Jan Morris is one of The Advocate' Women of the Year. View the full list from the current issue of the magazine.
Ninety-three-year-old transgender author, historian, and travel writer Jan Morris has published numerous books in her storied career. Perhaps she’s best known for the Pax Britannica trilogy, a history of the British Empire that took 10 years to complete.
However, the Welsh-born traveler is also famous for being the reporter embedded with mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay as they became the first to summit Mount Everest — news that coincidentally was released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Morris’s work is acclaimed for blending history and psychological examination with her imaginative descriptions about the world’s most treasured cities.
Morris, a former soldier and British spy, began transitioning in 1964. In one of her many books, 1974’s Conundrum, she describes returning to her home in Wales and going into a local shop for the first time as Jan. Much to her surprise, no one bats an eyelash.
“I put it down to kindness. Just that. Everything good in the world is kindness,” she told The Guardian as she relived that moment. “If you are not sure what you think about something, the most useful questions are these: Are you being kind? Are they being kind? That usually gives you the answer.”
More than 70 years ago, Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss. British law forced the couple to divorce following Morris’s transition, but their relationship endured. They remain a couple to this day. At her age, Morris may not be with us another decade, but this nonagenarian deserves to be talked about for generations to come.