Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Katherine Cummings

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Katherine Cummings

Katherine Cummings

Audio: Katherine Cummings traces the long, difficult route of coming to terms with her gender identity.

 

Katherine Cummings was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1935, with the given name John. The youngest child of a ship captain, Katherine’s childhood included stints living in various Pacific Islands, the Blue Mountains, Mosman and Scotland. Marrying Diana in 1963, the pair had three children and remained partners for twenty three years, before John made the traumatic but necessary decision to permanently transition into Katherine. Although this ended the marriage, Katherine’s love for Diana remained strong. Following transition in 1986 Katherine lived in Balmain for many years before moving to Stanmore. She now lives on the Central Coast, commuting to work in Petersham.

Katherine enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Sydney in 1952. She took an active role in university life, working on the student newspaper, Honi Soit, and taking part in plays and revues. After graduation, Katherine began work at the State Library of NSW. This marked the beginning of a career in libraries spanning five decades, with jobs in Oregon and New Jersey as well as a long career with Sydney College of the Arts library. Katherine has worked at the NSW Gender Centre since 2001.

In addition to her library career, Katherine has long been active creatively, writing as a literary critic for a number of organisations including the ABC. Following her transition, she wrote the widely acclaimed Katherine’s Diary: the story of a transsexual published in 1992, which won the Australian Human Rights Award for Non-Fiction.  Katherine’s Diary was expanded and brought up to date in 2007.  Since 2001 she has edited, and contributed to, Polare, the NSW Gender Centre’s quarterly publication.

A love of language and a desire to preserve and transmit stories and experiences, particularly those of the trans community, is a driving passion for Katherine. These days, much of her time, ‘is largely devoted to putting something together for posterity,’ she says. ‘There. Now there’s a grandiloquent statement.’