Former MoD boss is first transsexual geisha

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The Independent Online

A 70-year-old former Ministry of Defence manager today claimed to be the first transsexual to be allowed to dress as a geisha in Japan's historical city of Kyoto.

Tourists travelling to the traditional home of the geisha often take the opportunity to dress up in decorative kimonos, donning a wig and thick white make-up.

But Mary Murdoch, formerly Malcolm Murdoch, said that until now only biological females have been permitted to play dress up.

He said he persuaded officials to change the rules and he now plans to organise special tours for other transsexuals to experience geisha culture.

Murdoch, from south-east London, told the Daily Mail: "My ambition was to dress up as a geisha and at first they were reluctant.

"But in the end I convinced them. I was the first person to actually do this. They were very welcoming and put aside the normal rules for foreign tourists.

"Since then the Japanese government has a policy which says if there's a female name on the passport then you may dress up as a geisha."

Murdoch said she worked as a cartographer in the Ministry of Defence, mapping military aircraft routes, and eventually becoming a manager.

She said she started having therapy to become a woman at Charing Cross Hospital in London four years ago.

And she said she is now on an NHS waiting list and hopes to complete her biological transformation soon.

Geisha traditionally live in Kyoto's Gion district and can often be seen taking a stroll through the area.

They entertain clients with music, dance and conversation, which takes years of training.

The Japan National Tourist Organisation said it could not immediately verify the rules for transsexuals dressing up as geisha in Kyoto.

Kabuki, a form of traditional Japanese theatre, sees male actors play the roles of both men and women.