Depending on who you ask, Grace Bacon is known as either the mother or grandmother of the Michigan transgender community. But, however you recognize Bacon, one thing remains true: she is the founder of Crossroads, the first social and support group for the transgender community in Michigan. In addition, she is a respected LGBTQ+ advocate who has dedicated more than four decades of her life to this important work.
And now, due to her pioneering efforts, she's being honored with a Grace Bacon Day celebration at Metropolitan Community Church – Detroit (MCC-D) this Sunday, Nov. 14. The celebration is co-sponsored by Transgender Michigan and the Gender-Identity Network Alliance. It is a part of a month-long effort by the church to focus on trans and non-binary issues.
Regarding her upcoming honor, Pride Source reached out to Bacon, who explained how her experience as a transgender woman dates back to her formative years.
"I've been crossdressing since I was a kid, really," Bacon, now 80, said. "I didn't have a name for it. I just put on some of my mother's things every once in a while, and I enjoyed it."
In 1952, Bacon, born in Flint in 1940 and raised in Swartz Creek, started to see life differently. Then, when Bacon was barely a teenager, Christine Jorgensen became the first widely-known person in the United States to have gender affirmation surgery. Jorgensen wrote about her experiences in a 1953 issue of The American Weekly in an article titled "The Story of My Life."
"She came out with the name transsexual, and she mentioned the word transvestite in her article," said Bacon. "From then on, I gathered that I was one or the other. I was not too sure which."
Having gathered some knowledge of her identity, Bacon continued crossdressing throughout her teen years. But she kept it a secret.
"I didn't talk to anyone about it," she added. "I didn't admit anything to anyone. I went through my life in high school and was pretty much the same as other kids except every once in a while when the shades were drawn, and nobody was home, I'd dress up a little bit."
After high school, Bacon went to college but soon dropped out and enlisted in the Army. She spent three years in the service, married a woman and had a couple of kids. Still, she dressed up from time to time.
"Finally, it got to the point where it wasn't enough, and I had to come out," she said.
Bacon heard someone call into the radio show Flint Feedback who claimed to be a crossdresser at about this time. The host had very little expertise on the subject and invited anyone with knowledge of it to call the show.
"So, I called him, and by this time, I had done a lot of reading and researching, and I knew quite a bit about it. So I talked to him, and he invited me to come on the show."
Bacon appeared on the show about every six months for a few years. Then, gradually, she got bolder.
"By this time, I'd come out to the point where I wore a dress to work and was, of course, chastised by the management," she said.
But Bacon was persistent. And after noticing a lack of crossdresser representation in the Midwest in 1977, she founded Crossroads.
"I'd seen in some of the periodicals popular with crossdressers mentions of various crossdressing clubs on the East Coast and on the West Coast, but nothing in between," Bacon said.
"I operated out of a post office box in Flint and wanted to collect people to get together for social events," she added. "I thought we could form some type of community so people could get out and do some things. I wanted to do them myself. So I built a certain notoriety, and I drew a lot of respect from people in the crossdressing community. I took the opportunity to expand the organization, and it kind of snowballed after that."
Bacon also created the Be All You Want To Be weekend for crossdressers and members of the trans community, as they were slowly starting to be called. The regional event, which ran annually for three decades, drew large crowds to the Midwest.
From 1991 to 2012, Bacon took time away from Crossroads and married again. By the time she came back, the group was meeting in Affirmations in Ferndale. As time went on, the group's work inspired members to create several specialized groups. Rachel Crandall-Crocker had formed Transgender Michigan and Michelle Fox-Phillips had Transgender Detroit and, eventually, the Gender-Identity Network Alliance.
Undoubtedly, were it not for Crossroads, these groups might have never come into existence.
"She is, I would say, the mother or grandmother of the trans community in Michigan," said Fox-Phillips. "She's been advocating for our community forever. What MCC-D is doing is totally amazing. She needs to be honored."
And what does Bacon say when she's referred to an icon or a pioneer?
"Holy crap," she said with a laugh. "Is that me?"