Jan was legally recognized as a woman, but remained together. On May 14, 2008, Morris and Tuckniss were legally reunited when they formally entered into a same-sex civil partnership.

Morris later detailed her transition in Conundrum (1974), her first book under her new name, and one of the first autobiographies to discuss gender reassignment. Later memoirs included Herstory and Pleasures of a Tangled Life. She also wrote many essays on travel and her life and published a collection of her diary entries as In My Mind's Eye in 2019.

As James Morris, she was a member of the 1953 British Mount Everest expedition, accompanying Edmund Hillary when he made the first ascent of the mountain. She was the only journalist to accompany the expedition, climbing with the team to a camp at 22,000 feet on the mountain and sending a coded message from the expedition's base camp to the Times of London announcing the historic event.

By a happy coincidence the scoop was published in the Times on the morning of the coronation of Elizabeth II.

Morris later reported from Cyprus on the Suez Crisis for the Manchester Guardian in 1956, documenting the first "irrefutable proof" of collusion between France and Israel in the invasion of Egyptian territory. Her interviews of French Air Force pilots established that they had been in action in support of Israeli land forces.

Morris also reported on the 1961 trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

Morris wrote many books on travel, particularly to Venice and Trieste. She hated being described as a travel writer, however, insisting that she wrote about people and places, and not mere movement.

A volume of her diary entries is due to be published in January 2021. Allegorizings, a book of personal reflections written in and before the 2000s that she stipulated not be published in her lifetime, is also due to be issued in 2021.

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