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Obituaries

Conjoined twins Lori Schappell and trans man George Schappell dead at 62

Conjoined twins Lori Schappell trans man George Schappell
Jason Kempin/FilmMagic

They were initially expected to survive only a year but had long and full lives.

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The world’s longest-surviving conjoined twins, George and Lori Schappell, have died at age 62. Both were assigned female at birth, but George came out as a transgender man in 2007.

The two were the first known conjoined twins to identify as different genders, according to Guinness World Records.

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They died April 7 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, according to an obituary posted by Leibensperger Funeral Homes. The obit, which deadnamed George, did not state a cause of death.

They were born September 18, 1961, in West Reading, Pa., to Franklin and Ruth Schappell. They were joined at the skull but had separate brains. A doctor said they would not survive past a year, The New York Timesreports, but they defied expectations and lived long and independent lives.

They were placed in a home for the intellectually disabled when they were very young, but it soon became clear they were not intellectually disabled. They assisted the staff in caring for other residents, Ellen Weissbrod, who made a documentary film about them, told the Times.

In the 1980s, Ginny Thornburgh, the wife of Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh, became interested in the twins as part of her advocacy for people with disabilities. She contacted the chaplain at the home, and he arranged for them to move into senior housing.

George became a country singer in the 1990s, winning a Los Angeles Music Award for best new country artist in 1997. He performed under the name Reba in honor of Reba McEntire. His version of a McEntire song, “The Fear of Being Alone,” played over the closing credits of the 2003 film Stuck on You, which starred Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon as conjoined twins.

“When I am singing, Lori is like another fan, except she’s up onstage with me — covered by a blanket to reduce the distraction,” he told BBC Radio in 2006.

Lori worked at a hospital laundry for a time, was an avid bowler, and had an active dating life. “I wasn’t there in my mind” during Lori’s dates, George once said, according to the Times. “I was there bodily. I didn’t look at anything or say anything.” Lori was engaged to a man at one point, but he died in a car accident.

The twins were the subject of several documentaries, and they appeared on an episode of the TV show Nip/Tuck, The Hollywood Reporter notes. They said they had no desire to be separated and that they didn’t wish they had been born differently.

“You don’t mess with what God made,” Lori told the Associated Press in 2002. In a 1997 ITV documentary, George said, “Why fix what is not broken?”

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.