Jerame Davis

The man we knew as Katharine Hepburn

Filed By Jerame Davis | January 17, 2007 8:59 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Katharine Hepburn, transgender

OK...I'm filing this one under "Who the hell knew?"

hepburn.gifI was listening to the radio on the way home from class today and the host was interviewing out Hollywood biographer Bill Mann. Mann published a new biography of Katharine Hepburn late last year titled, Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn. In it Mann talks about, among other things, the boy who was Jimmy Hepburn. Who the hell is Jimmy Hepburn? Jimmy was the "true identity" of Katharine Hepburn.

According to Mann, as a child Hepburn created an identity she called Jimmy. This was who Hepburn truly believed herself to be - a boy named Jimmy Hepburn. Mann explains that Hepburn actually had 3 personalities: Jimmy, Kath, and Kate. Jimmy was her true self, Kath was the female she presented to her family, and Kate was the actress and Hollywood legend we all knew. It's some very interesting insight.

Apparently, the book was excerpted in Vanity Fair last October and The Advocate printed a story last November. I don't subscribe to either magazine, so maybe that explains how I missed the story.

So, sorry if I'm the last to know and I'm boring you with old news. Whatever the case, tell me what you think about this story in the comments. I put the book on hold at the library. If any of you out there have already read it, let me know if it's worth the wait.


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I knew something was up. I think being trans myself, some of the things she said over the years stuck in my mind. I remember she said she never liked wearing dresses and competed with her brother a lot in sports. I think she actually played a girl who disguises herself as a boy in a film called Sylvia Scarlett (1935). In fact, checking the internet, this film is on tomorrow at 8am on TCM (Turner Classic Movies). Is it a coincidence that tomorrow is my birthday? Hmmmmmm.....

Bruce Parker II | January 18, 2007 2:32 AM

Can we add that I find her/him attractive to the clues?

I know, Bruce. When I saw the picture Jerame posted with this, I thought "He's cute! Who's he?" *grins*

Ellen Andersen | January 19, 2007 9:21 PM

I feel the need to add that *I'm* attracted to Hepburn as well. Have been for at least 20 years...

The writer's not very credible, unfortunately. He gets quite a few things wrong, and one of his main 'witnesses', Scotty, has admitted lying to biographers before. Interesting read, but take it with a grain of salt.

I just watched a biography of Katherine a few minutes ago. Without any mention of her "personalities" or preferences, I recalled seeing her previously in films and thinking she was "boyish" and that she didn't appear to be particulary feminine. That being said, it's no reason for an indictment or slander. My greatest disappoint regarding Hepburn is her claiming to be an atheist.

Her claim to atheism makes me adore her more. I also don't think it's slanderous or an indictment to say that Hepburn was transgender. Indeed, I think it's admirable that she was open to non-normative sexualities and I applaud her for it.

the idea of hepburn as a boy is bs but an interesting theory, where is the proof. if she was then it would explain a whole lot about the choices of the movies that she chose to make. i still love her no matter what she was or was not, she is still a role model for any girl who wants to stand up for her self, she and her films are timeless. people in 100 years will know who kate hepburn was.

I agree with "John" when he said that his greatest disappointment with Hepburn was her staunch atheism. It's the same kind of let down that I felt when Arthur Rubinstein that legendary pianist declared he did not believe in God, and really started when a great friend declared he was, too. It created a sort of wall between us that I could not tear down. Oh, well...this is way off topic, sorry.

Just because somebody is boyish doesn't mean that they're a boy at heart. Throughout history there were lots of women who were boyish (mannish) and ahead of their time when it came to their behavior or appearance. There were lots of women who didn't like wearing skirts or dresses when it was the norm (think George Sand or Joan of Arc).
I think somebody just wanted to make money by peddling yet another Hollywood pseudo-sensational story...

Phyllie Conroy | March 16, 2010 7:54 PM

You really need to get over yourself and all the stories you are telling yourself about Katharine Hepburn. She was a tom-boy, nothing more nothing less. If all the women of the world were accused of being transgender just because they competed with their bother, and liked to wear trousers, there would be more woman accused of being transgender than there are women!!!! Does the Salem Witch Hunt mean anything to you???

I share a lot of Katharine Hepburn's 'peculiarities' if I can call them that. I am a swimmer, I am a walker, I love tennis, I wanted to be a boy till the age of 16 (!) (I have 7 brothers and wanted to be one of them rather than one of my sisters)
I am incredibly independent, capable and 'brave'. I come across aloof, yet I am full of compassion and kindness; I am an honest person, and my honesty gets confused with aloofness. I have hair pinned up in the same style as KH, not because that's what she did, but because that's who I am. ... and, believe it or not, I share her birthday: 12 May (although she was 49 years my senior)

I have a name difficult to pronounce for many, and one of my friends used to call me 'katharine'....

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